The (in)visible life story of a Romani boy who rebels against its marginal condition
We are surrounded by an invisible, massive tide of the so-called “vuoti a perdere”, nonpersons that Maria Matteo describes as people who do not deserve this definition, condemned since their birth to be eliminated fast and without additional costs, who are aware to have such destiny and therefore cannot surrender or adopt prudent strategies as they cannot afford the luxury of being desperate.
This is what we have created with exclusionary policies, this is not simply a result of Salvini’s decisions, although these for sure contribute to worsening the situation for all the disadvantaged and fragile members of the society, not included in the community.
One of them is Nitin (fantasy name to protect his privacy). He was born in Italy in 1992 and he grew up in Rome doing all the things of a normal boy of its age, sharing the same culture and speaking with the same Roman accent. However, when Nitin wanted to continue his studies after middle school, he could not. If he wants to travel he cannot exit Italian borders. If he looks for a house, none is willing to sell or rent even the worse room in the most degraded periphery. He is forced to remain in the Camp in Via di Salone, where services are inexistent, there are security cameras and surveillance all day long and it is impossible to host an external individual for more than 1-2 hours.
Because Nitin is a Romani man. And due to prejudices, almost none wants or likes Romani people, neither the State. In fact, Nitin is a stateless person and what is worse is that he is a not recognized stateless person: his ID card not valid for the expatriation, it does not recognize Italian citizenship and registers him as Bosnian, but he is not a citizen of Bosnia Herzegovina, thus the document is somehow false. He could have regularised his condition when he has 18, but his parents never
received the letter from the State necessary to request the citizenship in time.
It does not matter if he actually is Italian for three generations; if his grandfather fought the Second world war as a partisan for the Italian liberation, if he considers himself as a Roman of Centocelle and if he feels a prisoner of his land. It is not important. He is regarded as a waste and waste do not have the right to protest, they do not have rights at all. As he declares: “For the State, for other people, I am a void involucre. I am, but I am not” He gained awareness of it when he was in middle school, when he observed disgusted the surprise of the professor and of his classmates after he was the only one to raise his hand to answer correctly to the question made about feudalism and not to go to the toilet as they expected.
From that moment on, he decided to engage in his personal fight, rebelling against such imposed marginalization: he is actively involved in activism for human rights, he has been working with many ONLUS like Ermes for the schooling of Romani people and the association 21 Luglio for the empowerment of the poor and segregated parts of the society and tries to behave as an example for Romani and indigent children, so that they can emancipate and ameliorate their condition by understanding that there are existing alternatives. In fact, many Romani people now think that living in a camp is part of their culture and passively accept it, while according to Nitin is culture-imposed by different governments and is a ghettoization typical of extreme poverty situations.
In his opinion, camps are like lagers. Not only have they the structure of concentration camps, as he declares that if you compare the maps of Salone and Auschwitz they have almost the same shape, but also living inside it as cattle in a pen is terrible. Forget about Romantic images of musicians, poets, kalderash working copper or another kind of artisan. If you imprison people in a highly precarious and dangerous area they cannot escape, it is sadly inevitable that they start looking for strategies of survival beyond the legality, giving origin to the flourishing of delinquency, drug trafficking and prostitution. It is the same thing that happens in degraded suburbs, like Tor Bella Monaca, where Natin works with the 21 Luglio.
To describe the mechanism of degradation, he uses the metaphor of a wallet left on a chair in a café: at the beginning, it is well-designed and contains all the things needed, but when it is abandoned and everyone who passes takes something without caring of the others, it becomes void and people can’t find money and documents fundamental for survival. Both Salone and Tor Bella Monaca need services, protection, security and if the city council stop caring, people living the space start adapting and looking for alternative solutions, because for them, overcoming the relativist dichotomy good-evil, criminality is simply an efficacious way of making money, survive and reach the levels of consumerist well-being that they learn to aspire to since the childhood.
However, there is a substantial difference among those two ghettos: in the camp there is a network represented by the community which supports all the members, so that those more in need can be helped and none is left alone, while in the neighborhood it is common to find children who do not have anything to eat because the families are isolated and there is none taking care of them.
That is why the 21 Luglio association is carrying on a project of long-visiting to foster real, effective change in the long-run working both with parents and children, listening to their problems and developing together solutions, in order to promote dialogue and collaboration inside the family and among families, which are expected to gradually gain awareness of life choices alternative to wrongdoing, able to improve their condition and guarantee a different future at least for the new generation. Maybe the range of action of this association and similar ONLUS is still limited, but on a local dimension they are creating a springboard for all the disadvantaged people made invisible and left at the margin of the society, by actively involving as protagonist those people in such projects.
Natin is an example of how “by dint of being wind” 1 it is possible to reverse the weakness of being invisible as a breath of air constantly moved away, into an air flow which shows the strength and dignity of all apparently insignificant wisps cooperating together.