Like freedom itself

Article written by German Carboni, in Sardinian and English.

“Sardinia is out of time and history”

“This land resembles no other place. Sardinia is something else. Enchanting spaces and distances to travel-nothing finished, nothing definitive. It is like freedom itself”

D. H. Lawrence, Sea and Sardinia, 1921 
Porto Paglia, Sardinia – Photo by Davide Baraldi on Unsplash

Cumente sa libertade matessi

Cussas frases podent essi fatzilmenti revessadas como mera idealisatzione d’unu romanticu en retardu cumente D.H. Lawrence: unu ingresu avvesadu a algunos de sos paesaggios prus industrialisados de su mundu, residiau in manera orientalista dae sa Sardigna. 

Defattu, sa Sardigna, diversamente dae sa Britannia Manna, fiat una isola scarescia dae s’istadu e su capitale. Tenia 80% d’analfabetismu, ancuxiada da s’intemperiu chi boccìa dognia annu 2000 persones, isgiogulada dae su restu de su mundu, chene sas istrutturas prus basicas pro incommittere sos pagos tzentros de s’insula. Sa parte prus isviluppada de sa regione fiant sas minas de su Sulcis, isfruttadas dae s’Italianos e su capitale internatzionale, sos culios intra una longa istoria de dominatzione incummentzada dae sos Punicos, continuada dae sos Romanos, is Bizantinos, sos Pisanos, sos Genovesos, s’Aragonesos, s’Ispagnolos e a sa fine s’Italianos. Sos sennores mudant, ma s’infernu de sos minadores fiat su propriu, cumente sa vida pro totos s’ateros sardos, chi, luttende contras sas fortzas de sa natura, traballabant in istadu mezu- servile in sos latifondos o cummente berbecargios in sas muntagnas.

Una colonia, limpia dae su capitalismu, sos fumos nieddos de sa industrialisatzione e de sa decadentzia burghesa de s’annos 20. Pariat una terra manna e intemerada, abitada dae genti abbantada chi tenet solamenti traditziones paganas, Deus cummenti reparu dae una natura chene pietade, parentmente prexiados de sa vida simple chi tenebant. 

Duncas, no semus achittos ca Lawrence leggìa s’insula traversu lentes orientalistas, cumparende Casteddu no a calchi tzitade d’Europa, ma a Gerusalè. 

Ancòra, cussu no bolit narare ca Lawrence no tenet arrexione, ca su contu suo no ‘alet o is sardos depent abrogare sos fueddos aggarbados ca issu at cumpostu pro s’insula issoro. Cussu solamente bolet narai ca dognia fueddu de
Sea and Sardinia depet essi postu in cuntestu pro abbrancàre sas beridades profundas aissegus issos. 

Sa Sardigna e sos sardos fiant defattu a foras de su tempu e de s’istoria, postos a foras de su progressu e de sa tziviltade dae unu modellu d’isfattiu coloniale portau innantis dae sos invasores. Sa conditzione intimerada de s’insula facilmente benit a essi archetipu de su chelu perdiu pro cussas animas in arrealia cun sa tecnica, cun sas cunventziones burghesas o sos imperativos produttivistas. 

Sa Sardigna e sos sardos fiant defattu a foras de su tempu e de s’istoria, postos a foras de su progressu e de sa tziviltade dae unu modellu d’isfattiu coloniale portau innantis dae sos invasores.

Lawerence iscriet in 1921. Ma sa situatzione no est mutada meda in cussos gasi chent’annos chi bi partziant dae sas cuntas suas. 

Oe Sardinia ammancat de connessiones baratas cun s’Italia, tenet unu de prus altos tassos de chene traballu giuvanile de s’UE (35%), ammancat sos istrutturas basicas (s’unica regione italiana chene istrada ferrada elettrificada), at una industria turistica coloniale proprietade de holdings basadas dae s’atera parte de su mari, fata de biddas turisticas isgioguladas dae su tessidu produttivu locale, chi solamente traballu de serbidores pro sos isolanos lassat. In prus, cumente ammunstradu dae Al Jazeera, oe, unu terzu de sas terras sardas sunt asut’amministratzione militare italiana e rendada commente campu d’approbu d’armas. Cussu tenet efettos mannos supra su pobulu de s’insula. In Perdasdefogu dognia cartu piccioccu nascit cun defetos. In su 2019 su ligai intra s’esposizione a s’uraniu impoariu e sos mabes patidos fiat arreconoschidu in curia. 

Candu s’istadu est su primu violadore de su deretu a sa vida, a sa salude, a sa auto- determinatzione de una categoria de tzente, duas cosas podet bolere narare: o issu no arreconoscit cuddos cumente tzitadinos o calincuna leggittimidade de cuberrare supra issos at perdidu. 

Ma is sardos passivos no sunt. Si s’isfruttamentu dae sos colonisadores costante de s’istoria nostra, s’atera costante sa resistentzia est. Innantis incarnada dae sa boltada de Amsicora contra sos Romanos, pustis dae Zuanne Maria Angioy e sos vesperos sardos, dae Emilio Lussu e su Partidu Sardu e immoe dae sos bajanos de su moimentu “no basi”, chi balentes luttant contra s’occupatzione militare. 

Sos sardos semper solos fiant, scarescios e inconoscidos dae sos continentales, cun interessos particulares et una weltaunschauung tota issora benia dae seculos d’abbandadura. 

Sardinia un’atera cosa abberu est. Ma una Natzione no solu una limba, coltura, ma prima de totu unu progetu istoricu est. S’Italia no at donau niunu, solamente sos sardos ddu podent iscriere. 

Lawrence tenia arrexione. Sa Sardigna atera cosa, parit cumente sa libertade matessi, ma libera no est. 

Ma nos scimus ca est solamenti chistioni de tempus, e su tempus problema no est pro cussos chi a foras de issu bivent. 

Oh Sardigna patria nostra 
de sa limba t'ant privau
e s'istoria ant cubau
pro sighire in cussa zostra 
[...] 
Oh Sardigna cussa est s'ora 
ca ti depes ischidare
e nos Sardos totos impares 
si chi pesent in bon'ora 

Like freedom itself

These phrases could be easily dismissed as a mere idealisation of a romantic out of time as D.H. Lawrence: a Brit used to some of the most industrialised landscapes of the world remained easily impressed by Sardinia in an orientalist fashion. 

Indeed, Sardinia, unlike Lawrence’s Great Britain, was an island forgot by the state and the financial capital. It had an 80% illiteracy rate, plagued by malaria that killed 2000 people every year, disconnected from the rest of the world, lacking the most basic infrastructures to connect the few existing important centres. The most developed part of Sardinia were the mines in Sulcis, exploited by the Italians and the international capital, that substituted themselves to a long history of exploitation started by Punics, continued by the Romans, the Byzantines, Pisa, Genoa, Aragon, Spain and finally Italy. Domini changed, but the miners’ hell remained the same, as life for the rest of Sardinians, employed in a semi-servile state for centuries in latifundia or as sheep keepers in the mountains, engaged in a never-ending fight against the forces of nature. 

A colony, uncorrupted by capitalism, industrial black smoke and 20s’ bourgeois decadence. It appeared as a vast untouched land, inhabited by isolated people that only had pagan traditions, God protecting them against a merciless nature and appearing content (or just lacking the luxury to explore their souls) in their simple lives. 

No wonder Lawrence read the island through an orientalist lens and came to compare Cagliari not to something “European” but to Jerusalem. 

Yet, this does not mean that Lawrence is wrong, his accounts invalidated, or Sardinians should refuse the gentle words that he addressed to their island. It just means that they should be contextualised to grasp the deeper truth that each word in Sea and Sardinia contains. 

Sardinia and Sardinians were indeed out of time and history, they were put out of the “progress” and civilisation by a colonial model of exploitation of their land by foreign rulers, its “virgin” condition easily became a paradis perdu for those struggled souls in contrast with the modern society, with techné, with the bourgeois conventions or productivist imperatives. 

Sardinia and Sardinians were indeed out of time and history, they were put out of the “progress” and civilisation by a colonial model of exploitation of their land by foreign rulers.

Lawrence was writing in 1921. But the situation has not significantly changed in those nearly 100 years that separate us from his accounts. 

Sardinia lacks cheap and affordable connections with the rest of Italy, has one of the highest youth unemployment rates (35%) of the EU, lacks basic infrastructures (the only Italian region without an electrified railway), and has a vampire luxury touristic industry owned by holdings based on the other side of the Sea, made of touristic villages disconnected from the local productive fabric, leaving nothing more than waiter jobs for the islanders. Furthermore, as recently spotlighted by an Al Jazeera documentary, today one third of the Sardinian territory is under Italian military administration and rented out as a testing ground for war. This has serious implications for the inhabitants of the island, in Perdasdefogu, close to a rocket launching site every year one-in-four new-borns were reported to have some kind of defect. In 2019 the causal link between the exposure to depleted uranium and diseases suffered had been confirmed at a judicial level. 

When a state is the first violator of the right to live, to health, to self-determination of a specific category of its inhabitants, it means that either those inhabitants are not considered citizens or that the state has lost any legitimacy to rule over them. 

But Sardinians are not passive. If exploitation by colonisers is one constant of our history, the other one is resistance. First embodied by Amsicora’s rebellion against the Romans, by Eleonora d’Arborea’s rule, by Zuanne Maria Angioy’s revolt against Piedmont, by Emilio Lussu and his Partidu Sardu and recently by the young activist of NO BASI movement, bravely fighting against the military occupation.

Sardinians have always been alone, forgot and unknown by the Italians living on the “continente”, with specific interests and their unique Weltaunschauung result of centuries of isolation. 

Sardinia is really something else. A Nation is not just a language, a cultural background, it is foremost an Historical Project. Italy did not build any, only Sardinians can design it. 

Lawrence was right, Sardinia is really something else, it appears like freedom itself, but it is not free. 

But we know it is just a question of time and time is not a problem for those who live outside of it. 

Su realismu no est pro sos resistentes, pro chini bivet a foras de su tempus e s’istoria, realismu no est pro sos sardos. 

Published by LA REGIONISTO

La Regionisto focuses on regional economic, political or cultural issues. Its aim is to enable everyone to deepen their curiosity for various regions of Europe and beyond, in a classic or fun way. We welcome articles written in any language and from any approach!

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