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Terroni-ism in Sicily Today

Terroni-ism in Sicily Today

Tom Verso (September 26, 2014)

Consistent with the theme of this blog (i.e. the Mediterranean heritage of near seventeen million Americans of southern Italian descent), the first sentence in the abstract of a recent article in “Acta Medica Mediterranea – International Journal of Clinical Medicine” is significant. The authors write: “The economic crisis that started in 2008 in many countries of the world, has resulted in the reduction of many jobs in all the regions of Italy, most ESPECIALLY in the Southern part of the Country”(emp.+). /// /// The authors go on to posit statistics that demonstrate significant differences in the effects of the “economic crisis” between the Sicilian population and Italy as a whole, in terms of labor and health. /// /// This blog has relentlessly argued that the people south of Rome and their American progeny are culturally the products of near three-thousand years of Mediterranean culture (e.g. Greeks, Arabs, etc.). Whereas northern Italy’s history and culture is rooted in the post-Roman Empire Eurasian Steppes’ migrations (e.g. Lombards, Franks, etc.) and their corresponding state structures (e.g. Carolingian and Holy Roman Empires). /// /// The historic and contemporary cultural and economic differentiation between northern and southern Italy post-Risorgimento, and the negative consequences for people south of Rome, has been factually documented and eloquently discussed by Pino Aprile in his book “Terroni”. He writes: “The South has been deprived of its institutions; it has been deprived of its industries, its riches and of its people (with an emigration that was induced or forced unlike any other group in Europe).” /// //// Remember, post-Risorgimento Italian Prime Minister Nitti infamously told the people south of Rome: “Brigands or Emigrants”. After the failed 1866 Sicilian brigands revolt, the Sicilians emigrated in mass. Near five million of their progeny reside in America today. /// /// The “Acta” article provides further documentary evidence that contemporary Sicily still suffers the negative consequences of the 1860 conquest and de facto colonization by the ‘Piramuddisi’ (Sicilian pejorative for “Piemontesi”) .


Acta Medica Mediterranea, 2014, 30: 1129
“Effects of the Global Economic and Jobs Crisis on the Health Status of the Italian and Sicilian Populations…”
Maria Gabriella Verso M.D. Researcher and Diego Piccoto M.D. Professor, in the Occupational Medicine Section of the “G. D’Alessandro” Department of Science for Health Promotion, Maternal and Child Health, University of Palermo

The authors are specialist in the field of what’s called in Italy “Occupational Medicine”. So far as I can determine there is no corresponding medical specialty in the U.S. (see for example AMA PHYSICIAN SPECIALTY GROUPS AND CODES 

Also, importantly, the authors should not be associated with the Terroni cultural history theme of this blog article.
Theirs is purely Occupational Medicine. I have only taken selective factural and verifable data from their article as supporting evidence of my Terroni thesis.

In short, Verso and Piccoto are consummate medical research professionals … I’m a kibitzer.


Sicily as a Service Economy
Historically and currently, in Western industrial economies, industrial work provides the best wages and benefits.

For example, in May 2013 the US Department of Labor reported the following annual wage comparison of three labor categories:
(Industrial)       Assemblers and Fabricators …………....     $31,400
(Agricultural) Farming, fishing, and forestry ……........   $24,330
(Service)            Cooks and Food Preparation Workers .... $22,070
(see: “U.S Department of Labor May 2013 Wage Estimates
Currently, Sicily’s industrial labor force lags behind Italy as a whole.

For example, Table 1 (rows 3, 6, 9) below shows the
Difference between Sicily’s industrial employment and Italy as a whole.
 For the years 2001, 2007 and 2011, Sicily’s industrial employment was respectively 13.10%, 10.60% and 11.22% less than the industrial employment in Italy as a whole (see: "Difference" column rows 3, 6, 9)
Indeed, based on the Table 1 numbers, Sicily may reasonably be characterized as a Service Economy. See for example, ‘Sicily’ column, ‘rows’ 2, 5, 8: essentially 75% of Sicily’s workers are employed in the Service Sector.
Table 1 National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT) Employment in Italy and Sicily”
(Verso/ Piccoto p 1131; format modified for present purpose)
Further, if  the above US Labor Department income statistics have generality in western industrial economies, then (i.e. we may infer) workers in Sicily have a significantly lower income than workers in Italy as a whole due to the relatively small industrial sector. 
However, this inference would have to be held in abeyance until verified with Italy income data.
Number Employed
The Differentiation of Sicily’s labor force, from Italy as a whole, can also be seen in the reduction of the “number of persons employed” between the years 2012 and 2013.
Verso/ Piccoto write:
“The latest national data released by ISTAT for the year 2013 show the number employed in Italy 22,420,000, a decrease of 2.09% on an annual basis when compared with 22,899,000 in 2012.
Those employed in Sicily in 2013 were 1,321,000 verses 1,394,000 in 2012, a decrease of 5.24%.” (p.1131)
The same in Table format:
In short, Sicily, on a 'percentage basis', suffered over twice as much a reduction in “number of persons employed” than Italy as a whole between the years 2012 and 2013.
Occupation Rate
Three categories of Occupation Rate show a very significant disadvantage for Sicily.
I. In the category Occupation Rate Ages 15-64, Sicily’s rate is consistently less than Italy as a whole for selected years between 2002 and 2013.
“Table 2 National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT) Employment in Italy and Sicily”  
(Verso/ Piccoto p 1131; format modified for present purpose)
 II.In the category Unemployment Rate Ages 15-64, Sicily’s rate is consistently more than Italy as a whole for selected years between 2002 and 2013.
“Table 2 National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT) Employment in Italy and Sicily”  
(Verso/ Piccoto p 1131; format modified for present purpose)
III. Most tragically, in the youth age category Unemployment rate Age 15-24; Sicilian youth are at a greater disadvantage when compared to Italy as a whole, for selected years between 2002 and 2013. 
“Table 2 National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT) Employment in Italy and Sicily”  
(Verso/ Piccoto p 1131; format modified for present purpose)
Sicily vs. Piedmont
The Verso/Piccoto paper is limited to comparisons of Sicily with Italy as a whole. Clearly, Sicily significantly lags Italy as a whole in terms of the selected variables shown above.
However, the picture for Sicily gets much worse when compared regionally.
For example, the Table below compares Sicily with the Piedmont in terms of Export and Labor variables for the year 2009.
Note especially the "Unemployment Rate" with more than twice as many Sicilians unemployed (on a percentage basis) as Piedmontesi!
(See: See: European Union Working Papers 1/2010, p5,  Table 1 – “Selected indicators on the scale and impact of the economic crisis in Italian regions “.
Doctors Verso and Piccoto developed a large compendium of recession economic statistics which correlated with an increase in occupational medical issues (of which only a couple of economic data points were shown above).
Further, both the economic data and medical data show Sicily at a distinct disadvantage vis-à-vis Italy as a whole.
The relative economic and medical well being of Sicily vis-à-vis Italy as a whole or the northern regions may not be of particular interest to Americans of Sicilian decent; such issues are internal to the Italian people.
However, economics is not only a determinate of medical well being.
Economics is a determinate of culture.
And, the cultural and historic implications of south of Rome economic statistics are important for southern-Italian Americans to understand. 
The character of Sicilian economic statistics in recent years did not just ‘leap from the head of Zeus’  in 2008. Rather, they are a manifestation of political and economic processes that reach back to 1860, and includes the cause of the great southern Italian emigration circa 1880-1920.
For example, Pino Aprile writes,
“ [In 1860] Piedmont was full of debts. The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies was full of money… The impoverishment of the South, in order to increase the wealth of the North, was the reason for the unification of Italy, not the consequences.” (“Terroni” p95)
So it seems, based on the above data, that the “impoverishment” process is still in play!
Again, culture cannot be differentiated from economics.
The people in the dominant economic classes largely determine culture through their control of the ideology distribution institutions (e.g. mass media, education, etc.). For example, the northern dialect became the Italian national language displacing southern languages such as Sicilian. This was accomplised by the people who controlled radio, television, movies, schools, etc.
More generally Aprile writes:
“Through a cultural lobotomy, the South was deprived of its self-awareness; its memory.” (p.8)
"Self-awareness" means 'culture' and  "memory" means 'history'; i.e. the South was derived of is culture and history.

Similarly, Sicilian Americans and other Americans of southern-Italian descent have (are) experienced (-ing) the same “cultural lobotomy”; i.e. deprived of their culture and history. They know nothing about their pre-Ellis Island history and culture.

The same dominant northern Italian culture forces, pervasive in southern Italy since 1860, also dominate southern-Italian Americana. For example, as this blog has repeatedly documented, the
crème de la crème in the American university system and mass media are philo-Piramuddisi!
Accordingly, if a southern-Italian American cultural renaissance is ever going to happen (which I seriously doubt), it must entail knowing Sicily and the Mezzogiorno today as windows to the cultural heritage of our progenitors. 

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Thank you, William.