Saturday 27th december 2008

By Raffaella Di Marzio


This fragment is dedicated to Martini, pseudonym of Simonetta Po.

An important piece of history is related to Martini, not the history written in the books and in the encyclopaedias, but the one important for common people like me and Martini, indeed. Those interested in knowing more about Martini and her activities can read the FAQ of Allarme Scientology.

The first time me and Simonetta "talked" was by email. It was the 1998 and I managed, together with my husband Alberto who realized it, the Web Site of the GRIS of Rome. Now and then we received requests for information and help also by email, a tool not so used then.

I would NEVER have forgotten the email of Harry and Martini (who managed together the WebSite of Allarme Scientology) because it signed the beginning of a cooperation which ended soon in the case of Harry, but surely not in the case of Martini who continued, impassive, her work of critical information on Scientology until today.

The two webmasters of Allarme discovered our website, which at the time was surely the most updated and specialized in the field, they understood that we pursued similar goals and they asked us some information before taking several initiatives of information on the Web.

Some times later, when I could know Simonetta personally, I realized that we were very different, especially in our ideas (I am catholic, she’s truly not). Notwithstanding we had a common desire: to do something to avoid that other people got trapped by cults and deceitful gurus, a thing we both experienced in different ways.

Simonetta chose to spread critical information on Scientology by herself, I decided that, further than informing, I would have tried to give help and assistance to those asking for it, because the association I was part of was involved also in this activity.

I remember with pleasure the first international meeting I attended together with Simonetta: the 1998 Turin Meeting of CESNUR. We went right to the "enemy’s house" (so the CESNUR is perceived in our world) to discover its weak points and, maybe if possible, to “disturb” a little.

It was really an important experience for both of us because, beyond our intentions, it was an occasion to know and open towards environments and positions different from ours. We didn’t share them, on the contrary we condemned them because we were sure that they harmed our "mission". Anyway, it was a way to know better our enemy and when you look your "enemy" in the eyes, he becomes less enemy and more "human".

At that time I didn’t realized all of this, it was only the first step, and it would have taken years to be able to look back at that experience with a more close and deep look.

Me and Simonetta talked a lot in those days: she told me that, despite I was catholic, she could find some points of contact with me on another level, the one of values. She told me she believed to see something she defined "intellectual honesty", preventing me from being hypocrite and, in her opinion, she never found this before in people self defining as "catholic". Usually those belonging to a religion strive to defend it and cannot see the Gospel’s "beam" in their eyes, while they see pretty well the straw in the others’ eyes. That was not my case and Simonetta seemed to appreciate it.

As for me, I was stricken by her self-devotion and respect for the reason, the "cult" for reasonableness and freedom of thought, the intolerance for any form of imposition, the will to learn and enlarge her cultural horizons. But all this couldn’t raise any affinity between two persons so different as we are, were we not united by another feature: the attitude to evaluate people not for their ideas but for what they are and for their actions.

I never hardly thought to "convert" her and she never looked at me with commiseration or contempt for my faith. So we met on human values and we appreciated each other for what we were, without thinking to make the other change.

I remember that, when I started my cooperation with CESNUR for the Encyclopaedia of Religions in Italy in 2000, I asked for suggestions to the president of GRIS, the association I belonged to, who encouraged me to participate to the project. When I talked about it with Simonetta she said it was good that someone of the opposite "fence" gave a contribution to the first work of the kind in Italy.

After that, I always kept her informed about how the works were going on, the problems I met in cooperating to a work which, by its nature, didn’t contemplate any "value judgment" on the several groups assessed. It’s been a very important experience and Simonetta is one of the very few persons I shared uncertainties, doubts, perplexities and successes with.

Simonetta was with me not only on the occasion of the first international meeting I attended in Turin, but also on the occasion of another equally important meeting: the one at the London School of Economics in 2001, where I celebrated my birthday at the table with the internationally best known (and criticized in the anti-cults context) scholars. That time too Martini (incognito) was there to share with me a special moment. The photo you see in this fragment was taken in London, during that meeting.

The third marvellous memory is that of the day we spent together with the lamented Maurizio Antonello, a special man I knew personally thanks to Simonetta and with which I shared for some time a beautiful mailing. We also exchanged some archives material.

Maurizio was an outstanding archivist, as well as a valuable professional, so we went to him to visit his library. On that occasion I asked Maurizio to help me to piece together the history of a couple of groups whose file I wrote for the Encyclopaedia: he knew these groups better than me as he had news aging to their birth. He was happy to cooperate and he was also quite pride that some documents in is library were not present in the one of CESNUR. As for me, I knew from Maurizio that he had not some files and publications of other groups that, instead, I had. So, as soon as I was back in Rome, I sent to him a pack with several books and reviews. He was happy for that: it was like he received a treasury!

But all of this didn’t last much: one day Maurizio told me the association he was part of didn’t appreciate him to have contacts with me: an exponent of the anti-cult world, obviously, didn’t have to write or share files with those (like me) cooperating with the CESNUR (a group of "very bad" Turiners "defending the cults"). So our mailing was suddenly interrupted, but I know that Maurizio was disappointed for that as he said it several times, in the following months, to one of his friends he usually phoned to. [With reference to this detail one person from ARIS, the Association founded by Antonello, in a comment to this fragment in Italian specifices that there is another version of Maurizio's denial to continue our cooperation and that such version, which I dont' know , can be communicated only privately].

Such beautiful memories ties me to Martini, and much more: knowing people, appreciating any good thing they have to say, doing different experiences, contending if needed but not precluding any road and always searching the dialogue.

Ten years after the first virtual meeting, we both changed due to the experiences, positive and negative, the illusions and the disillusions. In the last years we heard each other less than before, even if none of us stopped to bring on her commitment. But anytime a situation needs it, Martini’s back in her more appropriate guise: a paladin of freedom of thought and expression. It’s not a case that she’s been the first one who publicly shown sympathy when my web portal (SRS) was obscured. It was a long time we were not in touch, but it’s been as the time wasn’t passed.

The year 2008 has been a difficult year for both of us, but not due to "cults". If I think about it, we have this too in common: our presumed "enemies" indeed didn’t cause us so many problems as our "friends". A fact well described by the famous saying:

From my friends let’s God protect me, so that I will protect me by myself from my enemies!

So Simonetta was harshly attacked and slandered (just like me) on some forums and newsgroups by persons operating in the "anti-cult" world, which is her world. For this people and for associations like ARIS, Simonetta proved available in several ways, mainly as translator. But what was Martini’s serious mistake, which attracted on her such a hard fierceness? To have expressed sympathy to me, after the obscuration of the SRS Portal, on Allarme Scientology and some newsgroups. Since than and for months, some persons (one or two, maybe three, under multiple nicknames) still fully active diffused on some newsgroups trash-messages, which would not have caused any reaction in Martini, long used to this kind of "wars", was not that a certain point some "real" persons qualifying with name and surname, members and speakers of ARIS, openly and publicly approved the ones spreading trash on Martini with full hands on the web. In front of such "boldness", Martini did the right thing. Those interested in knowing what, can learn it from her own words, whose conclusion I quote because it perfectly applies also to the obscuration of my website, whose genesis today is clear:

It’s worth to highlight that this site does not "fall under the blows " of the feared Church of Scientology, which saved no effort in this sense, but under the blows – and the missed protection – of part of the so called Italian "anti-cult movement" boasting of doing information and protecting and helping the victims of several cult movements.

To conclude I could say that, in the end, in Italy the "cults" have nothing to fear.
The Italian anti-cult world tends to eliminate slowly and ineluctably its most able and brilliant members, operates legal vexations against its own members, creates internal fights absorbing a lot of time and money, dabbles in silencing any minimal disagreement, excluding the "mavericks" and slandering the next unlucky one (today to me, tomorrow to you). On the whole: real behaviours of destructive "intolerance" not only towards the "enemy" (the cults) but also towards the friends, those on the same fence.

Looking the phenomenon with detachment (difficult, but one can try) I can’t avoid thinking to the tens of studies promoted by sociologists and psychologists, which proved without doubts that the intolerant attitude is highly correlated with the ignorance or the poor culture.

The moral of the story: to be ostracized by these people begins to be a sort of "reference", a further score, were there contests for titles in this strange world.

Absorbed in these frantic activity, the Italian anti-cult movement has no time and resources left to deal about the "cults".

Let’s simply hope that the thing is not known roundabout: if the worst and more enterprising “gurus” abroad were to know it, they would move to Italy!

So, beware:



1 commento:

Fabia ha detto...

I leave my coment here as in italian I did.
My question today is, how far some persons think they will go on keeping one method, one way, one mind ?
As I lived in Switzerland, I learned from this country and at scool, that respect o differences are a right for anyone, as writting and thinking.