Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Fruits of a Mafia Culture: Life in Italy Part Two
In the last year our little island, home of the Sacred Bundle of the Four Directions of Unity, is being ponded into submission and poverty. The bad news started in the summer with the opening of the 44 million Euro airport. While Armani and other billionaires and multimillionaires were hosted in air conditioned splendor for the festivities, the local people, the pantesche, stood in the boiling sun surrounded by heavily armed state police. They were not allowed to attend the opening of the airport. In protest, many of the island’s citizens stood in the boiling sun with guns pointed at them in defiance of this absurdity. Inside Armani and the other rich people showed us all which side they are on. Not our side.
A few weeks later we lost one of the only two boats that supply the island with everything we need to survive. Everything. As I write this note, it has been 16 days and counting since any boat has come at all, even the one tired, rusted, slow boat we do have.
In December we have learned that all the taxes are being doubled. Property taxes. Business taxes. Documents fee. My wife’s little company now has to pay over twelve thousand Euro just to keep the doors open. Twenty-Five percent. Suddenly the parents of all the children are told they must pay 100 euro every few months for each child in school or the bus. Each child. That comes to several thousand euro for each family every year. For the school bus.
Unlike in America, where most official forms are free, in Italy there is a double digit fee for any official document…..any document. My marriage license for example cost around 400 dollars.
Armani and his rich friends pay nothing. The rest of us are being piled on relentlessly. Italy has money police. They can show up at any time, stop you on the street, and ask you to prove where you get your money for life…prove you have paid the mafia tribute the state conveniently calls taxes. There are taxes on the food, the clothing, the insurance, the gasoline, every official document, the land, the tires on your automobile, the marriage license and many others.
Gasoline is about 12 dollars a gallon here.
In the last month there were two tragic deaths. In one a man trying to turn his auto around went into the sea and drowned inside his auto. In the other a 5 year old boy had his head blown off when his father’s rifle went off accidentally after a hunting excursion. Seven Carabinieri, the fascist national police, were arrested for brutally beating many citizens over the last several years, including their commander. A priest was arrested for repeatedly abusing sexually young children.
It was not like this when I came here eight years ago. I understand now that Italy is a mafia culture. The mafia is a state of mind. Every agency puts the squeeze on you, has the palm out. Everybody pays. Continuously The idea of the mafia is that you give them a percentage. In Italy, every part of the government from the lowest to the highest gets its taste. This is my first experience with a government that treats its citizens with this level of disrespect. The result is that most people resist the government mafia culture by doing business off the book. The government makes it impossible for a small business to function, so there is no choice really. My partner works a legal business on the books. She ends up working about four months just to pay the government taxes and fees. Four months or more. Just to pay the government fees. It is painful to watch how oppressive this is to the development of a small business.
No bread. For the first time in eight years I have lived here, the bakeries have no flour for bread. Some have run out of flour and so there could be a no bread situation. But those that have flour are sharing with those who do not, so the bakeries remain open. After 11 days with no boat. There are absolutely no eggs anywhere. Fresh food comes in from Sicily, so fresh food is running out. It is not a crises but it is not at all a good development. It looks like the next few seasons at least are going to follow this pattern….downward is the prognosis.
Months ago our “mayor” was removed from office because of his greed, his mafia state of mind, taking bribes to give a young man an important job approving building permits and related issues. Once he was on the job, the mayor become livid when the young man actually wanted to do the job honestly and efficiently, so he was fired. This lead to the investigation which removed him from office. He just barely missed being put into prison.
The guy who is running the island was not elected. He does nothing but sign documents. So we have no voice to yell back to Trapani and Italy about our predicament. We are invisible to Italy. Except the many billionaires and multimillionaires who have vacation homes here. But they have never done anything real for this island. Ever.
Pantelleria is a sweet and loving place. Six thousand or so native born and raised citizens live good and gentle lives here. It is a place of peace and generosity. The power, beauty and grace of nature is spectacular. It is historic and unique in all the world. I love it here. It is a great and unexpected place for the Sacred Pipes of the Four Directions Intertribal Unity Bundle.
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