Welcome Whiteman (English version)

Dedicated to prof. Guderzo and to his love for history, which he passed me with such enormous passion.


 

In 1925, the enthusiasm of the main European political actors was great when they met in Locarno with the memory of the First World War Peace still fresh in their minds. Peace, cooperation, hope. The war was seen as a barbarity not to be repeated. This was the well known«spirit of Locarno». No one would ever expect another Great War.

In 1929 the economic crisis came and in a very few years it shook  the foundations of the international capitalistic system causing unemployment, hyperinflation, huge amounts of unsold goods, the general stagnation of growth and prosperity, huge masses of poor people. At that point the logic of «everyone has to put in good order their own home» prevailed, and instead of maintaining a common front and seeking for shared solutions, the states choose to close themselves in self-sufficient policies…. Mors Tua, Vita Mea. This was a breeding ground for strong dictatorships that in fact started shooting up like mushrooms throughout Europe.

In 1933 Hitler got the leadership of Germany and in 1939 everyone was ready to beat the living daylights out of each other. The World War II began: 70 million casualties, holocaust, starvation, atomic bombs, and so forth.

Does this little story remind you anything? Don’t you think that those times have something in common with ours?

Everyone instead of thinking about how to get out of the crisis is trying to maintain his/her own position. Mors tua, vita mea. The world’s dance goes on, and its steps have been already seen.

I’m not only speaking about presidents and leaders; I’m also speaking about common people. The tendency to plan for the short term has become the order of the day leaving behind long term planning. All of us care for our own survival; this is meant of course in a wider sense, not literally like in Africa. All of us care too much about small things and ignore completely great things.

Our time is a time when we can’t see further than the end of our own noses, just as it happened in the years immediately following the Great Depression of 1929. And just as then, in today’s Europe the push of anti-systemic forces is growing more and more.

Art, education, thinking, reasoning, culture, everything is sold for a mess of pottage as in the Old Testament story of the hungry Esau.

In this respect I want to share with you a story that grandpa Kuzja (played by a talented John Malkovich) tells in the film «Siberian Education»:

The winter did not seem to have an end, and the pack was starving to death. The leader of the pack, the oldest of them all, was out in front comforting the young wolfs, telling them that the spring was coming. But, at a certain point, one young wolf decides to stop. He says he has had enough of cold and hunger, and he says he’s going to live among the men; because the important thing is to stay alive. The young wolf lets men catch him and, as the years go by, he forgets that long time ago he was a wolf. One day, many years later, as he’s hunting with his master he runs obediently to collect the prey. But he realizes that the prey is the old leader of the pack. He falls silent for shame and the old wolf speaks and says to him: “I die happy because I lived my life as a wolf; you, on the contrary, belong neither to the world of wolves nor to the world of men. Hunger comes and goes but dignity, once lost, never returns.

Meanwhile in Africa:

“Hello sir, how are you? Can I become your friend?” Strange request indeed, especially if it’s made by a 20 year old lad, while you are walking on a desolate African road in the middle of nowhere!

Direct, simple and totally disarming.

Obviously you cannot say no to such a request… of course you want to become his friend. So one thing leads to another, you sit on the edge of the road chatting with this lad and you get thirsty.

When you’re thirsty in Africa, there is nothing better than to have a good fresh coconut.

I order a coconut from the girl that is selling them and I realize that I only have one 20 cedi note in my pocket (around 6 euro) and the price of a coconut is one cedi. The girl sees the note, opens wide her eyes, then looks at me, then looks back at the note and shakes her head. No change.

The boy, who gains not more than 30 Euros per month, hands one Cedi to the girl saying “this is on me, Whiteman, welcome in Africa!”

He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

Giulio Be

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