Why Science Matters To You.

‘Why should we look to the past in order to prepare for the future? Because there is nowhere else to look.’ is a quote by science historian James Burke, inscribed on one of the walls of the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden. As an archaeologist I believe he is right, but this quote and others similar sometimes feel like worn out clichés. Nobody ever seems to heed the lessens we can clearly learn from the past, from invading Russia while having access to history books telling you it is a very, very bad idea, to climate denial in the face of detailed knowledge about what disastrous events even small oscillations in temperature can cause.

And recently forces across the globe are taking this denial a step further by actively attacking the importance and the role of science in society. Anybody with a degree at Google University feels their opinion is on a par with scientific consensus and should be considered with equal validity. And the current government of the United States advocates the teaching of evolution as ‘theory’ instead of fact (thereby deliberately corrupting the meaning of the word ‘theory’ in science) and calls global warming a ‘Chinese conspiracy’. They ridicule science and scientists as fantasists or even corrupt agents of industry (‘Big Pharma’) and the internet follows suit.

And that is a terribly dangerous development. I am not saying that out of arrogance or because my ego is bruised, I am saying that because society needs science! Not only to provide actual facts for politicians to politicise with, instead of the other way around, but also because science is not all about global warming, nuclear fusion and finding a way to end world hunger. It influences countless smaller, daily, but very significant things in our lives.

Our entire way of existing is simply impossible without science. Science as a method may be only a few centuries old, but science as an idea, as a state of mind is positively ancient. And not the exclusive domain of scientists. The notion that you can adapt your environment to improve your life, not accepting the status quo, finding ways to improve things, learning from your mistakes and successes, starting over again and again in the face of failure, all that begins when the first hominid comes up with the idea of shaping a piece of stone to improve its function, even if these ideas are of course not deliberately formulated. Or rather perhaps with another hominid who sees what is going on and figures he can do one better.

The beauty of it is, that this thirst for innovation is in essence not a human property, it is a simple exponent of natural selection, as we can see over and over again with countless other animals on the same path. That path does not necessarily follow the same trajectory as ours, and I’m not saying that crows turning sticks into tools ‘do’ science, but this process is definitely the root of all things scientific, and of our insanely complicated and technology driven way of life and its commodities.

It is that process of constant trial and error, which eventually branched off into a ‘separate’ discipline called science somewhere around half past Middle Ages, but the branch is inseparably intertwined with the rest of society. Virtually every aspect of our way of life today is rooted in a cumulative body of knowledge resulting from scientific research. Science benefits you!

Society needs science to thrive. And science needs society to thrive.

Henk of Armenia 2016-4. Home.

I arrived back home and was very happy to see my wife and dog again, have a shower, sit on a sofa, sleep in my own bed. But now I am restless and listless at the same time. For a while I didn’t know what it was; was I tired, jet-lagged? I think I need to get Armenia out of my system. This morning I walked the streets of Leiden and they seemed too quiet, too sleepy. I never thought I would ever say that I miss the crazy traffic of Yerevan, but the sudden absence of the constant din and life threatening antics of the drivers unnerves me.

I need to get A2016_168_zwrmenia out of my system and readjust to the Netherlands, but I do not want to do that. Not just yet. I really did not want to leave. H. accused me of getting up too late in the middle of  the night on purpose to miss my flight. I know there would not have been much point in staying in the sense that the fieldwork season is essentially over. Most of my colleagues have also left or are leaving in the next few days, but I want to hear the long slow lilt of H. and his father which always makes their Yerevan Armenian sound as if they are arguing about something. I want to sit on the long wooden bench in the Café Hovhannes and spend the day drawing artefacts or reading papers on archaeology, with a beer on the side in the afternoon. I want that day to slowly merge into drinking beer in the Café Hovhannes until too late, with the papers somewhere on or under the table. I wish I could go to Lagonid on Nalbandyan street and have Lebanese food tonight.

I need to get Armenia out of my system but I cannot get the hauntingly beautiful hymns of Komitas I heard at Geghard monastery last Friday 2016_170_zwout of my head. I walked up to a corridor chiselled out of the rocks and I heard music coming from around the corner at the end. I walked in slowly, trying not to stumble on the uneven floor (the only thing the masons of Geghard failed to make perfectly nice and smooth for unknown reasons), drawn in by the music, but apprehensive of the disappointment if it would turn out to be a recording. I looked into the room and here, in this small chapel carved out of the mountain itself, were five people singing to a small group of listeners, illuminated only by the for once shy sunlight falling in through an oculus in the dome. I walked behind the listeners to the other end of the room and leaned my back against one of the columns. The ancient, carved walls and pillars, the light of the sun with its thin shroud of dust particles, the wonderful acoustics of the room, the serene voices of the singers and the soul piercing sadness of the slow music were almost too much to bear. The cool rock of the column pressing into my back felt as if it was comforting, embracing me as the music moved me to tears. Not a lot of music has the power to move me to tears, but this certainly had. Has. Perhaps the knowledge that I had to leave soon gave the music extra poignancy or perhaps I am now 2016_163_zwreading too much into the experience because I feel homesick for Armenia, but this, this was as if the mountain itself was singing to me.

I need to get her out of my system, but Mother Armenia is a fickle mistress and she has got a hold on me.

Henk of Armenia 2016-3. Road Trip!


The ancient Armenian capital of Ani, across the border in Turkey.

In a welcome break from the usual Yerevan – Nor Geghi commute my friend Hayk and I travelled to his home town of Gyumri. There is a railway connection between Yerevan and Gyumri, but for some reason he insisted on going by marshrutka, that staple of public transport in much of the former Soviet Union. I’ve seen these marshrutkas drive around Yerevan for years and nothing I saw ever encouraged me to get into one. These mini-buses come apart at the seams, belch out black smoke and are generally crammed so full of people that it would take Japanese train pushers to get in more. The seats are always occupied, but what passes for an aisle in these cars will also be full of people, standing hunched over because the roof is too low, wedged in between the sides with arms outstretched, hanging for dear life on account of the driving style of the average marshrutka driver. It is not unusual to see the seated passengers pressing their faces into the narrow open slits the sliding windows allow, in an attempt to avoid close acquaintance with the armpits of one or more of the standing passengers.
Hayk and I took the metro to Yerevan train station behind which a gaggle of buses and marshrutkas were milling around angrily, beeping at each other in the customary Caucasus way. Hayk walked towards a van which looked exactly like all the others to me, but for some reason he knew this was the one bound for Gyumri.
“What time does it leave?” I asked.
“When it is full.”
That was not encouraging. Hayk clambered into the marshrutka to reserve two seats in the back by putting our bags on them so we could wait outside, but this apparently did not make much of a difference, because every time another passenger entered the van an argument ensued, accompanied by much eye-rolling and gesticulating.

At some point the driver was content that his marshrutka was filled to capacity so he gunned the engine and joined the still ongoing beeping fray on the square. The car made its way out of Yerevan and the driver spent the next three hours steering it through every pothole and crack in the road he managed to find. I tried to stay seated on the bucking rear seat, wedged in between Hayk, who is admittedly not a very large wedge, and a more formidable older woman who I suspect was responsible for the periodic fouling of the atmosphere. All the curtains were drawn so all I could see, while trying not to get catapulted through the marshrutka, was the view through the windshield, over the bobbing heads of the other mostly sleeping passengers. I was relieved when we pulled into a square in Gyumri and I was able to disentangle myself from the other passengers to step into the glaring heat of Gyumri.

That morning’s marshrutka ride had cured me of any desire to repeat the experience, but for the sheer travel romanticism of riding one in the Lower Caucasus I wanted to take the train back to Yerevan anyway. After a few pleasant hours at his parents’ house and in the city Hayk dropped me off at the unnecessarily large Gyumri train station where I eyed the green pile of metal that was going to take me back to Yerevan with some suspicion. It was going to be a three hour trip, but looking back I suspect that the duration was less a property of the distance travelled as of the fact that the train seemed to be incapable of going faster than 40 kilometres per hour.  Hayk told me the ride used to take up to eight hours because the train would halt for twenty minutes at every stop.

The train was a tired, rattling, Russian box car-like affair dating back to god knows when and the seating consisted of hard wooden benches of the sort the zealous are so fond of to add much needed suffering to their worship. The driver really liked the train’s signal horn and showed that by blowing it every other minute or so. At one point during the ride he went into a bit of a frenzy with the thing and I saw a rusty Lada apparently, and suicidally, trying to beat the train to a crossing. The impotent beep of the car horn drowning in the braying noise of the train as it clanged past in victory made me laugh.
The train was surprisingly full and I finally found a seat in the first of the three cars, right behind the driver’s compartment and the balcony. I shared this corner with a small, foul smelling stack of the grimiest banana boxes I have ever seen and they looked as if they had been there forever. They probably had. They were certainly left there when all the passengers spilled from the train at the final destination.


Samvel of Armenia.

We had barely creaked and groaned our way out of Gyumri when I caught a glimpse of a small boy inching towards me from the corner of my eye. I stared out of the window. Encouraged by this he stood by the edge of the wooden bench with his hand on the back and beamed at me. Incessantly. I fixed my gaze on the mountains across the border in Turkey. Then he sat down on the very edge of the bench. He took the fact that I was ignoring him as a cue to make himself a bit more comfortable and he shuffled a little further onto the bench. A few minutes later he was reclining against the back of the bench and asked me if I spoke Russian in Armenian. I said ‘che‘, so he got up and stood as close to me as he could and continued to smile at me. By now I was glaring out of the window with the furious conviction of a believer who is certain that the virgin Mary is about to appear over the horizon at any moment.
I will never cease to be bemused by the utter lack of inhibition in children everywhere, but I was very impressed by the utter indifference of the mother of this one a few benches behind, to my obvious discomfort. I did the only thing possible in this situation. I turned my head towards the boy and smiled back. His name turned out to be Samvel and he was eleven years old (information gathered by applying the time-honoured ‘Me Tarzan, you Jane’ method) and we struck up a conversation.
I say conversation, but it was more of a bewildering exchange of pointing at things outside the train and words that rarely managed to explain what was being pointed at, but it was not entirely unsuccessful:
“Tsoren.” Samvel said, pointing at a random field.
“Tsoren! Hats!”
“Oh hats! Yes! No! I mean ha! OK, so tsorel!”
“Che! Tsoren! TsoreN!’
Similar confusing exchanges ensued over the word for stork and him explaining that he liked boxing and Armenian folk dancing, but we stuck to our guns and managed somehow. I was quite pleased that I was able to apply at least some of the things I learned in the handful of Armenian lessons I have had (“yes chosum em mi kitch, mi kitch hayeren” being the staple, garnished with royal helpings of “I am sorry”). I would not have been able to do this last year. And to be honest, my Armenian was better than his English.

Henk of Armenia 2016-2. Food for though.

Arriving in Armenia after being away for a year is a little like being bear hugged by a sweaty aunt, but I feel pleased about the familiarity of the crumbling, bumpy streets of Yerevan as H. and I drive to the dig house in the early morning, more pleased even about the actual bear hugs of the team members who are already there. There is something particularly wonderful about the easy friendship you build with people you don’t see except once a year in a faraway place, but within hours it is like you were never not there.

crossingMuch has changed in the way I feel about Armenia. I am years away from ‘I feel like I ended up in an elaborate Monty Python sketch’ and because it feels, is, so familiar, I have begun to develop new perspectives about the place and the people.
A long time ago a friend recommended the book ‘The Crossing Place. Journey Among The Armenians’ by Phillip Marsden and it was my first introduction to the Armenians, for it is not so much a book about Armenia as it is about the Armenians, especially the many thousands cast wide all over the Middle East, Southeast Europe and Russia. I forgot mostly about it in the years past, but I remembered it in 2008 when I was asked to join the dig team for the first time. I am currently rereading that rather sad story.

If there ever was a book title that fits the subject like a glove it has to be ‘The Crossing Place’. Armenia really is and always has been the frictitious meeting point of many worlds. Situated on the southern part of the Caucasus range separating the Russian world from the Orient it is the Middle East and it is Europe, its shepherds and cowherds follow their herds on the high plains like they have done for thousands of years but they have the latest smart phones, and it is on the outer fringes of the Christian world yet enormously influenced by its Muslim neighbours. Armenia was occupied, cut to pieces and repressed by both the Ottomans, the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union and by a host of other neighbours since the dawn of written history but it has been on the occupying side itself often enough. Still, in the mad religious, cultural and genetic cauldron that is the Middle East, the Armenians persist.

This resilience is a central theme in Marsden’s book and I can see what he means. All Armenians are bound together by the terrible deeds a hundred years ago and I sometimes feel they have problems defining themselves as a people in other terms than as victims of the Ottomans, and the stories of families destroyed and properties lost add to that image, but under that scar I can see it in the kindness of the people here in Armenia who may be dirt poor but still smilingly offer you coffee, wine, wodka and apricots while they are unable to exchange a single word with you and it is evident in the pride of the Armenians I have met in the Netherlands.

Henk of Armenia 2016-1. Preparations

I cannot remember ever having looked forward to going to Armenia as much this year. I keep going back to photographs of previous years and other Armenia related things. The place is really growing on me, but I am convinced it has to do with a process that started last year when I got to know some of the Dutch Armenians and experienced how they feel about the country and its history. The series Blood Brothers by Dutch Armenian and Dutch Turkish duo Ara Halici and Sinan Can was also of considerable influence.

Apart from the ‘serious’ preparations for the upcoming field season I’m having tonnes of fun in preparing for the social side of the whole thing. D. and I are going to make the most of the season in a gramophone listening, G&T drinking, pipe smoking and dressing outrageously sort of way. One does not travel to the Caucasus without dressing properly.

13450845_10154292581476468_7204940089576465810_nI have also taken up a course in Armenian with classes once a week. I’ve only been three times, but Avo, the teacher was quite convinced after the first class that I was going to be able to read and write the 39 letters of the Armenian alphabet before I got on the plane to Yerevan. Avo is a very optimistic man, since he further stated that perhaps not this year, but next year I will be able to converse in Armenian with confidence. I take heart from the fact that he was right about his first statement. Three weeks in I can pretty much read, write and pronounce the letters of the alphabet. This does not mean, by the way, that I understand the words I can now read. While I have found that there is reason behind the madness of having 39 letters, I still feel the Armenians are playing us for fools. Sure, unlike with English or Dutch, when you read a word in Armenian, you know exactly how to pronounce it, but that doesn’t mean you have to use all of them in every word. Since I have learned the word for hat (գլխարկ or ‘glkhark’) I have become convinced that the Armenian people must be descended from Klingons.

I have also found out why the van driver last year was always yelling at me whenever I asked him to pull over at a shop for drinks on the way back from the dig site. I had learned the word for cold and was pretty chuffed with myself that I could say to him that we needed ‘sar garedjur’ (cold beer). Whenever I said that he started yelling ‘Sar garedjur! Sar garedjur!’ back at me and I was confused as to why. Now that I can write the alphabet and have learned a few more words I have discovered that there is a subtle difference, completely and utterly missed by me last year, between սառ and սար, the first one meaning ‘cold’ and the second a word for ‘mountain’. I think he was trying to tell me I was asking for a mountain of beer. In hindsight I have to say that under the circumstances that was not at all a bad proposition, but it is still a little embarrassing.

Two weeks to go still. Time to start drawing up lists, collect tools, accoutrements and stock up on necessary medication. Last minute purchases and alterations next Saturday and a final pre-Hayastan class from Avo. I will need to ask him for a list of useful words. ‘Archaeologist’ and ‘archaeology’ would be good for a start.

Grasses of the British Isles

Grasses_PrMay2015Grasses of the British Isles! Grasses of the British Isles! Grasses of the British Isles! Grasses of the British Isles! There are times when the world seems on the brink of going up in flames and I despair about whether or not things will ever improve. The anger, the hatred, the cynicism, the indignation of scared, but pampered people who forget that rights come with responsibilities; sometimes I just want to jam my fists into my eye sockets and scream, especially when I fail to fight back the draining anger and cynicism myself. At times like this I just want to curl up in the comfy chair in my study, click my heels together and softly whisper ‘Grasses of the British Isles! Grasses of the British Isles! Grasses of the British Isles! Grasses of the British Isles!’.

I am not particularly interested in the grass of Great Britain or elsewhere, but I was at Naturalis, the Dutch national Natural History Museum, a while ago and in the book shop I spotted this seminal work on the Gramineae of Britain. I still regret not buying it and I may still, so I can give it pride of place in my book case as something to hold on to in those moments when I feel my heart wants to crawl up through my throat to venture an escape together with my brain.

I take tremendous courage from the fact that even in these days, when fear, retribution and base avarice determine discourse, books a foot wide such as that of Messrs Cope & Gray are not only written, but also published. As long as books as ‘Grasses of the British Isles’ are published, I feel not all hope  for human civilisation is lost.

De cirkel is rond

Duizend jaar geleden werd het Nabije Oosten in een diepe crisis gedompeld, veroorzaakt door driehonderdduizend primitieve barbaren die de tribale samenleving ternauwernood ontgroeid waren. Deze horde van religieuze gekken, ordinaire misdadigers en nietsontziende potentaten met territoriale en dynastieke ambities trok op aansporen van de meest ambitieuze potentaat van allemaal, paus Urbanus II, te vuur en te zwaard door Anatolië en Syrië op naar Jeruzalem om daar in een meerdaagse orgie van bloed en geweld vrijwel de gehele bevolking af te slachten.

Er waren eerder conflicten tussen de christelijke en de moslimwereld geweest, maar die hadden geen religieuze dimensie en waren territoriaal of politiek van aard. Urbanus II vermomde zijn politieke ambities echter in religieuze gewaden en maakte van een veldtocht een Kruistocht, met als gevolg dat bij de Franken en Normandiërs die de Levant binnentrokken alle remmen los gingen. De geschokte moslims (voor zover niet vermoord) wisten niet hoe ze hadden met al-Ifranj, maar toen het stof daalde en het bloed opgedroogd was zagen ze zich geconfronteerd met verschillende Kruisvaarderstaten. De Levant is altijd een smeltkroes van elkaar beconcurrerende volkeren en ideologieën geweest die gedwongen waren om pragmatisch met elkaar om te gaan en de kruisvaarders waren in dat opzicht gewoon de zoveelste partij die in dit systeem werd geassimileerd.

Nou waren die kruisvaarders misschien wel barbaren, achterlijk waren ze zeker niet, nou ja, in ieder geval sommigen niet. Ze kwamen uit een hyperconservatieve, anti-intellectuele, naar binnen gekeerde, gewelddadige samenleving die blind stuurde op het woord van hun god (of liever gezegd, op wat hun verteld werd wat die god bedoelde), waar een etterende teen ‘behandeld’ werd door het met een bijl afhakken van het onderbeen. In de Levant werden ze geconfronteerd met een open, meritocratische samenleving die wetenschappelijk, filosofisch en intellectueel veel verder gevorderd was en ze hadden al vrij snel door dat ze daar hun voordeel mee konden doen. De Eerste Kruistocht was een gruwelijke, genocidale aberratie die aan honderdduizenden mensen het leven heeft gekost (waarbij de kruisvaarders waarschijnlijk in hun religieuze waanzin meer oosterse christenen en joden hebben afgeslacht dan moslims), maar hij veroorzaakte wel een periode van intensieve uitwisseling van ideeën, goederen en cultuur die de Europese samenleving voor altijd veranderd heeft. Algebra, geneeskunde, navigatie, het heliocentrische model, het cijfer nul, de getallen die we elke dag gebruiken, koffie, koekjes en nog veel meer zaken zijn door of via de Arabische wereld in Europa ingeburgerd geraakt.

Rond de overgang van de 20e naar de 21e eeuw komt het Nabije Oosten opnieuw in een diepe crisis terecht. Door het wegvallen van de centrale autoriteit van het Ottomaanse Rijk verkokert de islamitische wereld in de loop van de 20e eeuw tot een smeulend kruitvat van geconstrueerde natiestaten, religieuze sekten, etnische en tribale groepen, rivaliserende clans en voor eigen gewin onrust stokende, koloniale bemoeiallen. Het islamitische gouden tijdperk is allang een voetnoot in de geschiedenis van de regio geworden en het Nabije Oosten is veranderd in een hyperconservatieve, anti-intellectuele, naar binnen gekeerde, gewelddadige samenleving die blind stuurt op het woord van hun god (of liever gezegd, op wat hun verteld wordt wat die god bedoelt).

Duizend jaar na de Eerste kruistocht zijn christelijk Europa en islamitische Nabije Oosten weer tot elkaar veroordeeld, maar dit keer zijn het de moslims die met lege handen staan. Het Westen dankt zijn welvaart, zijn stand van filosofie, wetenschap, gezondheidszorg en kennis en de daaruit voortvloeiende machtspositie in de wereld voor een groot deel aan de interactie met de moslims uit het Nabije Oosten, Noord-Afrika en al-Andalus. Dat hebben we niet cadeau gekregen; Europese wetenschappers hebben voortgeborduurd op die kennis en daarmee de democratische, (staatkundig) seculiere, rationele samenleving geschapen waar wij de vruchten van plukken. Dat heeft veel bloed gekost, niet alleen tijdens de kruistochten, en er kleven ook nadelen aan, maar de voordelen zijn evident. En niet alleen voor ons. Nu de islamitische wereld onder een storm van geweld gebukt gaat (waar al-Ifranj overigens weer enthousiast aan meedoen) kijken de hulpeloze slachtoffers onze kant op.

“Het doel van de dokter is om het goede te doen, zelfs voor onze vijanden en meer nog voor onze vrienden, en mijn beroep verbiedt ons om onze naasten te schaden aangezien het geneesheerschap is ingesteld voor het welzijn en welvaren van het menselijke ras…” schreef Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi rond het jaar 900 in Perzië. De cirkel is rond. Wij staan op de schouders van reuzen en hebben daardoor niet alleen de middelen, maar ook de plicht om hun erfgenamen te helpen, niet alleen nu de nood hoog is, maar ook op langere termijn, zodat ze het Nabije Oosten weer een plek kunnen maken waar mensen graag hun kinderen willen opvoeden.



Aboutaleb for president

Ahmed Aboutaleb werd in het progamma College Tour geïnterviewd door presentator Twan Huijs die op een gegeven moment een beetje aan het drammen was over of Aboutaleb zichzelf nog eens als lijsttrekker van zijn partij zag. Daardoor moest ik denken aan die bijzonder kortzichtige en simplistische analogie met het Romeinse Rijk die Mark Rutte een paar weken geleden maakte over het dicht houden van grenzen en het weren van ‘de anderen’.

Rutte is een povere historicus als hij niet weet dat de Romeinen helemaal niet in dat soort simplistische tegenstellingen dachten en een povere politicus als hij dat opzettelijk weglaat. Natuurlijk herkenden de Romeinen dat er verschillen tussen mensen uit verschillende streken waren, maar ze gingen daar doorgaans bewonderenswaardig pragmatisch mee om. Hieronder een lijstje van (West-)Romeinse keizers van niet Italische afkomst en het ‘land’ waar ze vandaan komen dat volgens mij goed illustreert hoe in het Romeinse rijk over het belang van etniciteit gedacht werd:

Traianus, Spanje
Hadrianus, Spanje
Septimus Severus, Libië
Carracalla, zoon van Septimus Severus, maar geboren in Lyon
Geta, zoon van Septimus Severus, maar geboren in Lyon
Macrinus, Algerije
Egalabalus, Syrië
Severus Alexander, Syrië
Maxinimus, Griekenland
Gordianus I, Turkije
Philippus I, Syrië
Trajanus Decius, Servië
Hostilianus, Servië
Aemilianus, Afrika
Claudius Gothicus, Servië
Quintilius, Servië
Valerianus, Servië
Probus, Servië
Carus, Frankrijk
Diocletianus, Kroatië
Maxinianus, Servië
Constantius I, Balkan
Galerius, Servië
Constantinus I, Servië
Maximinus II, Bulgarije of Servië
Licinius I, Servië
Valerius Valens, Balkan
Constantinus II,zoon van Constantinus I, maar geboren in Frankrijk
Constantius II, Servië
Vetranios, Balkan
Julianus II, Griekenland
Jovianus, Servië
Valentinianus I, Kroatië
Valens, Kroatië
Gratianus, Servië
Theodosius, Spanje
Magnus Maximus, Spanje
Flavius Victor, Spanje
Constantius III, Servië

De keizertijd in het Romeinse Rijk is niet bepaald een toonbeeld van democratische elegantie, sommige van deze mensen zullen afkomstig zijn uit oorspronkelijk Romeinse of in ieder geval Italische families en ze zijn, getuige de wel zeer korte regeerperiode van menigeen, zeker niet allemaal universeel geliefd geweest. Maar het feit dat ze keizer konden worden geeft wel aan dat het voor ‘niet-westerse allochtonen’ blijkbaar net zo gemakkelijk was om in de ‘corridors of power’ van Rome te komen als voor ‘westerse allochtonen’ en ‘autochtone’ Italiërs.

In een land dat zichzelf zo enorm modern en ruimdenkend vindt dat het er 56 jaar na Sri Lanka nog niet eens in is geslaagd om een vrouw aan het hoofd van de regering te krijgen is een allochtone lijsttrekker voor welke potentiële regeringspartij dan ook voorlopig helaas ondenkbaar.