Duomo & Sarpi: stories behind images

In an effort to provide a little context for Magdi’s provocative posters, some reading from the archives in order to illuminate exactly what happened:

"What can be more excellent than prayer?"

The praying at piazza Duomo was connected to protests against the Gaza War and happened on January 3, 2009.  Organizers of the protests say that the prayer was spontaneous.  Coverage in the Washington Post is here.  There was no violence, and the Archibishop of Milan refused to condemn the prayers. As the Guardian reported, the Muslim community actually met with the archbishop and apologized for the prayers.

In the US, the first amendment to the constitution guarantees right to petition, or freedom of public assembly.  In Europe, it is guaranteed by article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, if one believes in the authority of European law.

The riots along via Sarpi on April 12, 2007 started when city authorities in Milan began applying fines to the many wholesalers who operated along the street.

Every tree and every blade of grass appears to be enemy soldiers

Milan’s administration has taken care of this issue recently by completely refurbishing the street, and making it pedestrian-only.  Without cars and vans, and with bikes replacing pushcarts, the neighborhood is much more livable now — but arguably one effect the improvements had was to make it more difficult for wholesalers there, who simply moved their operations to side streets.

Elisabeth Rosenthal and Elisabetta Povoledo reported on this for the New York Times, as did the BBC.

According to the story, the Chinese rallied around the flag for lack of a better symbol. Since some commentators have pointed out that laws in Italy are often unfairly applied, I wanted to highlight the penultimate paragraph:

Some experts say that the Chinese in Milan have been unfairly singled out by the authorities, and that the authorities have been considerably more lax with native Italians. When laws are enforced in such an inconsistent manner it becomes a case of discrimination, Lanzani said.

Inconsistent enforcement is at the heart of any debate about immigration anywhere, but above all in Italy, where networks of power flout the very laws they are supposed to abide by time and time again.

 

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8 Responses to Duomo & Sarpi: stories behind images

  1. Cynthia says:

    It’s unlikely that we’re ever going to constructively engage in a dialogue on this, since it involves two highly sensitive and controversial topics, immigration and the role of Muslims in the world.

    If a picture is worth a thousand words, here are pictures and videos made of my former neighborhood in Padova, near the station, amounting to tens of thousands of words:

    http://www.sospadova.it/

    As you read what I wrote in my blog about immigration, you know that I have defined it as a classic guerra fra poveri. From the videos (and in real life) you can see that many of the quality of life problems in Italy at present are created by Italians and illegal immigrants together e.g. Italians as demand for prostitution and drugs, illegals as suppliers.

    Illegal immigration only serves the upper classes of a society, who get docile, low-cost labor.

    As for the Catholic Church, it is often a poverty pimp that perpetuates poverty. It wants more poor people because that has been the historical base of the Church. Talk about demagoguery and self-serving.

    You conveniently left out that Allam has lived for years under police protection. While this doesn’t automatically make him a hero, it does put him a notch or two above people idly defaming him on the Web.

    • vidgro says:

      Cynthia:

      “It’s unlikely that we’re ever going to constructively engage in a dialogue on this, since it involves two highly sensitive and controversial topics, immigration and the role of Muslims in the world.”

      We can only try our best and express our points of view in good faith so you never know…

      “I have defined it as a classic guerra fra poveri.”

      That’s an excellent description and it leads to the conclusion that the rich and powerful manipulate the situation in order to benefit from it. Another related cliché is ‘divide and rule’.

      “you can see that many of the quality of life problems in Italy at present are created by Italians and illegal immigrants together e.g. Italians as demand for prostitution and drugs, illegals as suppliers.”

      The danger here is of equating the two. Italians have a greater choice where to find sex and drugs; illegal immigrants have fewer choices about how they get enough to live in. Meanwhile, the ruling class consumes resources and wastes even more. While no-one comes out of this very well, the ruling class are too blame. Pointing the finger elsewhere lets them off the hook.

      “Illegal immigration only serves the upper classes of a society, who get docile, low-cost labor.”

      This is mostly true but actually, it does benefit the illegal immigrants themselves as well, who swap one terrible life for another less terrible one. Otherwise, why would the seek to come and to remain. The fact is that immigration is inevitable and the more you make legal immigration difficult, the more you make dangerous and illegal immigration more likely. It’s classic divide and rule. And the idea of the good legal immigrant and the bad illegal immigrant is simplistic. Put the blame with the people who create the situation not the victims of it.

      “As for the Catholic Church, it is often a poverty pimp that perpetuates poverty. It wants more poor people because that has been the historical base of the Church. Talk about demagoguery and self-serving.”

      And yet very few election candidates (more like zero) say this thing you are saying. Instead of attacking the ‘poverty pimp’ you rightly accuse it of being, they attack immigrants. Whilst everyone is looking out the front window at the black faces looking in, the priests, lawyers and politicians are upstairs taking your silver 😉

      “Allam has lived for years under police protection. While this doesn’t automatically make him a hero, it does put him a notch or two above people idly defaming him on the Web.”

      You mean it’s better to play with racist slogans and stereotypes than to criticise him? Whatever his politics are, whatever is in his head, he’s playing a dangerous game and if he has an ounce of decency more than his ego, he should stop.

  2. Cynthia says:

    It is highly questionable that immigrants are less to blame for supplying drugs or prostitution than Westerners are for wanting them. Although the high levels of drug consumption and use of bought sex are indicative of pathology in our society (especially when you think of the organizations behind them e.g. human traffickers for prostitution), immigrants are not justified in resorting to these to make a living. Millions of people in the world struggle against adversity and live very modestly without breaking legal or ethical rules.

    I don’t simplistically break down good=legal and bad=illegal. But it is a truism that legal is legal and illegal is not, and that for a functioning society the rule of law must prevail. When there are exceptions, they must be motivated and the individual must pay the price at least in the short term for his/her action. I hardly think the Nigerian prostitute or the Moroccan heroin pusher are like Henry David Thoreau or Martin Luther King.

    Illegal immigration is not good even for immigrants. Not all those who wish to immigrate will be able to- like most things in life, scarcity prevails. Those who immigrate illegally are actually depriving those who would play by the rules of their place. Whenever there is scarcity, there is selection- with illegal immigration there is no selection; some would argue that there is negative selection, because it selects for those who will break the law if expedient. This is why a strong, enforced immigration policy is essential.

  3. vidgro says:

    Cynthia:

    “It is highly questionable that immigrants are less to blame for supplying drugs or prostitution than Westerners are for wanting them.”

    Everything is highly questionable. What do YOU think?

    “immigrants are not justified in resorting to these to make a living.”

    Who decides what’s justified? People normally slide into these activities and suddenly find it is hard to get out. What if you were working in Italy, your boss came onto you and you had to leave your job, meaning your permesso expired? How would you live without money or anyone to borrow it off? I’d like to think that I wouldn’t have to sell my body or soul or whatever but then I’ve rarely been in such desperate situations. Would we all be as ethical and moral and able as Cynthia?

    “Millions of people in the world struggle against adversity and live very modestly without breaking legal or ethical rules.”

    Who decides what the ethical rules are? Which leads to the question – who decides the legal rules? Legal definitions are like the laws of physics (and even there I’m pushing it) but are made by human beings, ruling class human beings. I bet most people in the world are breaking the law one way or the other but I can’t prove it. Can you prove your own thesis?

    “it is a truism that legal is legal and illegal is not”

    What’s a truism? What YOU say it is?

    “for a functioning society the rule of law must prevail”

    And yet societies function where the rule of law doesn’t prevail… Which are these societies where the rule of law prevails? America? The EU? Russia? China? Iran?

    “When there are exceptions, they must be motivated and the individual must pay the price at least in the short term for his/her action. ”

    Who decides the motivations for exceptions? Who decides what the price to pay is? Laws already exist about drugs and prostitution. Are you saying there should be race based laws for immigrant drug dealers and less penalties for Italian ones?

    “I hardly think the Nigerian prostitute or the Moroccan heroin pusher are like Henry David Thoreau or Martin Luther King.”

    Me neither. That’s why I never said such a thing.

    “Illegal immigration is not good even for immigrants.”

    We agree. But how do you stop illegal immigration? Blow them out of the water in the sea as the Lega have suggested? Scapegoat them nazi style and hunt them down in Italy or put them in camps? Or at the other end of the scale, remove the status ‘illegal’ and threat them like human beings? Which side are you on because the middle is fast disappearing?

    “like most things in life, scarcity prevails”

    Perhaps it’s because the ruling class you mentioned earlier have too much control over people and resources. Why does anyone want to flee a resource-rich country like Nigeria?

    “Those who immigrate illegally are actually depriving those who would play by the rules of their place.”

    If you understand the guerra fra poveri you know that this isn’t true. Who controls and encourages divide and rule? The ruling class. They must love you and your defence of them. You’re playing their game by scapegoating the poor.

    “Whenever there is scarcity, there is selection”

    So better to stop the scarcity. Start by identifying the reasons for scarcity. Is it caused by the poor or the rich?

    “a strong, enforced immigration policy is essential.”

    A lot of liberal minded people – I doubt you think you are on the right but I could be wrong – agree with what you say. They aren’t racists and don’t do it for racist reasons. Racists on the other hand only gain encouragement from this. As indeed do the ruling class. They love people who don’t point the finger at them but instead join in their kicking of the poor and dispossessed. The discussion started about right-wing posters – posters that echo those of the nazis, of Le Pen or the BNP and others – and you jumped in to defend them.

    So, you also have a choice: keep cuddling up to the ruling class and the racists by attacking poor immigrants with non-legal status or point the finger at the ruling class and their system that creates waves of legal and illegal immigration (and dare I say, the criminality you so dislike) in the first place?

  4. Cynthia says:

    Vidgro thinks “everything is highly questionable.”

    Without wanting to impose my values or criteria on others, I couldn’t disagree more. And if there’s such a fundamental parting of the ways, that’s the end of that.

    • vidgro says:

      Cynthia:

      “I couldn’t disagree more.”

      … she says without bothering to tell us why. Everything is highly questionabe for me but for Cynthia some things are beyond questioning – and I thought you were proud of your philisophy degree.

      “And if there’s such a fundamental parting of the ways, that’s the end of that.”

      No, I think you just prefer to bottle the argument and close up shop rather than challenge your own assumptions. Surprise me. I might even agree with you. That’s what happens, you see, people exchange ideas and sometimes we change those ideas. I’m open to that. Aren’t you? And think of all the people who already agree with you. Why give up now?

      Or you can just close what could be an interesting discussion and go back to your twee, meaningless blog. It’s up to you…

  5. red lounge says:

    “Would we all be as ethical and moral and able as Cynthia?”

    Maybe, or maybe not. The point is that a desperate situation can’t be a justification.

    • vidgro says:

      red lounge

      “a desperate situation can’t be a justification”

      I remember reading Primo Levi’s The Truce, which describes the author’s journey back to Italy having been liberated from a death camp and taken to Russia.

      There’s a group of Italians coming back by train but still in the cattle truck and they’re in a wretched condition. The train stops off at some small village on the way and everyone on the train just descends on the place looking for something to eat. He says something like, “If we don’t remember X village, they’ll certainly remember us,” and goes on to describe how anything edible was consumed in a few days…

      You know, when you read these books, and Levi’s one before it, they get to you and you ask yourself constantly what would you do? Well, I’d have joined in with the others and eaten.

      Instead, Cynthia and red lounge would presumably have stayed in the cattle truck and starved so as not to break the law. What amazing moral courage that must take! Being better than everyone else; therefore ill-judging mere mortals for whom context is not an irrelevance.

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