Lorenzo & his humble friends

The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool

Category: tributes

Articoli del 2016

Ho chiesto a Piergiorgio quali sono stati gli articoli più letti su Unimondo negli ultimi 24 mesi. I vincitori: un approfondimento sull’aumento rapidissimo delle domande d’asilo di cittadini del Gambia in Italia (anche se la quasi totalità dei gambiani non ottiene lo status di rifugiato); un pezzo  quello sull’aumento dell’esportazione di armi dal nostro Paese (tra cui 5.000 bombe partite dalla Sardegna inviate in Arabia Saudita e utilizzate dalla Royal Saudi Air Force per bombardare lo Yemen e oltre 3.600 fucili della Benelli inviati alle forze di sicurezza del regime di Al Sisi) e un tributo alla donna che nel Rajasthan indiano ferma i matrimoni tra le spose bambine (proibiti in molti ma non tutti gli stati del Paese).

 

On the front line

One month ago Anna and I went to see an exhibition at Palazzo Madama in Torino. This is a deeply moving collection of photographies that invites all of us to move away from our comfortable reality through the work of women reporters documenting war zones in Egypt, Syria, Congo, Libia, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and more.

The photographers included in the exhibition are Linda Dorigo, Virginie Nguyen Hoang, Jodi Hilton, Andreja Restek, Annabell Van den Berghe, Laurence Geai, Capucine Granier-Deferre, Diana Zeyneb Alhindawi, Matilde Gattoni, Shelly Kittleson, Maysun, Alison Baskerville, Monique Jaques, and Camille Lepage.

The exhibition will be open until the 16 of January.

Make Eid al-Fitr a national holiday

With only three months until the Dutch elections, the Islamophobic and anti-European PVV (the Freedom Party) is leading the polls. My colleague Bouke has written a piece for Metro, a free and widely read newspaper, arguing that Eid al-Fitr should be recognised as a national holiday as a way for the state to treat Dutch Muslims more fairly. He circulated among friends his own translation of the article to English and you can read it below.

***

Imagine a family that does not celebrate the birthday of the youngest child. Asking his parents why they are not celebrating his birthday, the Benjamin is told that ‘we already celebrate the birthdays of his brother and sister’. This is a family tradition. When the Benjamin complains that celebrating his birthday could also become a tradition, the parents remain adamant: ‘as a newcomer, you have to accept the existing birthday culture’.

If this is unjust, then so is the fact that we do not recognise al Eid as a national holiday in The Netherlands. Just as a family should recognise all of their children by celebrating their birthdays, the state should recognise religions besides Christianity. This is called ‘state neutrality’. In many areas, state neutrality is already accepted. We would find it unacceptable if the royal family only visited places in the Randstad [the region with the most populous Dutch cities] during Kingsday. For aren’t Limburgers, Zeeuwen, and Groningers every bit as Dutch? Nor would we find it acceptable (at least not in certain port cities) if Ajax was the only football team recognised by the state – imagine that an Ajax poster was displayed in the middle of the Tweede Kamer [the Second Chamber]. Yet when it comes to recognising the holidays of other religions (including Islam), we prefer to be partisan.

Now you might think: ‘Muslims have chosen to come to The Netherlands. Therefore, they ought to adapt’. But this would only apply to the first generation of Muslims; later generations did not choose to grow up here. Could the difference be that Islam is a totalitarian religion, as Wilders often refers to it? No. It is not just Aboutaleb [the mayor of Rotterdam] and Ali B [a famous Dutch rapper/comedian] who practice a form of Islam that is hospitable to democracy – most Muslims do. Saying this is not to be political correct, but to state a plain truth. Of course, there are extremists.

But just as it would unjust to permanently ban Feyenoord fans from the Kuip [the Feyenoord stadium] because some fans misbehaved in Rome [last year, Feyenoord hooligans damaged shops and a Bernini fountain at Piazza di Spagna], so it would be unjust not to recognise Eid al-Fitr because some Muslims misbehave.

We should not betray our Christian heritage. However, we wouldn’t do so by replacing second Pentacost day or Easter Monday with Eid al-Fitr. This is not a matter of pampering Dutch Muslims, but treating them as equal citizens.

Spare time

Starting from August this year I have watched some remarkably good documentaries that are freely available online – for now. You can also download them on your laptop/pc using this website, so that you can watch these documentaries without an internet connection. These are three documentaries I selected. Unfortunately, all of them are in English with no possibility of using subtitles.

BBC: The Banker’s Guide to Art

The Banker’s Guide To The Art Market is a revealing, wry and ironic look behind the forces that move the market of fine arts. Propelled by the newly rich of the financial world, London’s art market has soared to historic highs. But is it all good to put a price tag on art? And is this really a recent phenomenon, anyway?

 

BBC: Niccolò Machiavelli

 A Florentine historian, politician, diplomat, philosopher, humanist, and writer, who is recognized as one of the pioneers of modern political science and much of contemporary political ethics.

 

National Geographic: Before the flood

This documentary has been shared on their social networks by a very large part of my friends. It conveys the urgency of something that all the sensitive readers of this blog already now. It is followed by an invitation to join a movement on beforetheflood.com/act.

 

Bonus: movie

This a movie I wanted to watch for a long time. Last week I finally did, courtesy of Niels. And what a better moment could I pick? The movie is an intimate diary of Mitt Romney’s primary campaign (2008) and presidential campaign (2012). Watching the documentary today, shortly after the G.O.P.’s landslide victory in November elections, feels a little bit surreal. 

 

Unfortunately I can only display the trailer here. Those of you with a Netflix account will be able to watch the full movie there.

Agitatevi, organizzatevi, studiate

Concerning the recent political events in the United States of America, this blog fully endorses wise friend Old Tom in stating the following:

I didn’t see this coming (not to this extent, at least), I don’t pretend I have so I won’t publicly comment on it. If you have the privilege of studying history / politics in a top university and you fail to grasp the magnitude of upcoming changes like these in all probability you are living in a bubble and your opinions are pretty much worthless. I guess it is the right time to step back, buy a few books and shut the fuck up, as the next POTUS would nicely put it.

 

To-do list

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via The New Yorker

Questionario: referendum 4 dicembre

Alcuni amici dell’Istituto Europeo hanno preparato un questionario online per capire quali sono gli argomenti più convincenti a favore e contro la riforma che andremo a votare il 4 dicembre. Il sondaggio dura circa 5 minuti e c’è la possibilità di vincere un buono Amazon da 30 euro. Lo trovate a questo link che sarà disponibile fino a domenica 23 ottobre.

Looks are a danger

Jelena, who is one of my bosses at EUDO Citizenship, published a short article for Dangerous Women, part of a project that asks the question What does it mean to be a ‘dangerous woman’? Jelena writes about her experience as a tall and well dressed woman in the academia. The article starts like this:

– Why didn’t we become friends earlier on?

– I was afraid of you.

– Why?

– You are so tall. That is scary. And you are all well-groomed and always have a nice nail polish.

– I am not sure I understand.

– You know, it is not too common for a woman to be that tall. And I am sorry to break this to you, but women who take care of their appearance the way you do are considered shallow in academia.

– Oh, I see.

Recalling this conversation with a now close friend of mine, it came to my mind that the original version of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice was entitled First Impressions. If I remember correctly, Fitzwilliam Darcy’s first impression of Elizabeth Bennet was that she was ‘tolerable; but not handsome enough […]’. Be it fiction or fact, and as much as we would like it to be otherwise, we are judged by appearances: our height, weight, the way we dress or comb our hair all determine how we will be perceived by others and how we will establish the grounds of our interaction with the outside world.

Obviously, and as it has happened in Austen’s novel (and in my life on various occasions), these initial first impressions can change. That, however, requires social contacts that unfold in a setting where questions of character, intelligence, and mutual understanding prevail over initial perceptions of one’s appearance. With the increasing reliance on digital and social media that advance particular visions of women, establishing such contacts in the personal sphere has become tremendously difficult. Equally, many professional circles have come to embrace a particular vision of a way their female employee should look. At this point, I would dare you to think of a woman who is a lawyer, or a chemist, a politician, a store manager, a CEO of a company, a soldier, or a socialite and not to have at least an idea of their appearance. And here I do not refer only to imagining their ‘uniform’ if they have any, but also to their facial features, body types, hair and makeup. I assume that with a few culture-specific exceptions, we will have thought of quite a few similar traits. Maybe we share some of them.

Maybe we are defined by appearances. 

Our dangerous looks.

I am six feet tall and there’s little I can do about that. I never asked for my height and unlike those unhappy with their breasts, noses, lips, or sex, I cannot change it. Well, at least not without seriously endangering my health. I have read a piece about how between the 1950s and 1990s, tall teenage girls were ‘treated’ with synthetic oestrogen (DES) because their height was seen as ‘abnormal’ and it hardly fit the pattern of what is culturally and socially accepted as ‘femininity’ (Jakobsen 2011). As absurd as it may sound, being tall was considered a medical condition and DES treatments set off both ethical questions – such as the girls’ consent – as well as the medical ones. More recent studies have shown that side effects of DES treatment included irregular period, ovarian cysts, excessive vaginal discharge, galactorrhea (leakage from breasts), blood clots and breast cancer (Rayner, et al. 2010). Paradoxically, the treatment designed to make tall women’s ‘shoe fit’ the societally acceptable pattern of a feminine appearance had adverse effects on women’s primary sexual characteristics.

If you want to read the rest of the article clic here.

Dialoghi surreali

Intervistatore a Gianluca Brambilla, una settimana fa, all’arrivo della cronometro del Chianti nella quale Brambilla terrà la maglia rosa di leader della corsa conquistata a sorpresa il giorno prima, battendo tanti avversari sulla carta molto più agguerriti di lui e del giovane Bob Jungels: “Dobbiamo aspettare la conferma ufficiale, ma dovresti aver difeso la maglia per un secondo!
Brambilla:“Da chi?
Intervistatore: “Da Jungels”.
Brambilla: “Ah, va bene lo stesso. Complimenti”.
Intervistatore: “A chi?
Brambilla: “A me”.

We don’t even see the other side

As I ride my bike in these beautiful Swiss landscapes I listen to interviews, audiobooks, and podcasts. Thanks to Giallu I have recently discovered the Axe Files and I would suggest to those of you who have a keen interest in American politics and some spare time to use it for listening this podcast. There are three points coming out of these sessions that are worth sharing with you now, because they are fundamental issues of our contemporary way of living politics and they apply to the debates in the US as well as to most of the European countries where I have lived. They certainly apply to Italy. They go like this:

First, it is increasingly common that we only read news we agree with. This, of course, has been facilitated by the rise of the internet: with Facebook, twitter, and googlenews we tend to read only articles of persons to websites we sympathize with. These articles are likely to reinforce the opinions we already have, rather than offering a view on the other political sides. It is a vicious dynamic.

Consequently, we are unable to seriously engage in a political debate. Not only: we talk contemptuously about people we disagree with.This, mind you, is widespread among everybody, especially my friends on the left of the political axis. How many times have I read conversations like ‘Matteo Renzi is shit’, or ‘Donald Trump is crazy’, or ‘Bernie Sanders is a socialist’ without even trying to engage with the ideas and the arguments. There is a tendency, in other words, to demonize political opponents.

This, of course, makes reconciliation almost impossible. Ultimately, aspirational leadership has the capacity to break through contempt – see the Obama campaign of 2008, what a marvellous campaign it was. But reconciling differences and creating an inclusive narrative in such toxic environments is becoming an incredibly difficult challenge. Those who want to improve the political climate should probably try harder to see the other side of the debate and engage seriously with the arguments and the ideas rather than demonizing the individuals.