25 November 2010

Students occupy Colosseum, Tower of Pisa

This afternoon students protesting austerity plans for Italy's education system occupied iconic monuments around Italy, including the Colisseum and the leaning tower in Pisa.

Photo IGN

The proposed cuts of over €12 billion would reduce dramatically student stipends, research funds, cut course offerings, and cost 130,000 jobs. Protests gripped Rome, Florence, Bologna, Pisa, and many other cities. As jaded as I am about protests, I was gripped by the drama of occupying these ancient monuments. (Though the students' attempt to bum rush the Italian Senate chambers was good too.)

Scuffles between cops and students broke out here in Rome, where I happen to be today to have Thanksgiving with some friends - we saw my student and researcher comrades on the march but were home to start on Thanksgiving dinner before the tear gas started smoking.

The "education reforms" proposed by the governments are a Trojan horse for privatization and slashing "unproductive" subjects like literature and the arts. The symbolic connection between the monuments of ancient culture and contemporary knowledge under threat is kind of forced, but it still works for me. Probably because I agree with the analysis on the Italian street - those who created the economic crisis took the world economic on a long speculative binge, and now that they're hung over they want the rest of us to pay their bar bill for them by sacrificing our futures. Hell with that.

Finally: a bunch of people made these effigies of classic books as shields for scuffling with the cops. Petronius' Satyricon as riot equipment? I think Encolpius would appreciate those priapic police batons.


  1. "speculative binge"..classic. Great article and pictures. I think the world has gone insane undervaluing education right now. This is a sad trend, especially when history and the arts get thrown under the bus.

  2. Amen to that. BTW, you in Oakland over the holidays? We should meet in person sometime.