Lazzaretti was born in 1834 in a remote part of Tuscany. He was a carter by trade and served as a volunteer in the national army in 1860. In 1868 he began a career as a religious visionary, retiring to a cave from which he emerged periodically to prophesy about the coming of a new order of which he was messiah. He attracted an extensive following which alarmed the local authorities and in 1878 he was shot dead by the Carabinieri* as he came down from his mountain to proclaim the establishment of the republic of God.”


Crehan, K. (2002). Gramsci, Culture and Anthropology. University of California Press: Los Angeles. p. 120.





Did this potted biography of an Italian having religious visions in a cave up in the mountains and subsequently gathering a large following remind you of anyone, Gentle Reader? Anyone, from your religious instruction books from back when you were in school, in Iran? BIG HINT: the mountains I am reminded of were not in Tuscany, but in dry Arabian deserts. Arabiaaaaann niiiiights….. and araaaabiiian days…..  (sing this in your mind to the opening song of Aladdin)




Anyway, when I read that poor Lazzaretti was shot when he came down from his cave in the mountain to preach the word of god, my reaction was very different from Dr. Crehan. While Dr. Crehan spent several pages analysing Lazzaretti’s assassination, and analysing Gramsci’s analysis of Lazzaretti’s assassination (that’s what social science academics do, mostly. Somebody does something somewhere, sometime, and we get to talk on and on and on about it)- something to do with him being rebel intellectual peasant and how the establishment couldn’t tolerate that blah blah blah, all I could muster was a sad smirk. A small, unintellectual part of my mind whispered “good job, Italian carabinieri, for shooting that poor bastard.”

A sad smirk. If those Arabian tribesmen of thirteen thousand years had had the good sense to shoot someone when he came down from his cave to proclaim his vision, would we have been living different lives now? Would we be living together, untorn apart? What kind of a place would Iran have become?




*(a kind of Italian non-police, which are not the actual police, but still run by the state, more or less, like the Basij I suppose in Iran)






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