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Deaths at Sea: Searching for Homeland and Loneliness - Online Philosophy Tutor's Perspective

"The Deaths at Sea: Exploring the Search for Homeland and Facing Solitude. A procession that has come together with the sea.

"The superficiality kills" described Hannah Arendt, commenting on the banality of evil, referring to the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century.

On Saturday, March 11, 2023, a manifestation was held to remember the victims and to demand a change in the European Union's migration policy. The event was organized following a shipwreck that occurred on February 26th, off the coast of Calabria, in Steccato di Cutro, where more than 75 people lost their lives.

The organizations that promoted the event called for an end to the pushback system, the closure of detention centers in Libya, and the restoration of search and rescue operations at sea.

The context in which the demonstration took place after the umpteenth deaths at sea is that of an increasingly restrictive European migration policy, aimed at countering the arrival of irregular migrants. However, this has led to an increase in the number of fatalities at sea, as more and more people attempt to reach Europe through increasingly dangerous routes controlled by traffickers. These traffickers are currently the only means for migrants to escape from poverty, wars, various forms of persecution, and environmental disasters.

The demonstration aimed to draw attention to this humanitarian crisis and to call for a more humane migration policy that respects human rights. Such a policy could address the root causes of emigration and offer a better future to those forced to flee their homes.

Two weeks after the tragedy, the sea continues to deliver bodies. On Sunday, the 79th victim was identified. A child, one of the shipwrecked who died after their boat broke not far from the coast at dawn. More than five thousand people had gathered to pay tribute to those victims, to ask questions of the interlocutor who perhaps is the only one who can provide an answer for those who cannot, even if frank and ruthless, people today want the truth.

As an Italian language teacher, my job is to write and convey emotions before notions. In this article, I will try to do just that. You won't find statistics here, but a flood of feelings and hopes tainted by what has happened after a deaths at sea phenomena.

The sun is warm, and the night is still cold in Steccato di Cutro. The fishermen no longer know with what courage to go fishing, even 150 meters from the shore—so many meters that were missing to put an end to that first journey, the landing journey of the migrants, the first of many. No one wants to find themselves entangled in their nets, spat out by the sea. A few corpses instead of fish. It must be an image that leaves a mark and softens the spirit.

This raises a group of questions: Why is there such great inequality between the nations of the world? Why are there rich countries and poor countries? Why do some have the right to live in peace and prosperity while others are forced to flee their homes and risk their lives in search of hope elsewhere?

Elementary questions hang in the air. From the ether of the mouths of the cathode-ray televisions that are turned on, from the phosphorescent screens of the smartphones in people's homes and living rooms. Neither the sound nor the smell of the sea is heard anymore, but something that pours onto the marsh of our accustomed thought, truths untied, dissolved, strewn, and left there on the floor.

With closed eyes, you feel the smell, live it, touch it, you are immersed in it, overwhelmed by the 30 seconds that it takes to finish trapped underwater... the boat overturns, feet trapped, people screaming because they can't swim, the boat goes down, the wreckage, and it drags you with it.

Cutro shipwreck deaths at sea.
United in mourning and grief for the victims of the Cutro shipwreck on 26 February 2023.

Gestures that history will get used to.

The river of the procession brought flowers in homage to the deaths at sea. We were faithful in procession to a pagan god, asking for forgiveness, and no longer why.

The relationship between man and the sea is ancient, the people are used to it, they know it. The sea doesn't do evil. The manifestation shifted, the procession that came from the village reached the beach in an hour and a half. It sought financial reconciliation with the sea, devoted votive actions to it, impaled flowers in its sandy flesh.

The sea always the same, piling up, approaching, striped, calm, sucked, collected by every wave, foam gurgling, driven, then different but the same without a million of the other waves, it would still be the same sea, and its smell no longer matters, neither do the coasts observed for so long.

Forever closed eyes, washed away down there, stolen on those shores where now a tulip appears, a bright turned-off microphone, a chrysanthemum, a carnation. Thirty seconds, the time for the sea to recover even those.

The saltwater blinds on the peeling fresh paint of the shutters, the long-sought coasts have no more light or pain, extinguished has passed as a witness to his loved ones.

And it's all a tumble, the head, the panting, the breath. A naked body, then another, deaths at sea in the intermission, the relentless wind in a vast space of immense silence runs on the open pond, a void that throbs, where flowers and bodies are thrown without speaking. The eye on the world, a showcase of sounds. Other naked bodies, then carried in arms, their coffins there to make us pray, talk, listen.

Simone Weil, the French philosopher of the 20th century, emphasized the importance of listening to the voices of migrants and refugees, for they are the ones who know the truth about the human condition, how great and how miserable it can be at the same time.

I've seen a good humanity that has come together with the sea, asking it not to do what others should do, like increasing humanitarian aid, opening corridors, making more work visas available, gathering support avoiding others deaths at sea. Without the hypocrisy of not wanting to let them die at sea and then welcoming them and giving them a life as different beings in constant search of acceptance as humans.

Heidegger, in his work "Being and Time," reminds us that humans are always in search of a homeland, but this search can lead to both solidity and loneliness. Humans are beings in the world, but the world is also a place of estrangement and rootedness.

The Saturday demonstration has given a voice to those no longer here and has drawn attention to the need to find solutions to prevent future disasters, to offer adequate assistance, rescue, and shelter. It's important that these issues remain at the forefront of public debate and that a lasting solution is found to ensure the rights and dignity of every person seeking a better life.

By Pier Paolo Piscopo



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