My heart was pounding. Watching footage of Saturday’s rioting in Rome, my worst fears had come true. The left had become so outraged, it was taking the easy way out. The way of violence. Not only was there the expected fighting between the Black Bloc and the cops. La Repubblica documented instances of hooded militants fighting with red flag-waving protestors as well.
I should have been better prepared. Silvio Berlusconi had just barely survived a vote of no-confidence in his government just twenty-four hours before. Considering how unpopular he has become, and how much Italian media was fixated on the vote’s outcome, it was no surprise that the demonstration, intended to protest the economic crisis, ended so violently. Italians were angry.
There was something of a devouring ourselves kind of feeling about it. The kind that we often associate with being completely helpless. Absent any kind of political horizon, we foul own nests, and prey upon each other. Though, of course, this factional fighting amongst leftists was limited, I was still jarred by it. I hadn’t witnessed anything like it before. I had Berlin on my mind.
All week, as pressure built towards Berlusconi’s no-confidence vote, an event in my hometown cast a shadow over everything. Last Monday, German police removed several firebombs from tracks near Berlin’s main Deutsche Bahn station. A regular DB commuter – my firm’s main office is in Stuttgart – I could very well have been on a train headed south, hit by one of these incendiary devices.
To make matters worse, the bombs were planted, it has been claimed, by a leftwing organization protesting Germany’s participation in NATO’s Afghan mission. According to Der Spiegel, the firebombs were also meant to protest the imprisonment of Bradley Manning, the US soldier currently suspecting of being the source of the Wikileaks cables. Not hurt me, or my fellow passengers.
It is this latter issue, I fear, that has become lost in all of the noise about the ongoing economic crisis, and the failure of Western governments to properly contain it. As state mismanagement of the meltdown grows, and we move from one recession to the next, it becomes that much easier to take for granted ‘normal’ people like myself, like those I travel with, and use us for political ends.
It’s a bizarre thing to conjecture. I’ve never found myself feeling so vulnerable. One would think that leftists might be more discriminating, especially now, with precedents like Germany’s Red Army Faction still fresh in our memories. Yet, it was precisely the spectre of a new RAF that kept Germany buzzing all week. Had it returned, in the form of SUV and train-burning anarchists? What about the red-beating radicals, in Rome?
I’m tired of the violence. It was hard enough watching the riots in London last August, especially knowing my husband was there at the time, documenting it. The last thing I wanted to do was see a repeat this last week, whether it was in Berlin, or in Italy, where I am presently engaged, even with him beside me. Still, it happened, in both countries that matter to us. In both places we call home.
As much as I love Turin, for its warmth, and its calm, welcoming atmosphere, I’m increasingly concerned there is no escaping Saturday’s violence. Or that which is used to threaten commuters over the war in Afghanistan. I am similarly chagrined because I consider myself a leftist. I am deeply upset about the War on Terror. I am horribly angry about the ongoing economic crisis. Why make me feel any more ill-at ease than I already am?
Maybe a warning is in order. Just as the world is starting to take seriously Occupy Wall Street, and its longer-running European counterparts, what on earth are we doing entertaining all of this violence? It’s just about the most suicidal gesture I could think of. Consider the consequences such behavior will have for morale. Imagine how many innocent people will get hurt and arrested.