Building Warriors. Army, Police and Fascist Personalities in the Management of Domestic Security
Introduction: police, army and fascism
Drawing from a case study carried out in Italy, this article seeks to contribute to the study of the relationships between war and peace in contemporary democracies. In more detail, the training process and the formation of authoritarian and fascist personalities that takes place in an elite unit within the Italian armed forces – a paratroop brigade – is the privileged space for observing not only the training of a particular group of war professionals, but also the culture and background of many of those who pass from the ranks of the army to those of the police forces (Police, Carabinieri, Local Police and Guardia di Finanza in Italy). Since the 2000’s, in fact, most of the positions available in the Italian police forces are reserved only to veterans and personnel coming from the army. The only positions available to civilians are those for officials, and they are very few in number. Even though statistics are not available – Italian army and police are in fact extremely secretive (Palidda, 2000) – at least one third of the officers currently in the police forces are former military. Although no one has yet systematically analyzed the problem of the new composition of police forces, and the strains that such changes have generated within them, our impression is that they carry important consequences. Over the course of a conversation, the vice-commandant of a police station, a 40-year-old man, argues that:
The former military are impolite. I know that this word is not right; but that’s the word we use. They feel they are better than the civilians. They consider us bureaucrats that have never been at risk. They always know better… You know, they discuss orders and are in general, disrespectful.
At another point of the conversation, the same official notices that:
When I attended the academy, I had graduated from the university and my roommate was an electrician. We were, literally, like two different worlds meeting. Today, I imagine that at night, in the same room, these people talk about rifles, M16’s, the time they shot someone in Kosovo, or were under attack, and so on and so forth…
Another officer, a member of a police union and a regular contributor to a police bulletin, in personal communication, among many other things notices that:
By means of the new channels of recruitment, the police forces are going in direction of the (re)militarization and (de)democratization.
This informant refers to the Law 121, which in 1981 granted new political and associative rights to the police, and also demilitarized these bodies. Today, according to this police officer, the civil organization of police has been overcome by means of the new forms of recruitment:
We witness a regression, a de facto re-militarization that shrinks the rights of the members of police and aims at building a new kind of collective personality, within which democracy and critical sense are less and less welcome […] With regard to democracy, the current situation within the police is strongly influenced by the generation of the 40-year-olds; in other words, those who joined the police at the end of the 1990’s. Many of those officers chose this career in the aftermath of the killings of Falcone and Borsellino [two anti-mafia magistrates killed by organized crime in those years] and due to the emotional wave that followed these homicides. They had great ideals and, above all, didn’t come from the army. That has been the last load of civilians. Afterwards, as you noticed, the recruitment was reserved to former soldiers – people with a certain mentality.
Taking these observations as a starting point – as opposed to the repetitive rhetoric on the role of the armed forces in guaranteeing abstract notions of neutrality, security, access to human rights and respect for democracy – this article intends to reflect on the ways in which the professional military culture reproduces and expands: or rather, on the process, often by means of training techniques, which leads to the formation of authoritarian personalities and, in the case of Italy, half-openly fascist and by aptitude “praetorian” ones, due to their professionalization (Soeters et al. 2006; Born 2006). Still, a comprehensive definition of fascism is not appropriate and we are aware of the limits of our reconstruction. According to Payne (1983), however, fascism is a multifaceted phenomenon and different definitions of it are possible. As Eco (1995, 5) stated, “fascism became an all-purpose term because one can eliminate from a fascist regime one or more features, and it will still be recognizable as fascist”. In our view, then, the fascism of the contemporary Italian armed forces is, first of all, a self-defining formula: they are fascist because they use fascist symbolism and folklore (salutes, marches, songs, tattoos, etc.). As suggested by Renton (1999), in fact, fascism is a political aesthetic employing romantic symbolism, a positive view of violence, and the promotion of masculinity and charismatic leadership. Moreover, according to Caforio and Nuciari (2011), 23,4% of soldiers define themselves as belonging to the far right and 39,6% to the right. Likewise, Della Porta and Reiter (2004) showed the existence of similar orientations within the police. Yet, Ebenstein (1964) noticed that for fascists, the struggle of nation and race plays a fundamental role in society, and such a struggle is tantamount to the communist perception of class struggle. The military and the police are, therefore, the precise milieus within which this cult of nation and race is practiced – especially in countries like Italy, where the armed forces are still composed only of nationals and whites. The existing literature confirms our impression that racism and nationalism are characteristic features of the analyzed organizations (Griffin 1996). Moreover, Paxton (2004) suggests that fascism is, among other things, a form of political behavior marked by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity. In fact, over the course of this paper we will show how such goals are pursued by means of purported training. Certainly, critics may argue that cult of violence, masculinity, nationalism, scorn of death, etc., are central to the fascist discourse as well as to the one of many other political regimes – including democracy. Moreover, it is possible to posit that extreme right-wing orientations have not impeded the military bodies and personnel to be law-abiding and to safeguard democracy over the course of the years – in spite of two attempted military coups in 1964 and 1970 (Franzinelli 2010; De Lutiis 2010). To such arguments, one may oppose that until the very beginning of the 1990’s, the Italian Communist Party had one million members, and the union related to that party (Cgil) more than 5 million members. To these figures, one should add the several hundreds of thousands of activists and sympathizers of leftist extra-parliamentary formations present in the country until the 1980’s (Lotta Continua, Autonomia Operaia, Red Brigades, etc.); but this has not caused the transformation of Italy into a Soviet republic. By this paradox, we aim to suggest that subversive values and political ideologies can broadly circulate within systems and not to cause dramatic changes in the organization of countries and institutions. Fascism, then, is an ideology, a vision of the world, and a set of practices and attitudes that are part of the Italian political and civil culture. A vision that lives, is reproduced, but also altered, within democracy. If the United States of America, for instance, were traditionally divided by the “color line” (Du Bois 1969) but is still a democracy, Italy is traditionally divided by political memberships (Guelfs and Ghibellins during the medieval times; fascists and anti-fascists today) and is, equally, a democratic country (Di Nucci and Galli della Loggia 2003).1 Moreover, as recalled by Martin (2007, 117), for a direct witness of Italian Fascism such as Gobetti, fascism represented “the autobiography of a nation”; that is, in fascism were contained all the ills of Italian society and politics: among others, the rejection of liberty as an ethic of struggle and conflict, and the desire to prioritize order and authority over autonomy. Despite its misleading revolutionary claims, in sum, “Fascism is the legitimate heir of Italian democracy” (Gobetti, cited in Martin 2007, 117). This essay, thus, is an inquiry into the ways certain values and attitudes are reactivated and generated by means of institutional training, although we believe that is important to highlight that we do reject any deterministic thesis on the effects of such training. Rather, we propose a way to read and decipher certain institutional practices and, certainly, also the mentality of many of those who pass from one body of the armed forces in Italy to another. Beyond its importance for the studies on the military and the police, we believe that such inquiry is of interest for different observers (criminologists, political scientists, etc.) because it helps to explore the forms of violence that seem to characterize the activities of police in Italy. Over the past few years, it has appeared clear that Italy has a problem with police. In spite of the “dark” and relatively small number of cases that emerge, the quantity of civilians killed or tortured in streets, police stations and prisons, and the brutality of the repression of demonstrations and political meetings were enough to raise the concern of mainstream media (Travaglio, 2010), so that police violence is no longer only a topic of the “movements”. This essay, then, is also a contribution to the study of State crimes; that is, as Stanley (2005) noticed, a research on the behaviors of officers and institutions that tend to be hidden from the view, as they imperceptibly shade into the legitimate activities of the State, and are also often reframed, justified and re-appropriated through mechanisms of denial (Cohen 1993). Yet, this article puts the body and the discipline at the center of the analysis, linking the case at hand with many others discussed by the anthropological and sociological literature. In particular, through the notion of “embodiment” (Csordas, 1990), it is possible to conceive of the body as a dynamic entity shaped by historical, social and political processes, whose analysis has to include local artifacts of construction (Scheper-Hughes and Lock, 1987). Disciplines and symbols – in our case, the military ones – are not only tools for the “representation” of the individuals and the institutions, but for the “construction” of the body itself (and its sentiments, opinions, behavior and reactions to external stimuli). Therefore, through the observation of the daily life of an institution, we aim at describing the process of re-writing of the self and the mechanisms by means of which a particular kind of ideology of the scene – that is, a set of opinions on how one must be present in the surrounding environment and reacts to its challenges – develops and distinguishes the individual. Finally, the choice to study an elite corps should be seen as a methodological strategy (Katz 2002; Bennett and Elman 2006) aimed at the observation of a “hyperbolic” scenario, in which radical practices, tics and attitudes are flaunted and encouraged, in order to abduct the elements which underlie the everyday management of the control of situations which are increasingly a combination of war and peace.
Methods and study case
River Barracks2, 12 April 1994 I enter the mess hall with Lazzaro and he invites me to sit at the veterans’ table. I wouldn’t normally be allowed, but he has just come back from Somalia and commands a lot of respect. I sit at the table with Lazzaro and the other “Somalians” as I’m interested in their stories as “veterans”3. Opposite me is paratrooper Tamburello. He is small and stocky with an ugly expression. Rumor has it that he is one of those who killed the most in Somalia. Lazzaro starts talking about the night patrols carried out by the NBC [Nuclear Biological Chemical] squad in Somalia. He talks about how scared he felt before leaving the camp and about how the feeling disappeared as if by magic after he had loaded his assault rifle SCP 70/90 and lit up his ritual joint4. He tells us that when they had to park the RVM [military vehicle] to take up position in a dark area, they would first shoot to “clean up”, and then they would take up position. They had no cares at all about risking injury to harmless civilians. Anyway, there was a curfew and all civilians should have been at home. The “Somalians” take “turns” to talk about their experiences and memories as veterans. They talk about rapes and beatings carried out as reprisals against the enemy population, made up mostly of “dirty niggers”. Their obvious racism towards the people that, at least in theory, they were sent to help, does not surprise me. I have been training and preparing to leave for Somalia for some time, and all the talk I have heard from my “comrades” and the officers about the Somali people has always been expressed in terms of the utmost contempt for them. When I asked a non-commissioned officer why he wanted to leave on a “peace mission” to help a people he hated, he answered that he was doing it for the money and also so he “could kill some of them”.
The above is an extract from the diary kept by one of the writers of this article while he was serving his military service (September 1993-September 1994), in a paratroop brigade. At that time, the author was a 24-year-old undergraduate student, and he would have ended his service on an honorable discharge. Motivations for keeping this diary were many. The main goal, however, was to reflect and to get ideas across to them in a period – the one under the army – during which completely new emotions, experiences, routines and actions were overwhelming, and also to replace the previous life of the author (the civilian life). The diary was written almost daily during the full year of military service (the first two months at the Paratrooper training Barracks in Città della Torre, and the following months at the RGT Paratroopers in another town in Tuscany) and forms the basis on which the investigation methods of this study have been developed: autoethnography (Spry 2001; Holman Jones 2008; Muncey 2005) and unrecorded conversations with privileged witnesses. Autoethnographer examines his own lived experiences of events, interactions and relationships as his “primary data” (Sandstrom et al. 2010, 26), displaying multiple layers of consciousness, “connecting the personal to the cultural” (Ellis and Bochner 2000, 739). We use the term “autoethnography”, instead of “ethnography”, because the author of the observation was not yet an ethnographer at the time the events described in the account were taking place. In other terms, at the time the diary was written, it was only a collection of events and notes about the emotions related to these events. The concept of autoethnography, then, entails for us both the notion of “degree of distance” from the object, and the one of “process”. In other words, this is an autoethnography because, originally, there was no emotional distance between the narrator and the object of his narration, and because the data available in the diary have been understood in their present terms at the end of an analytical process of distancing that required time and introspection. It is over the course of this process that the personal becomes social, and it becomes clearer how social forces shaped the individual, his life trajectory, and so forth.5 Moreover, the fact that the autoethnographer has been honorably discharged shows his integration into a world and its codes. The process of distancing provides in a direct, unmediated and personal way, insights into the elements of a learning process that addresses at the same time the individual (the single soldier) as well as the entire body of combatants (in that the purpose of such training is to create a cohesive and undifferentiated group). Autoethnography, then, is a way of by-passing another type of distance: the one that separates the researcher from his/her object, and hinders the process of knowledge by means of filters, untold truths, or untellable feelings. Here, autoethnography principally regards the experience inside a paratroop brigade. This paratroop brigade is the largest unit of paratroopers in the Italian army and is considered the “flagship” of Italian military units, due to its level of preparation, and hosts the only unit of Special Forces in the Italian army, which are trained for non-conventional operations in enemy territory. The brigade was founded during the height of the fascist era and at the direct request of one of the highest level fascists: Italo Balbo. In fact, the historical roots of today’s brigade date back to its national predecessors, the “Libyan Air Infantry”, who were formed, during the two decades of fascist rule and just before the Second World War broke out, at the express desire of Italo Balbo, leader of the Black shirts, former Minister for Aviation, Governor General of Libia and heir-apparent to Benito Mussolini (Segre 1990). Today, the brigade is made up of six regiments which are involved in the most sensitive missions both abroad and on national territory. This study is based not only on the description of the year of military service, but also on the analysis of documents and unrecorded conversations (during the years: 2000, 2001, 2007, 2008, 2009) subsequent to the partial publication of the diary. After some parts of the diary were published, which described episodes of violence during daily training sessions, in 1999 criminal proceedings were opened by the Italian military Director of Prosecutions, against unknown subjects for the crime of continuous violence against inferiors and continuous abuse against inferiors. The legal proceedings (which concluded with a request for dismissal of the case) made it possible for us to connect the information contained in the diary to other documents from subsequent years, through contacts with the military Prosecutor’s office, analysis of the contents of interrogations and interviews with paratroopers and ex-paratroopers, some of whom have become members of the police force, and named as being deployed in the published document. This phase allowed us to focus on the contents of the diary and to verify any connections, and any continuity, between the training models applied by this corps and those of other army units and certain branches and environments within the police force. Then, it is worth mentioning that in March 2012, on presenting his report on the state of the art in the course of an official ceremony, the Head Military Prosecutor Antonio Sabbino stated that recorded cases of “hazing” have increased sensibly in the past few years (Il Mattino, 2012). We believe that what the Prosecutor and the media define as hazing is not just bullying, but forms part of the rituals and training aimed at shaping a soldier, a warrior and, finally, a cop (at least, in all those cases where we which a “migration” from a corpse of the State to the other) . As such, it is a connatural element in a top military education and in the past education of many police officers. Moreover, we collected material from the internet by participating in on-line forums, chat-sites and social networks6 linked to the Italian paratroopers. The linking of this information to the information obtained in the field, allowed us to empirically substantiate part of the data obtained through participant observation and interviews, but also to identify new areas for in-depth study in our research. Changes and violence in the police and the armed forces Since the 1980s, like many other European countries (Caplow and Venesson 2000), Italy has seen a profound change in the structure of the armed forces and the police forces, due to: a) the growing commitment to international war and peace-keeping missions; b) the abolition of military service and the birth of professional military corps; c) the creation of easy transfer channels from the army to the police force for those who have served from one to three years in the armed forces, and consequently, the significant entrance of veterans into the police forces. These transformations are taking place within a wider context of organized and global violence (Kaldor 2007), where we are seeing, at both a national and an international level, the consolidation of often contradictory practices, such as: a) the use of preventive attacks for resolving disputes (Levy 2010); b) the cover-up of wars and the numbers of civilian and military victims, which are hidden behind labels such as “peace-keeping” or “nation-building” (Segal 1995; Record 2000); c) the privatization of war and the subsequent sub-contracting to mercenary agencies (the so-called “contractors”) (Kümmel and Jäger 2007; Dal Lago and Rahola 2009); d) the de facto militarization of police activities, through their use of technological warfare equipment in order to control borders and mass political mobilizations (Bigo and Tsoukala 2008) or the practice of territory control (here, the Italian case is exemplary, where the army and police together patrol urban areas and places that are considered sensitive and/or symbolic, such as law courts, public administration offices or town centers); e) the troublingly growing independence of some special police corps, such as, on a European level, the Eurogendfor (Lioe 2011), and on a national level, the Digos (the General Investigations and Special Operations Division of the Italian Police force) – which is, in reality, a political police unit, and which can act with full powers and outside the control of the judiciary (Della Porta and Reiter 2004). These sorts of changes, which have only been briefly listed here, express, however, a double conversion: policing action by the military and military action by the police force (Dal Lago and Palidda 2010). This change is probably at the root of a worrying sequence of episodes of ruthless violence which, since the 1990s, have frequently been perpetrated by public officials (police, military, carabinieri, traffic wardens) on individual citizens or political protesters on the streets, either during the demonstrations themselves or in police custody, at police headquarters, in barracks or prisons, as well as during military missions abroad (for an evaluation of some of the episodes which have taken place since the year 2000, see Amnesty International 2011). The infamous G8 meeting in Genoa in 2001 is a perfect example. During the days of the meeting itself, some of the most significant manifestations of police authoritarianism took place – and, at the basis of this, of a certain institutional deviance – which are the main themes of this study. While this massive popular demonstration was taking place, one demonstrator was killed, and around 500 people were injured, and thousands – including many children and old people – were attacked without provocation by members of mobile units of the Italian armed forces. When the demonstration was over, the police, either for “fun” or “vendetta”, carried out an authentic night-time massacre on “alternative” information operators and other defenseless activists inside a school which was being used as the media’s headquarters and as their shelter for the night; the police also invented false evidence in order to justify their actions, consisting of homemade bombs which were placed inside the school while it was being raided. In both hospitals and detention centers, these demonstrators suffered devastating physical and psychological violence, while the police forced them to make the fascist salute to the sound of chants such as: “1, 2, 3 viva Pinochet; 4, 5, 6 death to the Jews; 7-8-9 we’re not sorry for the nigger” (Palidda 2008; Zamperini and Menegatto 2011). Neither should we forget the violent actions of traffic wardens in Parma, who arrested an Italo-Ghanaian citizen, Emmanuel Bonsu Foster, who was unjustly accused of being a drug dealer and was savagely beaten and insulted with racial abuse such as “dirty nigger, monkey, etc.” (Ferri 2008). Much has been said of the rapes and violence perpetrated in the name of racism by the Italian army in Somalia (Razack 2005). It is also useful to mention here the mysterious deaths of Giuseppe Uva, Stefano Cucchi, Federico Aldrovandi, Gabriele Sandri, Michele Ferrulli and Christian De Cupis, who all died from the violence they were subjected to, presumably while being arrested, or while they were in police custody awaiting trial, or hit by bullets fired by the police without motivation. And we should not forget the violent initiation rites practiced for decades by the members of the Nucleo Operativo Centrale di Sicurezza (Nocs) (Central Security Operations Service) of the police and, in particular, the practice of what is called “anaesthesia”, which consists of beating a fellow soldier on the backside until it is numb, and then inflicting a deep bite on the buttocks so that they tear from side to side (Angeli and Mensurati 2011). The violence of the Nocs, which is directed as much internally as externally to the group, leads us to the “Banda dell’Uno bianca”, a band made up of members of the police force who, for seven years gratuitously brutalized the streets of central and northern Italy – killing 24 people and injuring 102 – for reasons which have never been made clear, and who were motivated not only by money but also by hatred for drug addicts, immigrants and “nonconformists” in general; and, perhaps, even by their association with the universe of the subversive right, as well as being connected to the Italian secret services, who are traditionally at the centre of violent schemes aimed at a “strategy of tension” (Beccaria 2007; Cento Bull 2007). This collective and individual violence against civilians, and the criminal actions carried out by groups of Italian public officials during institutional activities in a situation of war or peace, are equally considered as “states of exception” (Schmitt, 2005; Agamben, 2005) and imposed by the political world, by army chiefs or by single agents and soldiers. They speak to us, on the one hand, of a real “deviance within the police forces” (Magno 2009) and, on the other, of a “frame in which the enemies are not political opponents, but a sort of new ‘biological threat’, and which appears to justify racism as the condition of acceptability of putting someone to death […] within the frame of permanent wars (against terrorism, rogue states, the Mafia, ‘illegal’ migration, insecurity and acts of urban incivility) that alternate with ephemeral truces” (Palidda 2010, 125). This is the way it has been described in other studies on the armed forces in Italy and elsewhere (Palidda 2000; Terrill and Resig 2003; Duràn 2009) and despite the rhetoric about the “proximity” of the police force and army (Segal 2001; Van den Herrewegen 2010), racism, “ramboism” and “pro-activism” are, in fact, the main ways of carrying out “policing” and imposing order in a number of countries. Moreover, it is a process which should be read, in particular, – though not exclusively – from the point of view of “control by organization” by the armed forces (Van Doorn 1969), which consists of a direct relationship between themselves and the political powers that be, and in the perception of a substantial accordance between the practices of the armed corps and the desire for “democracy” embodied by the heads of state institutions. This appears all the more true if we consider that Italy has been governed for over a decade by powers that are openly xenophobic and supporters of the “zero tolerance” ideology, at least as far as crimes committed by the poor are concerned (Saitta 2011); even though, in reality, “securitarianism” seems, for years, to have been a trans-political and transverse ideology which both right-wing and left-wing governments have supported to different degrees (Bigo 1992; Wacquant 1999).
Military culture and rites of passage
There are numerous studies on the subject of life inside a barracks, which consider it as a total institution, where there is a system of practices, behavioral rules and reference values specific to military culture (Shils and Morris 1975; Siebold 2007). Military socialization (or rather, re-socialization), thus, is characterized by different rites of passage, which accompany the actor in the transition from his civilian life to the military one (Yarmolinsky 1971; Cockeram 1973; Aran 1974; Arkin 1978; Klein 1999; Winslow 1999; King 2006; Holyfield 2011). According to Van Gennep (1908), rites of passage have a uniform structure. The passage from one status to another, according to the anthropologist, generally follows a scheme made up of three successive phases: separation, transition and reincorporation or re-aggregation. The military service rites of passage studied here7, can also be subdivided into three phases which, during military service, can be put into chronological order: a preliminary phase (or separation), a transition phase (or marginal) and a re-aggregation phase. During the preliminary or separation phase, a person abandons their previous position and behavioral forms (Van Gennep 1908). It is the phase during which there is a total resetting of previously acquired habits, and a cancellation of previously learned values and rules. This takes place during a series of ritual acts which, in the case of military service in the paratroop regiment, concern their reception at the train station, their entry into the barracks and their first few days of life within the barracks as “trainee paratroopers”. Destabilization and uniformity are the two words which sum up the experience of the first few days, which is punctured by a series of rituals which, rather than making clear to the new arrivals that there are new rules to follow, are intended evidently to cancel and reset those previously acquired and relative to the status and roles experienced in “civilian life”.8 During this time, screamed orders, the annihilation of any individuality, having to carry out totally illogical actions for utterly obscure reasons, etc., characterized the life of the trainee. The haircut and the so-called “clothing” were actions which permanently sanctioned the separation of the young trainee paratrooper from his old status and previous culture. The hair was rigorously “crew cut” (uniform length and very short, but not “zero”) and the same for everyone. During the “clothing”, military clothing of the wrong size and measurements was distributed. In this way, as well as creating uniformity, the phase of uncertainty and lack of reference points was further underlined: previously acquired rules and values were challenged and everything became confused and confusing. But at this stage of the preliminaries, the ritual which more than any other endorses, on the one hand, separation, and on the other, the will of those responsible for the recruits’ training to make them lose their orientation, is the ritual called “ribaltone” or reversal. It is a practice conducted directly by the parachute instructors, and which takes place after the first few and very tough days. That is, after the tremendous initial impact, the social actor begins to see a small “glimmer of light ” in the comfort of his relationships with those comrades who sleep in adjacent bunks and who can be considered as the actors who constitute the first hint of a primary group. They begin to share experiences and difficulties, to confide in each other and to make friends. And it is now, out of the blue, that the instructor enforces the ribaltone: in a seemingly casual way, but one which is controlled and organized directly by the instructors, all the new arrivals are ordered to change beds, and sometimes, even dormitory. In this way, they usually end up being at quite a distance from the very people with whom they had begun to create some form of social relationship, which, in a certain sense, had marked the beginning of a new relational stability. The ribaltone, therefore, “creates uniformity” as it actualizes new arrangements in an apparently casual way, so that they all have to start from scratch, and it perpetuates a sense of existential uncertainty. During the training period of the “corso palestra”, training takes place, and there is a further selection process for those who are deemed suitable to take the parachuting license. In other words, they are entering the transition or threshold phase of the rite of passage. During this stage, the subject is neither on one side or the other: he finds himself in a space in between, in a state somewhere between departure and arrival. Van Gennep maintained that those who are on the “threshold” may either be masked as monsters, or completely naked. In the barracks, they enter a phase in which they are called “monsters”, “thorns”, “toads”, etc. This phase lasts until the paratroopers earn their parachuting license and, as previously mentioned, until they terminate the first part of their training, at the end of which they are given the assignment which will last for the rest of their military service. Trust is the key word during this period. This is what the instructors are asking/demanding of the trainee paratroopers. It is a phase in which the relationships between comrades are not governed by clear rules. The only reference point is the Corporal Instructor, in other words, the one person who seems to have absolute power over the recruits’ daily life. Every pair of instructors is assigned a squad of 24 trainee paratroopers. Below, is a further extract from the diary, about one of the two Corporal Instructors of the “Scorpions” squad:
MILPAR barracks, Città della Torre, 9 October 1993 Yesterday evening Corporal Instructor Giovannini seemed a little more human. Before going to bed, after he had made us remake our beds at least ten times, he started up a conversation with some of the people who sleep near him. In particular, he was talking to Fancesco. He asked him about his home [Francesco comes from Campania, a region in southern Italy], about his family. He asked him if he had a girlfriend. Francesco seemed really pleased by the instructor’s sudden interest. Then Giovannini asked Francesco if he had a photo of his girlfriend. Francesco got it out and showed it to him saying that he really missed her. Giovannini took the photo of Francesco’s girlfriend and said that she was really pretty. […] Then Giovannini made Francesco stand to attention because he was going to the bathroom with the photo of Francesco’s girlfriend. He said that he was going to look at the photo and masturbate while thinking about that whore of a girlfriend.
The huge amount of power that the instructors possess at this phase should not be surprising. In fact, as previously mentioned, the everyday life of the trainee paratroopers is dependent on the instructors’ moods and orders, for example their duties (kitchen duty, privy duty, guard duty etc.) and permission to take leave. Those who rebel against the instructors are loaded down with duties and risk not being allowed to go off duty and, above all, they risk being isolated. Those who do not rely on the protection of the instructors are considered “a zero”, a “monster”, a “dead dog”, and risk being isolated and left in a state of absolute uncertainty. It is during this phase, in this no-man’s land in which the only reference point is the instructor, that new, violent rituals may emerge, often originating from below (from the new “leaders” who emerge from the newly-created primary group). This transition phase can be called a phase of out-and-out military Darwinism: only those who submit to the control and protection of the instructors manage to get through unscathed. The phase of re-aggregation marks the moment when a person is reintroduced into society. The actor is in a relatively stable state and has precise rights and duties (Van Gennep 1908). For a trainee paratrooper, the re-aggregation phase begins with obtaining a parachute license and lasts for the remaining period of military service, marked by a multiplicity of ritualized moments, such as the moment when they are able to wear certain clothing and equipment, such as parachute combat boots, or are assigned a task with the consequent transfer to another barracks, etc. In our case, at the end of the “corso palestra” or training course, and the achievement of the parachute license, the recruit was transferred to the Parachute Regiment in Palio. The assignment was to the NBC (Nuclear Biological Chemical squad). In Palio, a particularly tough phase of training was to be undertaken, even from a purely formal point of view. But the ritual par excellence, which establishes and constantly reinforces the transition towards the status of “paratrooper”, and lasts all the way up to discharge, is the ritual of “pumping”. It is a practice which involves all paratroopers (both national service recruits and professionals) and crosses over the various moments (formal and informal) of life in the barracks.
‘Pumping’ toward a fascist and authoritarian personality
On the traces of Csordas (1990) and his notion of embodiment, and by the words of Scheper-Hughes (1987, 26), “Cultures are disciplines that provide codes and social scripts for the domestication of the individual body in conformity to the needs of the social and political order”. Societies, thus, reproduce and socialize the kind of bodies, values and responses that they need. Body techniques, then, are ways to shaping the Self of the subjects and constituting a collective ideology. That is, a certain way of deciphering the reality, the role of the individuals, etc. by the members of a group. Although such process should not be seen in a strictly deterministic way – in that individual responses to it are subjected to many personal and social variables (what one would call an individual agency) – groups of “professionals”, or, more aptly, specialized groups, especially if warriors, are expected to be as cohesive and homogenous as possible. Their success, in fact, depends on their capability of playing according to certain rules of conduct and a shared morality – a “regularity” that, according to a review of the literature, occurs in both “simple” and “complex” societies and characterizes different groups in different epochs (Brain 1979; Clausewitz, 1989; Sarfatti Larson 1978). Beyond such similarities, further questions concern then the type of ideology and values conveyed and associated to the training process (political instances, definitions of the enemy, institutional myths, etc.). The military culture, discipline and body techniques we observed should be very obvious and tangible examples of what we mean. We asked a paratrooper who served recently, whether he knows about the pumping ritual and whether it is still practiced in the army: “Sure… We are still tough, man!…Can you imagine a paratrooper who doesn’t pump?!”9 Whatever the exact origins of “pumping” within the studied brigade, it is one of the most important traditions for Italian paratroopers. It is a ritual which crosses over all levels and ranks – from generals to privates – and all roles – from office workers to members of more “operational” squads. It involves all paratroopers, even in the most private areas of their interactions in “barrack life”. It is a practice that is very much internalized by the paratroopers, and which is performed not only by those who are still serving in the army, but also by those who have already left the military institution. This is the case, for example, of former comrades-in-arms when meeting for feasts, memorials, etc.; during these occasions, collective pumping in memory of common membership is compulsive.10 Pumping is an authentic rite of institution (Bourdieu 1982) in the sense that it affirms the distinction between those who participate in the ritual (the paratroopers) and those who are excluded from it (the non-paratroopers). Only a real paratrooper “can pump”, only a real paratrooper “can make others pump”. Pumping consists of a not necessarily continuous series of push-ups, which the paratrooper performs under the direct orders of a superior. The duration is variable and depends exclusively on the orders or volition of the superior. Only when the superior gives the order to “stand up” can the paratrooper finally rise to his feet. In general, pumping usually lasts “longest” at night, when the superiors are particularly “pissed off”, or when they unfortunately fall asleep after giving the order to pump. The superior gives the order to pump using specific military jargon. The most commonly used orders are: “pump”, “push hard for the old man”, “the old man is tired….”, “flat on the floor”, “let’s do a bit … monster”, “I’ve dropped a coin… look for it”, “flex and reflect …monster”. When the superior is particularly “tired”11 he gives the orders without speaking, but simply by miming the action of a push-up. When he receives his order, the paratrooper throws himself on the ground in compliance with precise rules, and if he refuses, the young paratrooper can incur all sorts of reprisals – the worst of these is to be called a “dead dog” or “infantryman” by the other paratroopers. The paratrooper who receives the order to pump must immediately drop to the ground, and during his descent, while he is still in the air, must clap his hands two or even three times (once in front, once behind his back and then again in front) if ordered to do so by his superior. The superior can make him repeat this operation as many times as he wishes, until he is satisfied that it has been done correctly. Once he is flat on the ground, the paratrooper immediately carries out as many push-ups as he wishes, after which he can rest, – as long as his superior is satisfied as to the quality and number of the push-ups – but in the bridge position (which has more than vaguely sexual allusions, and in which the paratrooper is in a face-down position where the only parts of his body allowed to touch the ground are the palms of his hands and his toes). If the superior is not satisfied by the first series of push-ups, or if the pumping has been carried out for serious disciplinary reasons, the pumping, as well as the moment of rest in the bridge position, is accompanied by kicks and punches aimed at the upper back area of the paratrooper on the ground12. The series of push-ups and the resting in bridge position continue, until the superior gives the command to “stand up”. At the end of the pumping, a truly “tough” paratrooper does not complain, but rather, takes off his shirt and goes to the mirror to check out the number of bruises on his back. The greater the number of bruises, the “tougher” the actors in the ritual (superior and trainee paratrooper) have been. There are different types of pumping which can be distinguished mostly by their forms of execution and motivation. We will now take a closer look at them. Punitive pumping. The main reason for giving the order to pump is to dispense punishment for insubordinate behaviour in precise situations. Punitive pumping is generally carried out when the trainee is defined as a “slacker”: that is, when he does not carry out, or inadequately carries out an order given by a superior. Another common reason for punitive pumping is when the trainee does not show due respect to a superior – even outside training activities or outside the barracks – or, worse still, when he does not show due respect to one of the many traditions upheld in the barracks. The reason for the punishment is generally explained to the trainee during the first series of push-ups. The more serious the subordination, the longer the trainee is kept on the ground and subjected to kicks and punches. One iron rule for this procedure is that only the superior who gave the order to pump can actually beat the trainee. No one else can intervene, even if they are of longer service or higher rank. It is not rare for the superior to be particularly violent and sadistic during this type of pumping.13 “A real paratrooper is big and angry” is the motto which is continuously repeated by paratroopers of all ranks, especially during the hardest sessions of punitive pumping. He is “big” because of his capacity to resist pain and because he needs strength to beat others; he is always “angry” because this gives him the energy he needs to react to difficulties and to resist any violence he has to endure. It is evident the paratroopers’ pride at their capacity to resist pain, when, for example, after pumping they showed the other members of the brigade the bruises on their backs that had been inflicted by their superiors. MILPAR BARRACKS, Città della Torre, 22 March 1994 The training morning begins with the usual run of six kilometers around Siena. Then, an hour at the gym: weights and self-defense. The newcomers seem quite fit. Marco is a 19 year old from Rome who was a car mechanic before leaving for military service. Perhaps he has a few extra pounds, but moves well and seems to bear fatigue well. Luca is from Belluno. He is 20 and was a bouncer at clubs. His body is slim and chiseled. He’s not very tall, but you can see right away that he will give a lot of satisfaction to our team. This morning, after Lazzaro made him pump, he ran immediately to the mirror and looked with pride at the bruises that his superior gave him by kicking him on the back. Thus, sadism (shown by the superiors) and masochism (of those being punished) blend together in this type of pumping, and reinforce each other in a common sentiment of admiration for the power shown by the ability to make others pump and to inflict beatings, and the capacity to resist the pain. Pumping to respect seniority or same rank. It is this form of pumping which more than any other includes the paratroopers in the spirit of the corps and group identity. Every time a paratrooper sees a comrade, whether of superior rank or equal rank “go down”, he must immediately begin to pump. If there are paratroopers of different ranks on the ground pumping, the “stand up” order will be obeyed in order of rank: first the most senior ranks will get up and then, gradually, all the others in order, up to the latest arrivals. The principal value underlying this type of action is respect for hierarchy. Often, they pump without even knowing the reason why the same rank or superior is pumping, and without worrying about how long they might have to pump. The higher the rank, and therefore the status of the man pumping, the higher the number of paratroopers who, seeing the pumping take place, will throw themselves to the ground to join in. Even if a General jokingly “touches the ground with a finger”14 in front of the platoons lined up in the barracks parade ground, you will see all the paratroopers present, throw themselves to the ground to start pumping. Fallen beret. For the paratroopers, the red beret represents a real totem (Durkheim, 1915).15 “Always respect the beret…it is coloured by the blood of all the paratroopers who have died in battle” is one of the very first rules that the instructor teaches the trainee paratrooper. “By washing the beret in a pool of blood, it became the symbol of all the paras” is a line in one of the most famous paratroop songs, and which we sang at the top of our voices every day during the march on the way to the canteen. Magical powers and superstitious beliefs are attributed to the red beret, the “vanguard of glory”16. “Those who disrespect the beret will be punished…even if nobody sees”. The pumping ritual for “beret on the ground” is based on this belief. Each time a paratrooper’s beret falls to the ground he has to pump a minimum of twenty push-ups, in respect for the beret. The beret is retrieved in the mouth during the first push up, and gripped between the teeth for the whole duration of the exercise. The case of “fallen beret” is the only case in which pumping to respect seniority or the same rank is not applied to those who are observing. The “extreme” life-style, especially from a psychological point of view, and the continual fear of injury during training activities (parachute jumps, warfare training, shooting ranges, etc.) or during missions (“peace-keeping”, public order, etc.), lead the paratroopers to develop and manifest forms of behavior and convictions that are profoundly superstitious. And it is the beret which becomes, more than any other, the object which, by tradition, contains the magical properties necessary for survival. The rules and values linked to the ritual of “beret on the ground” become so internalized that one is able to observe paratroopers pumping even when they are not aware of being observed. One of the authors of this article, himself, pumped in similar circumstances on more than one occasion. The worst fear was, that any lack of respect for a symbol so vital to the group, the red beret “for which many paratroopers have died in battle”, would bring bad luck, or would damage the strength and invincibility of the paratrooper. A paratrooper is only strong and invincible if – as well as possessing unusual strength, resistance, ability and spirit of sacrifice – he respects all the traditions of the Folgore. Playful pumping. This is the type of pumping which, more than any other, normally takes place within the group. It is generally done as a way of “raising morale” or of getting “psyched up” at certain moments during training. The orders come from the most senior of the group, and sometimes, whoever gives the orders also pumps along with all the others. Usually, it is executed by groups of paratroopers, who throw themselves to the ground at the same time, positioning themselves so that, as far as possible, they can look into each others’ eyes. Normally, during this type of pumping, the members of the group execute synchronized push-ups, counting aloud as they do them. The pauses between one series and another are accompanied by the roars of the most senior in rank, who shouts out the name of the squad, the platoon, the company or the regiment, three times. At each cry, the paratroopers reply by shouting the name of the brigade at the top of their lungs. Playful pumping is so important that it constitutes the final moment of the last ritual of barrack life: “the last order to break ranks”. We will now take a more in-depth look at this ceremony, which defines the end of the educational process thus far described. The day before discharge, it was customary for the officers and NCOs of the barracks to help the trainees ready for discharge to organise an important leaving ceremony.
River Barracks, Palio, 5th September 1994 Today, we started organizing the discharge ceremony. […] At last, it’s coming to an end. I’m tired of it all. […] I’m tired of these fascist songs, I’m tired of the offensive jokes made about niggers and Jews. I’m tired of all the hate felt by these kids who don’t even know why they are saying these things. […] Yesterday, in the dorms, I said that I didn’t want to hear any more insults about Jews, because I was Jewish!…”see my nose?” I said, “my family has Jewish origins…”. Anyway, I’m squad commander now, I’m leaving and they can’t do anything to me…they can’t retaliate. If they say anything I’ll make them pump alright. […] I still can’t believe that many of them, people I thought were friends, people I’ve been going out with in the evenings for the last six months, don’t salute any more, they don’t even speak to me any more since I told them.
This entailed organizing an event to celebrate the final and formal command to “break ranks”. It was a ceremony which was prepared each time a squad was discharged: marching, poems, solemn speeches and, above all, paratroop songs were to be sung while marching around the barracks parade ground, and last of all, the inevitable final pump, all together, in the parade ground. Of all the songs chosen, and strongly recommended by officers and NCOs, the final and most important part of the ritual was the singing of “Avevo un camerata” (I had a comrade). It is remarkable that the word “comrade” (camerata) is, in Italian, closely related to the fascist culture. It is, in fact, the same word that both the members of the original fascist party and the neo-fascists use in order to refer to themselves or salute other members of their movement. In spite of the fact that this term is clearly military, it is not very common in the daily jargon of soldiers (but more common in that of certain officers). Then, it is interesting to notice that, in certain occasions, such term goes through a semantic process of re-signification made possible by its ambivalence. Such process becomes clearer if coupled with a short analysis of the abovementioned song. The Officers and NCOs said that this was a song which was best kept within the confines of the barracks, as it was “a little too nostalgic about the past”: in other words, the period of fascist dictatorships.“The others” (that is, the non-military) would perhaps “be unable to understand it”. Some of those about to be discharged would have known that this song was the Italian version of one of the most famous nazi songs (“Ich hatt’ einen Kameraden”), and that it was sung by the crowd at Fieldmarshall Rommel’s funeral (De Marzi 2005). However, originally this song was not a nazi song. But inside this barracks, and on an occasion as important as the final order to “break ranks”, it was the ideal song to create an atmosphere of solemnity at the end of a year-long training course, whose main objective was the formation of authoritarian and fascist personalities. Thus, the re-significance process of both the term “camerata” and the song were made possible by the fact that the same objects acquire different meanings inside the context within which they are employed, and over the course of the signification process that social actors produce and reproduce in the different units of time, and in the light of the information available to them (“a song a little too nostalgic about the past”). With the singing of “Avevo un camerata” and with the final group pump ending with the cry of brigade’s name all together in the barracks parade ground of the River barracks in Palio, on the night of the 13th September 1994 the military service of the 9th squad of 1993 officially ended. In spite of the criticisms that the set of behavioral theories produced by the Frankfurt school raised (Smith 1996), in our view the type of personality that seems to emerge from a learning process of this sort, is the result of a profoundly authoritarian education ideal which contains many of the elements of the famous F Scale proposed by (Adorno et al. 1950). The characteristics that go to make up this personality and that are described in the Fascism Scale (F), are: a) respect for convention; b) submission to the existing order; c) lack of introspection; d) being superstitious; e) stereotypical beliefs; f) admiration for power and toughness; g) the emergence of cynical and destructive tendencies; h) excessive interest in and attention towards sexuality. If we take this into consideration, then the ritual of pumping becomes extremely symbolic, as it contains, manifests and reproduces all the principal elements which make up the Scale: sadism and masochism (especially in punitive pumping), respect for convention (if we think of pumping for fallen beret), and submission to the existing order (as in pumping to respect a superior or same rank on the ground) are just some of the particularly evident examples of this. It is through this ritual, then, which is also important to and put into practice by the Armed Forces, that many of the elements which go into forming the model of an authoritarian and fascist personality, represented by the F Scale, are reproduced, passed on and taught in the daily processes of re-socialization within the barracks. What we might define as a substantial authoritarian/fascist type of education, is woven into the way of life and then reproduced against a background of rules and values which is, instead, made up of what we might define as historical and cultural authoritarianism/fascism, characterised by a series of formal cultural elements (traditions, various rituals, symbols, swastikas and/or celtic crosses tattooed on the body, the roman salute, talk about Jews, about blacks, etc.) which are more or less directly inherited from a nazi-fascist ideology.17
The main hypotheses that emerge from the field research are that: a) The acquisition of aggression inside the military corps is desired and controlled by the institution, in that it is deemed necessary and functional to the final aims of the same institution. The socialization of the soldier is structured in precise phases which accompany the individual’s passage from one phase of his life to another, and from one status to another, socializing him into a new reference culture through a series of practices centered around stress and aggression. After the first training period, socialization into the new culture is carried out by means of training practices, and among these, the pumping ritual is one of the most important. It is a ritual that is desired by the institution (all paratroopers pump, from Generals to the lowest ranks) and which becomes a privileged relational model used for transmitting those values, rules and behavioral models believed to be fundamental for the efficient running of the same institution. b) The education system within the barracks aims at forming authoritarian and fascist personalities which, in stressful conditions, lead the actors to behave in sadistic and uncontrollably violent ways. The education model around which the pumping ritual develops, contains many of the elements which are characteristic of authoritarian personalities. It is a model of psychological fascism which blends together with the values and symbols of what we have defined as historical/cultural fascism. In connection to statements made at the beginning of this article, the possibility of extending this concept to include the police forces might seem extreme to some critics. The police, in fact, are not a homogenous group: highly trained members, in many cases coming from war scenarios, operate together with individuals who went through a very minimal preparation or have different backgrounds in terms of education, class, etc. Nevertheless, every time there is an examination for entry into police ranks and the other forces, a large number of places are reserved for former soldiers (Law 226/ 2004). Thus, at least one third of the officers hired over the past decade come directly from the army; and many of these come directly from war scenarios. Moreover, we sustain that the principal differences between the army and the police lie more in the intensity of the respective training methods, rather than the contents: indeed, in both cases, the problem at hand is that of shaping a certain kind of mentality and values (Nattero, 2011). In a study on police training, Chappel and Lanza-Kaduce (2010) observed that paramilitary features undercut the notion that community policing – a common concept in the current debate on security – is “real” police work. The continued emphases on the structure of authority and deference, in-group solidarity with its us vs. them orientation, and performing under stress, seem to play important roles in the training provided by the police academies. Fresh and extensive research on Italian police training is not available; however, older studies suggest that this was the case (D’Orsi 1972). Della Porta, Peterson and Reiter (2006) argue that with regard to the degree of police militarization there is more country variation in federal states where police training and organization are decentralized. In spite of the tendency to involve traffic wardens and other local corps in the management of order, control in Italy is still a centralized field of operation. Insofar as the 1981 reform of the Italian police force partially de-militarized the corps and made its members less coercive, the training process appears to pursue an ideal of efficiency – based on the notions of physical strength, cohesion and responsiveness – comparable to that found within the armed forces, but to be learnt “on the street” rather than in the academies (Carrer 2006). Moreover, with regard to the management of order and demonstrations, the years from 2000 onward were characterized by the crisis of negotiation as a means for guaranteeing peaceful demonstrations (Della Porta and Reiter 2004). One of our witnesses – a 26-year-old woman who served in Afghanistan and is occasionally employed in the security of detention centers for illegal immigrants – states that:
After we came back from Afghanistan… a few days later… for the first time they trained us to intervene in occasion of demonstrations and riots, for the “control of the crowd”, as they had to employ us in a center for the identification and expulsion of immigrants. […] It was a daily training… we were deployed at the center of a field, within the headquarters… one group against the other. One group, composed mostly of veterans, impersonated the “No globals”18, the crowd. The other group, generally composed of new personnel, impersonated the police. “You have to control the crowd…”. Then, the simulation of riots followed […] I got beat up wildly. […] They threw on us any possible thing… ice, pieces of wood, wheel tires, smoke-bombs. […] At the end, four people had to go to the medical office, and one at the hospital for tests. I had a black eye myself.
Articles reporting official statements claim that each year the Carabinieri train several thousand “anti-guerrilla” officers in secret camps in Italy and abroad (Galluzzo 2001). Moreover, other police forces have “elite” paramilitary troops, trained for special operations (antiterrorism, anti-kidnapping, etc.). The men in these divisions are not mobilized every day in order to carry out their special operations but, on the contrary, we find them engaged in normal control activities. One of the huge scandals surrounding one of the elite corpses of the police, the Nocs team, for example, saw a group of these men go to the hospital where one of their comrades was receiving treatment, – he had been stabbed during an evening operation at a disco – in order to beat him up brutally: a member of the Nocs, in fact, “does not allow himself to be stabbed by any old bastard”. This small episode is enough to show that the differences between the military attitude and the police attitude are – at least in the case of Italy, and of a part of the personnel – not as great as we might think. But what complicates the picture further is that, at times, the army assume some of the features of the police force, and vice versa: in fact, the military carry out policing tasks on many missions abroad, while the police and carabinieri perform tasks of a military nature, both at home and abroad.19 In such a framework, military and police know-how – the latter based on the ability to collect information and on the streamlining of that cognitive function which allows us to talk about the police in terms of the “epistemological organ” of the state (Della Porta and Reiter 2004) – combine together, creating a hybrid which is indistinguishable from practical and aptitudinal points of view. In a nutshell, the sought response is based on the ability to be cohesive in moments of crisis, and on the ideology of opposition (Rosen, Knudson and Fancher 2002). This particular way of behaving in real situations is usually characterized as being top-down, authoritarian and tendentially behavioristic – beyond what may be expressed by individual agency, which can be quite surprising. This “mechanical” action helps to reduce complications and reaction times to the sorts of challenge that await on the street. The problem lies in the fact that these “challenges” are often of a very different nature to those that the police are actually trained to deal with and go beyond their interpretative abilities; beyond the fact that they are, in any case, a way of “getting results” and of gaining some sort of professional advantage. The violence shown during street demonstrations against “professional protesters”, the brutality with which young “misfits” are beaten on the streets, at police stations or in police cells, probably corresponds to a precise (political) vision of the world and of authority, law and order (what we call “fascism”), as well as the perception that they are acting in the way that their superiors and society expect. Such moral climate is consistent with what the bulk of literature on State crimes has repeatedly reported. Often, victims of the State are not considered as such (Stanley, 2005). Furthermore, through their devaluation, these victims are portrayed and perceived by the State officers and authorities as deserving the use of force, and also external to any moral concern (Huggins, Haritos-Fatouros and Zimbardo 2002; Humphrey 2002). In fact, it is no coincidence that the number of police officers convicted for violence is very small, and that the majority of “deaths due to police brutality” in Italy are covered in a veil of mystery, made even more confusing by the assessments of court experts and by the lack of collaboration by most of the higher levels of the institutions involved (police headquarters, prisons, etc.) (Chiarelli, 2011). Despite the complaints and the tendency to deny the accusations, the police forces usually have at their disposal the means, the cover and the cohesion, which, except in some particular cases20, are mobilized to defend the institution and its members. And as far as they are concerned, at the end of the day, how can we blame them? After all, these operators have been programmed, on the one hand, to respond precisely to the requests made by the chain of command, and on the other, to anticipate what this same chain of command expects of them (Waddington 1999); caught within the web of power, they can only take power themselves and exercise force, and derive joy, benefits, frustrations and the whole range of other emotions that this “profession of arms” has to offer. And if all this is true, then the profound, albeit naïve question that we feel obliged to put to the civilian supporters of this complex apparatus of tyranny – aimed at the mortification of those who become its enemy, as well as those who work within it – is, what on earth has this to do with democracy, with freedom, and above all, with the defense of life?
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Note: This work is the result of the common work of the authors. Though, due to academic motivations, work distribution is as follows: “introduction”, “changes and violence”, and “conclusions” are by Pietro Saita; the remaining parts are by Charlie Barnao.
- Clearly, it does not mean that we uncritically accept mainstream notions of democracy or subversion. Indeed, we rather propose the deconstruction of most categories commonly deployed in public discourse. [↩]
- People and places’ names have been changed. [↩]
- The reference is to the return home of Italian paratroopers from Somalia at the end of a peacekeeping mission (Mission Ibis, December 1992-March 1994) [↩]
- On this subject, it is interesting to note how, though the rules for paratroopers in Italian barracks are extremely severe as far as drug use is concerned – even soft drugs -, during missions abroad there is a wide-reaching permissiveness towards the use of hashish and marijuana. One can easily imagine the explosive effect that these substances can have on soldiers who are out on duty all day with loaded weapons. For other and similar evidence, Battistelli (2001). [↩]
- For a collection of examples, and for some very detailed analyses on the relation between autoethnography and public sociology/anthropology, see Reed-Danahay (1997). [↩]
- For example: www.militari.myblog.it; www.congedatifolgore.com; www.paracadutistivelletri.it; www.facebook.com/pages/Come-FOLGORE-dal-cielo/171527372909934 [↩]
- For an in-depth examination of rites of passage within the paratroop brigades see: Winslow (1999). For a general analysis of rituals appertaining to those “occupational folk groups” that are armies, see Burke (2004). [↩]
- Moreover, a dynamic which belongs to total institutions, and that has been described and observed also by Goffman (1962), Foucault (1975); Ignatieff (1978). [↩]
- We collected several testimonies confirming this point, by means of both interviews and the observation of on-line forums devoted to the military experience. [↩]
- See, for instance, what former paratroopers say about these events on websites and blogs: www.paracadutistivelletri.it and http://www.legiopatrianostra.it. Some interesting videos of these rituals are available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xjEdM0OrR6I and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JWu2na_-SlQ. [↩]
- The degree of “tiredness” is generally related to the “length” of service, or seniority. The longer the service, the “tireder” you become. [↩]
- On the widespread use of similar abusive practices in the armies of other countries, Toney and Anwar (1998). [↩]
- As well as the various informants’ accounts collected and the numerous episodes observed in this context, there is also some significant information to be gained from some of the court rulings that were made following particularly violent episodes connected to the ritual of pumping. In particular, the sentencing of a female Corporal from the 186th paratroop regiment, the “Folgore” to one month and twenty days imprisonment for having kicked a recruit who was carrying out punitive pumping. The sentence itself mentions the word “pumping”, which is understood as being a “tradition” peculiar to the “Folgore” regiment (la Repubblica 2006; 2007). [↩]
- Touching the ground with a finger is a typical gesture made by superiors who wish to oblige those who are inferior in rank, and who are watching them, to carry out “pumping to respect seniority”. [↩]
- The red beret is probably the most important symbol for Italian paratroopers and this fact is frequently remembered in the most popular of their war songs. Two of the main songs sung by paratroopers, are, in fact, entirely dedicated to the beret “Bagnando il basco” (Bathing the beret) and “Baschi rossi e fregi d’oro” (Red berets and gold decorations). [↩]
- In one of the most famous paratroop songs, the main line in the chorus states: “Basco rosso avanguardia di gloria, alla morte ridiamo così: AH! AH! AH!” (Red beret, vanguard of glory, we laugh in the face of death like this: HA!HA! HA!). [↩]
- On the analogies with the formation of a fascist identity during the years of the fascist period, Berezin (1997). [↩]
- In Italian, the word “No global” indicates the anti-globalization movements, and in common language it is a synonym of leftist, communist or anarchist. [↩]
- For a detailed description of some of the “military work” carried out at home in the struggle against immigration, see Maltoni and Zago (2001). [↩]
- In fact, it would seem that only crimes of corruption or participation in illegal trafficking generate strong reactions, Palidda (2000). [↩]