Category Archives: Italy

Ukraine: Putin turns the tables 

Pending French mediation, Putin-Biden talks, German distancing, Italian fears, Spanish uncertainties and opposition from the former Eastern bloc, as well as the regularly discredited deadlines of the improbable Russian invasions, the war always announced but never started has had its first outcome.

In a decision that displaced the Western chancelleries, Vladimir Putin signed the diplomatic protocol recognizing the independent republics of Lugansk and Donetsk. The recognition was immediately followed by the signing of a cooperation and mutual assistance agreement, which will imply a Russian military presence in defense of the two republics and, at the same time, a clear warning to Kiev and its self-interested supporters.

Thus ends the dirty war, the only one that was really being waged despite the fact that the international media system was hiding it: that is, the Ukrainian shooting practices on the civilian population of Donbass, which for years, have turned 4 million citizens into hostages of Kiev, with inhabitants becoming displaced, schools becoming targets, territory becoming cemetery.  Until yesterday, this was the result of the recent offensive of the Ukrainian army in the Donbass, which tells better than a thousand lies what really happens on the border between Russia and Ukraine and who are the ones who really work tirelessly for the war.

Putin’s move opens an unprecedented political, diplomatic and military scenario. Political, because it initiates the Russian political counteroffensive, which has as its fundamental lever the security of its population and its borders. The recognition of the independent republics of the Donbass region now deprives Ukraine of a part of its territory, certainly; but it is a territory that had become independent since 2014, just like Crimea. Nothing strange, in fact: a people that feel Russian by historical, religious, political, linguistic and cultural belonging, has no desire to be incorporated into the model of the Third Reich dressed as McDonalds that governs Kiev thanks to a coup d’état.

Militarily and diplomatically it represents a double success for Moscow: it creates a buffer zone between Russia and Ukraine and further covers the border with Kiev and openly challenges Ukraine and the United States to continue the war against independent Donbass. It sets aside Ukrainian security as the only issue to be addressed in the geopolitical issue and puts the issue of Russian security back at the center of a possible political-diplomatic negotiation with the Western masters of Ukraine. Moreover, it leaves the future steps to be taken to diplomatic negotiations, suggesting that a possible Ukrainian military response against the Donbass could lead to a counter-offensive on a local scale that would also involve the ports of Mariupol and Odessa, strategic for Kiev.


NATO’s response seems for the moment much more prudent than the threats made until yesterday. Politically, one would have to be very brazen not to accept the recognition of the two independent republics, given that in 1992 the entire West, under pressure from Germany, Austria, the Vatican and the United States, immediately recognized the Croatian and Bosnian secession from Yugoslavia and armed, financed and supported them politically and militarily against Serbia. It even went so far as to ethically and legally abhor the recognition of secession on ethnic grounds. It did the same thing years later with Kosovo, which seceded from Albania. It is not clear why in this case the principle of legitimate secession should not apply.

On the military level, as Ukraine is not (yet) a NATO country, the Russian counter-offensive does not allow invoking Article 5 of the Atlantic Pact. The EU, as usual, has no policy and is waiting to hear from the United States about what to do. With the exception of Borrell, (a modest mixture of Francoism and narcissism that the EU has chosen to represent itself internationally, thus gaining more scorn than it already deserved) the European comments that matter are geared to take advantage of Putin’s move, hoping that it will end with the acceptance of the state of affairs and the imposition of sanctions aimed only at the two independent republics. These sanctions have no real effect and only serve to save the already worn-out face of a NATO unable to unite even on the feasibility of Kiev’s accession to the Alliance, let alone respond to Moscow.

The idea that, above all, France, Germany and Italy are cultivating, in fact – and which is giving Washington serious headaches – is that beyond the generic declarations of unity, the most important part of the EU wants to restart a global negotiation between the West and Russia. A negotiation partly different from the one imagined until yesterday, because Putin’s movement has already set a clear line in the negotiations: we are able to operate in any scenario, be it peace or war; if the thought of threatening Moscow by targeting it with missile batteries becomes reality, it will be guaranteed by all means that they cannot be deployed.

What is needed, therefore, is a table that puts regional security policies back on the agenda, in the knowledge that a refusal to consider Russia’s security needs will only cause Moscow to proceed autonomously to defend them. This would put on the ground the issues that Europe wants to avoid at all costs; i.e., military. Putin, moreover, has already demonstrated throughout his presidential career, from Chechnya to Donbass to Georgia and Belarus, Kazakhstan and above all Syria, that he is not willing to be surrounded by NATO, nor to be threatened militarily. That in matters of national security it does not accept threats and does not hesitate to act quickly and effectively to defend Russian national interests.

The Russian political counteroffensive belies the heavy succession of shameful forecasts, completed with dates for imaginary Russian invasions, which have created a new and deep crack in the credibility of the United States and its British butlers who, after the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the Taliban responsible for the Twin Towers and the Syrian chemical weapons, are rightly entering the circle of ridicule.

Therefore, economic and financial sanctions to curb Russia’s growth is an indispensable objective. Laying further siege to Russia could provoke a reaction from Russia, leading to new international sanctions against Moscow. The result would be fantastic for the United States: it would weaken the trade relationship between Russia and Europe and, above all, block the implementation of the North Stream 2 gas pipeline.

Sanctions: who is threatening whom?

It is said that the Western sanctions that would follow an eventual “invasion” would be extremely harsh for Russia (which already suffers unfairly). There is no doubt that, in the short term, they would disrupt foreign investment and force Moscow first to retaliate and then to differentiate its import and export market. But while sanctions would be a big deal for the U.S., they would also be very damaging for the EU: for example, blocking the pipeline from coming on line would mean the EU giving up gas supplies at a limited price.

The EU imports about 40% of its gas needs from Russia), so a blockage of supplies would not so much be a threat to Moscow as to Brussels, because it would make the enforcement of Western sanctions against the Kremlin self-punishing. Moscow has already authorized the construction of a new pipeline through Mongolia that will carry Russian gas to China, which needs energy to sustain its growth.

For Europe, however, the scenario would be complicated. In the event of a further reduction in available gas, the price would rise to unacceptable levels for EU countries, which would be forced to proceed randomly and not with a common policy, given the different options. It is no coincidence that Draghi has already indicated that Italy will not adhere to sanctions affecting the energy sector. Even Germany, which has Russian gas as its main source of energy supply, would be forced to resort to coal, which would blow up all environmental constraints and would not provide a short-term solution to the problem.

Also on the financial level, although Moscow would find it difficult, structural problems would arise for Europe, given the exposure of several countries to Moscow (the EU’s fifth largest trading partner), amounting to 56 billion euros, which would obviously no longer be repayable. These debts would no longer be recoverable, and the repercussions for banks would be extremely serious. In return, since the U.S. exposure is minimal, the U.S. would have no problem in the short to medium term in disrupting financial flows with Russia.

In addition, there is the threat of Moscow withdrawing from the SWIFT financial transmission system (which links 11,000 banks in 200 countries). The decision would hurt Moscow, of course, but not to the point of paralyzing it, as it was prepared since 2014 for this scenario. Similarly, the inclusion of Russian banks on the “blacklist” would not have particularly serious effects for Moscow either.

Excluding Moscow from SWIFT would be the most classic boomerang, as it would provoke a series of chain reactions from countries hostile to the US that would risk turning the international economy into a clash of blocks. The first and most important consequence would be the acceleration of the “independent financial infrastructure” project decided by Moscow and Beijing and, given the weight and emergence of economies not aligned with Washington and Brussels, now intercontinental leaders of debt and certainly not of expansionary policies, the risk of a systemic implosion in the short term seems well founded.

The inescapable question is: is the West really ready for a reset that will also punish its interests harshly? To give even more strength and strategic perspective to the alliance between Beijing and Moscow? And all this for Ukraine and its Nazi government?

• Translated by Nan McCurdy

• First published in Altrenotizie

The post Ukraine: Putin turns the tables  first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Heroes or Parasites: Europe’s Self-serving Politics on Refugees

Language is politics and politics is power. This is why the misuse of language is particularly disturbing, especially when the innocent and vulnerable pay the price.

The wars in Syria, Libya, Afghanistan and other Middle Eastern, Asian and African countries in recent years have resulted in one of the greatest humanitarian catastrophes, arguably unseen since World War II. Instead of developing a unified global strategy that places the welfare of the refugees of these conflicts as a top priority, many countries ignored them altogether, blamed them for their own misery and, at times, treated them as if they were criminals and outlaws.

But this is not always the case. At the start of the Syrian war, support for Syrian refugees was considered a moral calling, championed by countries across the world, from the Middle East to Europe and even beyond. Though often rhetoric was not matched by action, helping the refugees was seen, theoretically, as a political stance against the Syrian government.

Back then, Afghans did not factor in the Western political discourse on refugees. In fact, they were rarely seen as refugees. Why? Because, until August 15 – when the Taliban entered the capital, Kabul – most of those fleeing Afghanistan were seen according to a different classification: migrants, illegal immigrants, illegal aliens, and so on. Worse, at times they were depicted as parasites taking advantage of international sympathy for refugees, in general, and Syrians, in particular.

The lesson here is that Afghans fleeing their war-torn and US-occupied country were of little political use to their potential host countries. As soon as Afghanistan fell to the Taliban, and the US, along with its NATO allies, were forced to leave the country, the language immediately shifted, because then, the refugees served a political purpose.

For example, Italian Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese was one of the first to advocate the need for European support for Afghan refugees. She told a ‘European Union forum on the protection of Afghans’, on October 8, that Italy will work with its allies to ensure fleeing Afghans can reach Italy via third countries.

The hypocrisy here is palpable. Italy, like other European countries, has done its utmost to block refugees from arriving at its shores. Its policies have included the prevention of refugee boats stranded in the Mediterranean Sea from reaching Italian territorial waters; the funding and the establishment of refugee camps in Libya – often depicted as ‘concentration camps’ – to host refugees who are ‘caught’ trying to escape to Europe; and, finally, the prosecution of Italian humanitarian workers and even elected officials who dared lend a hand to refugees.

The latest victim of the Italian authorities’ campaign to crack down on refugees and asylum-seekers was Domenico Lucano, the former mayor of Riace in the Southern Italian region of Calabria, who was sentenced by the Italian Court of Locri to over 13 years in prison for “irregularities in managing asylum seekers”. The verdict also included a fine of €500,000 to pay back funds received from the EU and the Italian government.

What are these “irregularities”?

“Many migrants in Riace have obtained municipal jobs while Lucano was Mayor. Abandoned buildings in the area had been restored with European funds to provide housing for immigrants,” Euronews reported.

The decision was particularly pleasing to the far-right Lega Party. Lega’s head, Matteo Salvini, was the Interior Minister of Italy from 2018-19. During his time in office, many had conveniently blamed him for Italy’s outrageous anti-immigrants’ policy. Naturally, the news of Lucano’s sentencing was welcomed by Lega and Salvini.

However, only rhetoric has changed since Italy’s new Interior Minister, Lamorgese, has taken office. True, the anti-refugee language was far less populist and certainly less racist – especially if compared to Salvini’s offensive language of the past. The unfriendly policies towards the refugees remained in effect.

It matters little to desperate refugees crossing to Europe in their thousands whether Italy’s policies are shaped by Lamorgese or Salvini. What matters to them is their ability to reach safer shores. Sadly, many of them do not.

A disturbing report issued by the European Commission, on September 30, showed the staggering impact of Europe’s political hostility towards refugees. More than 20,000 migrants have died by drowning while attempting to cross the Mediterranean on their way to Europe.

“Since the beginning of 2021, a total of 1,369 migrants have died in the Mediterranean”, the report also indicated. In fact, many of those died during the West-championed international frenzy to ‘save’ the Afghans from the Taliban.

Since Afghan refugees represent a sizable portion of worldwide refugees, especially those attempting to cross to Europe, it is safe to assume that many of those who have perished in the Mediterranean were also Afghans. But why is Europe welcoming some Afghans while allowing others to die?

Political language is not coined at random. There is a reason why we call those fleeing in search for safety ‘refugees’, or ‘illegal immigrants’, ‘illegal aliens’, ‘undocumented’, ‘dissidents’, and so on. In fact, the last term, ‘dissidents’, is the most political of all. In the US, for example, Cubans fleeing their country are almost always political ‘dissidents’, as the phrase itself represents a direct indictment of the Cuban Communist government. Haitians, on the other hand, are not political ‘dissidents’. They are hardly ‘refugees’, as they are often portrayed as ‘illegal aliens’.

This kind of language is used in the media and by politicians as a matter of course. The same fleeing refugee could change status more than once over the duration of his escape. Syrians were once welcomed in their thousands. Now, they are perceived to be political burdens to their host countries. Afghans are valued or devalued, depending on who is in charge of the country. Those fleeing or escaping the US occupation were rarely welcomed; those escaping the Taliban rule are perceived as heroes, needing solidarity.

However, while we are busy manipulating language, there are thousands who are stranded at sea and hundreds of thousands languishing in refugee camps worldwide. They are only welcomed if they serve as political capital. Otherwise, they remain a ‘problem’ to be dealt with – violently, if necessary.

The post Heroes or Parasites: Europe’s Self-serving Politics on Refugees first appeared on Dissident Voice.

What’s Up With COP26?

The UK (in partnership with Italy) will host the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties, COP26 in Glasgow on October 31- November 12, 2021.

COP26 will be one of the most significant meetings in modern human history, comparable to the meeting of the Big Three at the Tehran Conference November 28, 1943 when the Normandy invasion was agreed, codenamed Operation Overlord and launched in June 1944. Thenceforth, tyranny was stopped, an easily identified worldwide threat symbolized by a toothbrush mustache. Today’s tyranny is faceless but recklessly beyond the scope of that era because it’s already everywhere all at once! And, ten-times-plus as powerful as all of the munitions of WWII.

What’s at risk at COP26?

Chatham House, The Royal Institute of International Affairs answers that all-important query in a summary report intended for heads of governments, entitled: Climate Change Risk Assessment 2021.

The report introduces the subject with three key statements:

1) The World is dangerously off track to meet the Paris Agreement goals.

2) The risks are compounding.

3) Without immediate action the impacts will be devastating in the coming decades.

The report highlights current emissions status with resulting temperature pathways. Currently, Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) indicate 1% reduction of emissions by 2030 as compared to 2010 levels. To that end, and somewhat shockingly, if emissions are not drastically curtailed by 2030, the report details a series of serious impacts to humanity locked in by 2040-50, which is the time-frame for item #3 to kick in, which states: “Impacts will be devastating.”

But, hark: Governments at COP26 will have an opportunity to accelerate emissions reductions by “ambitious revisions of their NDCs.” Whereas, if emissions follow the current NDCs, the chance of keeping temperatures below 2°C above pre-industrial levels (the upper limit imposed by Paris ’15) is less than 5%.

Not only that, but any relapse or stasis in emissions reduction policies could lead to a worst case 7°C, which the paper labels a 10% chance at the moment.

The paper lambastes the current fad of “net zero pledges” which “lack policy detail and delivery mechanisms.” Meanwhile, the deficit between the NDC targets and the carbon budget widens by the year. In essence, empty pledges don’t cut it, period!

Failure to slash emissions by 2030 will have several serious negative impacts by 2040:

  • 9B people will be hit by major heatwaves at various intervals of time.
  • 400 million people will be exposed to temperatures that exceed “the workability threshold.” Too hot to work!
  • Of more immediate and extremely shocking concern, if drastic reductions do not occur by 2030, the paper suggests “the number of people on the planet exposed to heat stress exceeding the survivability threshold is likely to surpass 10 million a year.” This can only refer to the infamous Wet Bulb Temperature, meaning:A threshold is reached when the air temperature climbs above 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) and the humidity is above 90 percent. The human body has limits. If “temperature plus humidity” is high enough, or +95/90, even a healthy person seated in the shade with plentiful water to drink will suffer severely or likely die. Climate models only a few years ago predicted widespread wet-bulb thresholds to hit late this century; however, global warming is not waiting around that long. Indeed, the Wet Bulb Temperature death count of 10 million per year nearly scales alongside WWII deaths of 75 million, both military and civilian, over six years or 12.5M per year.
  • Population demands will necessitate 50% more food by 2050, but without huge emissions reductions starting now, yields will decline by 2040 as croplands hit by severe drought rises to 32%/year. Fifty percent more food demand in the face of 32% rise in drought impact does not add up very well.
  • Wheat and rice account for 37% of calorific intake, but without drastic cuts, >35% of global cropland for these critical crops will be hit by damaging hot spells.
  • By 2040, without the big cuts in emissions, 700 million people per year will be exposed to droughts lasting at least 6 months duration at a time. “No region will be spared.”

Accordingly “Many of the impacts described are likely to be locked in by 2040, and become so severe they go beyond the limits of what many countries can adapt to… Climate change risks are increasing over time, and what might be a small risk in the near term could embody overwhelming impacts in the medium to long term.” (Pg. 5)

Chapter 4 of the paper covers Cascading Systemic Risks, which is an eye-opener. Systemic risks materialize as a chain, or cascade, impacting a whole system, inclusive of people, infrastructure, economy, societal systems and ecosystems. 70 experts analyzed cascading risks, as follows:  “The cascading risks over which the participating experts expressed greatest concern were the interconnections between shifting weather patterns, resulting in changes to ecosystems, and the rise of pests and diseases, which, combined with heatwaves and drought, will likely drive unprecedented crop failure, food insecurity and migration of people. Subsequently, these impacts will likely result in increased infectious diseases (greater prevalence of current infectious diseases, as well as novel variants), and a negative feedback loop compounding and amplifying each of these impacts.” (Pg. 38)

“Climate change contributes to the creation of conditions that are more susceptible to wildfires, principally via hotter and drier conditions. In the period 2015–18, measured against 2001–14, 77 per cent of countries saw an increase in daily population exposure to wildfires, with India and China witnessing 21 million and 12 million exposures respectively. California experienced a fivefold increase in annual burned area between 1972 and 2018. There, average daytime temperatures of warm-season days have increased by around 1.4°C since the early 1970s, increasing the conditions for fires, and consistent with trends simulated by climate models.” (Pg. 39)

And, the biggest shocking statistic of all pertains to the high risk red code danger region of the planet that is ripe for massive methane emissions: “In Siberia, a prolonged heatwave in the first half of 2020 caused wide-scale wildfires, loss of permafrost and an invasion of pests. It is estimated that climate change has already made such events more than 600 times more likely in this region.” (Pg. 40)

“600 times more likely” in the planet’s most methane-enriched permafrost region is reason enough to cut CO2 missions to the bone, no questions asked.

Several climate change issues dangerously reflect on fragility of the food system and a pronounced lack of adaptation measures as well as natural systems and ecosystems “at the edge of capacity.” Lack of social safety and social cohesion is found everywhere, all of which can erupt as a result of an unforgiving climate system that is overly stressed and broken.

Cascades will likely lead to breakdown of governance due to limited food supplies and lack of income bringing on increasingly violent extremists groups, paramilitary intervention, organized violence, and conflict between people and states, all of which has already commenced.

Already, migration pressures are a leading edge of climate-related breakdowns in society. Each year in 2008-20 an average of 21.8 million people have been displaced by weather-related disasters of extreme heat, floods, storms, and wildfires. In the most recent year, 30 million people in 143 countries worldwide were displaced by such climate disasters.

Without doubt, the eyes of the world will be focused on COP26 to judge commitments by governments.

There is no time left for failure because failure breeds even worse failure.

The post What’s Up With COP26? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Boycott Vaccine Mandates and Covid Passports

Just as many predicted over a year ago, the rollout of the vaccine for Covid-19 and its implementation has introduced intense polarization and social segregation through the implementation of mandatory vaccination for employees and vaccine passports. Medical authoritarianism and the burgeoning biosecurity state are here, expanding in real time. In New York City, San Francisco, France, and Italy, vaccine passports are mandatory for entrance to nearly any indoor public venue: restaurants, bars, museums, cinemas, and more. Also, hundreds of corporations, colleges, federal and state agencies are mandating rushed emergency experimental injections with no long-term knowledge of side effects.

Yes, we’re all well aware that the Pfizer vaccine just got full FDA approval. Did anyone think that it wouldn’t? Did anyone in the media bother to ask if the forces of power, money, and technocratic medical tyrants would back down and not give full approval, considering how these forces have managed to shape reality and scare to death half of the population over a disease with a very low mortality rate? Regardless of your opinion of how severe the disease is, mandates and passports are incontrovertibly coercive, tyrannical measures. If the vaccines do not stop transmission, which the medical authorities have already admitted to varying degrees, then what is the point of these mandates and passports?

Furthermore, the vaccine passport will effectively be discriminatory since minorities are less likely to get the vaccines. African Americans especially have lower vaccination rates, for good reasons, the US medical establishment experimented on black populations throughout the Cold War and even beyond. It’s not difficult to see the ramifications of bio-digital segregations. One does not need a PhD or medical degree; in fact, these “credentials” seem to blinker one’s view in support of this new form of discrimination.

In the view of what we might term the technocracy, or perhaps the emerging biosecurity establishment, it is virtuous to separate the “clean” vaxxed from the supposedly disease-carrying, uneducated, lower-classes who won’t take these experimental shots.

All of the power and money, all the “Science ™” snowballed into an unstoppable corporate/government momentum which shows no signs of letting up. All that propaganda, the deliberate lies about mask efficiency (they don’t work) and vaccine holiness (they don’t prevent transmission) they’ve been shoving down the public’s throats for over a year and a half? Yeah, the nanny-state politico-medical tyrants are not going to give up this narrative without a fight. They are doubling down on the fear and quest for total obedience and control. It suits late-stage capitalism just fine if small and medium sized businesses go under and the excess labor supply of the unemployed are evicted and go hungry. They are extraneous to the monopoly cartels which run the “economy”, which is run by giant tech corporations, the stock market, the military-industrial complex, and the FIRE sector, multinational conglomerates who operate with almost no competition in nearly every industry.

There is no way to fight back against these abuses of power through the court system. In my opinion, the most rational approach would be to boycott, in any way possible, the corporations and public institutions that are going along with vaccine mandates and passports. Part of this involves the vote with your dollars approach. Hurting the corporate lemmings and technocrat sociopaths in their wallets and lack of tax revenues are the only things they will understand.

If you were thinking of traveling to Europe, skip France and Italy. Guess what?  If globally millions of tourists suddenly gave the middle finger to these two countries and vacationed elsewhere, the dent in lost revenue and GDP might actually have some effect on the political establishment. In France and Italy citizens are rightly fed up with protests every day against the passports, and many vaccinated people have burned their vaccine papers in solidarity.

Similarly, if people in the US abstained from traveling to and spending money in NYC and SF, every restaurant owner, museum board, theater, and small business would then put immediate pressure on city, state, and federal politicians to ban vaccine passports, hopefully for good. If millions of people refuse to shop and do business with companies that have mandatory vaccination requirements for their employees, it would also put immense pressure to relent.

Investors should also divest from corporations that insist on mandating vaccines for employees. It may, in fact, be legal for companies to do so, but it is frankly coercive and is a sort of crossing of the Rubicon, blurring one’s private life and medical choices with public duties, to create a new type of “good citizen”, a biopolitical subject serving capitalism with zero critical thinking skills.

For those in the workforce facing mandates, such as federal/state public employees and health care workers, if possible it is definitely worth considering if another career/job can be found. If enough teachers, nurses, etc., quit or go on strike against their employee mandates, pressure can be applied and the mandates could potentially be lifted.

It’s worth pointing out that the goalposts continue to be changed from slowing the pace of transmission to eradicating the virus- from two weeks to flatten the curve (tacitly acknowledging that coronaviruses cannot really be stopped) to mandates for wide swaths of public and private work, as well as military and police presence on the streets of Australia, to name one of the most obvious police state measures. The goalposts are changing to determine our “good citizen” status. Before, one simply had to go along to get along, obey the laws, pay taxes, and keep one’s head down; now, not only are we expected to do and say the right things, but to inject the right experimental drugs into our bodies.

My humble prediction is the goalposts are going to continue to move. The game is akin to the frogs boiling slowly in the pot; by consenting to our own freedom being curtailed and our own imprisonment, the establishment gets what it wants without having to crack down using excessive force and coercion. The innate desire to have access to public spaces, to go on vacation, will lead many people ignorant of the wider implications to accept these new dystopian measures.  The horizon of getting “back to normal” will recede faster as new variants naturally emerge, as viruses tend to do, and this will continue to be used as a new scare tactic, even as death rates effectively returned to normal four months ago (May of 2021) in the US, and many other countries show no more excess deaths, or none outside normal yearly variations, as well in 2021.

The virus is now endemic, but the powers that be are going to insist upon using it as a weapon for total control over the population. We’re through the looking-glass, we now have a form of “scientism” which is irrefutable no matter how unsettled the truth really is. Statistics such as death counts from Covid are unreliable, with doctors confessing to listing Covid-19 as the primary cause of death when it’s not- dying “from Covid” is conflated as dying “with Covid”. Deaths from the lockdowns are not seriously considered, even though many scientists are on record stating that the lockdowns led to a large chunk of the excess deaths.

Frankly, the near future looks pretty bleak for the US and the chances to have an open, honest dialogue about the seriousness of the pandemic, the capitalist world-system which stands to gain by using a 21st century tech-driven shock doctrine, and the police-state that will be built on the back of the panic caused by incessant propaganda. The fault lines are deepening and Democrats yammer to “trust the science” without any understanding themselves, and are willing to demonize anyone who doesn’t get an experimental jab or wear two masks while alone in their car; while Republicans continue to frame the “reopen the economy” debate in terms of those supposedly wonderful job-creating corporations, all the while being willing to sell the average worker out for an extra buck or two. Both parties are more than willing to screw over the poor, minorities, and working classes; if either cared about their citizens’ lives they wouldn’t throw people out into the streets via the mass evictions that are already underway.

As imperial decline and rot deepen, and the domestic surveillance apparatus pulls its noose tighter against our necks, our best bet to resist these freedom-crushing decrees is to deploy citizen power, mass protests, and coordinated direct action against inhumane vaccine mandates and police-state vaccine passports.

The post Boycott Vaccine Mandates and Covid Passports first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Stadio Olimpico: Can Sports Heal the World?

Amid chaotic politics and anti-immigrant and refugee sentiments, Stadio Olimpico in Rome seemed like an oasis of social and cultural harmony. AS Roma and Raja Casablanca fans gathered in their thousands on a hot Saturday evening to cheer for their teams in a friendly match, the first in the Olimpico for nearly a year and a half.

The guest team is a Moroccan football powerhouse and an African champion par excellence. AS Roma, though it had a tough season last year, seemed ready to reclaim its past glory, especially with Jose Mourinho now leading the squad.

The match was Roma’s final ‘friendly’ before embarking on the difficult task of reclaiming their strong standing in Serie A. Relegated from both the UEFA Champions League and Europa League, Roma is forced to play in the less prestigious Conference League. Neither the team nor the fans, however, seemed shaken by the setback. On the contrary, the team’s Ultrà were, once again, back in the stadium, in their fixed spot in the Curva Sud, with their massive flags and melodious chant, “Roma, Roma, Roma …”

Raja Casablanca’s fans, although fewer in number, were still far more animated and, sometimes, rowdy. They danced in unison amid the occasional flares, fireworks and massive clouds of colored smoke.

As someone who has written and reported on issues pertaining to human rights, socio-economic inequalities and political discord in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere, the spectacle was atypical. Italians, Moroccans and other Arabs seamlessly mingled as friends, or friendly rivals.

Muslim women, some in their traditional attire and headscarves, others without, some speaking Italian, others Arabic or French, looked comfortable, free from judgment, harassment and unfriendly looks.

The children, however, took center stage. A 10-year-old Roma fan, sitting alongside his father while wrapped in a Roma flag, bellowed screams of joy and anger and, quite often, specific instructions at Roma players who, starting in the middle of the first half, dominated the game.

Two Italian-Moroccan boys wore green and white jerseys with this Arabic inscription at the back: “Rajawi Falastini” – Palestinian Rajawi – the typical homage to Palestine and her people, often exhibited by Raja Casablanca and its loyal fans. The two children remained hopeful that their team could still stage a comeback, despite Roma’s victory almost being assured well before the end of the game. The two boys chatted in Italian, spoke to their parents with a distinct Moroccan accent and yelled at the players, in French, to play better or to move faster.

In fact, the intermingling of languages was omnipresent throughout the entire event. Raja’s Ultras chanted in several languages, including Italian, and held large banners, communicating messages of a political nature, written mostly in French.

Most amusing, especially for those of us sitting in the Tribuna Tevere – at an equal distance between both ultras – was the shouting match, through songs, chants and, occasionally, whistles between the two sides.

For me, personally, the game, although ‘friendly’, was one of the most difficult matches to watch. A loyal Roma fan for years, my heart was also with the Moroccan side. At times, it seemed that I was cheering for both teams and regretting missed opportunities on both sides. While it was clear that Roma was easily winning the match, I desperately hoped for a Moroccan goal or two.

By the end of the match, as the large crowd – still giddy by the fact that they were able to attend a large sports event despite the deadly COVID-19 pandemic – dispersed, I walked around the Foro Italico, the sports complex which hosts Stadio Olimpico, among other edifices. The contradictions were palpable.

This towering sports monument was once called Foro Mussolini, one of the starkest celebrations of fascist Italy in the twentieth century. Fascists, under the leadership of Benito Mussolini, labored to harness the popular appeal of sports to communicate the message that fascism exists to celebrate the power and vigor of the Italian race, one that is, supposedly, superior to all others.

Although the complex’s name eventually changed, many of the inscriptions dating back to the Fascist era are still in place. The most obvious of these references is the Mussolini Dux, a 50-foot obelisk that still towers near the entrance.

Fascism, which is rearing its ugly head once more in various European societies, cared little for social justice, for racial equality and for cultural harmony. Yet, this very stadium, one of the greatest architectural achievements of Italy’s Mussolini, is now a venue for various peoples, cultures and languages to intermingle. Several Muslim women, donned with beautifully colored hijabs, sought respite from the heat and humidity under Mussolini’s Dux obelisk, possibly unaware of the irony.

News outside the stadium that day told of horrific stories from Greece and Belarus regarding the mistreatment of refugees and the targeting of migrants. Muslim European communities are constant subjects for political ‘controversies’, merely for living their lives and practicing their religions or covering their heads. However, for approximately two hours, in Stadio Olimpico on Saturday, August 14, none of this seemed to matter. The world outside may bring the worst in us, but, for now, we are only defined by our love for football, and hopefully, someday, for each other.

The post Stadio Olimpico: Can Sports Heal the World? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Lingering Peculiarities: Slavery and Manumission in the Roman Empire

The question does not bear asking, but in a global economy greased by what has been termed disposable people, the past’s previous examples of the same may be a country worth visiting.  The prod along for such a journey came with the discovery of yet another gem from the ruins of Pompeii.  The news headlines were ravenous in consuming the details about the history of an individual who, having been a slave, obviously went on to do rather well for himself.  It read like a tale of social mobility, and would have sent the likes of those who spoke about the paralysis of social death spinning in the grave.

First, the fanfare.  The skull of one Marcus Venerius Secundio was praised as “the best-preserved human remains ever discovered in Pompeii”.  They were found in an ancient tomb in the necropolis of Porta Sarno.  The marble slab found at the pediment of his tomb had an inscription that sent the news outlets into states of excitement.

The Minister of Culture, Dario Franceschini, was so enthusiastic as to be insufferable.  “Pompeii never ceases to amaze, and has confirmed her place as a story of redemption, as an international role model, and a place where research and new archaeological excavations are taking place once more, thanks to the many professionals in the field of cultural heritage, who with their work never cease to produce extraordinary results for the world which are a source of pride for Italy.”

Then, the career aspect of Secundio. The gravestone’s inscription, in the nature of such etchings, is filled with many achievements.  He had been a slave.  Post-liberation, he became a custodian of the Temple of Venus.  He was admitted to a college of priests, the Augustales, and organised ludi, entertainment events run in Greek and Latin.

The director of Pompeii’s archaeological park, Gabriel Zuchtriegel drew the logical conclusion from the finding.  “So here we see evidence of a transformation of social ranking … he is showing that he became a different person, that he made it in life.”  Admittedly, the status of the slave was “humiliating” but it was clear that Secundio had come good.

Such finds are impressive, but stories about manumitted slaves who went on to become social climbers and society achievers in the Roman Empire are far from unusual.  Mary Beard has made a habit of reading Roman gravestones full of conversational detail, many showing an empire filled with go-getting types and bounders.  Indeed, she has made referring to tombstones fundamental to understanding an empire not interpreted purely through the records of the great, foolish and sadistic.

The institution of Roman slavery was, more broadly, a strange beast.  The living standards of those in bondage ranged from the atrocious and vulnerable to luxurious and cosseted.  Ethnically, they hailed from all corners of the imperium.

During periods of the empire, notably the Imperial phase, slaves were in shorter supply given fewer wars.  Wars presented opportunities for enslavement and an addition to the labour pool.  The diminished supply meant an appreciation in value and a focus on “home breeding”.  Excessively cruel treatment was discouraged, even prohibited by some regulations.  None of this ever overcame that most evident of realities: that a slave lacked self-possession, subject to an owner who could exercise violence when he chose to do so.

Beard notes that most baffling of tendencies in Ancient Rome: to generously manumit those in bondage.  Such individuals were granted citizenship, a point grandly illustrated by the emperor Caracalla’s decision in AD 212 to grant Roman citizenship to all free persons in the empire.  This was in stark opposition to other powers such as Athens, which could never be accused of that same tendency, let alone dolling out citizenships.   The result was a political entity of stunning ethnic diversity that served to cause a good deal of anxiety and self-questioning.

The reasons for such emancipation are not clear.  Doing so might have arisen from “coldly practical considerations”, as Beard calls them. Older slaves would be granted freedom because of a lack of productivity and cost of retention.  Slaves might also purchase their own freedom through their savings.  For those working in domestic conditions rather than the harsher conditions of agriculture, slavery would not be a station for life.

In Pompeii, Secundio’s body proved enthralling for its preserved state, with skeleton generally intact, white hair and even some remains of an ear.  Unusually for adult Pompeiians, he was not cremated but partially mummified and entombed.  Zuchtriegel speculates that, as tomb burial was reserved for children and infants, Secundio’s importance must have been quite something though Llorenç Alapont, an archaeologist based at Universidad Europea de Valencia advances a hypothesis: that Pompeii, at that time, permitted a certain freedom in such matters.  The list of questions merely grows.

The post Lingering Peculiarities: Slavery and Manumission in the Roman Empire first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Greed and Consumption: Why the World is Burning

Rome is scorching hot. This beautiful city is becoming unbearable for other reasons, too. Though every corner of the beaming metropolis is a monument to historical grandeur, from the Colosseum in Rione Monti to the Basilica of Saint John Lateran in San Giovanni, it is now struggling under the weight of its own contradictions.

In Via Appia, bins are overflowing with garbage, often spilling over into the streets. The smell, especially during Italy’s increasingly sweltering summers, is suffocating.

Meanwhile, many parts of the country are literally on fire. Since June 15, firefighters have reportedly responded to 37,000 fire-related emergencies, 1,500 of them on July 18 alone. A week later, I drove between Campania, in southern Italy, and Abruzzo, in the center. Throughout the journey, I was accompanied by fire and smoke. On that day, many towns were evacuated, and thousands of acres of forests were destroyed. It will take months to assess the cost of the ongoing destruction, but it will certainly be measured in hundreds of millions of euros.

Additionally, the entire southern Europe is ablaze, as the region is experiencing its worst heat waves in many years. Greece, Spain, Turkey, and the Balkans are fighting fires that continue to rage on.

Across the Atlantic, the US and Canada, too, are desperately trying to battle their own wildfires, mostly direct outcomes of unprecedented heat waves that struck North America from Vancouver to California, along with the whole of the American northwest region. In June, Vancouver, Portland and Seattle all set new heat records, 118, 116 and 108 Fahrenheit, respectively.

While it is true that not all fires are a direct result of global warming — many in Italy, for example, are man-made — unprecedented increases in temperature, coupled with changes in weather patterns, are the main culprits of these unmitigated disasters.

The solution is more complex than simply having the resources and proper equipment to contain these fires. The impact of the crises continues to be felt for years, even if temperatures somehow stabilize. In California, for example, which is bracing for another horrific season, the devastation of the previous years can still be felt.

“After two years of drought, the soil moisture is depleted, drying out vegetation and making it more prone to combustion,” The New York Times reported on July 16. The problem, then, is neither temporary nor can be dealt with through easy fixes.

As I sat with my large bottle of water outside Caffettiamo Cafe, struggling with heat, humidity and the pungent smell of garbage, I thought about who is truly responsible for what seems to be our new, irreversible reality. Here in Italy, the conversation is often streamlined through the same, predictable and polarized political discourse. Each party points finger at the others, in the hope of gaining some capital prior to the upcoming October municipal elections.

Again, Italy is not the exception. Political polarization in Europe and the US constantly steers the conversation somewhere else entirely. Rarely is the problem addressed at a macro-level, independent from political calculations. The impact of global warming cannot and must not be held hostage to the ambitions of politicians. Millions of people are suffering, livelihoods are destroyed, the fate of future generations is at risk. In the grand scheme of things, whether the current mayor of Rome, Virginia Raggi, is elected for another term or not, is insignificant.

Writing in the Columbia Climate School website, Renee Cho highlights the obvious, the relationship between our insatiable appetite for consumption and climate change. “Did you know that Americans produce 25 percent more waste than usual between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, sending an additional one million tons a week to landfills?” Cho asks.

This leads us to think about the existential relationship between our insatiable consumption habits and the irreparable damage we have inflicted upon mother earth.

Here in Via Appia, the contradictions are unmistakable. This is the summer sales season in Italy. Signs reading “Saldi” – or “Sale” – are everywhere. For many shoppers, it is impossible to fight the temptation. This unhinged consumerism – the backbone and the fault line of capitalism – comes at a high price. People are encouraged to consume more, as if such consumption has no repercussions for the environment whatsoever. Indeed, Via Appia is the perfect microcosm of this global schizophrenia: people complaining about the heat and the garbage, while simultaneously consuming beyond their need, thus creating yet more garbage and, eventually, worsening the plight of the environment.

Collective problems require collective solutions. Italy’s heat cannot be pinned down on a few arsonists and California’s wildfires are not simply the fault of an ineffectual mayor. Global warming is, in large part, the outcome of a destructive pattern instigated and sustained by capitalism. The latter can only survive through unhindered consumption, inequality, greed and, when necessary, war. If we continue to talk about global warming without confronting the capitalist menace that generated much of the crisis in the first place, the conversation will continue to amount to nil.

In the final analysis, all the conferences, pledges and politicking will not put out a single fire, neither in Italy nor anywhere else in the world.

The post Greed and Consumption: Why the World is Burning first appeared on Dissident Voice.

When Football Did Not Come Home

They were in with a shot.  The English team, deliriously floating on chants of Football’s Coming Home, had made it to their first major Ttournament final since 1966.  The UEFA European Football Championship would be decided at Wembley against an Italian side unblemished by defeat since September 2018.  But the English, coached by the much admired Gareth Southgate, succumbed in that most cruel of deciders: the penalty shootout.

In English footballing history, the penalty shootout has been responsible for a string of famous defeats.  In 1990, the national side lost to the West German juggernaut in the semi-final of the World Cup.  In the European Championship in 1996, the result was repeated, with the Germans again winning.  Southgate will have particularly vivid memories of that: he was one of the players who missed.  The shelf of defeat was beginning to sag.

Then came the European Championships of 2020, delayed by the global pandemic.  England were fortunate in their draw and, unlike many of their opponents, played most of their matches on home soil.  But their record proved impressive, with Southgate’s side keeping a clean sheet till the semi-final against Denmark.  It became clear that Southgate had created a team unit as opposed to a team of stars bristling with contesting egos.   Previous footballing practices extolled celebrity within the team, with predictable consequences.  “Beckhamisation”, named after the recognisable former England captain and Manchester United player David Beckham, did much to create estrangement within the ranks between the celebrities and the foot soldiers.

The success of Southgate’s team also did much to tease out discussions about English identity and a supposedly new form of progressive Englishness. “In England we have spent a bit of time being a bit lost as to what our modern identity is,” observed Southgate prior to the 2018 World Cup.  “I think as a team we represent that modern identity and hopefully people can connect with us.”  The UK Migration Museum even declared that, “Without players with at least one parent or grandparent born overseas, England would be down to just 3 players.”

The draining final played on July 11 finished with each side having scored a goal.  In the penalty shootout, the steely discipline of the Italians resolved the match in their favour.  Pundits spent hours debating England’s tactics against the Italian goalkeeper, as if it mattered.  Should the tender-aged Bukayo Saka have taken the fifth penalty kick as opposed to a more seasoned player?  Was Southgate being too bookish in sticking to the original line up of players?

But the defeat did more than produce the usual rivers of commentary on tactical slips and fortuitous blunders.  Darker demons were released from the froth of despair.  Vengefully, they focused on matters of race, scalding and unsparing about those who had failed to score.  A torrent of abuse was released upon Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Saka, a vicious, smouldering kind that has come to typify social media commentary.  Natalie Elphicke, Conservative MP for Dover and Deal, heaped scorn on Rushford in a private WhatsApp group.  “They lost – would it be ungenerous to suggest that Rashford should have spent more time perfecting his game and less time playing politics?”

A mural of Rashford in Withington, Manchester, was defaced with obscenities.  In appealing for information on the incident, Chief Superintendent Paul Savill warned that hate crime would not be tolerated and was “not welcome in this city.”  Notes of support were placed across the mural like plastering bands of reassurance across cuts and bruises.

Team captain Harry Kane took to Twitter to praise the three players who had the courage to take the penalty and should be celebrated for that fact. “They deserve support & backing not the vile racist abuse they’ve had since last night.  If you abuse anyone on social media you’re not an @England fan and we don’t want you.”

On the issue of condemning racial abuse, certain players found the messages from the Johnson government jarringly insincere.  The pot of identity was again being stirred and the result was increasingly ugly.  Home secretary Priti Patel received a sharp barb from English footballer Tyrone Mings for having previously refused to condemn fans who had booed the England team in taking the knee in protesting against racism.  In his opinion, Patel had undercut her own case. “You don’t get to stoke the fire at the beginning of the tournament by labelling our anti-racism message as ‘Gesture Politics’ and then pretend to be disgusted when the very thing we’re campaigning against, happens.”

It was not just that the home secretary had voiced her view against such displays of “gesture politics”.  She also saw little problem in the conduct of the fans: “That’s the choice for them, quite frankly.”  The hordes were duly summoned.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also been known to dabble with the race card, penning pieces of some notoriety and doing his bit of stoking from time to time.  London radio presenter James O’Brien noted one article in particular mocking Islamic dress.  “In the three weeks after the ‘letterboxes’ article was published in August 2018, 42 per cent of offline Islamophobic incidents reports ‘directly referenced Boris Johnson and/or the language used in his column.”

Labour’s opposition leader Keir Starmer was even more explicit in Parliament, accusing Johnson of giving racism “the green light” and engaging in his own culture war.  “And I’ll tell you the worst kind of gesture politics, putting an England shirt on over a shirt and tie whilst not condemning those booing”.

Johnson has promised to take “practical steps to ensure that the Football Banning order regime is changed so that if you were guilty … of racist abuse online of footballers then you will not be going to the match, no ifs, no buts, no exemptions and no excuses.”

The government was also seeking other handy alibis.  As usual, social media platforms were walked into those roles to provide ammunition.  Johnson claimed to have had a firm word with representatives from social media at his Downing Street residence on July 13, warning that he would “legislate to address this problem in the Online Harms Bill, and unless they get hate and racism off their platforms, they will face fines amounting to 10% of their global revenues.”  The more astute comment in this move was made by former Premier League player Anton Ferdinand: sort out your own house first.  And that house is in severe need of tidying.

The post When Football Did Not Come Home first appeared on Dissident Voice.

“Anti-Zionist Naples”: Award-Winning Italian Artist Speaks about Palestine and Why He Quit Photojournalism 

On April 1, a mural appeared in the Southern Italian city of Naples, depicting Palestinian workers lining at an Israeli military checkpoint near the occupied city of Bethlehem, in the West Bank. It is called ‘Welcome to Bethlehem’.

The mural, which quickly became popular in the town and on social media, was the work of a well-known Italian artist and photographer, Eduardo Castaldo.

Castaldo, who is a cinematic and television photographer, is not your typical artist, as he dedicates part of his time and efforts to championing struggles for human rights, equality and justice, especially in Palestine and throughout the Middle East.

It is only befitting that Castaldo is from Naples, a Southern Italian city with deep historical and cultural connections with Palestine and the Arab world. As Italian culture had itself influenced the Arab world, numerous markers of Arab culture can also be detected in Naples, from the Neapolitan dialect to music and dance, to food and much more.

Moreover, Naples, itself, is a symbol of the Italian resistance. The September 1943 uprising, known as “Le Quattro Giornate di Napoli” – Four Days of Naples – was a watershed moment in the history of the city as it liberated itself from Nazi German occupation.

Castaldo’s mural of the Palestinian workers is not his only work on Palestine and the Middle East. He has done other artistic displays. Moreover, he has spent years in Palestine working as a photojournalist.

We spoke to the Italian artist to understand his connection with Palestine and the Arab world, his inspirations and his ongoing fight against injustice in all of its forms.

Capturing the Occupation 

This work originated from my experience as a photo reporter in the Middle East,Castaldo said in reference to ‘Welcome to Bethlehem’.

Castaldo worked as a photojournalist in Palestine for about four years, from 2007-2011. These years allowed him to immerse himself in the Palestinian experience and to “directly witness the cruel dynamics of Israeli military occupation.”

“I visited the Bethlehem checkpoint several times, where I took many photos. My street artwork is a collage of photos that I took at the time,” he tells us.

“That was a particularly harrowing experience,” Castaldo reflects:

I was standing outside the checkpoint bars, taking pictures of Palestinian workers between ages 30 and 60, even 70, piled on top of one another for hours to cross the checkpoint and reach Jerusalem to work. These people repeated this same routine every day, from as early as 4 AM to 8 AM. And every day, they were forced by circumstances to suffer that same dehumanizing experience, simply to earn meager amounts of money (to feed their families).

Castaldo felt “uncomfortable being a Western photojournalist, outside of the bars, taking pictures” of entrapped Palestinian workers. He explains the reasons behind his uneasiness:

These people were already deprived of their dignity and I didn’t feel I had the right to take photos of them as if they were animals in a zoo. This feeling was so unpleasant that I decided not to show or sell those pictures to newspapers.

But that feeling didn’t depart Castaldo’s conscience; in fact, it grew “stronger and stronger” to the point that Castaldo quit photojournalism altogether. Needless to say, those experiences in Palestine were imprinted in Castaldo’s mind until this day.

“After several years, around 2018, I decided to re-elaborate these photos and I turned them into something else entirely,” he says, explaining:

I put together 40-50 images in one single image, which won several awards, including the Sony World Photography Awards in 2018. Feeling the need to convey Palestinians’ painful experiences to the world, I transformed that picture into a street artwork. As an artist, that was my way to narrate that experience: both my feeling of discomfort and the humiliation and abuse that Palestinians were forced to suffer.

From Naples to Palestine

The Bethlehem mural is not the only street artwork that Castaldo dedicated to Palestine. In Via San Giovanni a Pignatelli, also in Naples, there is another breathtaking mural of a Neapolitan woman dumping a bucket of water at two Israeli soldiers who are trying to climb the wall.

Castaldo says that this work is, too, a “reconstruction of a photo taken during an Israeli military operation in Palestine”.

“The act of throwing water is quite common in Naples, especially by women who want to scare away kids when they are too loud in the street,” he says. “By associating this typical reaction with Israeli soldiers I tried to epitomize Naples’ solidarity with the Palestinian people. In my mind, that gesture became a symbol of anti-Zionist Naples.”

But Castaldo’s Palestinian inspiration exceeds that of the geographic boundaries of Palestine to Italy itself. “Subsequently, I decided to add an element to the Palestinian flag,” which is present in the mural, namely, a portrait of Ali Oraney, a Palestinian-Italian activist who has been living in Naples since the early 1980s and died from Covid-19 some months ago.

Ali played an important role in carrying out the struggle of the Palestinian people in Naples. He has been one of the key figures for the pro-Palestine activism in Naples and, more generally, in Italy and that is a tribute from my town to the Palestinian people and Ali.

Human Connection

Like other artists, journalists and other visitors to Palestine, the human connection, for Castaldo, was far more powerful a rapport than books and news broadcasts. Spending time with Palestinians is usually the best answer to the dehumanization they suffer at the hand of mainstream media.

“Living in Palestine and the Arab world allowed me to create a strong bond with ordinary people living there, with their experiences, and with their daily struggles,” he says.

“I have made friends with many people there and I had the chance to experience some of these things firsthand, as a journalist and a human being. This is essentially what created my bond with the Palestinian people.”

Art and Change

We asked Castaldo whether he believes that art is capable of altering reality in any way.

As an artist “I have no illusion that my art can change things on the ground,” he says. “However, it is a way to offer my skills to what I perceive as important. It has undoubtedly a personal value to me. And I believe the political value of my artworks is intrinsically linked to the places in which they are set.”  Castaldo’s “ultimate goal is to connect the city of Naples, where I live, to this cause.”

On art, politics, and freedom, the accomplished Italian artist says:

I am perfectly aware that my art will not change such a dramatic political situation or have a key role, but I also think it can contribute because art is freedom. And, to me, it is important to point out that this freedom is not neutral, it has to stand on one side, on the right side.

Beyond Palestine

Castaldo’s morally motivated and politically conscious artwork spans other areas and subjects beyond Palestine, although, at their core, all of these issues are connected.

Castaldo, who also worked as a photojournalist during the Egyptian revolution, dedicated another mural to Giulio Regeni, a young Italian scholar who was murdered in Egypt, presumably by Egyptian security forces.

The mural was not only dedicated to Giulio Regeni, but to the Egyptian situation as a whole, because Regeni was part of it. Moreover, my ultimate goal was not only to denounce the single violation against Regeni but the repressive system in Egypt in its entirety.

Castaldo is particularly happy that his artwork is very popular in the Middle East, where he continues to receive much support and accolades from the people and fellow artists in the region.

“Thanks to social media, my works are more popular in the Middle East than in Europe. And I have to say that their positive reactions, their support, and their solidarity make me proud,” he says.

Castaldo is not a typical artist. Ethics and morality play a crucial role in everything he does. He takes his inspiration from the people, and whenever possible, he exhibits his work also to the people. He feeds on the love and support he acquires from ordinary people, whether in Palestine or in Naples.

This artist of the people is on a mission to convey the kind of pain, suffering, and indignity that proud people often undergo in isolation. His art also tells the story of pride, beauty, and hope for a brighter future.

The post “Anti-Zionist Naples”: Award-Winning Italian Artist Speaks about Palestine and Why He Quit Photojournalism  first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Europe Will Redefine Itself Despite Political Shift in the US

Despite the long-awaited political change in Washington as Democratic President, Joe Biden, has officially become the 46th President of the United States, Europe is unlikely to resume its previously unhindered reliance on its trans-Atlantic partner.

The four years of Donald Trump were rife with tension and strife between the US and Europe – in fact, between the US and its traditional allies, including Mexico and Canada. However, the strain in the US-EU relationship long preceded Trump’s presidency.

Trump’s eccentric personal style – and often blunt rhetoric and action – was an indicator to Europe that the continent urgently needed to create its own leadership alternatives to Washington. Following World War II, the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1949 and the collapse of the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact in 1991, the US became the uncontested leader of the West and, eventually, the globe’s only superpower. These dynamics are now experiencing an unparalleled influx.

The US commitment to the post-war paradigm was clearly faltering. Consequently, statements from Europe’s political elites in recent years suggest a massive rethink among European governments regarding their definition of the relationship with Washington, an alliance that ran the world for decades.

In an unprecedented statement in May 2017, German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, articulated the massive shift in Europe’s new political outlook when she said, “The times in which we could completely depend on others are, to a certain extent, over.” In that momentous speech in Munich, Germany’s strong leader signaled the beginning of the end of the disproportionate reliance on the US and the UK.

The reason behind the distrust in Washington and London was obvious. On the one hand, President Trump has labored to disrupt and reverse traditional US policies towards Europe, including a scathing attack on the integrity and the mission of NATO, and the latter’s usefulness to the US in terms of global security.

The UK, no longer a member of the European Union, on the other hand, has confronted the EU with its greatest challenges, as it rejected not only EU’s fiscal, migration and other policies but also the very notion of the ‘European Community’. Coupled with Washington’s global retreat, ‘Brexit’ decisively ended any illusion that a post-WWII political scenario can still be possible.

Attesting to this seismic change in the attitude of Europe’s mainstream politicians, were the remarks by French President, Emmanuel Macron, in November 2018 when he called for a “true European army” to protect the continent from outside threats. “We must have a Europe that can defend itself on its own without relying only on the United States,” Macron said.

While there is some truth to media assertions that “the EU sighs with relief as Biden readies to enter White House,” this should not be confused with hyped European expectations that the new American President is able to fully reset EU-US ties of yesteryears, nor should it indicate European eagerness to engage the US with unfiltered trust and enthusiasm.

Actual data from a large pan-European survey commissioned by the European Council on Foreign Relations confirm Europe’s fundamentally changing attitude toward the US. The survey included more than 15,000 people in 11 EU countries and was held after it became clear that Biden had won the US elections.

According to the survey, the majority in leading EU countries believe that “the US political system is broken,” that “China will be more powerful than the US within a decade” and, finally, that “the Europeans cannot rely on the US to defend them.” Particularly interesting, the ECFR’s commissioned poll signaled a massive geopolitical shift in Europeans’ view towards global alliances, viewing “Berlin, rather than Washington, as the most important partner”.

On the issue of trust, only 27% of polled Europeans believe that ‘Americans can be trusted’ after they voted for Trump in 2016. With Germany currently being Europe’s de facto leader, the views of Germans towards their American counterparts are particularly critical. Hence, the US must take note that 53% of German respondents have lost trust in a country that once was a close partner.

ECFR chose the eve of Biden’s inauguration to release the findings of the report, itself a message to the new administration to tread very carefully while attempting to repair broken ties on both sides of the Atlantic.

The ball is no longer in Washington’s court alone. The fact that the majority of Europeans believe in China’s impending global leadership in a matter of a few years means that the EU will have no patience for any American ultimatum to choose between Washington and Beijing. The latter is no longer a fleeting economic phenomenon but an irreversible force on the global stage that cannot be easily dismissed, effectively ‘sanctioned’ or simply wished away.

The next few years should be enough for Europe to determine its new identity, without Britain and without relying on American guidance and leadership. Considering Europe’s brewing political crises, with Italy being the latest example, and the unavoidably dire economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, Europe’s journey to a revamped version of itself is likely to be a painful one and, like all difficult choices, rife with challenges and much introspection.

The post Europe Will Redefine Itself Despite Political Shift in the US first appeared on Dissident Voice.