Wednesday, August 08, 2018


Melchisadek, King of Righteousness, greeted the nomadic cattle-herding invader Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees to Salem, Jerusalem, meaning Vision of Peace, with the gifts of bread and wine, for his Palestinian people were peaceable agriculturalists. I had been taught his story by a beautiful nun in school in Sussex, then travelled to Australia to be taught it again, more deeply, by Aborigine explaining that the Joshua model of conquest and slaughter is less desirable than the Melchisadek model of the sharing of skills for human survival. Jesus in the Galiliee region would have seen Mary bless the Sabbath candles, Joseph the bread and wine, on Friday at sundown, the Sabbath Eve, the Melchisadek rite shared from the indigenous people with the laity, rather than the cattle slaughtering and the bartering of the Temple with its Aaronic priests and Levites. The Epistle to the Hebrews, perhaps written by Prisca/Priscilla, for its Greek is certainly not Paul's, stresses the one High Priest Melchisadek as the Messiah of Justice. Jesus in the Gospels listens to the voices of those outside of power, Samaritans, Syro-Phoenicians, women, lepers, cripples - and restores them to health, to power-sharing. For this he is unjustly crucified. But a Melchisadek Christianity, a Melchisadek Judaism, would listen to the indigenous voices, to the feared, hated Others, sharing with them the Thanksgiving Feast, the Eucharist. This our library and our cemetery seek to do, with books on those outside of power and subjected to Holocausts, Aborigine, Native American, African American, Roma, Jew, Women, with work for Roma families to whom no one will give work, with listening to the voices of Maori, Amerindian, even recording them, and many others, to all who come here, celebrating a rich and compassionate humanity. We are the World's citizens, mending the cracks in it.

Thursday, July 27, 2017


Alas, this article I find on Facebook proves the corporate Ayn Rand-like abolition of ethics and morals, endangering us all and now embedded into the political process with Citizens [Corporations] United against 'We, the People': For decades, some of the dirtiest, darkest secrets of the chemical industry have been kept in Carol Van Strum’s barn. Creaky, damp, and prowled by the occasional black bear, the listing, 80-year-old structure in rural Oregon housed more than 100,000 pages of documents obtained through legal discovery in lawsuits against Dow, Monsanto, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Forest Service, the Air Force, and pulp and paper companies, among others. As of today, those documents and others that have been collected by environmental activists will be publicly available through a project called the Poison Papers. Together, the library contains more than 200,000 pages of information and “lays out a 40-year history of deceit and collusion involving the chemical industry and the regulatory agencies that were supposed to be protecting human health and the environment,” said Peter von Stackelberg, a journalist who along with the Center for Media and Democracy and the Bioscience Resource Project helped put the collection online. Van Strum didn’t set out to be the repository for the people’s pushback against the chemical industry. She moved to a house in the Siuslaw National Forest in 1974 to live a simple life. But soon after she arrived, she realized the Forest Service was spraying her area with an herbicide called 2,4,5-T — on one occasion, directly dousing her four children with it as they fished by the river. The chemical was one of two active ingredients in Agent Orange, which the U.S. military had stopped using in Vietnam after public outcry about the fact that it caused cancer, birth defects, and serious harms to people, animals, and the environment. But in the U.S., the Forest Service continued to use both 2,4,5-T and the other herbicide in Agent Orange, 2,4-D, to kill weeds. (Timber was — and in some places still is — harvested from the national forest and sold.) Between 1972 and 1977, the Forest Service sprayed 20,000 pounds of 2,4,5-T in the 1,600-square-mile area that included Van Strum’s house and the nearby town of Alsea. poison-papers-carol-vanstrum-1501077885 A view of the Five Rivers valley in rural Oregon looking southwest from Carol Van Strum’s front door. Photo: Risa Scott/RF Scott Imagery As in Vietnam, the chemicals hurt people and animals in Oregon, as well as the plants that were their target. Immediately after they were sprayed, Van Strum’s children developed nosebleeds, bloody diarrhea, and headaches, and many of their neighbors fell sick, too. Several women who lived in the area had miscarriages shortly after incidents of spraying. Locals described finding animals that had died or had bizarre deformities — ducks with backward-facing feet, birds with misshapen beaks, and blinded elk; cats and dogs that had been exposed began bleeding from their eyes and ears. At a community meeting, residents decided to write to the Forest Service detailing the effects of the spraying they had witnessed. “We thought that if they knew what had happened to us, they wouldn’t do it anymore,” Van Strum said recently, before erupting into one of the many bursts of laughter that punctuate her conversation. We were sitting not far from the river where her children played more than 40 years ago, and her property remained much as it was back when the Forest Service first sprayed them with the herbicide. A mountain covered with alder and maple trees rose up across from her home, just as it did then, and the same monkey puzzle tree that was there when she moved in still shaded her dirt driveway. But Van Strum, now 76, is much changed from the young woman who politely asked that the federal agency stop spraying many years ago. After the Forest Service refused their request to stop using the herbicides, she and her neighbors filed a suit that led to a temporary ban on 2,4,5-T in their area in 1977 and, ultimately, to a total stop to the use of the chemical in 1983. For Van Strum, the suit was also the beginning of lifetime of battling the chemical industry. The lawyer who had taken their case offered a reduced fee in exchange for Van Strum’s unpaid research assistance. And she found she had a knack for poring over and parsing documents and keeping track of huge volumes of information. Van Strum provided guidance to others filing suit over spraying in national forests and helped filed another case that pointed out that the EPA’s registration of 2,4-D and other pesticides was based on fraudulent data from a company called Industrial Bio-Test Laboratories. That case led to a decision, in 1983, to stop all aerial herbicide spraying by the Forest Service. “We didn’t think of ourselves as environmentalists, that wasn’t even a word back then,” Van Strum said. “We just didn’t want to be poisoned.” Still, Van Strum soon found herself helping with a string of suits filed by people who had been hurt by pesticides and other chemicals. “People would call up and say, ‘Do you have such and such?’ And I’d go clawing through my boxes,” said Van Strum, who often wound up acquiring new documents through these requests — and storing those, too, in her barn. poison-papers-carol-vanstrum-3-1501077878 Some of the more than 100,000 pages of discovery material related to the chemical industry that were stored in Carol Van Strum’s barn in rural Oregon. Photo: Risa Scott/RF Scott Imagery Along the way, she amassed disturbing evidence about the dangers of industrial chemicals — and the practices of the companies that make them. Two documents, for instance, detailed experiments that Dow contracted a University of Pennsylvania dermatologist to conduct on prisoners in the 1960s to show the effects of TCDD, a particularly toxic contaminant found in 2,4,5-T. Another document, from 1985, showed that Monsanto had sold a chemical that was tainted with TCDD to the makers of Lysol, who, apparently unaware of its toxicity, used it as an ingredient in their disinfectant spray for 23 years. Yet another, from 1990, detailed the EPA policy of allowing the use of hazardous waste as inert ingredients in pesticides and other products under certain circumstances. There were limits to what Van Strum could prove through her persistent data collection. The EPA had undertaken a study of the relationship between herbicide exposure and miscarriages and had taken tissue samples from water, animals, a miscarried fetus, and a baby born without a brain in the area. The EPA never released the full results of the “Alsea study,” as it was called, and insisted it had lost many of them. But a lab chemist provided Van Strum with what he said was the analysis of the test results he had been hired to do for the EPA, which showed the samples from water, various animals, and “products of conception” were significantly contaminated with TCDD. When confronted, the EPA claimed there had been a mix-up and that the samples were from another area. Van Strum filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the results and, for years, battled in court to get to the bottom of what happened. Though the EPA provided more than 34,000 pages in response to her request (which Van Strum carefully numbered and stored in her barn), the agency never released all the results of the study or fully explained what had happened to them or where the contaminated samples had been taken. And eventually, Van Strum gave up. The EPA declined to comment for this story. poison-papers-carol-vanstrum-2-1501077873 Carol Van Strum prepares to work on her property with her dogs Maybe and Mike at her side in May 2017. Photo: Risa Scott/RF Scott Imagery She had to make peace with not fully understanding a personal tragedy, too. In 1977, her house burned to the ground and her four children died in the fire. Firefighters who came to the scene said the fact that the whole house had burned so quickly pointed to the possibility of arson. But an investigation of the causes of the fire was never completed. Van Strum suspected some of her opponents might have set the fire. It was a time of intense conflict between local activists and employees of timber companies, chemical manufacturers, and government agencies over the spraying of herbicides. A group of angry residents in the area near Van Strum’s home had destroyed a Forest Service helicopter that had been used for spraying. And, on one occasion, Van Strum had come home to find some of the defenders of the herbicides she was attacking in court on her property. “I’ve accepted that I’ll never really know” what happened, said Van Strum, who never rebuilt her house and now lives in an outbuilding next to the cleared site where it once stood. But her commitment to the battle against toxic chemicals survived the ordeal. “If it was intentional, it was the worst thing that ever happened to me,” she said. “After that, there was nothing that could make me stop.” Still, after all these years, Van Strum felt it was time to pass on her collection of documents, some of which pertain to battles that are still being waged, so “others can take up the fight.” And the seeds of many of the fights over chemicals going on today can be tied to the documents that sat in her barn. The Industrial Bio-Test Laboratories scandal is central in litigation over the carcinogenicity of Monsanto’s Roundup, for instance. And 2,4-D, the other active ingredient in Agent Orange, is still in use. Meanwhile, private timber companies continue to use both 2,4-D and Roundup widely, though not in the national forest. Van Strum has been part of an effort to ban aerial pesticide spraying in the county, and is speaking on behalf of the local ecosystem in a related lawsuit. “I get to play the Lorax,” Van Strum said. “It’s going to be fun.” Top photo: From left, Carol Van Strum and her neighbor Kathy clean and pull staples as Peter von Stackelberg, who covered Industrial Bio-Test Laboratories as a reporter for the Regina, Saskatchewan, Leader-Post, operates two scanners simultaneously, May 2017.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017


PROPERTY IS THEFT was written on John Reed's door in Warren Beatty's film 'Reds'. Have been having an argument about Property Rights and Human Rights. My Devil's Advocate proclaims that Property Rights are a Human Right. I see a clash between the two. That only those with privilege get to have Property Rights, by means of gender, race, education, religion, title, wealth, etc., from which they exclude the Other, who are women, children, indigenous, nomadic, illiterate, poor, those Many who labour for the wealth creation of the Few.

If I were male I could claim Versailles, Irish Georgian mansions, Saltaire, as my ancestral privilege. But these are best as humankind's patrimony, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, not mine.

Today the battle is raging in America and in Europe to tax links on the Web. But after WWII there was the Florence Accord and the Nairobi Protocol ( in international law forbidding the use of customs duty on the scholarly exchange of information, on books, films, etc. As an author I find it is now the publishers and the libraries with manuscripts who profit from our research, not ourselves, blocking us from sharing the world's intellectual inheritance. Copyright for authors is become meaningless though it is our intellectual property that we seek to share with others with just sufficient return as our livelihood. At the French Revolution monastic libraries with their manuscripts were seized by the State so that they could become France's great Bibliotheque Nationale and bibliotheques municipales. But now one finds oneself forced to pay reproduction rights if one attempts to share their holdings with the congregation of Benedictine nuns who wrote them and from whom the manuscripts were seized at the Revolution, the nuns themselves imprisoned, awaiting the guillotine.

I and my library signed the Budapest Open Access Initiative, the BOAI. These are the principles of the Republic of Letters. That our scholarship is to be generously shared and made freely accessible. Not swallowed up into capitalistic profit-making concerns that pay themselves, strangling academic libraries economically with huge subscription payments, and not paying the authors from whom they profit. Where profits are disproportionate there needs to be a fair sharing instead, not today's austerity of the many for the benefit of the few, We don't need to accept, to our detriment, the Orwellian world of 'Citizen's United', which is really 'Corporations United' against 'We, the People'. We need our intellectual commons, free democratic education, access to land, the World Wide Web, for the common prosperity of the globe.

Monday, December 08, 2014


I have taught at all levels, nursery school, junior high, high school, university, graduate students. I see our present economy crashing because we do not educate fittingly. At Princeton I spent many hours talking Julian Jaynes into the writing and publishing of the controversial best-seller The Origin of Consciousness of the Bicameral Mind. Later came holistic thinking in the counter culture, and later still, neuroscience finding Jaynes' concept about the functioning of the brain as true. At present our education, churning out bureaucrats, technocrats, is mechanistic, linear, checking/ticking boxes, rigid. And it doesn't work. Here in Italy young people find no work. And cannot work with their hands, their bodies, while their minds have become a trap. They live with their parents whose pensions support them, and cannot marry and have families, lacking a house, a job.

Our educational system is designed for ivory tower universities, derived from Greco-Arabic misogyny adopted by western crusading Christianity in the twelfth century, out of sync with nature, with humanity. There was an earlier and healthier form. Monasteries and convents used, and still use, the body, the mind, the soul, in self-sufficient but celibate communities, balancing work, study and prayer, the learned genders in the greater span of Christianity having been separate but equal. 'Use it or lose it' is a wise statement. One cannot only be in prayer, or only in study, or only in work. Combining all three keeps all three aspects in harmony, in health.

Accidentally I have discovered that if one has a garden (mine is a cemetery) and a library, the two things Cicero said were needed for happiness, one has the ideal setting for education. We combine the German concept of 'kindergarten', but for all ages, we use Margaret McMillan's early childhood education for those in poverty, Dr Maria Montessori's concept of freedom to explore tanglible surfaces and shapes learning through the body's senses in tandem with the brain, Don Lorenzo Milani's education of the most deprived, Fernando Cardenal/Paulo Freire concept of alphabetization for all ages, and we do this in a library in a cemetery where on Sundays Romanian Roma families come to learn and work joyously.

Just as the irises we plant in this garden multiply and need separating so do the books in this library multiply from its rule that to become a member one gives it a book a year. So, with Progetto Agata Smeralda, we create library schools, with each of seven Roma families receiving an encyclopedia, school books, children's books, an illustrated Dante, Commedia, alphabet sheets, books the Roma themselves write and illustrate in four languages, these going to six mothers and a widow, each receiving a monthly stipend so they do not need to return to Florence to beg, leaving their babies with grandmothers. If they came and begged with their children they would be imprisoned.

Sitting around two tables, the men at one, the women and children at another, for they are very traditional and the women won't allow themselves in a room with men not their husbands, we discuss their poverty, their lack of housing, sleeping in streets in Florence, in camps with mud in Roma, in overcrowded council housing with concrete where children can't play and where TB is rampant, and they suggest the solution, since they are no longer allowed their caravans, could be garden cities, with libraries, with orchestres, with market gardens, with botteghe workshops, families becoming self-sufficient, interdependent, cultured intellectually if not rich materially with unnatural machines of metal and plastic.

So from our Alphabet School I took this proposal to the European State of the Union meeting held in Florence this year:

Debate Question: EU Labour Market and Migration Policy (

Could the European Union in this time of austerity and scapegoating racism restore hope by responding to its EU citizens' needs for work and housing by enabling 'green' garden cities, like Florence's Isolotto, Yorkshire’s Saltaire? With housing and landscaping to be built and maintained in part by EU citizens currently out of work and homeless, including nationals and Roma/Traveller EU citizens, western and eastern EU citizens, working and living side by side? Garden cities that would have space for children to play and learn, with bicycle and bus transportation, workshops for craftspeople and apprentices, vegetable gardens and farmers' markets, libraries and orchestres. Priority for work and housing to be for EU citizens. Non-EU citizens could have dormitories, the right to study, to make and sell artefacts, to grow and sell garden produce, to share their skills with citizens, eventually themselves to achieve citizenship, but not factory or construction work needed by EU citizens. Land could be obtained by raising taxes on abandoned industrial properties, then re-zoned as residential with lowered taxes where 'green' garden cities are being built. One member to be guaranteed work to house, educate and receive medical care for his or her family, achieving this through fair taxation, while reducing EU bureaucracy that currently does not reach its increasingly impoverished EU citizens?

Julia Bolton Holloway, Ph.D. Citizenship: United Kingdom, EU; Residency, Florence

I'm afraid the eyes of Mario Monti and Jose Manuel Barroso just glazed over when I said these words. The left-hemisphere technocrats cannot understand the holistic, natural, human concepts of the right-hemisphere synapses. But it is access to the land we need most for our economy to recover and flourish, the sense of the Commonwealth that Florence and Rome and Athens once had from which came their rich cultural flowering. Money becomes meaningless unless it is anchored to work, study, prayer, in harmony. We need gardens, workshops, libraries. We are not machines, but flesh and blood, marvelously made by our Creator, and needing to be in harmony with Creation.

Monday, July 28, 2014


A section of our library with its hand-made rocking cradle is on exclusion from power due to race and gender, believing that in this study we can find the causes of war, genocide and slavery, undoing these trauma crimes against our common humanity. These shelves contain books on the Holocaust, on Aborigines, on Native Americans, on Afro-Americans, on Roma, on women. Its shelves are built by Roma women who participate in our Alphabet School on Sundays while speaking together in Romanì, their language descended from Sanscrit.

Genetics: Biologically we are generally either female or male in order to reproduce the species. Culture and law have tended to further differentiate and define our gender status. Our DNA carries our haplogroup coding from the past, the male through the incomplete Y chromosone, the mitochondria for both. Our DNA can be altered by trauma, perpetuating it to future generations. We can also maintain, or attempt to restore, our cultural and linguistic purity or lose its identity and its language to a dominant other - or we can share our heritage.

Tectonics/Migrations: To study this genetic coding as it makes up distinct racial groups with their concomitant cultures, art forms (such as embroidery, tattooing, scripts, etc.), and languages, requires us first to look at the template of plate tectonics, the shifting of land and sea masses and the patterns of migrations through time. Gondwana becoming Pangaea, then separating. For instance, Brazil, Africa and Australia were once the same land mass which drifted apart. It is thought that man, Adam, our common ancestor, began in Africa, while the Americas were later populated from the Asian land mass in the Clovis migration by the bridge of the Bering Straits, yet in Brazil archeologists have found far earlier traces of human activity in cave paintings, tools, a skull, connected with Africa. While the Aborigine in Australia date back 50,000 years. The waves of Semitic migrations took place around 5000 years ago from Iraq's Fertile Crescent and its record keeping in cuneiform to Canaan, Phoenicia, Palestine, the Israelites adopting and adapting the Semites' Ugaritic alphabet for written Hebrew. Our own Indo-European makeup and our languages come from migrations similarly around 5,000 years ago, and which adopted and adapted the Phoenician runes, pirated as the Greek and Roman alphabets - while the migrations of the Roma from India reached Europe a thousand years ago. The Indo-European migrations to North America began with the Icelandic settlers a thousand years ago.

Interruption: A young Roma mother and her child have come. The baby carriage has broken. She asks for help for carrying her baby. So we put little Sonia in the wooden rocking cradle we had made and which we keep in the library while I sewed for her a marsupial, giving her mother material and needle and thread so she can sew two more.

Aurica was noticing the design I had painted on the cradle and around the chandelier that I had copied from the fresco in the villa of the Cardinal Bessarione in Rome when I was twenty-one and with my first baby, fifty-six years ago. I was telling her of how the Renaissance began because this Greek scholar brought manuscripts from Constantinople to Italy, and briefly re-joined the Orthodox and Catholic Churches. We as women know we cannot be rigid amongst such needs as Aurica's and Sonia's, that we must drop the intellectual essay-writing, the false paradigm for the real world, to care instead manually and physically for the nurturing of a baby's body, mind and soul, and once that task is finished, then we can return to the abstracting computer. And can share together that intellectual world of cosmopolitan enriching cultures, too.

The Roma, like the Palestinians, are subjected to much discrimination and poverty. They are for us the Jungian 'Other', who is really everything about ourselves we cannot accept. Genetically the Roma are like ourselves, as Indo-Europeans, from India, though in a later migration, coming to Europe a thousand years ago. Because of that discrimination they are generally denied access to land, to water, to decent housing, to education, to medicine. Genetically the Palestinians are not like ourselves. Instead they are from the Fertile Crescent, the Semites, their genetic makeup that of the Jews, most so with the Sephardim, less so with the Ashkenazim, who are mixed with the Khazar converts to Judaism. The Palestinians are denied access to their land, to water, their homes destroyed, in punishment for desiring freedom. How can we learn to see the 'Other' as ourselves? To stop projecting our 'Shadow' onto scapegaot others. To stop the bloodshed. To stop the trauma.

I was in the United States before Civil Rights. I came from Europe where we idealize Native Americans. I saw park benches and drinking fountains labeled 'Whites Only'. I heard people say of Black Americans, who had been their slaves, that they were congenitally criminal and subnormal. I hear people say the Roma are thieves in their DNA. I saw - and see - how enslavement requires this Platonic mythology, Plato's 'Myth of the Metals'. That illiterate slaves are only iron, that educated people are silver, that the king is golden. It is a lie but if both oppressor and oppressed can be made to believe it, how very convenient it is for the rich, for the privileged, for those in power. The settlers fail to subdue the indigenous peoples, so massacre them, and/or corrall them on reservations, next they import foreign workers to build their land, again along racial lines, using the greatest contrasting skin colour. First from Africa, next from Latin America. Or outsource manufacturing to China and Bangladesh. Women no longer sew their own clothes. They do not know who does. The clothes themselves become less beautiful.

The Biblical geneaology of Adam, Eve/ Shem, Ham and Japheth is largely validated by the studies of genetic sequences. We are one, but, with patterns of nomadic migration and/or indigenous isolation, we come to differ, to separate. Traumatically we tend to enslave what seems to be most the 'Other'. Traumatically we tend to wage war against what is most ourselves. Civil War. Which is an oxymoron. Recently the worst wars have been fought over 'nationalism'. Julian Benda, in Trahison des Clercs, the Betrayal of the Intellectuals, prophetically warned against political nationalism. Yet our different genes, our different histories, our different languages, are treasures, both old and new. Internally, the dominant group may silence the 'Other', the Romans obliterating the Etruscan culture and its language, the Spartans enslaving the Helots. This will create a military caste. In its classism lie the seeds of Empire. From which, in the nineteenth century, nations sought freedom, Poland from Russia, Hungary from Austria, Ireland from Britain, Europe from Napoleon, Italy from the Pope, the Austrians, the French, the Spanish, a fracturing, a cantonization. Just as also religion splinters into warring sects. In the twentieth Germany and Italy sought to be Empires. Now America is Empire. Eisenhower warned against the Military/Industrial complex. It is really the Military/Industrial/Academic complex and it seeks to brainwash whole populations into being the Myth of the Metals, into being the iron of slaves, the CEOs, the silver, all subservient to the 'gold' of a tyrant.

Neuroscience: Years ago I worked with Julian Jaynes on his book, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, in which he discussed the cultural evolution, through religion and education, of the brain, shifting it from a balance of the right and left hemispheres to becoming left hemisphere dominant through literacy, a culture we adopted with the alphabet from the race which invented it, the Semites. Shem's descendants. Bible, Gospel, Koran shaped the Middle East, Europe and the East, become the genetic coding of our neighbouring cultures. While Chinese culture in the Far East adopted a different literacy. The problem with left hemisphere dominance is that it is less flexible, prefering linearity, and it rigidly differentiates itself from the Other. It becomes Pharisaical (a word which means 'separation'). For centuries education was carried out with flogging, with sexual trauma, with paedophilia, religion even resorting to genital mutilation, of both genders, as these short-circuit the brain's electrical chemistry. It produced a result that seems rational but is not, that seems to be conservative of values but can be insanely destructive of them, leading to Holocausts. Jayne's theoretical work was later validated by the neuroscientist Jill Bolt Taylor's own experiencing of a cerebal shutdown in My Stroke of Insight. Naomi Klein brilliantly describes this social engineering carried out through 'Shock Doctrine'. And warns us against it.

In Florence the Romanian Roma are forced to sleep in the hard streets in the rain. In Rome they must live in the mud of camps. In Romania in social housing with concrete. They were the slaves of the monasteries and the nobles from the Middle Ages until Uncle Tom's Cabin was translated into Romanian. They were taken away to gulags with no shelter, no food, just the bare earth into which they had to dig for shelter. The grandmothers as small orphan girls remember walking back to Romania from the killing fields. Roma were massacred in the Holocaust. No reparations were paid to them. They cope by not remembering the past, not thinking of the future. But they have told me that what would work for them would be garden cities, where Roma and Gadge (non-Roma) families could live together, with workshops and vegetable gardens, a market, a library, an orchestre, with bicycles and buses, not cars, to downsize from petroleum dependency. For me they garden magnificently in a cosmopolitan anti-slavery cemetery in the heart of Florence, where slave and noble, Austrian and Hungarian, Russian and Pole, Swiss and English, women and men, even the Romanian nobles who once owned the Roma as their slaves, lie peaceably side by side. Elsewhere the Roma are not allowed to work or to sell, they can only beg or steal for survival, here they restore tombs, harvest lavender, make cradles and library shelves, and learn, for the first time for many of them, how to write their name, the alphabet.

Homer says that when a man becomes a slave he loses half his soul, his life energy. But he also tells of Achilles in Hades wishing he could be his father's poorest slave and alive instead of King of all the Dead. 'Death is a slave's freedom'. Best of all is life and freedom, the love of God and neighbour, not worldly power or wealth or fame.

What if Palestianian and Israeli could live together, as families, in garden cities? What if we downsized our economies from its militarized globalization, those airport checks, the control of all our electronic communication? What if we studied each others' languages, our shared alphabet in its genetic forms, Hebrew characters, Arabic script, so we would be less threatened by our different likenesses? What if we shared our manual skills, our books, our music, our land? What if we became Citizens of a Gardened Earth? And raised our babies, skin on skin, cradled, loved? Repairing the cracks of the world (tikkun olam/תיקון עולם). Healing our human DNA from its Cain and Abel trauma?

Saturday, May 10, 2014


So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round;
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 'Kubla Khan'/1

We recognize that the European Union is at a crisis, a crisis occurring simultaneously with climate change, increasing unrest in Africa, Syria, Ukraine (following wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that were waged without taxing for them), along with the melt-down of global indebtedness./2 Loyalty to the EU is being shattered by its desire to be inclusive while many EU citizens in the face of austerity seek a return to the nationalism that had caused the genocide of WWII./3

There is a partial solution that is ecological and inclusive while at the same time serving EU citizens and others with their greatest needs for sustainability: for work and for housing, without which they cannot raise a family. I see young Florentines graffitoing their schools, even the Ospedale degli Innocenti, in their anger that there is no hope for their employment when they leave school. I hear Italian artigiani, craftspeople, complaining that their rent and taxes are too high and they must abandon their skills. Florence is a microcosm of Europe. In the past it flourished because of its skilled craftspeople and its careful banking. It invented the florin, Europe's first Euro. But the florin was based on work, the work of its citizens. Now work is outsourced to the Third World as being cheaper, slave labour. It is even insourced with Chinese workers in Prato creating cheap good with labels, 'Made in Italy'. This is a failed economy. Henry Ford made it possible for his workers to buy a Model T. Now Detroit moulders.

Instead of falsely relying on high technology to fix economic problems, we need to balance it with the human dimension: the family; the house. To enable an economy in which one member can work to support his or her family. Eliminating car ownership through the intelligent use of land in this model would decrease the cost of raising a family. Reducing carbon energy.

This essay proposes building garden cities,/4 microcosms of the European Community within the European Union. Around our cities are abandoned industrial sites. Where these are not polluted such areas could be subjected to high taxation unless released for the building of garden cities, a mixture of balconied and arcaded buildings and cottages with verandas, with tree-lined landscaping where children can play and learn. The garden cities should contain workspace for craftspeople and their apprentices, and at the periphery allotments for vegetable gardens supplying produce to a central market place. Bicycles and bus service could provide transport, reducing the carbon footprint. There should be a library, an orchestra, a park, a school.

The architects should plan and discuss the landscaping and buildings with those who will build and maintain them, immigrants and nationals, working and living side by side, learning each others’ cultures and skills. In this way there can be hope for families to have living and working space with access to land and fresh air and to create self-sufficient economies, with a family-run bakery, grocery, laundry, ironmonger. We need to return to that sense of economy, which in its Greek meant 'home'. To centre it on the home of the family, sheltering it, sustaining it, serving it. Without damaging the environment.

Some positive models are these:

Saltaire in Yorkshire was built as the antithesis to the crowding, squallor and disease of Bradford as a model mill town by Sir Titus Salt, then doubled in size by Sir James Roberts. It is built on the river Aire, an adjacent canal and a railroad with a station in the countryside. Its 800 row houses for the workers are built of stone next to the great wool mills. Salt designed the village with wide streets, a large dining hall and kitchens, baths and washhouses, an almshouse for retired workers, hospital and dispensary, educational institute and church, ample recreational land and allotments, in order to improve the diet of the workers. Four lions flank its main street, named 'War', 'Peace, 'Diligence', 'Vigilance'. The architecture is borrowed from the Italian Renaissance. Now mainly used for a computer centre since the mills shut down, it is filled with crafts people selling their wares. The local people flock to it for its beauty and friendliness. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Isolotto in Florence, designed partly by Giovanni Michelucci for the mayor, Giorgio La Pira, following WWII, was built on the periphery of the city to give 1000 poor families, who had lived in San Frediano in crowded, often windowless, slum dwellings, apartments within buildings and cottages set amongst trees by the river Arno./5 It is still beautiful though it has lost its original library.

The University of California after the war bought up shipyard builders' housing in the township of Albany on the San Francisco Bay. The original family barracks are now replaced by more tasteful buildings but which are still set amongst a landscape where children can play and which has always included a childcare centre. The students are from all parts of the globe, reach the university by bus or bicycle, and live here as in a Global Village.

Negative models are the following: crowded inner cities with stone and cement paving; suburban subdivisions based on car ownership as in the US and in Melbourne, Australia, where matching homes are built each with their own lawns that use too much water, and which are serviced by vast shopping malls with concrete parking lots at a considerable distance from the homes; Roma camps set in polluted mud on the peripheries of cities.

Such garden cities in Romania could reduce the migration of Roma to Italy, France and elsewhere, as these families seek space in which to raise their children and work alongside Romanians. Such garden cities in the British Isles could provide homes for British and Travellers also to live alongside each other. Vandana Shiva is speaking of the need for access to land, a diminishing of the control of multinationals creating debt cycles in agriculture, and of common good of seeds. When I spoke with her about this concept of garden cities for Europe she immediately saw that it provided, through the government, beneficial infrastructure for its citizens, the interlacing of the earth and the people. Which is the true task of government.


1. Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem describes the yurt of gold and wicker as summer palace built by the nomadic Emperor Kubla Khan. This essay seeks to explore ways in which the EU could enable the housing of its own largest minority, the nomadic Roma, who themselves say they cannot accept social housing with cement or camps with polluted mud, but could acclimatize themselves to garden cities. In poor housing they become ill with TB. Before, in their caravans with their outdoor living, they were free of the disease.

2. I am writing these lines following the May 7-9 State of the Union of the European Union in Fiesole and Florence where all these topics were under discussion except that of climate change.

3. Julian Benda, La Trahison des Clercs (The Betrayal of the Intellectuals), 1927, presciently saw the growing danger of nationalism. Germany, between the wars, on top of the costs of World War I, was made by the Allies to pay reparations, often funded by loans at interest. In turn Jews, because they were bankers, were scapegoated. The Holocaust by Germany thus had its partial cause in these reparations paid to France, Belgium; Italy and England. None of our nations is innocent. See


5. From the Fondazione Michelucci: Firenze: Tracce di un'altra storia/traces of another history, 2002; 1954-2004, Città nella citta: Il quartiere dell'Isolotto a Firenze, 2006; Firenze verso la città moderna: Itinerari urbanistici nella città estesa tra Ottocento e Novecento, eds. Andrea Aleardi, Corrado Marcetti, Giulio Manetti, n.d.; Firenze crocevia di culture, 2010.

Saturday, June 08, 2013


Saturday, June 08, 2013 Sto catalogando dei libri per la nostra biblioteca. Biblioteca in cui i Rom apprendono l’alfabeto e scrivono il ‘Padre Nostro’. Una sezione è dedicata alla discriminazione, che altro non è che la 'demonizzazione’ dell’Altro e la proiezione del male che abita in noi. Due i libri in particolare che sto catalogando per questa sezione: On Evil di Terry Eagleton e Il Male di Paul Ricoeur, traduzione italiana del suo Le mal: Un défi à la philosophie et à la théologie. Ho già in questo stesso sito pubblicato ‘Perché il male?’ di Don Divo Barsotti, che mi richiama alla memoria la discussione dialogica sul male nel De consolatione philosophiae (La Consolazione della filosofia) di Boezio, riflessa in The Showing of Love (Le Rivelazioni dell’Amore) di Giuliana di Norwich e nella Summa Theologiae (La Summa Teologica) di Tommaso d’Aquino. Il male è nulla. Il male è il tendere al non essere. Dio è al centro. L' Essere perfettissimo, il Sommo Bene, l'Essere Eterno. Allontanarsene – o altri allontanare da questo – è tendere al non essere, alla dispersione nel limite del tempo, nel sempre meno tempo, conduce alla non esistenza, alla pochezza. Una bomba è il male perché annienta e distrugge l’Altro. Così come male è un fucile. Male tutte le armi della violenza. È la sezione questa sugli esclusi, su chi riduciamo al rango di inferiori. Donne, Ebrei, Rom, Neri, Nativi americani, Aborigeni. La sezione sul trauma, sui danni subiti da cui originano quelle alterazioni chimiche del cervello che ci rendono più timorosi dell’Altro, più punitivi, più rigidi. Sviliamo l’‘Altro’quando all’altro neghiamo terra, lavoro, un tetto, cibo, acqua, ciò di cui vestirsi, una coperta. Noi siamo la causa prima di questo male. La loro povertà. Questo è ciò che Firenze fa ai Rom.
Studiando il cervello scopriamo che la parte destra è inclusiva, include l’altro. È la parte che mostra misericordia. È l’anima. È la parte in contatto con il divino. La parte sinistra, di contro, esclude l’Altro, categorizza, separa, giudica, condanna. È la mente intellettuale. Le due parti devono essere in armonia. In passato conoscevo intimamente una persona molto ammalata, che quasi del tutto dominata dall’emisfero sinistro del cervello si è separata da moglie e figli, da noi derubando tutto. Non sono riuscita a convincerlo di quanto fosse amato. Per lui io ero l’‘Altro’da distruggere. Il male sarebbe stato rimanere, annientata e partecipe di quello stesso male subito. Eppure ancora ho cercato di raggiungere quell’abisso. Sperando nel condividere le mie ricerche egli potesse acquisire il tenure. La persona più malvagia nell’intero universo, queste le sue parole, nella sua ultima conversazione telefonica con me. Ero la sua anima da rigettare. La madre dei nostri figli. La Desdemona di Otello.
Gesù nel suo ministero, con le donne, gli indemoniati, i lebbrosi, i samaritani, i palestinesi, la siro-fenicia agisce mosso dall’emisfero destro. È questa la cristianità di Cristo. La religione si vincola, di contro, alle divisioni dell’emisfero sinistro. La parola ‘Fariseo’ significa ‘separato’. Gesù è il principe della pace. Le separazioni, le divisioni, gli scismi, le demonizzazioni, sono i semi di guerra con cui sul nemico proiettiamo il male che alberga in noi. Guerra che estendiamo e moltiplichiamo con bombe a grappolo, missili a testata nucleare, campi di sterminio, olocausti, nuove Guantànamo. Firenze quale atto di riparazione per l’affamata Pisa - causa dell’orrido cannibalismo di Ugolino che divorò la sua progenie, figli e nipoti - edifica Orsanmichele, loggia del mercato del grano, per nutrire anche i nemici in tempo di carestia. L’amore, la comunione, la condivisione cancellano il male. Il ritorno all’innocenza cancella il trauma. Il procedere a ritroso - o l’andare verso il centro annulla il tempo. Dio è l’assenza di male. Il male è l’assenza di Dio.
Se procediamo con il Padre Nostro a ritroso, verso il centro, con il rovesciamento dell'immagine riflessa, non è la parola male a chiudere la nostra preghiera, ma il nostro condiviso essere con Dio, nostro 'Padre': ‘ma liberaci dal male, e non ci indurre in tentazione; come noi li rimettiamo ai nostri debitori, rimetti a noi i nostri debiti; dacci oggi il nostro pane quotidiano; come in cielo e così in terra, sia fatta la tua volontà; venga il Tuo Regno; sia santificato il Tuo nome; Padre Nostro, che sei nei Cieli’. Qui con queste parole viviamo il regno dei cieli.