Theater of Cruelty

A female role model

New Year, New possibilities. About 17 years ago, British Charlotte Horton left her home country and went to Italy, where she has spent time rebuilding Potentino Castle. We talk about ecological life and local traditions, but also about democracy and micropolitics.


It is not uncommon for Ny Tid to visit beautiful castles in Italy, so why interview – with a camera – the woman who has restored the Tuscan castle Castella di Potentino?

We sit in her private castle wing with a huge stone floor under the roof five meters above us – with a giant dog's growing snoring sound on the sofa next door. I try to understand what made British Charlotte Horton go about rebuilding what was a complete ruin for 17 years ago, rather than continuing her life in modern London. She had worked in Vogue Magazine and Warburg Publishing House – in other words, she was well established in London cultural life.

She explains this with her background as a traveling journalist. Horton bought the 3000 year-old castle remains by persuading the 20 families who made up the heirs: "Nobody understood what I was doing, especially as a woman, so they couldn't stop me."

Horton wanted to create a winery: “I had already won wine production awards. There are many women with creativity and energy behind wine making, but only up to a certain level – above this the men sit and control everything. There must have been a woman behind the wine then the wine god Bacchus drank? Many people seem to think that being a strong woman is a modern idea. And unfortunately, too many women are preoccupied with getting married. It's something both Meryl Streep and I have had enough of. "

Now, at least with a number of other people's help, Horton has re-established Potentino with up to 100-year-old vines, and thriving 1000-year-old olive trees if you look around. They have found documentation of the castle dating back to 1042, and believe it was also Etruscan before our time. The castle has exchanged owners between upper class families such as Tolomei, Bonsignori and Salimbeni, the house in the late 1500th century a charity center and was purchased by a German in 1906. By strolling around through the centuries here, one is filled with a certain local reverence for what nature is provides. As the castle owner says: “Man has always been able to feed, wine has been in the Mediterranean culture for a long time. They have had the oil from the olive trees for 4-5000 years here. "

Liberal family. Horton grew up in London among liberal-minded people, and traveled the world learning, as she puts it, cultural differences. With her cultural-aristocratic and free-spirited family background, she is critical of today's entertaining media reality, and recalls a time when “one would still ask: 'What do you think? Let's have a discussion about it! '"She describes today's democratic decline:" Democracy requires that people be educated, otherwise they cannot vote or be able to make their own decisions. In today's political atmosphere, in many countries it is not a matter of providing the people with education or health care, and the population ends up sick and ignorant. They are manipulated into voting in a simulated democracy. With today's mass media, saliva licking and irrational behavior, we have almost no real political debate. "

Potentino has a number of cultural events and welcomes overnight guests. Horton's half-brother Alexander Greene worked in publishing before becoming a full-time administrator at the castle. Their father / stepmother Graham Greene was a liberal intellectual publisher and chairman of the board of the British Museum. So here are fireplace rooms with paintings and books for immersion. I myself often spent a week sitting in the Greene family's huge library on Potentino. Horton adds: "I have had tremendous inspiration from books. Especially my interest in how people can be led to believe in things – the way religious and legal structures have regulated society. Or how religion moved into the political, and the transition when the magical eventually became science. My travel business also consisted of looking for old thought patterns that have gradually disappeared. "

Julian Assange. Horton says the extended family includes Vaughan Smith. He is known to have protected Julian Assange for a long time Frontline Club in London, the journalist club as the former war reporter started with Charlotte's brother. Assange was also hidden on Smith's organic farm: “I think my cousin thinks the same way I do when we ask questions. But I would probably think that neither Assange nor Edward Snowden are fully aware of what game or political situation they are embroiled in. A game where both the authorities and the critics of power are politically manipulative. ”

I respond and ask Horton if she really thinks Snowden and Assange were ruled by dishonest intentions. "Just look back at the Cold War and the human egos of the spy world. It is also easy to manipulate individuals into a way of acting and thinking. They may think they are doing something important when revealing international secret operations. Weak and possibly self-absorbed souls are easily manipulated. ”

How much does Horton really know about this? A rumor about her father, the journalist, states that he was a spy, which she at least does not deny when I ask. At the same time, with Assange's focus on artificial intelligence and big data, she is quite afraid of extensive monitoring: "What scares now are the new algorithms and what they can be used for."

The long table. Every night at the castle, the classic long table is set for a joint dinner with around 16 at the table. These British aristocrats master – of course – both irony and lively discussion with the guests around the table. And the woman with the white ghost hair on the table end's place of honor – after all the years at the castle – is their mother Sally (former ballerina and photographer). But she probably does not quite know where she is anymore, as age has mentally taken her. I did not quite know where to go, when she suddenly got up during dessert and offered to dance…

I ask Horton, after her lunch with The United States' last ambassador in Italy this week, about her views on the United States. "The country is built on lies, it is the most dishonest nation in the world. I am thinking in particular of the treatment of the indigenous people – they stole their country. These deep, dark, rotten roots characterize America's behavior elsewhere in the world. Traditional colonialism at least added new structure to the colonies, while the United States only murders and steals. "

Did Horton and her brother Alexander choose to withdraw completely from modern globalized life?

So chaos. I can't muster, and ask if she could discuss this with the ambassador on a visit: "No, he was too busy telling me how horrified he was about Trump, so I didn't get the chance." The ambassador was deployed by Obama, so no longer in work – and, according to Horton, "a very interesting man, very liberal, the kind of American one would still like to be in power".

Normally, half the dinner table is filled by volunteers from around the world, as the castle has a number of programs for the education of young people. They come for a few weeks and learn about wine, cheese and other organic cooking. Here, work is done outside along the vines and around the wine barrels. Horton has received close to 4000 volunteers in its lush Italian oasis: "Every year we have 2-300 young people here who learn a lot." I ask if she accepts refugees. "There are a number of refugees in the area, but we mostly accept middle-class young people from the West. It is difficult to mix these with people from a very difficult situation, such as from Syria. I do not know if our training here would be good for refugees. The middle class comes here to learn presence and ecology, which is foreign to many people from the third world. "

Ecology and food. So what does the ecology that Horton promotes here consist of in these beautiful surroundings? "Italy gave the area a degree of local independence in the 1980s. The local Italians were preoccupied with the sensual, they planted their own things. Many people grew their own food, their vegetables, they made their olive oil and cheese and slaughtered their own animals for use in different types of sausage. They knew that a certain type of grass the sheep grazed on gave the cheese its own taste. " I'm smiling. «Do not underestimate the importance of being able to feel differences in taste! This ability helps you to distinguish good and bad quality. People who only use the supermarket become distant consumers. The consumer culture destroys people's intelligence. Practicing the taste is important for the brain! ”

I show myself a little incomprehensible, as I as a city child have never experienced slaughter or winemaking. "You know, when you leave your mother's womb, one of your first experiences is breast milk! You learn with your mouth to distinguish between what is good and bad nutrition – these are your first assessments. The more we practice taste, the better we can live our lives. Unfortunately, mass-produced food creates a homogenized and mass-produced culture. For me, cultivation means both cultivating agriculture and working with poetry. Shopping malls and industrialized agriculture instead create alienation and stupidity – driven by someone making money from it. It is about regaining a mental state, balance, the ability to use one's intelligence. The senses have something metaphysical or philosophical about them. If you are aware of what you eat from the environment, you feel better – because we are many who react to chemical additives that are not good for us. Unfortunately, people in the modern world do not necessarily eat nutritious food – the body no longer knows when it has had enough, but instead says 'I need food, I need food.' I see people having an addiction-driven eating, where you really feel unhappy – rather than good food that makes you happy. "

Note that many so-called hipsters prefer 'natural wine' to save the world. 

Horton's ecological thinking is emphasized by her fixed gaze, a clear commitment: “Gene manipulation creates overproduction, which destroys the soil. I mean companies that Monsanto in the future may be sued for genocide because they destroy entire ecosystems. Traditionally, the people here in Italy lived in a symbiotically responsible relationship with one another. The surroundings gave way to life. Today, such environments are being abandoned and shopping malls are taking over. ”

Even in the reconstruction of the castle, Horton has used recycled and natural traditional materials – terracotta, peperino (local volcanic stone), chestnut trees and color pigments from the earth. Here they have built with old wood, old screws and rusty hinges, and also used cobwebs, year-round paint and antiquarian rugs to keep a patina.

Withdrawal and democracy. As I myself do not exactly live in the country, but am urban and would rather travel to Europe's big cities than to rural areas, I dig a little more into this retreat to Potentino Castle. Did Horton and her brother choose to withdraw completely from modern globalized life? "No, I am very aware of everything that is going on in the world. I am active, and also speak at international conferences on food and organic life practice. We travel around and tell about our commitment – such as in Oslo, New York, London and Tokyo. At the Tokyo conference, I gave a talk on the importance of the local place. We are proactive. Our training of volunteers is also a world commitment. I also develop a close relationship with the young people to make them understand the importance of closeness to earth and life. It's not about bringing food to people, but people returning to food. "

I'm somewhat inspired by that eco-anarchist, which is known for withdrawal from the consumer society rush. I ask Horton more about her political foundations: "I'm not really attached to political parties or opinions. Politics is probably not the answer, but possibly not micro politics. I think of ruralism as an old idea of ​​how people survived in the past. But note that many so-called hipsters prefer 'natural wine' to save the world. The problem is that they have no idea how the wine is made, they don't know the plants or the soil. The wine I make here is quite sophisticated and wins awards. I myself have learned from the locals how they have always produced the wine – natural wine is nothing new. "I push something about the importance of the local, and Horton continues:" I prefer microliv – how you, as an individual, consciously choose to live. It does not have to be what we do here, but to value local skills and crafts. Interestingly, we have literature students here, with parents who were sheep farmers, who are now learning sheep farming from us. ”

To several questions about the political, the anarchist, Horton answers: "I have read a lot about anarchism and the development of social regulations – all the way back to antiquity and the writing of the first laws. Anarchism is interesting, but it can only exist with certain structures. A good society would allow people to be anarchists – in the sense of not being part of the normal and normalizing society. The original idea of ​​democracy is to allow disagreement, to actually support people with other opinions, which deviate from the usual and ordinary. Today's democracies do not necessarily support real criticism – now many plutocracies and oligarchies have power. Freedom developed
read the opposite best where it exists nok, – enough to share, enough food; where things work, where people can live together without having to compete all the time. Democracy grew around the Mediterranean because living here was easy. ”

Neither Assange nor Edward Snowden are fully aware of what game or political situation they are entangled in.

Community. As I write this text, I think of my previous Ny Tid interview with Johan Galtung in Spain: He was interested in Municipality-ism: Municipalities of 20-30 inhabitants, where people knew each other, created communities, knew where the shoe was pressed. In Horton's world, enough local eco-based communities would revolve around a few hundred. I end our conversation by asking her to describe this community: “Even though we live more like a separate village here – not so much by laws and regulations, but more in balance with the surroundings. That is my vision. Rural movements and small communities only work when people come together. ”

Watch our short film from the interview here, as well

Truls Lie
Truls Liehttp: /
Editor-in-chief in MODERN TIMES. See previous articles by Lie i Le Monde diplomatique (2003–2013) and Morgenbladet (1993-2003) See also part video work by Lie here.

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