The statue of Montanelli, what historical memory means

The episode of the pink paint on the statue of Indro Montanelli has generated a debate on historical memory. We asked our readers what they think

MILAN – The soiling of the statue of Indro Montanelli by the feminist collective “Not one less” on the occasion of the March 8 parade generated a lively debate on the historical memory and on the criteria by which we choose which characters to pass down to posterity .

For those who missed what happened, here are the facts in a nutshell. During the demonstration for International Women’s Day, the feminist collective “Not one less” smeared with pink paint (washable, removed a few hours later) the statue of Indro Montanelli – one of the most famous pens of Italian journalism – located in the park dedicated to him at Porta Venezia, Milan.

The declared purpose of the action was to ignite a debate on a story that occurred during the Italian colonial period in Eritrea, when Montanelli bought and had sex with a 12-year – old Eritrean girl named DestA�. A “leasing contract” – wrote Montanelli in the Corriere in 2000 – which gave him the exclusive use of the girl’s body, until he gave it to another man once the war ended.

Montanelli never apologized or repented of his actions, not even in recent times. He spoke about it for the first time in 1972 during an interview with Enzo Biagi at L’ora della veritA� , where he was chased by the Eritrean journalist Elvira Bianotti.

In an interview with Enzo Biagi for RAI in 1982 he stated: “He was twelve years old … at twelve those there [the Africans] were already women. I had bought it from my father in Saganeiti together with a horse and a gun, all for 500 lire. It was a docile animal, I put it on a tucul (a simple circular building with a conical roof usually of clay and straw) with chickens. And then every fifteen days he reached me wherever I was together with the wives of the other ascari … this wife also came, with the basket on her head, which brought me clean underwear. “

In 2000, he again told the story in the Corriere della Sera :

Corriere della Sera of 12 February 2000 / Archivio Corriere

From the gesture of the collective “Not one less” a heated debate was born . What is the criterion by which we decide which characters pass down to the collective memory, through monuments, statues, parks and named streets? Is it possible and right to separate the historical character from the human character and his personal choices?

We asked these questions to our readers , and interesting insights were born. Many have emphasized the correctness of the collective’s gesture , which has deliberately used a washable paint to avoid vandalizing the statue: A gesture of impact, provocation and dissent but which was not intended to damage any public work. The foresight of women! Says Francesca.

Many comments condemning the gesture, and the choice of dedicating a statue and a park (for children, ironically) to a man who is guilty of rape and pedophilia. Many, in fact, wish the removal of the statue. ” The greatness of his writing and his talent can in no way justify the fact that he was a pedophile fascist. A city like Milan that calls itself progressive and open to the world cannot celebrate certain characters … Beppe Sala has the statue removed to give a strong signal to the city and the world “(Barbara)

Many emphasize, on the contrary, the need to separate between person and character , and above all, the need to preserve historical memory of what happened.

From the beginning of the 20th to the 44th the Italians were guilty of shameful things, above all the deportation of the Jews. One of these was colonization. I don’t believe in the posthumous apology, who commits a crime and then apologizes after many years. Montanelli was a great journalist, one who was also imprisoned for his ideas. A very negative episode, in a time when crimes against unanimity took place every day, cannot change the historical judgment on him. History teaches how in Roman times it was a habit to abuse children, so we smear the statues of the emperors? (Luca)

The damnatio memoriae was, in effect, a Roman practice which consisted in the posthumous elimination of any memory (statues, writings, works, monuments) of those emperors who in life had not been appreciated by the people. Over the centuries the practice has been abandoned, by virtue of a more impartial preservation of historical events. And it is undoubtedly a sensible position, because remembering the past is fundamental for facing the future, even when the past is shameful and nefarious. As our reader says, we can certainly not erase the crimes of which we have been guilty, neither during the colonial period nor during the Fascist period, and indeed it is fundamental to remember them and be aware of them. However, the way we decide to remember is significant, and not always remembering implies celebrating.

Montanelli was not a Greek philosopher. He lived after the war in an Italy that considers the sale of a person as slavery and the relationship with a twelve-year-old pedophilia. He was a contemporary of ours, not an ancient Egyptian, who never showed a sign of regret or regret. in 1982 he called the girl “animal”. This is unforgivable. Not that in the Fascist era he did something fascist, but that in the end he was still 82 . (Ilaria)

In conclusion, it can be said that the gesture of the collective “Not one less” has fully achieved its objective: to stir up a non-violent debate on our colonial past and on the ways in which we choose to pass on historical memory. We will see what happens.

Source: Dehai Eritrea Online