Since yesterday, finally, I’ve been in France. Also it’s now also been very cold for two days. In the morning there was a fresh dusting of snow just above the refuge where I stayed last night, near the border with Italy. The little streams were edged with ice in the morning.
A cold morning in the Vanoise
With a rough westerly wind which brought brief rain showers throughout the day, the temperature hardly rose above 10°C in the villages I walked through today. From the Refuge du Carro, near the source of that river, I’ve followed the valley of the river Arc all day down to the village of Lanslevillard-Mont-Cenis, where there is a youth hostel. It’s nice to note that in France, unlike in Italy, they have well-signposted hiking trails in the valley. The trail today led through some very nice villages, most notably Bonneval-sur-Arc; as a very well-preserved historical Savoyard village which has been declared one of France’s most beautiful villages.
A few long-overdue words on the political mission of my trek: the slogan on my stickers is “Love mountains / Hate discrimination. For rights / For everyone”. Let me briefly explain…
“Love mountains” – the Alps are a wonderful part of the world, which is just as much worth visiting as it is worth protecting from further destruction by humans. By now it should be pretty clear that I’m passionate about the mountains.
“Hate discrimination” – like most people I know, I am opposed to racism and other forms of chauvinism, which sadly are still very much present in western European societies. But the point that I want to make goes deeper. For me the European border system and immigration regime in itself is a prime case of discrimination. The fact that privileges here are assigned on the basis of heritage, nationality and – let’s face it: race – is evident. Europe reserves the right to declare you useful or useless, desirable or undesirable, as it wills. That’s discrimination.
“For rights” – rights are one of the primary vehicles of social improvement in our age, basically ever since the Declaration of the Rights of Man. One need only think of the concept of Human Rights which is the basis for many struggles for social change, directly or indirectly. We have many rights, and even if some of them are not claimable or enforceable in practice, the fact that we formally possess them gives us a better chance of getting them. More rights are better. I am concerned here mainly with the right to travel and migrate.
For everyone – the trouble is that in practice people are endowed very differently with rights; in particular the right to travel, migrate and settle. Any European or North American has little (or far less) difficulty moving to another country, even in the Global South, than any citizen of the Global South. I could probably, without too much trouble, take a job in Ghana or open a German restaurant in India – not that I plan to, but I could; with far less difficulty and risk than vice versa. I’m a very internationally mobile person. I’ve been very fortunate.Although I’m on the lucky end of the bargain, I find it fundamentally unfair that I should have these opportunities which to others are denied. To me it is an ethical imperative to work for extending the right of travel and migration to everyone; and at the very least and first where I happen to live, to refugees – that is, people whose most fundamental rights are not respected or protected where they are living.
And that’s why I’m supporting the organisations which I support with this trek, and why the symbolism of freely travelling on foot through these eight countries is so important to me.
Have a very nice day!