Changemakers and Ashoka Visionary Program

Some time ago I met an expert of Investment and Stock Exchange that I asked where to invest my savings? His answer was as simple as mind blowing: Invest in yourself. And so I did. I invested in a sabbatical year that would give me time to shape the second half of my professional career and I invested in the participation at the Ashoka Visionary program 2017/2018 in Vienna. 

Thanks to this decision I entered into a completely different world – eine andere Welt. Here the people that are called “crazy” by others for their innovative ideas find a home, they find a family of other crazy people that believe that the can make this world a better place changing the broke system and not only healing the symptoms.

The Kick Off on Thursday started with a great and funny team building event and and an amazing evening event where we listened to the touching story of Ana Bella Estévez who shared her personal story about violence and abuse by her husband. But Ana Bella and the women of her foundation are not victims. They are change makers: they transform every women that suffered from the same violence not only into “survivors”, but even more than that, in super-women, “supervivientes” and they are really super, believe me! Ana Bella managed with her Foundation to shift the mindset of the abused women: they are no longer poor victims that nobody wants to talk to, rent a house to or give a job to, instead they are strong women that have proved that they can resist and live over a long time under extreme pressure at a very high stress level. Ana Bella founded a company that hired “supervivientes” as a sales force to global companies like Danone. This empowered the women. Although you might not understand the Spanish language, watch this video where abused women encourage those who are still in a broken relationship. I was very moved and tears came to my eyes when watching it. Not compassion, rather the feeling of my humbleness in front of these great women and their incredible positive energy!

Ana Bella founded not only a company, but also a private shelter, she founded a program to teach in school about empowerment of women and preventing abuse, she founded a program to teach the social workers engaged with women in public shelters and so on and so on. Ana Bella Estévez is one of the most amazing women I every met in my life! In German we would say: She is a “hans-dampf-in-allen-gassen”. But to become a super-women you don’t need to have super-hero-skills. You just need to start step by step to do the changes you want to see in the society.

Be the change you want to see, Ashoka says.

How you can do that successfully is something we just started to learn over the last two mind-blowing days. I will continue to discover this new Social Entrepreneur World for myself and uncover parts of it for you here in my blog “Andere Welten” and in addition tweet about it with the hashtag #AshokaVisionaries. So stay tuned!

In which world do we want to live?

In which world do we want to live?

We need to ask ourselves: in which world do we want to live? Do we want to let the refugees die outside our EU boarders? No, because black lives matter as ours do.

I couldn’t say “I am Charlie Hebdo” because I am also the boy in Gaza or the women in Africa dying every day without the spotlights and media attention put on them. I am all those lives killed in vain by violence, by hunger, by poverty. I don’t feel the ones closer than the others. They aren’t children of a lesser god. We are all the same.

So if we don’t want to let the refugees drown in the sea (0r being tortured and killed by Libyan militias), do we want to let them all inside the EU?

Why not? First, what does it mean “all”? Do you really think it is so nice and easy to leave your country, your language, your family, your raices, your beloved ones? Do you really think we here are so special that everybody wants to be like we are and live like we do here with us? Did you know that already today, 80% of the African refugees and migrants remain within their continent and the majority  of those who leave Africa is going to Middle East and elsewhere but not to Europe?

But OK, let’s assume, 30 millions of Africans want to migrate to the EU over the next 10 years. This is less than 10% of our European population. If we distribute them equally within Europe (in effect, we don’t have a refugee crisis, we have a EU crisis, lack of solidarity with Italy, Greece, Spain), if everybody get’s 10% growth of its population, this would mean Germany would get 8 Mio over the next 10 years. 800.000 per year, the number of people that arrived in 2015/2016. This would mean a huge integration effort, yes. Jobs would have to be shared with the new immigrants, cheaper labor force would be available in our countries until they reach the same language and skill level as ours. But let’s be realistic: A part from the huge administration problems due to our bureaucracy, we absorbed those 800.000 quite well, didn’t we? Or did YOU personally have a problem or disadvantage due to an immigrant? And if so, isn’t it that your local or regional or national government neglected you situation already before? So why do you still vote for the center and right-wing parties instead of voting for those who protect the right of workers, pensions, poor housings, etc.?

Integrating immigrants is nothing special, at the contrary, it is quite normal. At least is was for decades, for centuries. Millions of Germans and Italians emigrated to the US or to Germany, Switzerland and elsewhere. Millions of people from the Balkans, from Turkey, Spain and Greece arrived in Germany, Switzerland and elsewhere. Millions of Germany migrated within Germany, from East to West, after World War II and after 1989. Society and economy absorbed them. So why is it a problem now? Both sides benefit: Cheap labor for the local industry, a better life not only for those coming but also for their families left behind.

Did you know that already today, the remittences of the African diaspora are more than the EU development aid for Africa? What this means is: allowing legal immigration to Europe would be the far better way to spend money to help Africa because this kind money arrives where it is needed most: directly at the poor families and not at the corrupt goverments.

You are not convinced? OK, if you don’t want to let the immigrants in, but you still don’t want to live in a world where men, women and children are drowning in the sea, we need to help them to make their countries a better places so they aren’t forced to migrate. Yes, this is surely what our European Politicians want to achieve or claim to achieve these days. The problem is, the current approaches by our politicians will not lead us there. They haven’t over the last 60 years, they won’t today because the entire Paradigm is still wrong.

We need a Shift of Paradigm.

No longer should we behave in this world as if it was only belonging to us, “the successful ones”, and not to everybody. No longer should we behave as if we are the better ones and have more rights, only because we are economically wealthier. We must stop thinking that we merit this wealth, that our success is due to our culture or race or because we work so hard or are so democratic by birth. This is racism.

Our economic wealth is based on the poverty of others. This is not a buzzword, but a fact. Look at our history. As a professor from the University of Pretoria put it: “The underdevelopment of Africa is not accidental, it was necessary to develop Europe. The wars in Africa were necessary to have peace in Europe. That legacy did decline, but not disappear. France wanted to get rid of Muhammed Gaddafi who wanted to unite Africa, to be stronger in the international negotiations. Preventing Africa from being an equal member in the international community is preventing the world to offer wealth for all. There was never charity from Europe, although it was said it was donation, it was for constructing their own security. No African country was designed by Africans, it was designed in Berlin, in Europe. We need to make sure that we have governments legitimately elected by the people and working for the people. We have to fight corruption. We have to re-think the European-African partnership”.

We must stop supporting wars in AfricaWe need to stop selling arms. No military intervention any more. No games of throne any more: if we like a dictator we support him, if we don’t like a (maybe even elected) head of state, we bomb him. We must stop bombing head of states that are not willing to do what we want them to do (Irak, Libya, Syria), cynically in the name of “human rights”.

We must stop emptying the international seas in front of Africa. Africans should be put in the position to  manage the fishing industry dominated by our countries instead.  We must stop sending cheap freezes chicken wings to Africa, destroying their local chicken industry. We must not force them to accept our “EPA”, Economic Partnership Agreements, that allow us to fled their markets with our goods. In exchange to give them the chance to export what they want to us. Apart from the fact that they are already allowed to export everything but arms (“EBA”), what the hell should they export? African countries are producing all more or less the same – goods that they were forced to produce during colonialism like coffee, grain and later raw materials for our mobile phones. We must stop to damnify economically African countries.

We must stop talking from government to government only. We need to involve Civil Society on both sides. Money should go to Civil Society movements and not to corrupt regimes. My favorite is to let immigrants work here and let them send their money to their families at home. They all know far better than we our our governments where to invest it for their own benefit.

We must stop corruption. Yes, some of the African regimes are corrupt, but they are corrupted by us, by our industries and indirectly also by our governments, that at the best do nothing against corruption. The current president of Botswana stole millions of Dollars that should have gone to his people, but instead he bought a beautiful villa and yacht in the South of France. Why does the France government allow this? It would be easy to put him on a blacklist and confiscate or freeze his money. The US does this everyday with people “not wanted” by their government: freezing their bank accounts and not letting them into their country.

We must stop all this aid-stuff. 80% of the aid of all governmental organizations remain within the organizations itself or go to people of the wealthy countries. That’s bullshit. Stop it. Let’s rather invest this money here in welcoming immigrants and improving the life of our own economically weak people so they accept immigrants better. And let’s invest a smaller part of it in Civil Society movements that are not-profit-oriented. African representatives told me: Stop sending us money. Keep your money. Transfer technical know how and give us tools to build up and diversify our industries, let us add value to the raw materials we currently sell you. Yes. But that is not in our economic interest. This would mean pay more for goods produced in Africa and get competition to the goods produced here.

During the 200 year old struggle for liberté and equalité we forget about the third value, the fraternité. There is enough in this planet for all, but we need to distribute more equally. This means: less for us, more for the others. Are you ready?

In which world do YOU want to live?

„Mafia? No Thanks!“ 

„Mafia? No Thanks!“ 

Since a few days I am a brand-new member of a German association called „Mafia? Nein Danke!“ (Mafia?NoThanks!) founded by Laura Garavini, a member of the Italian parliament and a member of the Italian-German parliamentary group, shortly after the killings in Duisburg in August 2007 by ’ndrangheta, the mafia of Calabria. Only a few weeks later, the same organization tried to extort money from restaurants in Berlin. But they failed. Over 40 restaurant owners stand together with the support of Mafia?NeinDanke! and denounced the racketeers. They were all arrested in the last night of the year 2007. Since then, Mafia?NeinDanke! is active in informing about the activities in Germany of the 4 Italian criminal organizations Camorra, ’ndrangheta, Sacra Corona Unita and the Sicilian Mafia.

This week they co-organized a conference in Berlin that took place on July 12th in the Italian embassy in Berlin: „For freedom and security – how do we approach the organized crime in Europe?” The list of speakers was very high-level: Italian and German prosecutors, politicians, journalists, judges, scientists, experts on money-laundering, Europol and I learned many lessons about the Italian mafias in Germany.

Did you know that:

  • That Germany is the country #1 for laundering of mafia’s bloody money?
  • There are 600 mafiosi known names in Germany of which 300 are from ’ndrangheta alone?
  • Every Euro you spend for fake Prada or illegal cigarettes as well as obviously for drugs are making mafia richer?
  • That if you go to the Oktoberfest or Café at/near Marienplatz in Munich mafia is sitting at your table?
  • That mafia is dealing with faked drugs like Viagra and that „faked drugs are the new cocaine“ as the revenue is enormous?

The dutch flower market is infiltrated by ’ndrangheta, many real estate assets near the German Ostküste (Eastern Sea) are in Mafia’s hands as well. Mafia is globalizing and so should Anti-Mafia. European laws need to harmonize here, we all have to learn from Italians here. But there is still a log way to go, although some first steps have been finally made this year: in April German parliament finally passed a law that allows prosecutors to confiscate money or other assets of members of mafia and in May a new law against money laundering was adopted. What is still missing is the rest of the necessary anti-mafia-package of laws and regulations: we need a law that being a member of a mafia organization is already a crime, we need a better regulation to protect former mafia bosses who want to collaborate with the authorities (similar to the „Kronzeugenregelung“ introduced during terrorism in Germany in the seventies), but above all we need a mafia specific regulation that it is up to the person suspicious of being a mafioso to demonstrate where his money comes from. At the conference the ministers of interior announced instead celebrated their successes. (Here is a summary in German). But they are not enough.

Why should we care? Why should YOU care as well?

Well, the huge amount of illegal money in the hands of Mafia affects us all sooner or later. It threatens democracy and fair rules. Mafia is involved in public tenders. YOUR COMPANY might be losing a tender because mafia imposes his own vendors. YOUR COMPANY might lose against a competitor because mafia can offer lower prices. Remember: they don’t need to make profit, they only need to launder the dirty money. If your company looses, you loose: Best case, your bonus. Worst case, your job.

You meet them everywhere: Mafia is involved in drug business (remember when you smoke your next joint), in human trafficking (sex workers, refugees, forced labour i.e. in meat industry, etc.), in the entire food chain (!) (think about the bad Döner meat), in faked medicine/drugs as above, in game of hazard/slot machines, in waste business, above all very dangerous waste, fake clothing / „fake Prada“, illegal (and fake) cigarettes as well.

To be more concrete: ’Ndrangheta is active in Tübingen, Ravensburg, Berlin, Freiburg, Donau-Eschingen, Villingen-Schwenningen, Frankfurt, Ludwigsburg, Mannheim, Singen, Stuttgart, Münster, München, Nürnberg, Kassel, Marburg, Dresden, Leipzig, Riesa, Wismar, Erfurt, Weimar, Saarbrücken, Siegburg, Krefeld, Düsseldorf, Duisburg, Hagen, Köln, Aachen, Bochum, Detmold, Essen, Gelsenkirchen.

The independent journalists of CORRECTIV put together many articles about Mafia in Germany (and Italy). You can find them here.

The huge amount of money (mostly from drugs) is invested/laundered in legal businesses, representing unfair competition. To YOUR COMPANY. If you live in Italy, democracy is directly affected by mafia, influencing the results of elections. Selling and buying votes. That is not fair, not democratic. Mafia puts at risk our democracies and affects our lives – in Italy more than in Germany, but also in Germany we are not Mafia- free.

Not at all.

Palermo’s Addiopizzo! Good-bye racketeer! 

Palermo’s Addiopizzo! Good-bye racketeer! 

Last week I have been in Palermo, the capital of Sicily.

You might have heard that in Palermo there is mafia and that mafia asks all owners of commercial activities or restaurants to pay a fee, called „pizzo“ (= „Protection fee“). Otherwise they will put fire on your shop or even kill you, as they did 1982 with merchant Pietro Grassi who wrote an open letter to his racketeers refusing to pay. („Lettera al mio caro estorsore“).

Good news is: this practice is no longer that widespread! In 2004, a group of recently graduated students wanted to open their own bar, but while they were writing their business plan they had to take into account also the expenses to pay the „pizzo“ to the local mafia. Higher costs meant to rise prices, making their customers pay indirectly to mafia as well. Frustrated by this mere idea they printed thousands of stickers saying „an entire nation that pays the pizzo is a nation without dignity“. Being called to be a person „without dignity“ in the dialect of Palermo is a huge offense. In a warm summer night, at the end of June 2004, the team and their friends attached those stickers all over Palermo. Literally everywhere. The next morning the local (and later the day also the national) news were reporting on this brave and courageous act. „Addiopizzo“ was born, a movement joined today by more than 1000 entrepreneurs and restaurant owners that refuse to pay to Mafia joined by normal citizens supporting the fight against mafia.

Surprisingly, until today, none of them ever got trouble with mafia!

Addiopizzo was very smart in achieving their goals. Instead of trying to start with recruiting merchants, they decided to start first with collecting the signature of 3.500 citizens that committed to buy from mafia-free Shops or eat in mafia-free restaurants. Only with this list, the potential customers, they started to contact the owners of bars, restaurants and shops and ask them if they wanted to join the movement. At that point, their major fear, to be alone and avoided by customers, was gone.

All applicants are thoroughly examined and once official members, they received a sticker to put at the windows of their shops or bars or restaurants saying that they won’t pay to mafia. This sticker today is a deterrent to mafia asking for money.

But Addiopizzo did more than that: They published the list, they continually widen the number of participants and continued to support all those owners against mafia: once a year Addiopizzo organizes a fairy where they bring together pizzo-free merchants and potential customers, means, all those Palermitans that are well aware that buying goods or eating pizza in other places means that part of the money they spend goes directly to the Mafia and supports their bloody and dirty affairs.

If you ever have the change to go to Palermo, please check out the list and buy and eat there to support those who stand agains mafia. There is also a very nice app for your smartphone, called NOMA, which contains the updated list, as well as other information about mafia.

If you are generally interested in the anti-mafia movement I strongly recommend to take the tour „PalermoNoMafia“ in English or Italian, a 3 hours tour at the very heart of Palermo by AddiopizzoTravel. The money you pay helps to support the movement. The tour guides are very professional, dismantling the folkloristic view about mafia deriving from movies like „The Godfather“, explaining you instead the much more complex reality as well as the history of the movement against mafia that became a mass-movement after the killing of the two judges Falcone and Borsellino in 1992.

You can book this basic tour via TripAdvisor / Viator here. Depending on the level of your interest, there are even more tours about Mafia and Anti-Mafia by Addiopizzotravel, you can find them here.

The German broadcast ZDF talks about Addiopizzo and the tour we took here with Chiara at Minute 7’30” for seven minutes.

https://www.zdf.de/politik/auslandsjournal/auslandsjournal-vom-19-juli-2017-100.html 

Raped Cambodia

Raped Cambodia

Nearly 30 years have passed since the shadow of genocide enveloped Cambodia. Under the reign of Khmer Rouge, Cambodians endured immense physical and psychological pain: the pain triggered by mass murder, torture, cruelty and inhumane acts; the pain of starvation; the pain of hard work, more than an average human being could bear; the pain of being separated and losing parents, children, spouses, relatives and friends. The memory of the traumatic period of the Khmer Rouge tyranny between April 17, 1975 and January 6th, 1979, persists. It brings Cambodians a social pain and it continues to tear them apart. Today Cambodia is a country composed of victims, perpetrators and their children. Victims and perpetrators live with each other in the same communities under a „culture of impunity“, in spite of the „Khmer Rouge Tribunal“, effective since 2007, which has tried so far only 3 out of the many responsible for atrocious crimes.

Because of this, many Khmer Rouge victims still suffer depression and other psychological symptoms. Cambodia has a significantly higher rate of sexual violence compared to other Asian countries. People continue to mistrust each other. You can perceive this. They don’t talk to each other. Former Khmer Rouge perpetrators have been included in the government at all levels, as have former opposition parties, which guaranteed for twenty years a stable majority of the government with more than 90% of the voters support.

This changed recently. In the last parliamentary elections in 2014, two opposition parties reached together a two-digits success. After this election they decided to unite their forces and during the Local elections June 4th, 2017, where I was an official election observer, they reached almost 40% at national level. This meant a huge and threatening loss to the government party. National and international observers now fear a rising repression against opposition as well as local and international NGOs being accused of supporting the opposition. Many fear the rise of violence. One could see an increase of violent rhetoric already in pre-election campaign this year.

Again violence. Violence was used by French Colonialists, there was violence during guerrilla fights to free Cambodia, death and pain was caused by illegal US bombings in 1970. You knew that? Kissinger and Nixon didn’t even ask their parliament for permission to bomb another country. They declared this a s part of the Vietnam bombing. The number of bombardings was 5 times higher than US dropped during world war II! You can imagine the destruction of the country! The US supported Lon Not, who reigned from 1970-1975 This government was fought buy guerrilla and that was the time when Khmer Rouge became support from the population that wanted their beloved prince Sihanouk back. Again violence. Then Khmer Rouge won the fight. No one was safe anymore, everyone could be seen as a betrayer or simply disturbing the “new communist society” they wanted to create in a few years. Millions died. No one knows the exact figure, because many died also from US bombings. Officially the Pol Pot regime lasted  3 years, 9 months and a few days. But one often forgets that they continued fighting for another 10 years the new Cambodian Republic, freed by a Vietnamese invasion in 1979. Again violence.

Today, Cambodia is #1 in the rank of Sex Tourism Countries. Poverty – the same poverty that already reigned 100 years ago during French occupation – drives parents mainly from the countryside to sell their children to brothels near the Thai Border.  Men from Germany, US, Canada, UK, Italy and other rich countries, but also rich men from Asia abuse young girls, boys and even small children.

The Cambodian documentary “Sold Out” shows 5 year old children in a brothel with their “customers”. I wish I would not have seen those pictures I can’t eliminate any more. Every time I met a white male tourist in Phnom Penh traveling alone I felt sick.

 

Traveling to Addis Abeba in Ethiopia and to Phnom Penh in Cambodia

 

From May 5th until June 11th, I was travelling with two different politicians to Ethiopia and Cambodia, taking part in their meetings and taking pictures inside and outside the meeting rooms. The trip to Cambodia was almost entirely financed by my pictures.

Both trips deeply impressed me. Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world, struggling to win the race for food against population growth. The influence and presence of China is gigantic. While rich families invite 1700 guests to their wedding at the Hilton Hotel, others in the western part of the country are starving due to a three years lasting drought. Their women are beautiful and so is the Ethio-Jazz Fusion. Cambodia is a raped and violated country. It was abused during the French occupation of Indochina, violated by US Bombing in the seventies, lacerated by Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime and today their children are raped by Western Sex Tourists. All those wounds are still visible. You can see them in their faces, in the way they (don’t) talk to you and to each other. I am still puzzled about these learnings. I am still hurt about the injustice I saw and it is taking time until I can put what I saw in words.

Detailed reports in German language can be found herehttp://andrea-moerike.de/
I will add bits and pieces step by step. Less detailed summaries in English language will be posted in this blog over the next weeks.

“I am not your negro!”

“I am not your negro!”

After having seen the Oscar film “Moonlight” at the cinema and read the American Classical “Black Boy” by Richard Wright published in 1945 (see my blog from March), I started to investigate further on the situation of colored people (or as Malcolm X put it: “the so-called negroes of America“).

First I went to see a great exhibition, “I Am You” with photographs of the multi-talent Gordon Parks. He is best remembered for his iconic photos of Americans during the 1940s, for his photographic essays for Life magazine, and as the director of the 1971 film Shaft. His essay “a Harlem gang leader” published 1948 in the Life Magazine was one of the best sociological descriptions about young people and their strategies to survive poverty. Gordon Parks was the first African American to produce and direct major motion pictures—developing films relating the experience of slaves and struggling black Americans, and creating the “blaxploitation” genre. The poster of the exhibition shows the famous “Doll-Test“: In the 1940s, psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark designed and conducted a series of experiments known colloquially as “the doll tests” to study the psychological effects of segregation on African-American children. The Clarks used four dolls, identical except for color, to test children’s racial perceptions. The (colored and white) children between the ages of three to seven, were asked to identify both the race of the dolls and which doll they prefer. A majority of the children (also the colored ones!) preferred the white doll and assigned positive characteristics to it. The Clarks concluded that “prejudice, discrimination, and segregation” created a feeling of inferiority among African-American children and damaged their self-esteem. The results of the test and the subsequent public discussion lead to the end of segregation in public schools de jure in 1954, after the Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education. In the decade following Brown, the South resisted enforcement of the Court’s decision. States and school districts did little to reduce segregation, and schools remained almost completely segregated until 1968. Nowadays white racists send their children simply to private schools where the director could decide only to admit white students…

I also browsed through Robert Frank’s book “The Americans”, another important book in the American History of Photography, published 1958 and full of lovely black and white photographs. One of his famous ones is the cover picture that shows the segregation in the bus services: blacks had to sit at the back of the bus and if it was too crowded, then blacks had to leave. Another great and famous picture about segregation is by one of my favorite photographers, Elliot Erwitt; you see a water dispenser, divided in two parts: the bigger one for whites, the smaller one for blacks.

Then I watched I Am Not Your Negro, a 2016 American documentary film directed by Raoul Peck, based on James Baldwin‘s unfinished manuscript, Remember This House. Narrated by actor Samuel L. Jackson (in the German version narrated by Samy de Luxe), the film explores the history of racism and violence in the United States through Baldwin’s reminiscences of civil rights leaders Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. all three assassinated in the 60ties of the 20th century. “The history of Black Americans is the history of the Americans and it is not a good one”. It is a beautiful film and I was deeply impressed by the last words in the film, that are the very essence of the whole question when he says (click on the link an watch it): “I am not a nigger, I am a man. You invented the idea of negroes and you should ask yourself why. Who thinks that I am an nigger needs one!”.

Deeply impressed by James Baldwin, I read his very important book “The fire next time”, (a quotation from the bible when God speaks to Noah). in the first part, in a letter to his nephew, he explains that after 100 years of freedom from slavery there are still no equal rights for Blacks in the US. In the second part, Baldwin states clearly that the “racial question” is not something that matters only to colored people but that is THE question for the future of the US American society. “The future of colored people in the US is precisely as dark or bright as the future of this country”. What place in society is assigned to Colored? Listen to ho Baldwin expresses this with his own words here.

Last but not least I went to the cinema to watch the documentary “Do Not Resist” written and directed by Craig Atkinson, 2016. This film is an urgent and powerful exploration into the militarization of American police forces. Starting on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, as the black community and civil rights movement demonstrates asking for justice for Micheal Brown – a black student killed by a policeman with 12 bullets on August 9th, 2014) – this film shows that the difficult relationship between law enforcement and Afro Americans has not changed until today. (Did you know that the predecessors of the today US police are the slave patrols of the Old South that could do whatever they wanted to the slaves but not killing them, as they were the economical asset of their owners?). The film offers a stunning look at the current state of policing in America and a glimpse into what it means for the country’s future. You see a weird police training seminar and you get shocked by new technologies including predictive policing algorithms that assign scores to people based on their education and race to forecast how likely it is that this person will commit a crime or even become a murder.

Bloody tomatoes from Southern Italy

Bloody tomatoes from Southern Italy

No, this post is not about cooking. It is about slavery. It is about the book I just finished reading: “Uomini e caporali” (“men & foremen”) written by an Italian journalist and writer, Alessandro Leogrande.

We all love “Spaghetti al pomodoro”, noodles with tomatoes – don’t you, too? Made with tomatoes in cans, most of them coming from Southern Italy: Puglia or Campagna. (In the latter many of the tomatoes coming from Puglia are processed and put in cans or bottles). But who is harvesting those tomatoes and what are his or her work condition?

Every summer men and women from Africa and Eastern Europe pour into the “Tavoliere”, a region of Puglia to engage in harvesting tomatoes. They are the modern day-laborers of agriculture. They become victims of corporatists who in alignment with the landowners deploy them through the region. They live in insanitary dwellings and accept wages that are far below any legal standards which often are not paid at all. They are isolated. They suffer hunger and thirst. Their passports are taken away. They have to pay exaggerated prices for food and water and transport from their already misery wages. Sometimes they are even beaten. Some of those new slaves who try to rebel just “disappear” or die in “strange circumstances”. As of this list from an Polish association called “Italy” today there are still 115 people missing.

But in the summer of 2005, three Polish students managed to escape from their guards and reach the Polish consulate in Bari. Due to their denunciation it was possible to arrest dozens of formen or better said slave drivers. The author met the victims, studied the techniques of those new “Kapò” and interviewed magistrates, lawyers, doctors and syndicalists who tried to oppose this cruel exploitation. Three years later he returned and the situation seems to have improved: The landowners or farmers decided to engage machines because they are now more convenient. They hadn’t been in respect to the slaves. The situation for the Polish improved. But today, there are dozens of Romanians missing and a handful died in “strange circumstances”. Because as long as the companies behind this system will try to lower even more the labor costs to raise their own profit this system of modern slavery will continue.

 

Preparing for Africa and Asia

Preparing for Africa and Asia

In the next months I will escort two politicians on their trips to Africa and Asia – that is fantastic! My role will be the one of a photographer. Currently I am preparing all necessary: Visa, flights, booking hotels, vaccination, reading books and the news on the current political affairs and last but not least reviewing my wardrobe. This is all very exciting especially because it is more than 15 years ago that I will travel to exotic destinations without my husband and this makes me feel a bit insecure (although I would of course never ever admit that. :-))

I will publish detailed reporting from my trips to Africa and Asia in my mother tongue German here.