Imagine There’s No Countries . . .

Considering the Possibility and Practice of Global Citizenship

“Italy: Taking on the Mafia”

Posted by jonthepackardman on February 4, 2009

As I sat in Professor Klunk’s class today, I was excited about the Frontline World site, which has news stories from around the globe. I was pleasantly surprised to find something about Italy, so I went and watched the story. I have known about the mafia’s presence in Sicily for such a long time, however, I was never aware of how the mafiosi use their power to keep Sicilians, citizens of Palermo in particular, living in oppressive circumstances.

The video detailed the lives of several business owners who had been approached to pay a pizzo – a sort of fee for the mafia to look after your business establishment in order to be sure that nothing happened to it (the only threat actually being the mafia trashing your business in order to make you pay). The history of Palermo was detailed over the last twenty years, starting with the tale of a business owner who stood up to the mafia, and in the end, was made an example of. He was shot for publicly disobeying the wishes of la Cosa Nostra (which literally translates to “our thing”, or “this thing of ours”), the term used for the mafia as a whole. He had written to the local paper (and was published!) publicly accusing the mafia and telling them how shameful their practices were, in addition to urging business owners to stand up to them.

Now you may be asking yourself, ‘this all well and good, Jon, but what does this have to do with the topic of global citizenship?’ Well, let me tell you! The newest generation of would-be business owners is tired of the oppression and does not want to be kept in economic hardship and underdevelopment because of the mafia. They have led a countermovement of sorts, and much like the “Free Trade” label, have adopted the “Addio Pizzo” label, given to any business owner who refuses to pay the mafia. Consumers (Sicilians in Palermo in particular) are urged to avoid shops that do not have the label, and support for the cause of breaking the mafia’s back is now widespread.

Most of us, or at least myself, have the tendency to look at Italy as being democratic, and generally free of humanitarian issues. However, this is not the case. Even in such a country as Italy, there is a humanitarian crisis. People are living in fear of the mafia – which is why the custom of paying the pizzo has lasted for so long (centuries), people are afraid to own businesses, and people are afraid to turn to the police, or even publicly speak of “our thing” because they don’t know who they can trust! The mafia has a saying: “We have people everywhere”.

It should also be noted that people were in awe and bewilderment of the fact that one businessowner actually took the stand and pointed out a mafiosi, leading to the arrest of hundreds of his cohorts. Such a thing is unheard of, and the man that did so is now seen as a hero. Yes my friends, Italians residing in mafia-run cities are living in oppression and underdevelopment, but with the help of the Italian police force – the Carabinieri, the tide is changing. How can you help? If you buy from Italy, Sicily in particular, buy from the companies participating in the Addio Pizzo pact, don’t let your dollars go to support la Cosa Nostra.

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One Response to ““Italy: Taking on the Mafia””

  1. clark128 said

    An interesting video, Jon. You know, not only do I feel that this applies to the country of Italy, but perhaps organized crime all over the world. The “Pizzo” is a tried and true method used by just about every gang and criminal organization. If more people were willing to refuse compliance with organized crime and their taxes then it would indeed break there backs. Really, this teaches a valuable lesson.

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