A hard sell

In a wonderful piece for the LRB, Tim Parks retraces the steps of Garibaldi as he fled Rome in 1849 during the long wars for Italian unification.

(Garibaldi, nor the many wars of national liberation in which he made his name, is not as well known outside Europe [or even Italy] as he should be. I highly recommend even a cursory look through his wikipedia page.)

Garibaldi was an enemy of the Church, the reactionary force that stood in the way of Italian unification and exerted enormous control over the Italian peasantry. Tim recounts that:

In all his years of campaigning for a united Italy, Garibaldi later reflected, not a single peasant volunteered to fight with him.

At a time when nationalism is ascendant, and claims legitimacy by championing the long ignored lower rungs of society, a world where nationalistic appeals fall deaf on the ears of the downtrodden comes as a shock. Perspective is everything.