With and without the state in
In the world we live in today, countries and nations have formed
a class system. The superpowers remain at the tip of the pyramid, the
middle class of the developed, and the developing or less advanced at
the base. These primitive cultures or the lower class cannot mobilize
upward in society because the world cannot help them. Those who do only
aid those with potential and countries whose resources would be beneficial
to their own policies. There is no hope for these people as they see
the world expanding and competition for power and superiority remains.
Struggle embodies the individual and the casted civilization they live
in as the outside world continues to prosper, reigning above them. Christ Stopped at Eboli, by Carlo Levi, exemplifies an age-old repression of
a people without hope because of an outside world that suppresses them.
This eyewitness account demonstrates how the outside world does not
provide resolutions their desolate existence and to help alleviate the conditions of daily life.
The distance between the state, the outer world and the people,
the inner world, creates an ignorance that the state refuses to attend. It
is widely known the two factors for the makeup of a civilization lies in
the people and the state or the state and its people. Without one or the
other to depend on, reliance hinders stability. The functional branch or government in Rome is thousands of miles away that there is a barrier
between the Italian people. Because the capital is not located in the
village, they cannot interact and develop a personal fulfillment of
needs. The mind and power of the state should be planted into the hands
of the people so that contact solves sympathy and loyalty. For this
reason, Gagliano cannot advance and develop as a ‘people’ of the state.
Rome has suppressed their civilians as well as their own people. As a
pitiless attempt to equip the people, they send police to experience
destitution away from their families, or far away from home. “The
glittering sergeant of the carabinieri passed by.” Slowly and silently,
those in charge selfishly stood by leaving the people to suffer. His
appealing appearance hides his real bad personality, which if only judged
alone is deceiving. Here he represents the government as corrupt and
unjust to its people like the Nazi guards who stood by and watched as
the Jews descended into their deaths. This soldier ignorantly mocks their status because he knows they will eventually die off. “He was a handsome
young fellow” implies that he knows the peasants can’t afford such dignity. Such unfair, cruel attitude towards humanity epitomizes how the state is not human.
The government oppresses society, changing its atmosphere and safety when the ‘love’ and attention is not present. This region of Gagliano is
devoid of the humanitarians or real doctors. The very few or appointed
doctors only wanted money. “The man had just been brought back on a
donkey to Stigliano to see a doctor.” There weren’t any decent people left
to care. The fact that leaders ignored and contributed to neglecting the horrors and pities in the peasants’ lives supported their inevitable pitfall
and trivial importance in the state’s agenda. Tax collectors kept
collecting from their little wealth or fortunes out of selfishness which
took away from their desire to live for all that was left for them. There weren’t enough people, strength to care. Being a doctor or lawyer was
only a source of power, income. The state could send supplies, medicine
and new equipment, but the doctors didn’t know how to treat and control
diseases properly. Dr. Gibilisco wasn’t a good doctor because he couldn’t practice medicine using the older remedies. More relatives, more people died from his methods, that the villagers ceased to consult him. There was less trust between the people and their own ‘therapist’ leader. Thus, one can conclude that a strong community wasn’t established and resources weren’t
made available to the people.
When Don Carlo, the narrator inherits one of the grandest houses
in the village, he is also privileged to having the only toilet in the
vicinity. This symbol represents the state’s ignorance. The farmers use
their wastes for fertilizing productive fields. When the government is responsible for the infrastructure of their country, they introduce a decoration, a toilet seat to glorify the benefits of modern technology.
They do something and give what they think the people need but doesn’t really
rectify their misery.
For a brief moment, the storyteller’s hope arrives. His sister
obtains responsibility that is later superseded by the community, replacing
a new priest. However, this solution of providing community service doesn’t last long and explains how the power of one person is weak. The state
restores the hope and faith that the people confide in Don Carlo and his
sister by sending an enthused and spirited priest.
The author’s view examines how effortlessly the government proctors
the peasant’s world as an outcast. The peasants feel like they live like animals and the government has made them less than human and lower than Christians. “The church was dirty and neglected” The treatment of casting
the peasants into this barren land to survive convinces the peasants that
their lives are without hope. Naturally, they live in a barn of sin and
mold in the church because they feel they are not Christians; they live like cattle. The villagers refuse to preserve the old church and they don’t pay
any attention to its activities or functions because they have nothing to
give, as for offerings, and they roam the village like untamed herds. The government has not established a sense of faith between the people and
Geography has submitted to their existence and contributed to
their low self-esteem. The South is unfortunately made up barren desert
and few fertile lands. Without the proper technology, there is less food
and more repression. Children scatter, playing around the dusty roads and cement houses and streets of the old village. With nothing to do, people
submit to their repression and deal with the common misery of malaria. The feeling of loneliness has enabled the people to oppress themselves and exaggerate and create their own problems.
“By government order nothing was raised on this estate but wheat.
In the fat years, with hard work and quantities of fertilizer the wheat
harvested came to only nine times the cost of the seed; in the lean
ones it amounted to much less, sometimes as little as three or four
times the cost. In other words, it was folly to insist on raising
wheat. This land was better suited to almond and olive trees and best
thing of all would be to turn it back into forests and pastures.”
This excerpt describes how farming is the only life given to them. Again, readers are confronted with the ignorance of the state and thus the title, Christ stopped at Eboli. The government bears the title of “farmer”
as the only possibility and opportunity in life. What remains of living in
the south attributes to circumstances that mingle the peasants with other
evils or fending for their families on a patch of useless land.
Because religion and the State have abandoned these people, the peasants
turn to witchcraft, magic, paganism as a source of comfort and solace. By altering religion with their own beliefs, they discover a different hope
that only works in their illusions. When the state is supposed to encourage
the ideals of Catholicism, they deny the villagers of the true values and spirit. The government banishes a priest for molesting a child to a place
where he engenders his own repression. Instead of encouraging the peasants,
Don Trajella a new priest condescendingly mocks the village life and drinks because he has chosen to give up sermonizing. The state has allowed him the contrary of self-indulgence rather than being useful to the southern Italians. Guilia, Don Carlo’s servant enjoys the company of men and thus yields many children. Sending off all her children, but one for a better life elsewhere, she exposes herself to the power of men and lets them dominate her. This
is her way of handling her grief. Because the state has allowed her to this morally distorted superstition and self-destruction, she succumbs to
witchcraft and this new philosophy of life as a better source of happiness.
The phrase “Christ stopped at Eboli” means that religion, interacted with
the government has not communicated with this part of Italy.
The mayor of the town did not attend to his own job. The government appoints Don Cosimino, to govern Gagliano and head the post office, when the villagers see him as a cold-hearted man. He intercepts the mail, the only link of the peasants to the outside world. Through this discourtesy, he does not sympathize with the peasants; he never realizes that distorting any message diminishes the purpose of sending mail. The common people cannot sense love by the state or other Italian people. The idea doesn’t relate as emotions or a personal business.
The Italian subjects in the south include political prisoners, exiles, government officials, Italian Americans and the peasants whose power is
reserved by a government that ignores their everyday burdens. In this
make-up, Americans, the former ‘new wealthy’, has succumbed to a worthless
life, falling back into the same poverty they were tangled in before they
left. They did not absorb America’s culture and when other outside influences passed through Gagliano, they only invaded and exploited. Other cultures
only used them and never wore off into the peasants’ lives. This bearing renders the people’s abhorrence of state; all of its influences and ideals engender a bitter hatred of the Italian government. The villagers of the impoverished ancient town, Gagliano are forced to endure human existence
without essential, human instruments and qualities.
The state disregards the South, their ruthless existence is not a
part their affairs and country. Ignoring the south and its people is more convenient than helping the villagers as part of the Italian people. In
such a land of Gagliano, the people experience an inevitable repression
because there are hardly any decent supporters in the south. Long after
Don Carlo, the speaker leaves this memory, the town will remain the same
just as it always has, until the state recalls its supreme duty. After considering Levi’s objectives through the interplay of civil chaos and
rivaling fascist governments, readers become aware that isolating a people
is not the solution to the secular downfall of world poverty. By examining
a relationship, one can understand the underlying roots of society’s
problems and evil. The world will never be fully prepared to move up
another level when there is still an apparent, deprived world at the
bottom of the pyramid and the ignorant up top.