I moved abroad many years ago. But I was born here, and I am here for a few days, and like many other residents of Bari, the only thing I’ve got of this G7 meeting underway is that it’s a meeting of Finance ministers. None of us, here, can list the names of the seven ministers, and not even of the seven countries they are from: but we could list one by one the streets we are forbidden to enter, those we are forbidden to park in, the difference among pedestrians, bikes, cars. Public transport. Among residents, outsiders, workers. Suspected jihadists. The shops that are closed, and those that open just in the morning. Those that if you need, don’t worry, give me a ring and I’ll come. The permits. The rules and their exceptions.
But that’s it. None of us has any clue what this G7 meeting is about.
The decisions taken.
We didn’t get any information, only instructions. Instructions about how to stay away.
And the issue is that this is the new normal. Ministers, heads of state, businessmen: the lords of the world arrive, and hole up in their off-limits zones. Bringing in a setting of the Power that isn’t a given, at all, it isn’t the natural order of things, but it’s actually packed with meaning: because it pre-emptively identifies the dangerous zone. Which isn’t the red zone: quite the opposite, we are the threat. We, the citizens. Kept away. Even though, truthfully, ministers of Finance should be grateful: in 2008, our tax money saved the banks by bankers.
Because outside the red zone, yes, someone sometimes breaks a window: but inside it, they have broken Greece. They have broken entire countries.
And instead, there is this idea that we should withdraw into a corner, noiselessly: so that the world’s helmsmen can stay focused, and work for us. Because in the end, it’s all about technical topics, right? And they are the experts. And so no meeting with citizens has been organized. I mean, a real meeting: with questions and answers. And what’s the point in moving these meetings from city to city, if nobody cares the city?
But it’s normal. Not even for the left there is anything strange anymore. Immediately you get the progressive member of the city council that shows his guests the true Bari: that is, the sister of a communist worker killed by neo-fascists in the Seventies – even though Bari is actually a longtime stronghold of the right. Since the end of World War II, it’s been the only Italian city to always elect a MP of the party formed by Mussolini’s supporters.
We aren’t citizens, we are folklore.
In a city like Bari, a city of job insecurity, unemployment, and the strict control of Mafia clans, especially over the economy, a city of money laundering, loan sharking, extortion, with dons that celebrate murders with fireworks, we are just pasta and Limoncello.
I live in the Middle East. I live in countries of rigged elections. I often come across parades and mass gatherings. These crowded squares, with the president’s portrait everywhere. They try to convince us that they enjoy popular support. But here?
They don’t even need us anymore. We have been removed from the scene straight away.