Those wishing to visit ground zero of European ignominy must simply drive up an olive tree-covered hill on the island of Lesbos until the high cement walls of Camp Moria come into view. “Welcome to prison,” someone has spray-painted on the walls. The dreadful stench of urine and garbage greets visitors and the ground is covered with hundreds of plastic bags. It is raining, and filthy water has collected ankle-deep on the road. The migrants who come out of the camp are covered with thin plastic capes and many of them are wearing only flipflops on their feet as they walk through the soup. Children are crying as men jostle their way through the crowd.
Category Archives: Reportages
Pope Francis is one of the most hated men in the world today. Those who hate him most are not atheists, or protestants, or Muslims, but some of his own followers. Outside the church he is hugely popular as a figure of almost ostentatious modesty and humility. From the moment that Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio became pope in 2013, his gestures caught the world’s imagination: the new pope drove a Fiat, carried his own bags and settled his own bills in hotels; he asked, of gay people, “Who am I to judge?” and washed the feet of Muslim women refugees.
But within the church, Francis has provoked a ferocious backlash from conservatives who fear that this spirit will divide the church, and could even shatter it. This summer, one prominent English priest said to me: “We can’t wait for him to die. It’s unprintable what we say in private. Whenever two priests meet, they talk about how awful Bergoglio is … he’s like Caligula: if he had a horse, he’d make him cardinal.” Of course, after 10 minutes of fluent complaint, he added: “You mustn’t print any of this, or I’ll be sacked.”
In 1815, 15 years before he made his most famous print, The Great Wave, Hokusai published three volumes of erotic art. In one of them there is a woodcut print known in English as ‘The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife’ and in Japanese as ‘Tako to ama’, ‘Octopus and Shell Diver’. It depicts a naked woman lying on her back, legs spread and eyes closed, while a huge red octopus performs cunnilingus on her. The octopus’s slit eyes bulge between the woman’s legs and its suckered limbs wrap around her writhing body. A second, smaller octopus inserts its beak into the woman’s mouth while curling the thin tip of an arm around her left nipple. In Europe, the print was interpreted as a scene of rape, but the critics didn’t read Japanese. In the text arranged in the space around the three entwined bodies, the shell diver exclaims: ‘You hateful octopus! Your sucking at the mouth of my womb makes me gasp for breath! Ah! Yes … it’s … there! With the sucker, the sucker! … There, there! … Until now it was I that men called an octopus! An octopus! … How are you able? … Oh! Boundaries and borders gone! I’ve vanished!’
Patrick Perotti scoffed when his mother told him about a doctor who uses electromagnetic waves to treat drug addiction. “I thought he was a swindler,” Perotti says.Perotti, who is 38 and lives in Genoa, Italy, began snorting cocaine at 17, a rich kid who loved to party. His indulgence gradually turned into a daily habit and then an all-consuming compulsion. He fell in love, had a son, and opened a restaurant. Under the weight of his addiction, his family and business eventually collapsed.He did a three-month stint in rehab and relapsed 36 hours after he left. He spent eight months in another program, but the day he returned home, he saw his dealer and got high. “I began to use cocaine with rage,” he says. “I became paranoid, obsessed, crazy. I could not see any way to stop.”When his mother pressed him to call the doctor, Perotti gave in. He learned he would just have to sit in a chair like a dentist’s and let the doctor, Luigi Gallimberti, hold a device near the left side of his head, on the theory it would suppress his hunger for cocaine. “It was either the cliff or Dr. Gallimberti,” he recalls.
Beautifully lush islands jutting picturesquely out of the turquoise sea with sun glinting off the calm surrounding water: Such are the pictures of the Salomon Islands we have become familiar with from travel brochures. And they are not the kind of images that lead one to suspect that there might be a shortage of fresh water on this island chain located northeast of Australia.
But there is. According to the most recent statistics compiled by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), four out of every 10 Salomon Islanders don’t have secure access to clean drinking water. This makes the Salomon Islands a member of the small group of countries in which the drinking water situation has not improved, but rather worsened, in the past few years. At the turn of the millennium, only two out of 10 Salomon Islanders lacked access to potable water.
It was close to midnight on the coast of Libya, a few miles west of Tripoli. At the water’s edge, armed Libyan smugglers pumped air into thirty-foot rubber dinghies. Some three thousand refugees and migrants, mostly sub-Saharan Africans, silent and barefoot, stood nearby in rows of ten. Oil platforms glowed in the Mediterranean.
The Libyans ordered male migrants to carry the inflated boats into the water, thirty on each side. They waded in and held the boats steady as a smuggler directed other migrants to board, packing them as tightly as possible. People in the center would suffer chemical burns if the fuel leaked and mixed with water. Those straddling the sides could easily fall into the sea. Officially, at least five thousand and ninety-eight migrants died in the Mediterranean last year, but Libya’s coastline is more than a thousand miles long, and nobody knows how many boats sink without ever being seen. Several of the migrants had written phone numbers on their clothes, so that someone could call their families if their bodies washed ashore.
The smugglers knelt in the sand and prayed, then stood up and ordered the migrants to push off. One pointed to the sky. “Look at this star!” he said. “Follow it.” Each boat left with only enough fuel to reach international waters.
In one dinghy, carrying a hundred and fifty people, a Nigerian teen-ager named Blessing started to cry. She had travelled six months to get to this point, and her face was gaunt and her ribs were showing. She wondered if God had visited her mother in dreams and shown her that she was alive. The boat hit swells and people started vomiting. By dawn, Blessing had fainted. The boat was taking on water.
THOUGH SHE WAS 41, nearing the end of a typical lifespan for a lowland gorilla, Alpha still had a lot of youthful exuberance — especially around a silverback named Ramar. In the early 2000s at Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo, Alpha would often strut and purse her lips, gaze at Ramar for long periods of time, toss hay into his face, and try to sit in his lap. Alpha’s caretakers considered giving her contraceptives. At her age, a pregnancy might have endangered both mother and baby. But was Alpha even capable of becoming pregnant? Gorillas in captivity tended to live longer than those in the wild, but they rarely reproduced after their late 30s. Did gorillas, like humans, go through menopause?
Climate change denial is not about facts. It is about faith, and faith comes in many forms, including the blackly comic.This week, as the most devastating hurricanes on record pummelled the Caribbean and the southern United States, Scott Pruitt, the Republican politician and head of the US Environmental Protection Agency, said that “the place (and time)” to discuss “the cause and effect of these storms” is not now.
By the end of last year, anyone who had been paying even passing attention to the news headlines was highly likely to conclude that everything was terrible, and that the only attitude that made sense was one of profound pessimism – tempered, perhaps, by cynical humour, on the principle that if the world is going to hell in a handbasket, one may as well try to enjoy the ride. Naturally, Brexit and the election of Donald Trump loomed largest for many. But you didn’t need to be a remainer or a critic of Trump’s to feel depressed by the carnage in Syria; by the deaths of thousands of migrants in the Mediterranean; by North Korean missile tests, the spread of the zika virus, or terror attacks in Nice, Belgium, Florida, Pakistan and elsewhere – nor by the spectre of catastrophic climate change, lurking behind everything else. (And all that’s before even considering the string of deaths of beloved celebrities that seemed like a calculated attempt, on 2016’s part, to rub salt in the wound: in the space of a few months, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Prince, Muhammad Ali, Carrie Fisher and George Michael, to name only a handful, were all gone.) And few of the headlines so far in 2017 – Grenfell tower, the Manchester and London attacks, Brexit chaos, and 24/7 Trump – provide any reason to take a sunnier view.
It was a half hour after midnight and Silvino Cubesare Quimare was approaching the ghost town of Separ, in southwest New Mexico. Tall and lithe, his skin browned from years of laboring under the desert sun, he strode through the darkness. Strapped to his back were two homespun burlap packs, one filled with 45 pounds of marijuana bricks and the other with enough burritos and gallon jugs of water to survive another week in the wilderness. With him were five cousins and a nephew, each shouldering a similar load. They trudged silently past the scars of an old copper mining trail, long-gone railroad tracks and trading posts that once upon a time exchanged men, minerals, and equipment across the border to Chihuahua. Up ahead, they saw the lights of a highway and knew they were within a dozen miles of their drop-off. They’d reach it before daybreak.It was April 2, 2010, and over five days they had traveled roughly five hundred miles from their village of Huisuchi, in the remote Sierra Madre mountains of northern Mexico. For months, Huisuchi had been cursed with drought. Though clouds had gathered off and on over the villagers’ homes—dark, billowing masses that overshadowed their huts among the fields of corn—it had not rained. The villagers had danced, and their children had tossed handfuls of water toward the sky, asking their god Onorúame for help, but relief had not come. By early spring their corn was burned on the stalk. Rather than face starvation, Silvino’s cousins had approached him with an idea: they could go on a drug-running mission across the border. It was a quick-paying job, and it would help their village. “You’re strong and you know the way,” they pleaded. “You’ve done this before.”