Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Babu, the clochard ( homeless) Nepalese cook died last night underneath a Doric column of the Teatro Carlo Felice, Genoa's temple of Culture. This sad story is being repeated all over the World
I am particularly touched by Babu's death because I met him briefly this summer when he used to be the cook for Don Vincenzo Pascale - the Parish Priest of the Church of Saint Joseph the Protector.

Don Vincenzo's non-profit foundation of which I am a contributor, feeds 70 people every day, three times a day. It isn't slop either. They eat pasta, meat with vegetables, salad, fresh fruits, then coffee and/tea.

Babu was ill and his indifference towards his own health was evident even then. He had diabetes, lost the sight of one eye and wore a glass eye after the operation to save his other eye. He never adhered to his diet and became a silen but constant drunk.

After two years of attempting to help him Don Vincenzo said"Babu, it's either AA or the streets."

Babu chose the streets.

Life on the streets is mean and merciless. In Genoa, the Italian Riviera, an unusually frigid winter has come upon the city this year. Volunteers, priests and nuns can be seen around the city's center, distributing woolen blankets, hot meals and tea to the homeless.

Alas! the fur and bejeweled set which pass by Galleria Mazzini every day or who attend the opera or other theatrical performances in Teatro Carlo Felice, which is an integral part of the tony Galleria objected to the presence of huddled Babus, Sonias, Federicos, Mahmouds,Vlads and Sashas.

" Look, these clochard are defacing the clean lines of the entrance to the theater. Their rags ( actually clean blankets) are strewn all over the place. We are risking disease and infections," they angrily told the Carabinieri on their mobile telephones or the police or the Amiu - the public entity responsible for keeping the city clean.

The rich must always be happy. I mean they vote and probably corrupt the political leaders with their money. Who are the homeless? Nobodies. Why! they have no say in anything. They take up space. They are useless eaters. After all, they are still paying top Eurodollars to attend Carlo Felice, unlike the Met in New York which reduced their tickets by a thousand %.

The employees of Amiu no doubt fearing for their jobs, came en masse last night and took all the blankets belonging to the clochard and threw them inside the dumpsters.

The poor and the homeless have a great deal of dignity. You might say nay because some of them supposedly beg. Personally, I have never seen the likes of Babu beg, even if he was an alcoholic and his organism craved for the stuff.

Babu died of hypothermia last night. The companions who slept close to him never knew he was gone until this morning.

We have all said a prayer for Babu in our household. He was a Buddhist and he had accepted his karma. He is in a better place now. Rest in peace at last, Babu.

I have nothing but contemp and disdain for my fellow human beings who pretend not to see and perhaps have innured themselves never to see the misery and the suffering of those who for some reason or another have lost a roof over their heads.

It is our duty to help those have nots. It is not Christian to report them to the police for irritating us by sleeping in our courtyards, galleries and foyers of our palazzi.

Go to them. You don't have to converse with them. That is the last thing they need or wish for. Bring a heavy blanket, a thermos of hot tea, another one of tepid water, some fruits such as bananas, kumquats or leechees which do not need to be peeled with a knife.

That man in rags or tatters could well be Jesus.

It might even be you or one of your loves ones.

Can you ever be sure?

I am not going to wish anyone a Happy New Year. I always thought that phrase was banal and entirely without meaning. I don't believe in Happiness anyway. At least not the way it has been propagandized.

None of us is entitled to Happiness. We must fight for it. First of all inside our souls, then our spirits, and lastly in our hearts and minds.

With those words I wish you a year of Serenity and Grace under pressure in a difficult and challenging 2009 which promises to be anything but "Happy."

May God help us all provided we help ourselves first.


  1. I was technically "homeless" for several months. And the only reason why I was never without a roof over my head, was because I had friends.

    I am an American, a laywer, a member of the Pennsylvania Bar and the Federal Bar, from an upper-middle-class family. And yet, I became de facto "homeless" for a few months in year 2001, after I returned to America from doing politically dangerous work in Russia.

    For a few months in year 2001, I lived (as a recipient of Christian charity) in the rectory of a Catholic Church in the poor, and mostly Black, ghetto of North Philadelphia.

    But I was lucky. I was lucky because I was referred to that Catholic Church by a friend of mine, a Protestant Minister who was a friend of that Church's Priest.

    When I became homeless in year 2001, I was saved from being shelter-less, through the friendship of my friend the Protestant minister who was a friend of the Priest in that Catholic Church in the poor, and mostly African-American, ghetto.

    And I am from an upper-middle-class family, and I can trace my ancestry directly back to King Edward III of England...

    ...and yet I just BARELY escaped sinking into the worst depths of homelessness, only because I had some elite, privileged friends.

    And so, let this be a lesson to all of Isabel's readers, to remind them: "Poverty and homelessness, and all of the humiliations associated with it, CAN happen to YOU (and/or to your grandchildren, or theirs) TOO!"

    And it probably will happen to the children and grandchildren of those who now think they are "rich", because it has ALWAYS happened this way, throughout all history....

    ...throughout all history, NO political or economic dynasty has ever survived intact for more than six generations. This rule of history includes the Hapsburgs, to which my friend Isabel partly belongs.

    And so, I say, that if any of Isabel's presently wealthy readers hope for their decsendants to remain as happy (if at all) as they are today, then, history says that "economics" will NOT keep your posterity happy and secure...

    ...only your, and their, dedication to Christ, will do that. And that too, might fail, but that is the one and only hope that any of you have, against the virtual inevitability of your descendants becoming vulgar slaves, or homeless, just a few generations from now.

    It is 100 percent certain that ALMOST 100 PERCENT of the descendants of all rich people who read this, will be poor virtual slaves around 100 years from now. This is a basic scientific rule of history.

    And submission to Christ, and obedience to Christ's commandment to love AND IDENTIFY WITH the poor, is the only way for you and your posterity to get out of this.

  2. I just want to clarify to all of Isabel's readers, that my above Jeremiad is NOT intended as a LITERAL "prophecy" of what will happen, but more of a metaphorical one.

    The purpose of a "prophecy", at least in ancient Judaism and its successor religions of Christianity and Islam, is NOT to "foretell what WILL happen", but rather to inform and to admonish against what is LIKELY to happen if the status quo continues.

    Charles Dickens was a truthful prophet in this sense, in his "Christmas Carol", in which Scrooge asked the third Spirit (who resembled Saturn, the god of Finality), "Are these the shadows of things that WILL be, or of things that MIGHT be?"

    But then Scrooge's repentance was powerful enough to change the shadows of the future into blessings instead of curses.

    And the Old Testament is very clear about the limits of inherited curses. It says that God's curses extend no farther than the fourth generation, but God's blessings endure through all generations.

    But then on the other hand, Scrooge made it a lot easier on himself, and on his virtual posterity (his de facto nephew Tiny Tim), by repenting while he was still alive and able to do so in this world, instead of wearing chains in the afterlife while Tiny Tim's family grieved over Tiny Tim's easily preventable death.

    As God is perfection, God is never harmed by Man's sins. (The Calvinists and most American Protestants would disagree with me on this, and they are terribly mistaken.) Therefore, whether we repent in this life or after death, does not affect God at all, EXCEPT that God DOES wish for us to suffer less than we do. Therefore, if Scrooge had refused to repent while he was in this world, then Scrooge's main victim would be himself, through denying himself the kind of happiness that God wanted him to enjoy.

    Or to state it another way, in the words of a friend of mine who is a Catholic Priest in a very poor parish, "All is gift."

    God will not be personally affected by whether anyone repents from their greed and their lack of compassion. The only person - in the long run - who benefits from repentance and compassion, is one's self.

    (And now, just to lighten this up a bit, I think my prior sentence, above, would make Oprah Winfrey's head explode, because while she DOES believe in "self-development", she does NOT believe in sin, or in any kind of real compassion. In that sense, she, and legions of Americans who subscribe to Oprah-ism, belong to the religion of the anti-Christ, who speaks half-truths.)


Isabel Van Fechtmann

Create Your Badge