Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Blood and Fire (v2)

Note from Gid: The following piece was previously published on LoS, but it was met with confusion. Based on reader feedback and a request from Daurade, I (Gid), edited the original work and republished it under Daurade's name. You spoke, and we listened. Any successes in this piece stem from Daurade's writing; any faults are my own. Let us know what you think. In the words of Robert Anton Wilson, intelligence is a function of feedback. So let us know: How are we doing?


The Haiti earthquake has led to some reflections upon my own earthquake experience.

As a young lad I was living in Parco Lagani, part of the commune of Castel Volturno, about 40 k north of Naples, Italy during the wild and woolly anni di piombo--the "years of lead." The many assassinations and kidnappings of those times were background noise for what was for me perhaps the most secure and idyllic period of my life.

Castel Volturno was a small city whose origins date back to before the Etruscans, but our housing development was then brand new and the construction sites of numerous new villas were our (forbidden) playgrounds. Soon after moving in I was given a tour of the sites, all of which had colorful names. The only one I remember was called the "wiggling worm" because of all the electrical sheaths hanging out of the walls. This was the Italian countryside; we could awake one morning to find sheep grazing in the field next to our house. On another day it might be water buffalo. No matter, I could leave the house in the morning and return in the evening and my parents never needed to worry.

Peace was shattered on November 23, 1980 when the Irpinia earthquake, measuring 6.89 on the Richter Scale, killed over 2900 people. Thousands were injured and as many as 300,000 left homeless.

It was a major catastrophe and fortunately, scared was all I got.

But catastrophes require blame, and earthquakes are long the stuff the gods. The Neopolitans turned toward their patron saint, San Gennaro, and they found a warning gone unheeded. San Gennaro performs an annual miracle; during San Gennaro's September feast day, the good citizens of Naples gather about a dried sample of the saint's blood and pray until it liquefies. Not surprisingly, if the blood fails to liquefy, it's interpreted as a bad omen and means bad luck until the next try.

As it turns out, the blood failed to liquefy on September 19, 1980. Then the quake struck two months later, and the earth beneath Naples liquefied; faith in the blessings and curses of the liquefaction miracle were confirmed.

Well, confirmed, perhaps for the faithful, but like many "miracles," there are non-supernatural theories; given that it hasn't been adequately researched, no conclusive scientific explanation has been offered, and skeptics are left lamenting that:

"Whether these simple tests will be allowed to go ahead wholly depends upon the Catholic Church. At present however, given that the phenomenon has been replicated, it would be rather too naive to consider it irreproducible or unexplainable."

Since science couldn't answer this mystery, we turned to etymology. The name Gennaro, it turns out, comes from the Roman god Janus, god of "gates, doors, doorways, beginnings and endings." LoS, for the attentive reader, has also over time become increasingly interested in the concept of gates and transitions (see "pillars" for example). Janus also left us with the name of January, or doorway to the new year.

Parco Lagani, my former home town, began to decline in the wake of the earthquake with the arrival of many IDP's--internal refugees from the quake zone, mostly poor. When these people went back to where they came from later in the 80's, the houses remained empty, often as a result of structural problems due to the quake. Instead of paying for expensive renovations, the owners began renting to the migrant workers who flocked to the area. This was the country, remember?

Over time, Lagani became a kind of free zone, anarchic, where the police never went. African immigrants set up illegal stores, it became a center of drug trafficking; prostitutes who plied their trade in Naples made it their home.

Meanwhile, across the highway, there are luxury resorts for the rich. Reminds me of those reports of the cruise ship docked on a private Haitian beach where tourists frolicked in the surf while people were still being pulled from the rubble a few kilometers away.

In 2008, tragedy touched Castel Volturno again, this time in the form of the murder of African immigrant (alleged) drug traffickers over turf and royalty disputes by members of the Casalesi clan of the Comorra. The massacre is also known as the Strage di San Gennaro because of the date, September 18, the day before San Gennaro's feast day. The day, you'll recall, that his blood failed to liquefy back in 1980. The Casalesi--this night excluded--generally keep a lower profile than most Comorra clans, focusing not so much on drug trafficking as on construction.

Interestingly, on the Italian Wikipedia, translated

"Castel Volturno is best known for building development insane, and in most cases illegal, due to development policies derived from the reconstruction after the earthquake of the eighties. The municipality is also notorious for high crime rate. Castel Volturno is in fact highly sensitive to the power of the clans. Camorra and its name can be made to refer to some facts of crime news."

One year later, in 2009, the town was touched again. A blog entry, from January 29, 2009, reports on the reaction of the enormous police raid on Lagani, in search of drugs and weapons. From what I gather it was a heavy-handed affair and is seen by advocates for the immigrants more as a form of harassment than anything else. "The police raid last Thursday was greeted almost with wonder by the locals, accustomed to living with widespread illegality."

Race, class, divine retribution, displaced people. Oh how it all ties together:

1. San Gennaro's blood fails to liquify, so he causes the earth to quake.

2. The earthquake led to a rash of substandard and illegal housing, most obviously connected to mafias specialized in the trade.

3. These places were unsellable and unrentable to most Italians, so they got stocked full of the illegal immigrants who came to the area for honest work and work not so honest.

4. Rivalries arose and, on a violent night in September, almost the feast day of San Gennaro, whose reticent blood indirectly brought them there, the Africans were gunned down.

Drawn by blood and destroyed by gun fire.

So, recent riots in Calabria by migrant workers have a bit of background. These migrants work in orchards and are paid as little as a dollar a day. Again, the mafia is involved in this exploitative setup.

Displaced Africans are exploited and as in Haiti 200 years ago, they rebel. In the end, not much changes.

And so we look back to an Italian earthquake in 1980 and we see echoic tremors today; consider the words of Pat Robertson, establishing blame for the cause of the earthquake in Haiti:

They were under the heel of the French ... and they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, 'We will serve you if you'll get us free from the French.' "True story. And the devil said, 'OK, it's a deal.' Ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after another.

And the aftershocks echo through time: Authorities are already predicting that the widespread corruption in the wake of the Italian quake could reoccur in Haiti. Journalist Robert Saviano:

"What is a tragedy for this population," he wrote, "for someone else can become an opportunity, a bottomless mine, a paradise of profit."

The displaced poor are exploited and as everywhere else, are f*cked in the end. Not much changes.

Double-faced Janus looks to the future and to the past. God of transitions and namesake of San Gennaro, he who causes blood to run. Janus whistles an old refrain and relishes the truth found in a clichéd aphorism: the more things change, the more things stay the same. Is the Haitian earthquake a break from the past, or do the ley-lines hold steady, a Janus-faced toss: new side, same coin?


  1. That is the good fruit of collaboration. Nice work. You saw exactly what I was getting at and turned my clumsy expression into something much more cogent. Thanks for the face-lift.

  2. Galactic Jello -- What'da'ya think of this facelift?

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Galactic jello here...

    Ooooo... I read it all the way through, and could see the destination of the post the whole way through. Thanks for tying it up in the end to place me back on the road (as I was beginning to stray a bit).

    Coming from your usually ultra-cool, historical, esoteric, masonic-tending dissertations, the previous post took me for quite the mind-fuk, as my mind was already decidely "clouded" with some decent Speyside shared with friends throughout the evening (damn Irish).

    I do have to say, that I appreciate the effort, and absolutely find your (plural) postings facinating. Thank you for taking the effort to appease the drunken fuktoids that hang on your every word.

    BTW- get back to some more masonic stuff. If you do, I'll send you some of that Speyside.

  5. Thanks Jello! I think we wanted to do the re-write because you made a good point. The original was lazy. Gid did a good job linking things together more along the lines of what I intended.

    I know about drunken surfing and commenting! I've hit send too quickly on more than one occasion.

    As for the Masonic stuff, sometimes it finds us rather than the other way around. I'd still like to do a thing about triangles in logos, esp for real estate and construction. No one believed me at first, but it's undeniable. I don't know if it's Masonic or not.

    I did have an interesting chat with a local guy (student of mine), old family, quite well-off, mingles in such circles, highly-placed in a local firm, who has been approached both by Opus Dei and the Masons; they seek out influential people.

    He assured me that at the top of many local companies you have men from one or the other camp. As he put it, there's a kind of spiritual war being played out, which naturally involves business and local politics.

    There's more to the story, but it's all such hearsay: "I know a guy who told me...." I'd like to go into it though.

    Another Masonic project will be to interview the architect behind the Blagnac pyramid monument. Question is when. I'm so busy lately, hence the far simpler posts. Still, you've motivated me....

    So, if these two things meet your criteria, I'll make room in the fridge for some Speyside!



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