Monday, 14 January 2008

a load of old rubbish

It's not exactly new for there to be a rubbish crisis in Naples. They've been happening on and off for years. In essence there has been continual local mismanagement: not enough dumps and processing centres, a huge and growing city, not enough long-term planning and building of new waste facilities, insufficient provision of recycling centres, insufficient funding, too few bin men. Incompetence and buck-shifting at city and provincial level has been compounded by Camorra involvement - apparently waste processing can be a big money spinner. Politically the situation is a mess: building new tips in your local area is a vote-loser so no-one wants to do it, even though it's essential; the Greens are kicking up a stink about burning stuff, but there's no cash for the costlier recycling centres to cut down on incineration; issues of authority & jurisdiction enable local politicians to weasel out of responsibility. When a new crisis explodes, national government gets involved, but the promised interventions never seem to amount to much, and the "trash tsar" appointed some time ago has apparently achieved nothing.

Every year or so, the situation erupts: piles of rubbish accumulate in the streets, people demonstrate and protest, schools close, the rest of the country mutters about sending in the army. This year's version seems to be particularly dire though. Protests have turned violent in a couple of areas, as impromptu barricades have been erected by protestors and police sent in to clear them out of the way. As of today, over 100,000 kids are out of school and 7000 tons of rubbish are lying in the streets.

The region has also tried to resolve the situation by sending some of the backlog to other regions' processing centres. Lombardy and the Veneto, unsurprisingly, have issued point blank refusals: hardly surprising, can you imagine the Lega Nord offering to help out with Campania's rubbish? Other regions have agreed to help in various ways: a first container load was shipped over to Sardinia be dealt with in Cagliari at the end of last week.

On Friday afternoon, my Cagliaritano flatmate received a text message from his cousin, and then from an old schoolfriend, and then another cousin... a message which in the space of hours did the rounds of hundreds and hundreds of locals. Friday night, 23h, in front of Soru's house, the message began. "Portate tutta l'aliga [mondizi] che riuscite a rimediare. Siddu faesu biri nosusu si di prasciri s'aliga. [Si facciamo vedere noi se si piace immondizia]. Non mancare se ami la tua terra." (Bring all the rubbish you can lay your hands on. We'll show you, if you're so keen on rubbish. If you love your homeland then be there).

This message, in a mixture of Italian and Sardinian (and no, I didn't understand the Sardinian at all myself) certainly had a result. Protestors first tried to block the ship from unloading in the port, and then headed to the home of regional president Renato Soru, who had approved the arrival of the rubbish. Here too things turned violent, with arson attacks and missiles being thrown, and today's papers report two arrests have been made after the seven already made on Saturday night. They also all report, with what can only be described as glee, that the young men arrested for attacking Soru's house "have close links to Cagliari's ultras."

Ah. How handy. Apparently the rioting was the work of the "Sconvolts", who belong in the Curva Nord of the S. Elia, and who have extensive links to the far right. Forza Italia and Alleanza Nazionale were present at the more sedate protests in the port during the afternoon, while the group of some 200-300 rioters in the evening displayed neofascist banners such as that of Azione Giovane before launching themselves into a series of battles with the police and carabinieri. Initial reports described the crowds as "rioters", now they are being described in most places as ultras. How do we know they are ultras? well, the arrested men "have links to the Sconvolts" and besides, (this really is hilarious) Cagliari fans hate Napoli fans. So that's all clear then. After all, it's not like every Cagliaritano and his dog had received a message inviting them there, is it.

I'm not questioning the link as much as the reporting of it, I suppose. Violent fascist thugs are violent fascist thugs, whether using flimsy pretexts to attack left-wing politicians' private homes or standing in a football stadium. So let's call a spade a spade. This example of the way that, yet again, political extremism has entered a curva and made it a recruiting ground, and how neofascist self-proclaimed vigilantes are roaming the regions of Italy, is profoundly depressing. The manipulation of the ultras movement for political ends is something which must end if there is any chance of the movement's survival. Equally depressing is the lazy reporting and stereotyping. Some of the rioters had links to an ultras group therefore the whole incident is an example of "ultras violence". Great. The local police chief points out that the incidents had nothing to do with the rubbish emergency, and he's quite right. It doesn't have much to do with football, either. *sigh*


ursus arctos said...

Sigh indeed.

Ultras are the authorities' new favourite "other", having supplanted foreigners, communists, and agitators of various stripes.

To keep with the football theme, the loca Lega Nord tried to stir up trouble by distributing recycling bags before the Milan-Napoli match (it being part of their theory of the crisis that the Napoletani have brought it upon themselves because they are too corrupt and/or stupid and/or uncivilised to recycle). Fortunately, the cops got them to disperse rather quickly. And Soru is the founder and chairman of Tiscali, who are Cagliari's shirt sponsor (no doubt someone can spin that as yet another reason the "ultras" would be upset with him).

There also appears to be at least some truth to the assertion that a contributing factor to the problem is the fact that certain industries from, guess where, Lombardy and the Veneto, have taken advantage of the Camorra's "don't ask questions" policy when it comes to garbage to dispose of potentially toxic waste that they weren't keen on having closer to home.

Povera Italia.

Spangly Princess said...

ha, hypocrisy from Leghisti? the idea that Campania *is* a rubbish dump? you astonish me.

apparently sales of mozzarella are in crisis too now...

and of course, Tiscali being Cagliari's largest employer (indeed, the only "modern" business there) means that a mix of dependency & resentment is likely in operation. One could hypothesise a class issue also - the blue-collar industries and the port being in decline vs Soru as representative of a new service economy.

povera Italia indeed.

Richard said...

Napoli hasn't seen such waste since Maradona's career imploded in the early 90s.

the ball is round said...

Hi Spangly Princess, is there any chance you can do a write up about Napoli (the football club rather than the problems that affect the city!) saw the MI-NA game and was impressed with the support they had up there, be interested to read your view on the club chances, its fans and the future

Good site by the way, i enjoy the articles

TrentToffee said...

"local police chief points out that the incidents had nothing to do with the rubbish emergency" Can he be so sure ?

I listened to an interesting report on the Naples rubbish crisis on last saturdays edition of "From Our Own Correspondent" . By all accounts it's turning into a monstrous health hazard with some of the arrable land now so toxic that it is beyond use.