“Totalitarianism has many faces, many names, but don’t be fooled. Know how to recognize it and counter it. You will often find it very close to you. It might even look like you. Doing things that seem to be innocuous: yes, the tyrant may even seem nice to you, while he smiles at the camera and shares photos of an unhealthy meal with you.”
Laura Grimaldi presents her painting “The Beast”
By Laura Grimaldi. English translation edited by Christine Martinez
Beauty and “The Beast”: Neo-fascism and Resistance Movements in the Digital Age
Pertini: You see, I am faithful to Voltaire’s precept, and it is this … I say to my opponents: “I fight your faith which is contrary to mine, but I am ready to fight up to the price of my own life so that you can always freely express your thoughts.”
Here’s what my position is. I mean, although I am not a believer, I respect the faith of believers. For example, I am a socialist, but I respect the political faith of others: I discuss it, I can argue with them. But they are the owners of their thoughts, which they have to freely express. That is, I am democratic in this sense. Really.
Journalist: Do you also respect the political faith of fascists?
“Il totalitarismo possiede molte facce, molti nomi, ma non fatevi ingannare. Sappiate riconoscerlo, e contrastarlo. Lo troverete spesso molto vicino a voi. Potrebbe somigliarvi persino. Fare cose apparentemente innocue: si, il tiranno può sembrarvi addirittura simpatico, mente sorride alla fotocamera e condivide con voi le foto di un pasto poco salutare. ”
Laura Grimaldi presenta il suo nuovo dipinto “La Bestia”.
La Bella e “La Bestia”: Neo-fascismo e movimenti di Resistenza nell’era digitale
Pertini: Vede, io sono fedele al precetto di Voltaire, ed è questo. Dico ai miei avversari: “Io combatto la tua fede che è contraria alla mia, ma sono pronto a battermi fino al prezzo della mia vita perchè tu possa sempre esprimere liberamente il tuo pensiero.” Ecco qual è la mia posizione. Cioè, io non sono credente, ma rispetto la fede dei credenti. Io ad esempio sono socialista, ma rispetto la fede politica degli altri: gliela discuto, posso discutere con loro, polemizzo con loro. Ma loro sono padroni di esprimere liberamente il loro pensiero. Cioè, io sono democratico in questo senso. Veramente.
Giornalista:Rispetta anche la fede politica dei fascisti?
COVID-19: Sostieni Medici senza Frontiere (Doctors Without Borders) con una donazione, per permettere loro di rispondere all'emergenza umanitaria assistendo le migliaia di bambini, donne e uomini intrappolati nel campo di Moria, sull’isola di Lesbo. Clicca sul link di accesso al sito di Medici Senza Frontiere
Dalle pietre del paese in cui sono nato mia madre scolpì le mie ossa E posando una giara di vetro sulle mie labbra mi versò nel petto il maestrale catturato dal mare.
Non ci si abitua mai ai bambini morti, alle donne decedute dopo aver partorito durante il naufragio, i loro piccoli ancora attaccati al cordone ombelicale. Non ci si abitua all’oltraggio di tagliare un dito o un orecchio per poter estrarre il Dna e dare un nome, una identità a un corpo esanime e non permettere che rimanga un numero. Ogni volta che apri un sacco verde è come se fosse la prima. Perché in ogni corpo trovi segni che ti raccontano la tragedia di un viaggio lunghissimo.
(Pietro Bartolo e Lidia Tilotta, “Lacrime di Sale”, Piccola biblioteca Oscar Mondadori.)
You never get used to seeing dead children or women who died giving birth on a wrecked boat, their tiny babies still attached to them by their umbilical cord. You never get used to the indignity of having to cut off a finger or an ear from a corpse to be tested for DNA so that the victim might be given a name, an identity, and not merely a number. Every time I open a green body bag, it feels as if I am doing it for the first time. Everybody carries the marks of long and tragic journey.
(Pietro Bartolo and Lidia Tilotta, Tears of Salt, W.W. Norton & Company. Translated from the Italian by Chenxin Jiang.)
After an hour or so, the man decided to speak to me. […] When the boat was wrecked, they had been thrown into the water along with eight hundred other passengers. He was an excellent swimmer and was carrying the nine-month-old at his breast. He held his wife’s hand with one hand, and clasped his three-year-old’s in the other. […] If he just kept treading water, all four of them would drown. In the end, he opened his right hand, and let go of his son. He watched him disappear forever under the waves.
As he told me this, he could not stop weeping, and nor could I. I did not have it in me to hold myself together. I felt guilty, since a doctor is not supposed to let his patients see that he is overwhelmed, but I couldn’t help it. I couldn’t just remain impassive in the face of such grief.
(Pietro Bartolo and Lidia Tilotta, Tears of Salt, W.W. Norton & Company. Translated from the Italian by Chenxin Jiang.)
The excerpts you read above are from the book Tears of Salt, written by Pietro Bartolo in collaboration with the journalist Lidia Tilotta. Pietro Bartolo is a well-known doctor that, for twenty-five years, has examined and cared for an estimated 250,000 refugees who landed on the island of Lampedusa, Sicily, after the long, deadly trip across the Mediterranean. Bartolo has since become a member of the European Parliament, being elected on the Democratic Party ticket in 2019. With disarming depth, his book Tears of Salt recounts the daily life of the doctor in Lampedusa, who witnessed numerous stories of both those who survived the journey and those who did not.
Many times while reading this book I had to stop reading, since the suffering described is something absolutely overwhelming for emotions. How could I keep reading impassively about people tortured in the Libyan concentration camps, the shipwrecks, the drowned men, women, and children who are lost among the waves?
“You never get used to seeing dead children or women who died giving birth on a wrecked boat,” Pietro Bartolo says.
The sight of a woman with her child still attached to her through the umbilical cord: this is something that no one, not even doctors, can get used to. It’s something that we cannot forget. No: we must remember. We must know about it. We must know that children who drown in the Mediterranean call their mothers while dying. We must know that people who drown call for help and nobody replies, although the whole of Europe is watching them while this happens.
In Tears of Salt, Bartolo describes how difficult it is to do this job, both psychologically and emotionally. Many times, it happens that his collaborators quit the mission, although they often come back on their own later, understanding the importance of this work despite its overwhelming difficulty.
“A doctor is not supposed to let his patients see that he is overwhelmed, but I couldn’t help it. I couldn’t just remain impassive in the face of such grief.” (Quote: Bartolo)
I think that the ability to be overwhelmed and emotionally moved is the real strength of Bartolo and of so many others who work in the humanitarian field. This emotional connection is something necessary, because recognition of our shared humanity and a rediscovery of compassion are necessary to fuel the fight for a better and more just world. I believe that a better and more just world is not possible without the ability to be emotionally moved.
In this historical moment, and in every past moment of history when hatred has run rife, there are people who defend the dignity of the oppressed and stand up for human rights, resisting intolerance, racisms, and every kind of oppression through actions, both large and small, that are, I argue, revolutionary.
These people are the “Citizens of the world”, the “resisting humanity”: those who project their sight beyond the borders of fear, where hope stands up for freedom.
Tears of Salt helped me see that despite the painful news on the topic of migration and human rights from all around the world, the cultural movements of the “underground” fabric of society, instead, bring messages of resistance and keep the possibilities of big change alive.
There are people who live for hope. There are people who migrate for hope. And there are those who die for hope.
But, as I just said, there are also people who give hope to others: these are those who break the invisible borders made out of hate with the power of love, turning gestures, both big and small, into actions of beauty, resistance, and revolution.
The humanitarian emergency of migrants crossing the Mediterranean has returned thousands of bodies to European shores. All of them had a hope. They died of that hope. So, the last question that I put on canvas is very simple: in this moment, is there any Hope?
When I started my first painting on the topic of migration (titled “Exile”) I would have answered “no”. But then, when I started learning about Pietro Bartolo and hearing about several Italian mayors willing to disobey the orders of the central government in order to help and accommodate the migrants, I started feeling that yes, there is still hope, there is always hope.
Artists, journalists, and teachers are responding. Associations, volunteers, lawyers, writers, and musicians as well. Many persons and groups are actively opposing the inhumane choices of our governments, spreading a message of brotherhood without regard for the consequences that this might bring to them. For many, this is a conscientious choice to resist repeating the most horrible pages of our human history, which unfortunately have been repeating thus far. “Love your neighbor as yourself”: this is the simple message that two peaceful dissenters wrote on a cardboard sign during a political meeting of the Lega political party. A team of stewards violently dragged them away. It is all true. It seems that in this period of our history, loving your neighbor is the most revolutionary action.
In this last painting, titled “Hope”, I wanted to depict one of those mothers described by Bartolo that often die of hope, carrying their child in their bellies.
But I wanted to represent her as still alive. The decorations of her dress tell us a journey. An epic, heroic, timeless, and ancestral journey.
Stars fluctuate in her head, going beyond every border, since her whole body is borderless.
She is not carrying only her child, but the child of every population and the redemption of all past, present, and future generations.
In her belly, I placed a quote by Cesare Pavese, because I wanted her to bring these powerful words with her like a talisman:
“What world lies beyond that stormy sea I do not know, but every ocean has a distant shore, and I shall reach it.” (Pavese)
I kept painting her with these words in my mind, the words that every man, woman, and child with a dream feel as their own: in all of them there is hope, the hope that, as long as a human being is still able to generate beauty, the possibility to give birth to something good, even out of such a disaster, remains.
An Afghan saying goes, “Drops make rivers”: I believe that “drop by drop” each one in their own small way will be revolutionary enough, even, to form a sea: a sea that does not divide but rather connects. A Sea that does not drown, but embraces, accepts, and welcomes all the children of our Earth.
December 20th. Jamil has just turned six. After reaching the beach and seeing the sea for the first time, Jamil is amazed by its beauty: the colors, the scent, the sound of the waves. And then he gets on that big boat. Big, yes, but always smaller, as it gets more and more crowded. Men, women, children. There are many children, and Jamil is happy: he will play with them during the trip. Amal, yumma, his mother, already explained to him that the journey is going to be long, and that he must behave well, just as she taught him.
il 20 dicembre e Jamil aveva da poco compiuto sei anni.
erano arrivati sulla spiaggia e aveva visto per la prima volta il mare, Jamil
era rimasto stupefatto per la sua bellezza: i colori il profumo, il suono delle
onde. E poi era salito sulla grande barca. Gli era sembrata grande ma ora, così
piena di gente, gli sembrava più piccola. Uomini, donne, bambini. C’ erano
molti bambini e questo lo rese felice: avrebbe potuto giocare con loro, durante
“I have always had a symbiotic relationship with the sea. For us who are born on the coast, it is so. The sea has always been an indisputable protagonist in our lives. It is the place where we joyously liberate ourselves from school by cutting class, the place where we spend the evening with friends.
“Ho sempre avuto un rapporto simbiotico col mare. Per noi che siamo nati sulle coste è così. Il mare è da sempre protagonista indiscusso delle nostre vite. Il luogo dove si libera la propria euforia nel giorni di sega a scuola; il luogo dove ci si incontra la sera con gli amici. Il mare lo si cerca sempre, che tu sia triste o felice. Quando non sappiamo cosa fare, dove andare, noi gente di mare andiamo…al mare. E per noi, nati in posti in cui non c’è molto da fare, è sempre il mare la meta del nostro vagare.
Il mare…il mare… È nella nostra storia, nelle nostre vene. È dall’ orizzonte che videro arrivare i Saraceni e culture di ogni tipo. Abbiamo visto gonfiarsi al vento vele di altri mondi. Cosa c’è, quindi, nel mio sangue? Nel mio sangue c’è questo mare.