Saturday, 19 February 2011
Evil, the banality of
The teachers at the school - there are five of them, all women - decide to forego their own lunch in turns and give it to the girl. Everything's fine until the mayor hears about it from the social services. He summons the school principal, a certain Simonetta Murri, to condemn the 'gross irregularity' of the situation and accuse the teachers, effectively, of stealing council property through their 'misuse' of lunches assigned to them, an act that incurs 'a loss of revenue for the municipality'. The principal agrees. The teachers are told that if they continue to deprive the education system of five lunches a week, they will be disciplined. The little girl now does only half a day at school, going home for lunch and staying there for the afternoon, deprived of 50 percent of an education that she, more than anyone, needs if she is to belong to the country she lives in and to which her father has contributed as a worker and tax-payer in the past.
Needless to day, according to Sensini and Murri, this has nothing to do with racism. For Sensini, the lunches are part of the teachers' salary and it is illegal to auto-reduce one's salary. For Murri, all children are equal and what would she do if all her pupils wanted free lunches? Has anyone else asked for a free lunch? Well, no, not yet. The speciousness of these arguments is self-evident, but what strikes me most about them is that these two people, insignificant in themselves yet given the kind of responsibility over others that can make lives worth living or not, are behaving in the same way as other people, in other places and at other times, whose small, considered acts of brutality, sustained by an indifferent or conniving structure of power, have led to their fellow citizens being seen as less than human. Food's such a basic need, and the act of offering it such a basic human act, enshrined in all cultures as hospitality. How ironic that notions of law and principle and equality should to be used to rip an offered plate from the small hands of a hungry child.