Monday, July 03, 2006
THE ROAD FROM COLLEVECCHIO
RENATO REDENTOR CONSTANTINO
Paras Indonesia and Business Mirror-Philippines
July 4, 2006
Editor's note: the writer participated in the historic Oil, Debt and Climate Change conference held in Collevecchio, Italy in June, which came out with a statement portions of which were used in this essay.
In a small medieval village in Italy called Collevecchio, in the courtyard of a monastery built centuries ago by Capuccini monks, a small group of people met to talk about life. They came from the great landmasses of the world such as Africa and Asia, Europe and America and amid the green Sabine hills they gathered to listen to each other and to break bread.
They shared grain and stories, and the pain caused by ills of the world they soaked together in first-pressed oil from the monastery's olives and chewed.
They were path builders, each of them, and the craft they had learned from the soil from which each of them had sprung, such as Colombia and Bolivia, France and Catalonia, Mali, Ghana and Indonesia, they combined to put together roads that they wished to encompass the world. Because they intend to walk the road and because the road is the world. Because the journey is also the destination.
From the corridors of memory they spoke of frustrations and realizations.
They talked about the cartographers of economic ruin who masqueraded as world bankers and international monetary functionaries, who had forced multitudes to avoid chasms called misery, conflict and ecological ruin -- by making them take immense lanes that led to precipices called poverty, strife and ecological distress.
Along these lanes, we are made to covet the avarice of the rich, said a woman from Panama. Along these lanes, said a woman from the Philippines, the valley of penury is a great fissure you are expected to escape from by digging bottomless holes of debt. In agreement, a reverend from Nigeria nodded vigorously.
It is a wicked map that we have been forced to follow, said the Nigerian reverend, who was often far from his pulpit but never far from his church. The great store of oil that lies under our country and other nations has not been a blessing, said the reverend; instead, it is destroying us, and the world with it. And yet, the Nigerian said, because it feeds the appetite of the voracious, international conglomerates have murdered poets and world bankers have provided loans upon loans upon loans to all manner of hideous tyrants just to ensure that oil continues to flow.
The same blood runs in the veins of our economy, said a man from North America. The road of our addiction, he shared, is paved by the malady of our indifference and the venom of our intention to control, acquire and consume.
The people in the monastery courtyard agreed the world was vast and uncharted, that its cliffs were many and its craters numerous, deadly and cavernous. But isn't this why we are here, they asked? To draw our passageways from the wisdom of those who have come before us and from the montage of our own years? To build?
Yes, they said; we are here to build. And as they answered their own question they shared their hopes, which became their map, while their words became brick and mortar.
Our vision, said the Collevecchio builders, is a world where it is not growth, consumption or greed that determine the conduct of finance and where trade takes place.
In our dreams, the builders said, the world without conflict is very real, for even now we live a tiny portion of our lives in this world each day, in peace, with the affection of family and friends, with the abundance of sharing and community. Yet, we are also realists enough to know that it is possible that we won't see the completeness of this world in our lifetime. And this is why justice, dignity and solidarity for us are important; they will guide us, and those who shall come after us, away from the shoals of violent discord, will make hostilities shrink until they disappear.
It is not absurd, said the builders, to say that one day, global warming will be taught in classes as an odd chapter in history when the world forgot to think about the consequences of dirty energy. We envision that the world will free itself from the addiction to harmful fuels such as oil, and make a healthy and just transition to alternative technologies, which will deliver clean energy to all.
We envision a world in which dictator and illegitimate debts are things of the past, relics of a time when a few people abused power, drained the resources and stole the sovereignty of peoples and nations. We envision instead a world where justice, dignity and solidarity drive finance and trade, and where people have learned to live sustainably and within their limits.
It is possible because we will work for a world where dignity is the main currency, justice fuels our economies and interactions, and solidarity is the only debt that people shall owe one another. #
Constantino is the author of the recently released book The Poverty of Memory: Essays on History and Empire (FNS, 2006)
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For essential background on oil, debt and climate issues, the following sites are highly recommended:
Sustainable Energy and Economy Network
Oil Change International
Photo 1: A session of listening and sharing inside the monastery. Photo 2: An old door, the wood's grain quite visible, leading to the courtyard; Photo 3: Henry from Bolivia and Dino from Italy/Spain exchanging stories during a break just outside the monastery's dining place. Photo 4: A wall and two windows of the monastery, with the senyora of the kitchen gazing at the neighboring hills. All photos by Red Constantino