We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Sunday, March 30. 2014
Reposted from 2012 -
I am studying up as I gradually learn about the places I am scheduled (by my tour planner, Mrs. BD) to visit over the next couple of weeks. I regret that our contributor, Roger de Hauteville, King of Sicily, cannot accompany us because I am sure he would have some good historical reminiscences from the time of his reign.
The Mediterranean world went through some or most of these cultural phases (or empires) which you can mix and match according to location:
Sicily experienced pretty much every bit of that sequence, which is how the Norman Roger de Hauteville became King of Sicily.
Best as I can tell thus far (I have a pile of books I am getting through), Sicily's high point was around 200 BC when it was still a Greek culture (Syracuse was considered the finest city in Magna Graecia), when the Syracusan Archimedes was busy discovering and inventing things in the old Greek way.
It's been downhill for Sicily since the kingdoms were abolished in the 1860s during the unification of Italy as a nation. But never unified, really. The "maffia" filled the power vacuum, and today they basically run the island. (Most people in Sicily speak Sicilian, if not Italian also. "Maffioso" is Sicilian for an entrepreneurial braggart or bully. It has been estimated that 80% of Sicily's businesses pay protection money to the Mafia, and Sicily's main exports are oranges, lemons, population (impossible to build a new biz there due to the mob "tax", so energetic people leave for the US and northern Italy and Europe) - and organized crime.
Despite their Greek history (genetically, Sicilians are a mix of European, Greek, and African), most Europeans to the north (which is all of them) look down on them just as the Romans look down on the Neapolitans, and the Italian Swiss look down on Romans - and even the Tuscans.
It's a lovely island, with around a 5 million population. The rural areas, the active volcanoes, and the well-preserved Greek ruins are the main attractions, and I plan to explore them.
Photo: Mount Etna -
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Henry: "Joe, you are the stupidest guy I've ever met, you got no learning a'tall. Why, you can't even name two islands in the Mediterranean!"
Joe: "Don't be Sicily, of Corsican!"
Be sure to visit Agrigento. The ruins are beautiful. Also, the west coast, near Marsala, absolutely gorgeous. My grandfather was from Castellammare del Golfo, about 35 kilometers west of Palermo. Sicily is one of the up and coming wine producers.
"I went hiking on this Italian volcano with a girl I met."
"Nah, we just hiked."
Racist! I am a Sicilian American and find your remarks quite racist and insulting. You obviously hate Sicilians and it so evident in your racist rankings, so typical of racist WASP New Englanders (as you describe yourself). I have actually visited Sicily many times and found it to be extremely beautiful and lovely populated by fine, intelligent, honest and industrious people. Your statements on the economy, history, social and political aspects are totally false and racist. As for your history lesson on the mafia it is so over-exaggerated and totally false. These are the facts. Sicily, if a nation alone, would be the seventh largest exporter of fine wine in the world. It is the leading producer of sulfur and other minerals in the world. It’s has a thriving agricultural export industry, providing Europe with most of its vegetables, grain and fruits. It also has a large petrochemical industry, amongst others. It was named by a leading British travel group(Conde Nash) as the number one world tourist destination in 2009, beating Hawaii , Tahiti, and the Canary Islands. It has a declining population due to one of the lowest births rates in the world and there are no Sicilians leaving the island anymore. In fact many Sicilian Americans are returning there to live, escaping the racist hated and bigotry of WASP America. The last time I was there, I was shocked at all the immigrants in Sicily! They are flooding in from Eastern Europe, Europe, Asia and Africa. The remark that Sicily is the biggest exporter of organized crime is just another typical racist slur favored by racist American WASP’s.. As for the genetic thing, southern U.S. WASPS have much more “African” genes than Sicilians, thanks to slavery. In Fact one genetic study proved that white English people have more Sub Saharan DNA in their gene pool than Sicilians, As for the “Sicilians are looked down upon” you are totally wrong. I have been there and in the summer it is packed with Northern Europeans who absolutely adore and love Sicily and its people and have great admiration and respect for them and for the Sicilian culture and history. Also they appreciate that Sicily has one of the lowest crime rates in all of Europe. Apparently you are just some pathetic shut-in who only travels are from your computer to the toilet and frig. American Wasp’s, like yourself have to come to terms with your racist hate and bigotry. Racism is a dangerous disease that must be obliterated.
I am Sicilian American, too. While I wouldn't phrase everything the way Mike did, I do have to agree that the extent to which the Mafia is considered to be a part of Sicilian culture is exaggerated by the media, popular culture and Hollywood, and it is an insulting stereotype.
Wifey and I have just returned to Down Under after 10 days in Sicily. Loved the people, hated most of the roads (except for the Autostradas) and found every place we stayed was spotless.
Three essentials: If traveling by car, rent the smallest practicable one, insure the vehicle to reduce your liability to zero
and ensure you have a GPS.
Keep in mind the GPS can get you into trouble as it will often try sending you down impossibly narrow streets, lanes and alleys - programme it for the fastest route, not the shortest.
Umm .... what is the race of Sicilians?
Having spent over a year in Trinacria I can tell you that the Mafia is alive and well and quite influencial in Sicilian society. While I was there they closed the Catania airport for 10 days just to show that they could. Also, when Aetna erupts the inhabitants wander around in the ash for months waiting for the rain to flush it away. Crap, you have to carry your money around your neck to keep from having is stolen. And like most Romans they stick to high heaven. When you step aboard a subway in Rome or into a crowded space in Sicily it smells like you're swimming in puke.
Ah yes, Sicily, the home of crime, filth and corruption.
The wine sucks as do the "famed" blood oranges. And I'm not being facectious.
While the Mafia is highly stereotypical, we all have to accept that stereotypes exist for a reason. As an Irishman, I'm accepting of the concept that my ancestors were drunken, brawling, horse thieves with good senses of humor.
It's worth noting virtually every culture has some form of organized crime. Here in the US, the Westies (Irishmen) were famous for their impact on NYC crime. It's also worth noting men like Arnold Rothstein, Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel played a role in the growth of organized crime - hardly an Italian/Sicilian niche.
That all said, I find it amusing there are still many people who don't recognize the reason organized crime exists. It fills the gaps that people perceive exist in communities. Which is why government supposedly came into being.
So, essentially, government is a legalized form of crime because...we vote for the people who commit crimes against us. Which makes it OK.
N'Dragheta, Mafia, whatever they called it, arose with the decline of the Roman Empire. The tax collectors (the original middle class) would be given an amount to send back each year, but they got to set the level of collection, and kept the difference as their 'fee'. As Rome collapsed, the tax collectors just stopped sending the fees back to Rome. So it's no surprise mobsters call their fees 'taxes'.
It's also no surprise government, recognizing organized crime as a competitor, likes taking down the mobsters. It's just another example of business competition, but one side gets to claim 'legitimacy'. In The Godfather, Michael Corleone recognized this when Kay says to him politicians didn't have people killed. Michael, having come home a war hero, simply said "Who is being naive now, Kay?"
I happened to watch the saga this weekend, and as much as some may be upset about how this stereotyped Italians or Sicilians in the US, these same people have to recognize and be proud of the cultural additions these films made to society. So much of our business culture has learned valuable lessons from these films.
I noted what great leaders Michael Corleone and his father were. They maintained a cool composure. They were generous, and loyal. They thought through their problems, rather than attacking them in a headstrong fashion. Santino's death was a perfect contrast of styles, showing how being too much of a thug can undermine the business and lead to an undesirable outcome. In many ways, it is a great film for learning management.
Except for all the murder that took place.