“You say that when you get there you will not run,” Sophia, a young woman who had come back from Europe, told me. In exchange for the madam covering travel expenses, the girl agrees to work for her until she has paid back the cost of the journey; the madam keeps her documents, and tells her that any attempt to flee will cause the juju, now inhabiting her body, to attack her. “If you don’t pay, you will die,” Sophia said. “If you speak with the police, you will die. If you tell the truth, you will die.”…
…“There’s an extraordinary level of implicit racism here, and it’s evident in the fact that there are no underage Italian girls working the streets,” Father Enzo Volpe, a priest who runs a center for migrant children and trafficking victims, told me. “Society dictates that it’s bad to sleep with a girl of thirteen or fourteen years. But if she’s African? Nobody gives a fuck. They don’t think of her as a person.”
No, this isn’t about our current administration or its effects, but stories like these are a big and important part of what any government is dealing with in the world, forces that span continents and undermine the kind of social order most of us desire and depend on. Like the more familiar articles about Syrian refugees in Europe and undocumented Mexican workers in the US, this one involves children, poverty, desperation, cruelty, long migration, criminal organizations in many countries, and the fate of darker-skinned foreigners in what we think of as “Western” nations. These stories are not unrelated, and as always, everything is complicated.
Early last year, journalists from the Netherlands’ de Correspondent contacted their counterparts across the EU, beginning a joint effort to answer questions about European security:
Bodycams, drones, border surveillance, airport scanners, lawful interception, facial recognition – high-tech gadgets are being developed by businesses and deployed across Europe. But what kind of businesses make these technologies? How much money do they earn from them? How are they working with governments? And do these tools really make us safer? We wanted to find out. Not on our own, but working with a team from all over Europe.
pub. throughout early 2017
They’re collecting the many and complex answers in their series Security for Sale; the articles are linked in the right sidebar of the page. Among other things, in a globalized and often opaque world, it’s great to see the collaborative efforts of investigative reporters in action.
Take-home point: The balance between unity as a continent and separation of individual nations created an intellectual climate in which countries competed with each other but also shared ideas.
We must recognise that Europe’s (and the world’s) Great Enrichment was in no way inevitable. With fairly minor changes in initial conditions, or even accidents along the way, it might never have happened. Had political and military developments taken different turns in Europe, conservative forces might have prevailed and taken a more hostile attitude toward the new and more progressive interpretation of the world.
It is thus somewhat ironical that it is Germany, the country that is politically and economically dominant in Europe, that will now have to fill in many of the gaps created by America’s withdrawal from the old world order, the one referred to by former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer as “Pax Americana.” At the same time, Germany must build an alliance against Donald Trump, because it otherwise won’t take shape. It is, however, absolutely necessary.
On the upside, I wonder if, during an otherwise dark time, a Europe unified against the US could become a bastion of liberalism?
Perhaps our most important lesson, though, is that of not giving the president the benefit of the doubt. Social-media sniping aside, Americans have a tendency to want to see the best in their leaders, to see them succeed. Europeans, and Italians above all, have learned better. In the mid-1960s, the Italian writer Luigi Barzini opened his best-selling book “The Italians” with these words: “At this point, being honest with oneself is the highest form of patriotism.” Fifty years later, this still rings true.