NO Austerity Day


Whenever I write about rioting students, I feel torn between what I see and what I understand.

When I myself was a protesting student, I remember vividly remembered the cold warning in the text by Pier Paolo Pasolini. He reminded us youngsters that the police we faced in the streets were also someone’s children, that not all young people were fortunate enough to be in colleges rather than wearing uniforms, and that we should join all together against the general oppressor, the system, capitalism, the corporations, name it…

That was then, and this is now, and while the students and policemen still have the same interests, they are still on the opposite sides of the barricade. Austerity has driven Italy to its knees. Day by day the future of Italy’s young people is vaporizing, and now the streets are flooded by torrential rains, to boot. Italian cities rocked by earthquakes might as well settle for witchcraft, rather than find responsible and competent government officials who can rescue the nation’s casualties.

A Facebook comment from my Italian friend:

Is it possible that all these years every time there is a demonstration we have to expect the same song: attention to the provocateurs + protestors cruelly beaten by the police + poor policemen beaten by provocateurs = Am I missing something: Democracy!

In Torino, a 15-year old high school student posted on her Facebook a photo of two girls kissing in front of the heavily armed police. With these words: this is how we should face the forces of order!

She told me: those horrible Black Bloc destroy our attempts to do something peacefully, and we are not protesting only because there is no money left in our schools, but also as Europeans who understand that austerity program kills the students in rich as well as in poor countries.

Yesterday during the “No Austerity day in Europe”, proclaimed by students and trade unions in major towns in Italy, the protests turned to riot and turmoil. In Torino, three policemen were injured, one badly. The number of students/citizens injured in Torino is not yet known. Chantings and peaceful legal manifestations degenerated into beatings and insults.

In Rome, along with a general strike of transportation, the Tiber flooded, paralyzing the nation’s capital. Even on its best days Rome can barely move.

The targets of protesters were banks, public administration offices, and even the twelve-starred European flag, a flag so deliberately dull that it rarely attracts a passionate attention. The center of protests are the countries in crisis, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Italy…but even the well off northern countries are crippled by the Austerity, which is rapidly become a crisis much worse than the Crisis it was supposed to fix. Choked by Austerity, Europe is sliding into Recession again, and there’s no sign that this approach will ever restore prosperity.

The word Austerity, that calm and bureaucratic term, is enough to cause panic in the streets of Europe now. National majorities know that it’s a weapon against their own interests. Where is the “Austerity” for the one percent of the population dominating the economy? They don’t apply any example of severe austerity to their own habits and aspirations. Secured in private jets, or within their high tech mentally-gated communities, they wonder why the streets grow slick with blood, sweat and tears.

This is something new in the world. It’s rather like the alienation and anomie of the Industrial Age, but it’s a new cybernetic detachment — the atomized individuals of the Network Society, super-connected to screens, but failing to live and breathe together as a civilization. The Smart City shows its dark side as a gridwork of surveillance, as the peaceable consumers of the 1990s become a rabble to be kettled up!

United Europe just won the Nobel Prize for Peace. Where’s the peace and Union from Austerity?

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