Four years ago, on a warm day of September, I left Italy.
I am a lucky immigrant. My family was there saying goodbye (and, well, crying, as I did) and they’re currently doing pretty well. Besides the chronic lack of jobs and the dreadful treatment reserved to the LGBTQ+ community, in Italy there isn’t any war and you would rarely experiment the kind of poverty you would see in other places around the world
From that day of September I had the chance to travel a lot through Europe and live in three different places. The more I travelled and lived, the more I realized how stupid and oppressive is the concept of nationality.
I am pretty sure that everytime I wrote Italy in your mind you already had an idea of what Italy is. Warm and sunny, pizza&pasta, that funny accent while we speak english… You probably have the same kind of idea I had of Scotland before actually seeing it:
But you know, Italy, as any other place on this planet, is more than its stereotype.
The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story. (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)
The idea of nation is a joke, and a terrible one too. What’s the meaning of my citizenship after all? An italian passport is certainly a bless when you travel around or you have to move to another country. But it doesn’t say anything about me and my story. Does it say I’m loud, chatty and friendly? Because I’m not. I mean, I’m nice, but just when I take a break from being a bitch. Does it say I love espresso? Well, my grandma used to make a terrific turkish coffee. My passport does not even say which language(s) I speak with my family and friends, because
And in all fairness, this is true for everyone. Because nations weren’t born for us, they were made by power, for its own good. They were made to raise walls and borders, to conquer and rule, to send millions of people fighting meaningless wars.
Borders, nations, citizenships, are the roots of the huge disaster migration is nowadays.
We aren’t made for nations. We are made to live in small communities and freely move among them. Like, the idea that 1 billion of people distributed on 9 million of square kilometres form a community is fucking unreasonable. Think about it. In order to cope with this silly idea you need an army, border controls, police, thousands of useless bureaucrats, millions of rules and laws, prisons to confine the unwanteds and the unpleasants. And, obviously, you need to spend an enormous amount of money on all those things to make them (barely) work.
Now, imagine there are no passports. You move everywhere you want, you live in a community you love and that loves you back, you and the other people are in charge of everything: schools, environment, entertainment, etc. And if you think it doesn’t work, think twice. These things are happening already, in thounsands of places around the world.
Some years ago a bunch of people occupied a theater in Rome. Before that, it was ready to be closed. Then the most logical thing happened: instead of being managed by an unskilled, pretentious prick (like, you know, a politician), the workers of art and entertainment organized themselves. It took time, it took the re-invention of a sense of community, the realization that things are better if different competencies talk and work with each other. Guess what? It worked perfectly fine.
If you visit London, be sure you go to Peckham for a while. Believe me, there is no other place like Peckham. It has never been an administrative district nor an ecclesiastic parish, but when you’ll get there you’ll know that a community isn’t any of those things. Surprisingly, it is also one of the most diverse areas in UK: working class people, artists and professionals of different ethnicities. No wonder this is the place where George Scott Williamson and Innes Hope Pearce implemented the most interesting (and subversive) experiment on health care and well being, the so called Peckham Experiment. It was closed in 1950, since it didn’t fit in the NHS. And we all know how succesful is the NHS nowadays…
When we own a citizenship, we think we own a certain amount of rights and privileges as well. What citizenships do, however, is clutching at straws. Those rights and privileges are in fact needed to solve the problems that nations produced in the first place.
I wonder if I will ever see the day my passport and my nationality will lose their meaning. A meaning they never had for me and for you anyway.