erasing clouds

The star was blue. The star was red: Shots from the Year 2002

by Anna Battista

The star is blue. Pale blue. The blue is much more intense at its core. The five points of the star explode from its core and reach out towards the infinite or rather the finite. Indeed, the star lives inside the bottle because it is the bottle, it is part of it. The star is formed by bits of corrugated plastic at the bottom of the bottle of water I'm drinking from. I sip some water, stop and lift the neck of the bottle from my mouth. I look inside the bottle and stare at the blue star. For a while I keep on looking at it through the plastic tunnel of the bottle. If the water was salted, the star would be alive, it would be a sea star. I decide to restyle the room I'm in, to paint it in a different colour, so I look at the room through the bottle. The window, like a chameleon, assumes the colour of the sky, my desk loses its boring brown tint, the fishes printed on my quilt swim in a tropical blue sea.

I turn my cheap monochromatic kaleidoscope towards the TV. The news are on. The newscaster assumes a pale blue colour, then, suddenly, he's replaced by footage of a place where a man has been murdered. I remove the bottle I'm playing with, pretending of being Christopher Columbus, and watch the screen. Stains of blood are clearly visible on the road where the man was killed; policemen and Carabinieri are shown patrolling the place, searching for a clue. White placards with numbers on are scattered on the scene of the crime, here and there. It looks like one of those join-the-dots games. But if you joined all these numbers you wouldn't discover the identikit of the killer or the shape of the gun that shot the mortal bullet. The camera rambles: buildings, people, scooters and cars. For a while, it lingers on the main door of the building where the man lived, framing names on the buzzer. The camera changes its angle and frames a wall near the door. There's a red star on it. Red Star. Blue star. Haven't been doing much today, just stargazing, that's what I could answer if the phone would ring now and any of my friends from the other side of the line would ask me what I have been doing today. The image flicks back to the newscaster, on the left side, behind him a square reproducing the image of the red star on the wall. He's talking about red terror reappearing in Italy. He's talking about a new reformed terrorist movement. Footage of Prime Minister Big Brother are broadcast: he states hate is hanging in the air. Big Brother hints at terrorism being hidden in left wing parties, in the rows of left wing trade unions. McCarthy in disguise. I switch the TV off.

A red sea is the only thing visible from the images broadcast from the police helicopter. The sea spreads through the main streets of the capital drawing a red star. The red colour is interrupted only by the shape of the Coliseum witnessing one of the biggest demonstration of Italian history. Three million of people, the newscaster says, have joined the demo to oppose the new draconian laws on labour. These people are against terrorism. These people are pro their rights, the rights of every worker. "The body of the poor would fall into pieces if it wasn't kept together by the thread of dreams," the words of an anonymous Indian poet are remembered. People cheer, people clap. The camera moves, close ups of the various demonstrators are shown: elderly people, workers, students, immigrants, all sorts of people. All sorts of people. A lot of people. One helicopter.

Flags, banners, shouts and cries: workers are in the square to defend their rights. Again. They are thousands. The police state they are hundreds, the newscaster reports.

The paper says they found them among the watermelons stored in the back of a truck travelling on a ferry from Greece. They say they are Kurds running away from their country. But they found them too late. They are dead. Mouths frozen open in a last breathe. A bed of green watermelons is their deathbed. They died among the watermelons. In watermelon sugar.

Her eyes are closed, hiding her pain. She's a mother. She was a mother. The badge on her jumper carries the face of a long lost loved one. She's well dressed, pearls adorning her neck, rings on her hands, the unmistakeable scarf on her head. That scarf, like a symbol. She's standing in front of a beige cardboard box on which there's written "Set 3 of 17". The magazine says the box contains the truth, or perhaps part of it, regarding thousands of people, regarding sons and daughters. Desaparecidos/as. They say it contains documents that will tell the truth about the abuses against human rights in Argentina.

Last night I dreamt of Pontius Pilate. It wasn't a dream featuring Jesus and Pilate. It was more a vision of Pilate wearing a white cloak lined with red, sitting alone on a chair placed on a mosaic floor in front of a fountain. He kept on repeating a question that during the dream became like a mantra, "What is truth?" Perhaps my conscience is looking for truth, perhaps it was just a vision conjured up by the fact that I'm reading "The Master and Margarita" by Mikhail Bulgakov.

It might be a man, it might be a woman. It's just a carbonised body on a glossy magazine. The pieces of clothes that can still be seen covering him/her reveal parts of the body where the skin, muscles and bone weren't burnt by the fire. The body is just one of a heap of corpses, all of them charred and burnt. The rescue crews are caught in the frame. They look shocked. The magazine says it was a bomb.

A strike. A national one. More workers are fighting for their rights. Italy stops and thinks.

I flick through the photographs taken during Glasgow's anti war manifestation. The digital camera reproduces reality on its tiny artificial screen. Flick. Flick. Flick. There is the fake Taliban, the so called "no-global" protester, coloured flags and posters that read "Don't Attack Iraq". It is a day after Italian Prime Minister claimed, while visiting Russia, that, according to him, Saddam Hussein no longer owns weapons of mass destruction, a comment that made Italy wonder why then we should proclaim war on Iraq. It is a day after the umpteenth workers' strike in Italy. Flick. Scottish flags mingle with Palestinian flags and even a random Jamaican flag. Flick. A Scottish guy dressed in the complete attire of an Afghan man carries a ban with what looks like an Arabic inscription. Flick. Che Guevara banners claiming "Hasta la victoria siempre". I stop. Look at the picture. The red star adorns Che's hat. At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love. It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality. Ernesto. Che. Guevara. His words. I stare at the picture: two guys are holding the banner. They are smiling, they might be revolutionaries. They might be revolutionaries guided by love.

The black clothes of the three people framed by the photograph contrast with the red seats of the theatre in which they are sitting. But they aren't sitting, they are slumped on those seats, they are dead. They died in the Dubrovka theatre. I turn the page of the newspaper, look at the TV: the newscaster is almost happy, ecstatic at the fact that he's got something big to tell.

A day passes and Brazil sees a victory that makes Italy jealous. An ex-trade unionist becomes the leader of the country. Time for a samba-tastic celebration as if it was Carnival again.

After a long silent, Subcomandante Marcos starts writing again. I leaf through a magazine and find his letter, published only a few months after he wrote it. A sentence closes the letter, "To live for the fatherland or to die for freedom".

An earthquake destroys a village in Italy. I read the news on the Internet. I phone my loved ones.

Florence is invaded by what the mainstream press calls the no-global army. The people photographed on the independent press sites represent an active power, not a passive body whose powers have to be delegated to politicians and intellectuals who can control them. As active power, they aren't anymore the subject of what Antonio Gramsci called "passive revolution", a revolution without mass participation, but the subject of new possible changes in society. In one picture Italians carry a gigantic Palestinian flag, in another British protesters are portrayed with banners of the Socialist Worker group: this multitude of people is multi-cultural and international. This multitude is composed of workers, students, temps, unemployed people and ordinary people who might not primarily be interested in reading economic or political theory, but who focus their energies in the mass struggle. This multitude, this social movement, pisses off traditional means of communication because it has created new means of communication to spread its messages: independent TV channels, newspapers and media centres based on the principle of plurality in creating information and making it accessible to people. The masses are not terrorists: the real terrorists are those means of communication that serve today's political and economical empires. I switch on the TV. The newscaster reporting on the social forum looks angry. If the independent means of communication spread, he'll lose his job.

Another strike. It will be a difficult Christmas for a lot of workers. The camera frames a group of strikers, a journalist asks them some questions. Anger and despair permeate their answers, the fight for their rights drives their will. The camera frames a crowd of people. Trade union flags and red flags blow in the wind. A guy in a Che Guevara T-shirt. Che Guevara portrayed as usual in his red star beret, his eyes full of hopes in the revolution. These people want to fight, these people want to understand why things have turned so bad for them and for a lot of others. To understand. A photo of Carlo Giuliani killed in Genoa during the G8 comes to mind. Carlo is portrayed before being killed, standing still in front of the crowd, facing a police truck, as if he were wondering what is happening, as if he wanted "to understand". Carlo's picture reminds me Giuseppe Pelizza da Volpedo's painting "Il Quarto Stato": the painting anticipates the social struggles that will take place during the 1900's. Both the images represent a new social movement of protest that speaks through its gestures and through social mobilisation, a movement that wants "to understand". I'm thirsty. Thirsty for justice, thirsty for water. I take the bottle of water standing next to me on the floor. I drain it. At the bottom I can see it again. The star is blue. Pale blue. The five points of the star explode from its core and reach out towards the infinite or rather the finite…

Issue 12 1/2, February 2003 | next article

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