Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Why I call myself a Marxist

This time last year a magazine editor asked me if I would write a piece on the alarming topic of why I call myself a Marxist. I said no because I didn’t have time to do it (which is true), but also because I feared that it would be too self-indulgent. However, I’m going to take a crack at it this week, and for two reasons. Firstly, because no topic is too self-indulgent for a blog; secondly, so I don’t feel compelled to respond to an unremittingly asinine anti-Marxist polemic that is doing the rounds on the New Zealand blogosphere.

At first blush, the answer is quite simple: I call myself a Marxist because I am a strong believer in self-description. If I happen to be speaking to a journalist, I enjoy the contortions it causes, but that is merely an added bonus. Apparently printing that someone is a Marxist isn’t enough without the addition of a sinister qualifier. My favourite so far is ‘avowed Marxist’. In another piece I was described as someone who ‘supported a Communist Party in his native Italy’. That would be in fact the Italian Communist Party, which I voted for in 1989 for the first time along with nearly 10 million other dangerous radicals. And I do get that in New Zealand the movements that trace their roots to Marxism are significantly more marginal than they are in my native country, but not to the point of downright exoticism. People have heard of Elsie Locke, right? Plus, the constitution of one of the nation’s two main parties includes a pledge to uphold the principles of democratic socialism, and I think we all know where those come from.

But I am not a New Zealander. I grew up in a country where Marxism in various forms was part of the mainstream and had very specific historical roots. The Italian Republic was forged in the aftermath of the second world war and explicitly counted anti-fascism as one of its founding principles. Fascism in turn was above all an anti-socialist movement, and owed to this single objective the support of industrialists, bankers and the royal family, without which it would never have seized power.

I call myself a Marxist because of my grandmother, the daughter of a farm labourer whose house had been a refuge for local folks trying to escape a fascist beating. At the age of 16 she married a young man from a family of tailors who went on to become a fascist himself. She kept quiet about her beliefs for twenty years, and maybe twenty or forty more after that. But I remember the look of disbelieving joy on her face when they elected Sandro Pertini, a former partisan and socialist, as our seventh President.

I don’t even know if my grandmother knew who Karl Marx was, mind. She had very little education and the only two non-romance books I remember in her house were Jack London’s The Iron Heel and Pertini’s autobiography. For her the word socialism, as it did for so many people of her generation and her parents’, represented above all a concrete horizon of possibility. In a rural economy which was still largely feudal, people of her class were being told for the first time that they could be freed from abject poverty and the servitude which had marked their families for centuries. It was like being told that the natural world could be made to operate by new laws, and in some ways Nonna struggled to reconcile those ideas with the Christian teachings to which she was no less devout.

I call myself a Marxist because of Antonio Gramsci.

I call myself a Marxist because of this picture of workers leaving the Pirelli factory in Via Ponte Seveso, Milan, in 1905.

I was born next to another historic Milanese factory where they made Alfa Romeo cars, although it closed when I was very little. For some years in the 1970s my mother taught adults – mostly factory workers – who had never completed their intermediate school diploma. The classes were in the evening so I often tagged along. I got to know some of the students quite well.

I never knew those Pirelli workers but I recognise that look. It says this is our work. This is our factory.

The true sense of the working class as an agent of its own history, which is one of the key lessons of Marxism, was felt so strongly in Italy partly because no serious attempt could be made to claim that our liberal democracy was the best, most reliable source of improved working and living conditions for ordinary people, as it had segued directly into Fascism. Not for us the sanitised version of what we might call ‘trickle down history’, so popular in the anglosphere, whereby social progress is dispensed by benevolent elites at historically opportune times. It is the fear of insurrection that builds schools and hospitals, that redistributes land, that shortens the working week. It is the exercise of that power.

Western deindustrialisation doesn’t mean that factory jobs have disappeared, either. They have just been relocated to other countries, where it is possible to set conditions and wages that first-world workers successfully rebelled against many decades ago. It’s one of the geniuses of capital, to have achieved the internationalism that socialists rightly regarded as a necessary condition to their eventual success.

Conversely, I call myself a Marxist in spite of this picture.

The crushing of the Hungarian uprising of 1956 is just one in the long list of crimes of Soviet imperialism. However, its effect on the international political network to which the Italian Communist Party belonged at the time was one that had not been felt before. Many renounced their Party membership in those years, while the Party began a far too laborious process of distancing itself from the line dictated by Moscow – a process that wasn’t yet complete by the time I was born, in 1971. Budapest, Prague and everything that came before and after, all of this history belongs to anyone who claims words such as Marxist or socialist for themselves, just as American and British liberalism must reckon with genocide, slavery and imperialism. Historical crimes, or ongoing ones for that matter, cannot be liquidated as aberrations or deviations, which is why I cannot abide the revisionist programmes of many a Marxist reading group (‘Week one: Why the Soviet Union wasn’t socialist.’ ‘Week two: Why Cuba isn’t socialist.’ You get the idea.) Don’t tell me why an implementation of the programme wasn’t ‘correct’. But feel free to tell me what went wrong, and why we should still care about what you, Marx or anybody else has to say.

And so, too, I must account – firstly to myself – for why I think Marxism is still worth the time or the bother. And I reason that communism is an old idea, older than Marx and Engels, and that just as the failure of Athenian democracy didn’t consign that particular idea to the dustbin of history, neither should the failure of 20th Century revolutions invalidate all future revolutions, or stop us from believing that another world is possible (nor absolve us from the responsibility of building it). As Primo Levi once wrote, in one sense, and one sense only, crimes such as the Stalinist Purges can be said to be aberrations: for the ideology that produced them wasn’t predicated on totalitarianism and the elimination of difference, like fascism, but on equality and emancipation. It is easy to imagine socialism without the Purges, wrote Levi, and to that project we must always return.

Some say the ultimate failure of communism and socialism is encoded in human nature. I don’t have to look outside my family to call bullshit on this one. My grandmother was also taught that the atavistic, feudal order in which she was born was natural, yet despite being barely literate she learned that it couldn’t possibly be true.

I don’t call myself a Marxist because materialism provides a revolutionary key to tracing and understanding human history, any more than I call myself a Newtonist because I accept that the Principia Mathematica have broad application. Marx’s aspiration was not just to interpret the world, but to change it. And it should be ours, too. Maybe you think you have time to wait for history to trickle down. Maybe you’re well off enough that you don’t need to care. I’m happy for you. But there are people for whom not struggling is not a viable choice, and in time your children might well be among them.

I call myself a Marxist not because of my parents, who weren’t, but because of most of their friends, who were. Theirs was the Communist Party as a ‘country apart’ described by Pier Paolo Pasolini (‘a clean country in a dirty country, a honest country in a dishonest country, an intelligent country in a foolish country, an educated country in an ignorant country, a humanistic country in a consumerist country’). They lived their values in everything they did, including the time we spent together. They agitated, they debated, they took part in myriad struggles (including the struggle to make Marxism better), with a clarity and integrity that awes me still. At the end of it all they didn’t feel, I think, betrayed or defeated. Could they have done it without the ‘horizon’ of socialism? Perhaps. But I doubt it. Even old sceptical me is not naïve enough to think that faith doesn’t come into it, insinuating itself within the folds of a philosophical tradition that supposedly hails from the high-water mark of scientific positivist thinking.

But the lesson I learned from my parents’ friends is also practical: what Marxism furnishes to working people and the dispossessed are vital forms of organization and the consciousness of being historical actors. It is the lifeblood, among others, of the union movement, of which Marxism is one of the necessary souls. And if anyone ever tries to sell you a Left without unions, well, you know what to say to them, don’t you?

I call myself a Marxist because of my children. This ought to be the easiest one to understand. Louis Blanc’s old phrase, ‘from each according to their ability, to each according to their need’, takes on extra meaning when you deal with disability or chronic illness. My partner and I don’t want our children to grow up to be tolerated or cared for; we want them to be included, valued and allowed to flourish. This is what emancipation actually means. And it’s easy for us to see that our family’s struggle resembles many others. It is the common experience of all the people – and there are very many kinds – who are not deemed fit to belong to our society as equals, because their needs aren’t compatible with the needs of capital. The shared understanding that the justice we aspire to cannot come from this economic system in turn forms the basis of solidarity.

I call myself a Marxist because I am more of a Marxist than anything else.

Finally, I call myself a Marxist so that you know who I am and what my whakapapa is. I am not going to try to convert you. I don’t currently belong to any socialist organisations, not because I don’t think they have value, or because what little political energy I have must be spent elsewhere, but rather because I’ve always been more of a sausage sizzle Marxist than a leader of people, and these groups are so small that it’s hard to sit at the back of the room. But I also think that I would struggle to ‘sell’ Marxism at my age, and to the people of this country. My greatest wish for these ideas at this point in history is that they be available to people, alongside others. They are very old ideas, after all, but then the roots of Indigenous politics in Aotearoa are very deep. My hope is for a synthesis that might offer a way forward.

In the meantime, there is no shortage of political jobs around us, much work we can do – as progressives, malcontents or whatever we want to call ourselves.

If you survived that, and are willing to take further punishment, my essay for the current print edition of Overland on who owns the internet is now available online.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

On the need for a sustainable immigration policy, and where I think you should stick it

The world is on fire.

And at the bottom of this fiery world is a small country (although it isn’t that small), which for the last three decades has been run like a sort of neoliberal theme park. Take its immigration policy, which aside from an embarrassingly small quota set aside for refugees is regulated via a points system grading prospective residents according to their skills in certain areas or by the amount of capital they are willing to bring into the country.

You speak English? Great, that was one of the requirements! You are willing to invest $10 million over three years? We no longer care if you don't speak English!

You get the idea.

The small country (although it isn’t that small) is tucked away so cleverly at the bottom of the world that desperate people wishing for a better life – or any sort of life at all – cannot reach it by boat. It is therefore practically immune from the blight of illegal immigration, with its attendant consequences such as increases in GDP, sudden availability of a greater range of foods, shit getting done all over the place and so forth. Fortunately – thanks to the foresight of legislators – a large portion of the resident population lives in such poverty that there are practically no jobs it won’t do, thereby reducing the need for undocumented foreigners. The judicious use of seasonal or fixed term work visas provides for the rest of the local capitalists’ needs.

The leading political parties of the small country (although it isn’t that small) comprise a centre-right majority which favours this rational and tidy points-based system, and a centre-left opposition which favours this rational and tidy points-based system but would also like to see the actual intake of immigrants reduced. House prices have been rising quite steeply, you see? And once the possibility that this might be due to a plot by the dastardly Chinese was discarded, or at least didn’t prove to be enough of a vote-getter, the finger of blame was pointed to the new migrants, all of whom increase the demand for houses, and some of whom – due to policies favouring wealthy newcomers – are using their wealth to actually bid for the damn things.

Who could have known?

So now the small country is practically bursting at the seams, if by bursting at the seams you mean it has half the population density of Europe, but only so long as you go out of your way to include Russia. Or one fifteenth of the population density of the United Kingdom. In fact the only countries in the OECD with fewer people per square kilometre are Australia, Iceland, Canada and Norway, due to being largely uninhabitable, whereas the small country – as well as not being actually that small – is quite lovely up and down.

New Zealand: nauseatingly inhabitable

Now I’ll be the first to admit that house prices are an actual problem. If something is not done about them soon, it is quite possible that the bubble will burst and the small country will no longer have an economy with which to support its population, old and new. However, I would argue that one could hardly blame migrants for this fact, and that maybe if the small country’s politicians didn’t divide their time equally between lamenting the problem and reassuring home owners that they will never, ever, ever, ever do anything to reduce the value of their properties, it might be possible to find a solution and still fit quite a few more people in.

In the meantime, however, anti-immigration sentiment on the putative left of the small country is a real thing. So for instance over the weekend the co-leader of the local Green Party went on television to inform the nation that net migration should be capped at 1% of the population every year including returning nationals. He said so in the name of a ‘sustainable immigration policy’, so that the country has time to build houses and roads and the other things that people need to live. ‘They are coming over here, and they are taking our infrastructure,’ he all but said. And it still might have been a half sensible argument, or at least I might have found it less surreal, were it not for the fact that the world is on fire.

Thousands of migrants die every year trying to cross the small bit of sea that separates Northern Africa from Southern Europe. Many of them would be classed not as refugees but as economic migrants, and of course none would come close to qualifying for the number of points necessary in order to ‘express interest’ in moving to the small country at the bottom of the world. They die because, in the words of Warshan Shire, that sea is safer than their land. Why else would you attempt a crossing that kills so many? And that is saying nothing of the five million people who have had to flee Syria to date, of which the small country is slated this year to take seven hundred and fifty, or the six million Syrians who are ‘internally displaced’. Or the over 15 million refugees from other countries and regions of the world awaiting resettlement.

The co-leader of the Green Party of Aotearoa thinks net immigration should be capped at 1% because, he says, that is the historical average, or the rate at which people could be peacefully accommodated by the small country. His 1% edict applies to voluntary migrants, but his party’s policy makes the same argument with regard to refugees, insisting that any increases of the paltry quota must be gradual ‘and the size of [the] total intake keyed to the provision of resources to provide adequate services for them’. We’re no longer talking single digits here, but fractions of a digit. Zero point zero one six per cent: that’s how much 750 people is to four and a half million. A number the Greens are willing to double now, and then subsume to the general principle that immigration policy should be sustainable.

The thing about historical averages is that we need to forget about them. And while we’re at it, fuck ‘sustainable’. The world is on fire, and nobody should know this better than the Greens, who are willing to extend the status of refugees to people fleeing the consequences of climate change. We are a developed country blessed by geography and whose political class is aware and accepting of what is about to happen. It is unconscionable that we should be having any conversation other than how best to prepare over the coming years and decades for the arrival of people – so many it scares us, so many we may have to learn all over again how to live in this place.

In other, painfully familiar topics, I wrote a piece for the Spinoff on the abuse of disabled children at Miramar Central School and what it says about our education system. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016


Say what you want about David Lange – and I’m more disinclined than most to minimise his role in the great New Right experiment we insist on calling by the name of his finance minister – but his valedictory speech was the act of an honourable man.

It’s not that he used it to disown his government’s reforms, which would have been hypocritical and ultimately infuriating. On this count he mounted what was by then already a predictable, rote defence. ‘We are unlike the country we were [in 1984],’ he conceded,
and there is good and bad in that. But the balance of history will be that it was for the good.
However, instead of leaving it at that, as most of his accomplices have done before and since, Lange pivoted to a most unusual conclusion, beginning with a phrase that has stayed with me since the first time I read the speech: ‘I want to thank those people whose lives were wrecked by us.’ He then proceeded to dedicate the last minute of his time in parliament to an acknowledgment of the human consequences of his actions as a politician. ‘It was just terrible.’ He concluded. ‘That is the sort of thing that happened, and I am deeply aware of that.’

A Dominion Post file photo used in this profile

In his own valedictory speech, Phil Goff spared us such introspection. The serial politician, who left Parliament today after 12 terms and only once he received notarised assurances he would become Mayor of Auckland, spent most of the 28 minutes of his speech thanking himself for his service, and none pondering the effects on other people of the greatest structural realignment the country has experienced since at least the second world war. Candidly, he revealed that his first thought upon being told that the country was broke, in ’84, was ‘oh no, this is going to be a one term government’. His career was already the only thing that mattered.

Of Rogernomics – as a minister, Goff was in Douglas’ camp – he had little to say, and even managed to gloss over having introduced tertiary fees when he was in charge of education (an act that inspired this immortal ditty). His continuing allegiance to the reforms didn’t prevent him from lamenting the existence of ‘two New Zealands’ in the only half-memorable speech he gave during his wretched time as leader of the Labour Party. That the growing inequality he railed against was the product of the reforms he had been instrumental in implementing never bothered unduly either his conscience or his intellect.

Throughout his career, Mr Goff remained steadfastly loyal to the same set of platitudes. Already in his inaugural speech he pined for the good old days of full employment and for the conditions that allowed him to ‘pay [his] own way through [his] studies’. (I know; the irony is blinding me as well.) That first speech, in fact, with its appeal to ‘betrayed values’, is remarkably similar to his ‘two New Zealands’ speech of 2010 and today’s valedictory. We might be tempted to interpret this fact as a remarkable sign of ideological consistency, but it is nothing of the kind.

Lamenting the loss of an egalitarian past – however mythical – while enacting (or, post-facto, rationalising and defending) the most brutal programme of deregulation a western country has experienced to date is not only a daring act of rhetorical acrobatics; it also signals to what extent ‘Labour values’ have become a shibboleth, or a set of quasi-magical phrases to be uttered in order to signal one’s tribal affiliation, whilst being utterly divorced from the real lives of working people and those who wish they could work.

As one of the principal architects of the TPP, Goff obtained a special dispensation from his party to vote against its current line and in favour of its implementation. This was a rare gesture of coherence, marking him as probably the thirdwayest of all third way politicians in the world today. Had he followed Douglas and Prebble into ACT – and I don’t know if or to what extent he was tempted to, during his term in the wilderness in the early nineties – he would have been spared having to ask for such dispensations, or the ignominy of being caught enjoying Sky City’s corporate hospitality against his leader’s wishes. But then he would not have enjoyed a 32-year parliamentary career, either.

There is a lot of talk in pragmatic left circles about the ‘missing million’, that is to say all those non-voters – many of whom belong to the working class – to which Labour still feels naturally entitled, but that it would rather hector every three years than commit to serving. That missing million is the single clearest piece of evidence that Phil Goff’s political career has been a failure. These people, many of whom have the most at stake whenever social and economic policy is reset – and ought therefore to be vitally interested in politics – have become utterly disengaged from the democratic process. The party putatively in charge of representing their interests doesn’t blame itself. Least of all Phil Goff, who was there the entire time – 14 years as cabinet minister, three years as leader of the opposition, the balance apparently longing for the New Zealand of old – and in his final speech didn’t have a single thing to say about them. Not one.

It takes a special kind of left-wing politician to look back on the last three decades of our history and fail to acknowledge the disenfranchisement of so many. Reversing this process will require a great deal more than the retirement of the Labour MP from Mt Roskill, but it’s a start.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Wellington, city of adverbs

People don’t bother voting for local government elections and I’m not entirely sure I blame them seeing as it’s not overly clear what the powers of our elected officials even are. I live in Wellington, the city of adverbs – Absolutely! Positively! – whose council was nonetheless powerless to stop 27 of the city’s own employees being fired on the say so of the New Zealand Transport Agency. This is the same council that boasted being the first in New Zealand to adopt a living wage policy and two years later is having to negotiate its terms with the chamber of commerce, which as recently as last week sent an ominous letter to regional councillors about to vote on the same measure.

Then there is the District Health Board, where I’m voting for the only candidate in the entire blasted election I’m actually happy to support – Nurses Organisation president Grant Brookes – right before embarking on the quest for six more names to fill my ballot by this Friday’s deadline. Six! So far I’ve only ruled out the Rutger-Hauer-as-Roy-Batty-look-alike who cited as a qualification having hand-built his own house. I have some work to do. (Update: make them five. I hear Eileen Brown is very solid.)

It doesn’t help – whether at a health board, council, regional or mayoral level – that meaningful information is so hard to come by, that promotional materials are so vague and that candidate statements are so bland. You would not believe that the least atrocious candidate for Mayor is the guy whose profile contains the phrase ‘I'll be a champion for Wellington and will focus on looking forward and finding solutions, rather than looking back and finding fault’, and who put his own children on a billboard, along with the hashtag ‘Love Wellington’ (everyone else clearly #HatesWellington).

Vote for me, I reproduced successfully

To make matters worse, this is Wellington and we have single transferable vote so if there’s someone you truly dislike you have to rank everyone else ahead of them to give them the least chance to be elected. And there are just so many people to dislike, and for such a beautiful rainbow of reasons.

This time last year for instance, just as councillor Nicola Young signalled her intentions to run for mayor by attempting to con the city into thinking the Kate Sheppard lights were in trouble and she was the one to save them, I thought I would be campaigning fairly hard for people to write her last. But I didn’t know about Jo Coughlan yet. (On whom more in a minute.) Later one of my local ward’s two putative left-wing candidates, the indomitable Paul Eagle, referred to cycling advocates as ‘the Mayor’s Gestapo’.

I should probably be less proud of this artful piece of ironic juxtaposition

But between the New Zealand First candidate and the ‘red/green independent’ who also thinks cycleways are for ripping up and the candidate whose profile is a jumble of words, I don’t honestly know how far down I can push the guy. You see my problem.

I’m working up to the part where I show you lots of pictures of candidate billboards, which as you know by now is a passion of mine. But I do it with a heavy heart, for the choice is so depressingly drab. And it is drab for the same reasons why voting is hard: nobody is saying what they are going to do or what voting is even for. Everything everyone is content to do is remind us what they look like and what their name is. Possibly none more so than the aforementioned Paul Eagle, who in my suburb by now has greater name recognition than Jesus.

Another artful shot meant to represent the ubiquity of Mr Eagle in South Wellington
However, there is one exception, and that exception is also the most terrifying candidate: Jo Coughlan, aka the crazy car lady, who has manically staked her campaign on the subject of roads. And innumeracy. Four lanes to the planes!, she intones.

But Jo, surely four lanes to the planes means another four lanes from the planes, for a total of eight lanes, and I’m pretty sure it’s double what you are actually proposing.

No matter. Toot for a second tunnel! She goes on to implore.

But Jo, there already is a second tunnel, the one for the buses. Truly I hope this woman is better at getting the money for all these works from her brother in law – whom you might know as our finance minister – than she is at counting pieces of road infrastructure. Her other billboards also display a toddler-like love of cars, and if you’re willing to overlook the fact that Wellington needs more roads roughly as much as it needs to be at greater risk of tsunamis, she may just be your candidate. She clearly has the most coherent visual campaign.

(And yes, I’m still placing her last. Below even Young. Fuck getting more roads.)

Now, for (some) of the other billboards. The choice is so poor that I’m using specimens I collected elsewhere in the North Island during a family trip last week. I’m that desperate.

A modest classic reminds us of that great Stephen Colbert line: ‘In this show you’ll hear your voice, in the form of my voice.’

And who would be proud to be called ‘Swampy’?
Helene Ritchie’s great experience (in a debate she actually uttered the words ‘if you had listened to my wisdom…’) didn’t stop her from wanting to show us her stupid car for some reason.

There are barely any Young billboards around and she seems to have had them designed by a child. The central plank to her campaign is to say no to $300 million. We don’t want your stinking money!

While Nick Leggett’s hoardings get knocked down so often someone in his camp had the genius idea of attaching a second, smaller one to one of the posts of the main one. I hope this person is getting a promotion.

A supporter of DHB candidate Stan Litras also resorted to creative placement.

I’m a doctor and I can help with your neck problem

I’m only showing you Mazz Scannell because her candidate profile has the highest ratio of platitudes per word of any candidate profile in this year’s election. Which I guarantee you is no mean feat. The short text includes the tantalising phrase 'Lambton Ward has been my home for more than 38 years'. How many years is that then? 39? 40? One thousand? Is Mazz Scannell the Highlander?

Also: ‘Mazz’? White people have such weird names.
There are always candidates who make less than judicious use of quotation marks.

It “does”, does it Jenny?

But secretly plotting to promote Hastings?
Just as there are always candidates who mention three things and three things only.

Communication. Accountability. Excellence.

Vision. Direction. Passion.

Respect. Honesty. Integrity.

Experienced. Committed. Gets things done.

Mayor. Trewavas. Taupo. Wait… what?

Is there a whiter name than Tom Belford?

Yes there is: it’s Rex Graham.

And together with Chris Barker, they form the scariest triumvirate of 2016.

Although for sheer chills nobody beats Guru for Mayor.

I don’t know anything about this guy, and furthermore I don’t want to know anything about him. I photographed this billboard outside the charming ‘Abortion stops a beating heart’ headquarters outside of Paraparaumu, and I’m happy to leave it at that.

There is always someone who brings the weird and no, it isn’t the Tokoroa mayoral hopeful and Victoria Wood fan who wants to get freaky with his electorate.

It’s the Hastings District Council candidate who brought a sleigh and a train of reindeer into the proceedings.

If anyone knows why, please get in touch through the usual means.

Update. David Ritchie reports: "Kevin Watkins is "the Father Christmas man" in his candidate statement who brings "SANTA" to the streets like it's an acronym."

Barnaby Bennett supplies this picture of a billboard in Whangarei erected as a joke on behalf of a guy who isn't running by his friends, who misspelled his name. Oh, New Zealand.

Finally, Grant Buist chimes in with hoardings from Otaki which were vandalised with the addition of googly eyes - and nobody bothered to remove them.

And who could say no to "accountable commonsense"? They did it to Guru, too. He still scares me. 

The deadline for posting your ballot has expired, but you have until Saturday at noon if you march to the council building or wherever it is things are happening in your town. Check your papers.  
And fuck getting more roads.

PS: I have written a thing for Overland on the unmasking of Elena Ferrante and I'm rather keen for you to read it so head on over.