Update, EU Xenophobes

by bicyclemark 0 Comments

Well, they lasted a year, and at last the far-right racist and xenophobic block of the European Parliament fell apart last week.  Known by their ironic title “Identity, Tradition and Sovereignty Group”, the block dissolved after the Romanian far-right members were offended by derogatory comments by Mussolini’s granddaughter. In practice it means they will get less speaking time in parliament, and perhaps more importantly, no more EU funds for their professional hatred activities.   They say when the announcement was made the parliament broke into applause and cheering.  I’ll save my applause and cheering for when the mainstream parties stop pushing xenophobic and corporatist policies on European citizens. 

My Tirol Interest

by bicyclemark

Thinking up podcast journeys for late October and November. One of them involves finally going to Romania to pursue the Rosia Montana gold mine story. But a new topic that occupies my mind is all about the region known as Tirol or South Tirol or the Italian Province of Bolzano-Bozen.

My dearest Krizushka, herself a Tirolian from the Austrian part, has often told me of the magic and wonder of her home region. But lately as I read through the history of South Tirol and the 3 languages (Italian, German, Ladin!) and the temoltuous history of wars and partition.. I want to know more. Better yet… I want to see it with my own eyes.

Thus far, as I understand it, Tirol is a region that has belonged to many different kingdoms at different periods in history. Located in what is, on the map, northeast Italy and southern Austria, it went from being part of Austria-Hungary to being carved up with a large chunk becoming Italian. LAter on during the Mussolini days, he apparently carried out a big campaign to Italianize the place, shipping southern Italians to live and work there, and changing the names of everything from German to Italian. And somewhere in there are the Ladin speaking people, also being culturally pushed aside.

The history itself is much more complex than can be described in a blog post, but the present is something that also interests me. 3 languages, a haunting past, and the struggle to bring the region forward and be “prosperous”. I’ve read about language-quotas for government jobs. Census where you have to say what language you belong to. And brave activists fighting to unite people who’ve so often been divided.

More on this soon, and if I can swing it, a journey to south Tirol in the coming months!

International Effort in Greece

by bicyclemark

Last week I talked about the rainbow families rescue work that Rob was involved in throughout the United States. Today I thought of him as I listened to RFI reporting about how extremely terrible the forest fires in Greece have now become. Photos of the earth published by NASA show just how huge the fires have gotten as the smoke is visible from space.

Amidst all this tragedy and the struggle to combat the fires, I get a strange sort of positive feeling from listening to the news reports. This is because I listen closely to the part about Firefighters coming from all over the world to battle the fires. France sends several hundred firefighters. Spain, Germany, and Italy also send firefighters who specialize in these types of fires. My dear Portugal, which struggles year after year with similar fires, sends re-enforcements. Canada, the United States, Russia, and Israel .. all send firefighters, water dropping planes, and equipment. Even Romania sends an elite unit of firefighters to take part in the battle to control the fires.

Imagine being there… being one of the firefighters standing amongst all those nationalities.. all those languages.. the different uniforms.. all with one common goal. So often in history the story is about some conflict or invasion where a few countries get together to kill another country’s people, or to defend people from being killed by killing other people… variations on that theme. Yet here we get to see what is possible.. the kind of world that CAN exist when nations put all the other issues aside and focus on one – helping each other.

Angela Over There, Russia in Here

by bicyclemark

I’m standing across the street from the EU parliament looking through my packet of information for this conference and suddenly there’s a big to-do across the street. Several of the charming conference organizer ladies start looking towards the main doors in excitement. And there… walking out the door and kissing some people goodbye is the German Prime Minister. Exciting? Well… No. Amusing? Perhaps.

You’d think being here wandering the halls of the European Union, I would be thinking about the big questions like.. what is going to happen with this new treaty business, or what the hell is going on with corrupt Romania and Bulgaria.. but my mind is elsewhere.

This because as I walk around, my headphones are on, and I’m listening to a very inspiring and exciting podcast. The type of podcast I too would like to do more of.. emulate in many ways.. On The Media’s Brooke Gladstone reporting from Russia.

You really have to listen to this one… to hear the old people and young people talking to Brooke. They refer to how things used to be and how things are, debate if theyre living in a police state or if it is just a phase. They argue about what freedom they have or what freedom they lack. Even the great Garry Kasparov is in there… and I must say, his words struck a chord with me.

At some point a man who identifies himself as a communist who has no desire to return to the past starts to talk about how the west wrongly pushes their values on Russia. He goes on and on about the terrible things Western nations have done in Iraq and all the unnecessary death. He is angry, yet calm; with a very interesting and wise outlook on his country and the world outside. As I rounded the corner towards the Parliament cafeteria, I turned off my mp3 player, and looked at the over 200 young journalists in ahead of me… but my mind was still on Russia.. and the great statements in that podcast.

Brooke.. you are my new heroine.