Calabria's Economic Situation
by Armand De Filippo
A very thought-provoking look at the economic situation of Calabria and how things may not actually be as they appear on the surface.
The three Calabrias (traditionally defined) need help economically. The economic situation, especially in reference to unemployment, on the present course of continued neglect of the region on the part of the Italian government, can in a matter of a few years become disastrous.
A few who have recently traveled to Calabria cite new advances and progress in the villages, especially, such as indoor plumbing in private dwellings, better highways; everybody seems to be eating well, no signs of abject poverty, etc. This is true. But this a surface appearance of well-being that is underlain by a substructure of economic instability, poor growth, and the continuance of attitudes on the part of the government and business to the north of Italy that are at best "benevolent" to those poor "africani" (as we are disparagingly called by them in private, not in public) residing in that largely mountainous terrain. There is no genuine concern, private and governmental, with the establishment of business within Calabria, by Calabrians, and for Calabrians. The north is content to look down on the region, shake its collective head, and say, "Well, we'll establish a little business there where possible -- poveri africani che non sanno far niente da se stessi" -- thereby, controlling the poor economic conditions, as has been the case for untold number of centuries of virtual slavery to absentee landlordism and similar socio-economic institutions imposed on the region. These non-Calabrian businesses reap (in some cases, rape?) profits, ship them to the north, and leave little of the gain in the hands of the people (some government and Mafia figures notwithstanding).
Calabria presently survives (and some people mistakenly think"thrives") not only on this benevolence, but also on a kind of welfare system that is comprised of not only government assistance, but also by the private assistance of the many people (especially the young) who have to leave the region if they are to make anything of themselves and who send large amounts of monies from the north (Italy and beyond, esp. Germany) where they struggle to work under discriminatory conditions -- that is, send back home monies to support the rest of the members of the family. So widespread is this pattern that it amounts to an unstructured private system of welfare.
None of these "benevolent" patterns of assistance to the region provides any kind of basis for home-grown, grass-roots self-sufficiency and economic well- being. These patterns have created a surface illusion that "all's well." It is not in the least. It is not only keeping Calabrians in economic thralldom to others outside the region, it continues to erode the substructure of any semblance of stability; and one of these years and not too far in the future, if it keeps on going like this, it is bound to collapse causing more misery than the sum of terrible earthquakes that have shaken the region since Greek colonial times over 2,500 years ago.
Exaggerated, overstated appreciation of the situation? Perhaps, but really not all that far off the potential mark in the minds of many thoughtful, educated Calabrians, especially of the more urban areas. The young people are worried and, in many cases, sick to have to leave the home territory to try to make a go of it in life.
I say don't be fooled by present-day appearances of well-being. The underlying realities are shaky in the extreme. If the Calabresi who moved to the New World since the end of last century really want to help: don't expand this system of "dole"; rather help to create a climate conducive to the creation of business, ultimately owned and managed by Italian Calabresi themselves (not necessarily owned and run by American, Argentinian, etc. citizens of Calabrian ancestry). Yes, start these businesses with American venture capital, but have it in mind to eventually turn them over to Calabresi living on Calabrian soil. In the best of all possible worlds of assistance, Calabresi will thrive and reinvest their own monies into the economic growth of the region. They will not have to depend on: the dole of the Italian government; the dole of relatives sending monies from the north; the dole of businesses owned and operated by non-Calabrians from other regions of Italy and Germany; nor depend on the dole of businesses owned and operated by non-Italian Calabrians who are citizens of other countries.
Please consider my observations; if nothing else, you know I'm concerned for our people.