Jelena goes to Palermo, Sicily, to find out what happens when we lose trust in the institutions (and each other), and how one can fight the mafia. With stickers.
Levels of trust in institutions - such as the government and the media - have dipped to an all-time low in many countries across the globe. So who do people turn to when people lose faith in the state?
In this episode, Step One team heads to Palermo, Sicily, to learn how the mafia took advantage of people’s distrust of institutions, and how one could win that trust back. Sometimes, all you need might be stickers with a good slogan...
Bosch Alumni Network Event:
Trust and Transparency
If you want to find out more about the work of Addiopizzo, check our their website.
Music in this episode:
Salue by Kai Engel
Black Lung by Broke for Free
Hand Me Down by Springhouse
Somnolence by Kai Engel
Edoardo Zaffuto from Addiopizzo. Credit: Massimo Brusca/iac Berlin.
Trust and transparency group getting ready for the conference. Credit: Massimo Brusca/iac Berlin
Podcast recording. Credit: Massimo Brusca/iac Berlin.
Some of the Sicilian gastronomic delights. Credit: Massimo Brusca/iac Berlin.
View over the port of Palermo. Credit: Massimo Brusca/iac Berlin.
EPISODE 05 - Leave the gun, take the cannoli – Transcript
"Leave the gun, take the cannoli"
© 2018 – Step One Productions
This is STEP ONE
a podcast about people striving to change their world -- our world.
We tell you stories of the Bosch Alumni Network. A network of doers and thinkers connected across the globe working toward positive change.
I am Benjamin Lorch.
And today’s episode: Leave the gun, take the cannoli
But before we dive into our story, we want to introduce you to the community this podcast is part of.
It’s the Bosch Alumni Network, which consists of people who have been supported, in one way or another, by the Robert Bosch Foundation. The network is coordinated by the International Alumni Center, a think & do tank for alumni communities with social impact. The iac Berlin supports this podcast. If you want to know more about the power of networks, visit iac-berlin.org.
Jelena: It is a nice and warm Saturday in May 1992, and Antonio Vassallo sits on the terrace of his family house, in a small Sicilian town right outside of Palermo. Antonio is 26, he is a photographer and he is just putting a new role of film in his camera, preparing for an afternoon gig, when he hears a deafening explosion.
Antonio: Quel pomeriggio mi trovavo qua giù a casa, nel terrazzo esattamente. Stavo preparando la macchina fotografica, stavo montando un rullino perché la sera avrei avuto un servizio fotografico e sento questa esplosione potentissima.
Antonio is somewhat accustomed to the sound of explosions. There are two stone quarries in town, and pretty much every day one can hear detonations. But this explosion is different, much more powerful. The windows of his house are shaking.
Antonio: Personalmente mi è bastato girare lo sguardo in direzione di autostrada vedere questo grande nuvolone di fumo..
Jelena: Above the highway, some 200 meters from his house, he sees a cloud of smoke. So he puts his camera around his neck, gets on his scooter and heads there.
Antonio: Sono costretto a lasciare il motorino appoggiato ad un albero circa 100 metri prima perché era impossibile proseguire perché l'autostrada che non c'era più era ricaduta tutta....
Jelena: It is impossible to get to the highway on a scooter, there is rubble everywhere. Olive trees are down, lying around, the air smells of explosives...And a large part of the highway is simply - missing. There is a huge hole where the road used to be. There are some other people around, some farmers working on their land nearby. They start to gather, and Antonio after some time scrambles to the remaining part of the highway. On the road he sees a white car, demolished.
Antonio: Noi diamo un’occhiata all'interno di questa macchina e vediamo quest'uomo alla guida...
Jelena: Antonio and the others approach the car. Inside they see two men and a woman. The face of the driver is covered in blood.
Antonio: ...gravemente ferito, al torace, alle gambe, sanguinante in viso. E ancora con gli occhi aperti.
But he is still breathing; his eyes are open, and Antonio catches his gaze.
Antonio: Io quello sguardo l’ho incrociato per un attimo.
The man will die in the hospital that evening. His name: Giovanni Falcone. A famous prosecutor, one of the symbols of the Italian state’s fight against the mafia. And Antonio is among the last people to see him alive.
Jelena: The killing of Giovanni Falcone is known today as “Strage di Capaci”, or Capaci bombing because it took place on the highway crossing the town of Capaci. Mafia members put more than 400 kilos of explosives in a drainage tunnel under the highway. The bomb killed Falcone, his wife, as well as three police escort agents. They wanted not only to get rid of Falcone, but also to send a message - you don’t mess with the mafia.
Ben: Wow, that’s unbelievable.
When Antonio looks back at it today, he says that this death has changed the course of his life, and in general, Sicilian society.
Ben: What do you mean?
Jelena: Well, Falcone’s killing was the sad climax of a series of crimes that the mafia committed in Sicily in the ‘80s. It might seem unreal but there was a time in the Italian history when the very existence of the mafia was considered almost an urban legend. But then, the violent 80s came.
Edoardo: So, I was born in 1975, but during the ‘80s when I was ten for example, you know, I could see with my eyes all the violence of the mafia and let's say that the worst moment, the worst period of time for Palermo was for sure, let’s say between the late ‘70s and the early ‘90s. What we call usually the long ‘80s.
Jelena: This is Edoardo Zaffuto, Palermo born and bred. He showed me around Palermo. The city is stunning. For me, it is hard to imagine that Palermo was ever anything but an easy-going city. For Edoardo: not so much. As we drive outside of the city, towards the beach of Palermo he tells me that while growing up, he often wondered why of all the places in the world he had to be born in Palermo?!
Edoardo: Imagine that, at the beginning of the ‘80s, in particular, there was one of the most violent mafia wars in the history of Cosa Nostra, of theorganised crime. During that years, the mafia were killing each other and there was one year in which there were something like 1000 mafia murders in Palermo. So imagine 3 murders per day, on average.
Jelena: The mafia committed crimes so violent that eventually a special anti-mafia pool was formed and, in 1986, a trial started. Giovanni Falcone was one of the main anti-mafia prosecutors. The trial was known as “Maxi processo”, a “Maxi Trial”?
Ben: A Maxi Trial?
Jelena: The ‘maxi’ stands for the importance of it. The trial lasted until 1992; almost 500 people mafiosi got convicted and the existence of Cosa nostra was finally confirmed in court.
The trial is still regarded as one of the greatest successes of the Italian judiciary system and the biggest anti-mafia trial in the country’s history. It was a sign the mafia is not outside of the law, untouchable. It gave hope.
Jelena: But then, the mafia killed Falcone.. Less than two months later, in July 1992; another prominent anti-mafia judge and Falcone’s friend was assassinated as well. Paolo Borsellino. A bomb was planted in a car parked in front of his mother’s house in Palermo. Two murders in less than two months. It shook up the Sicilian society. Everyone who I talked to, told me they know exactly where they were and what they did when the murders happened.
Ben: Hah, just like 9/11?
Jelena: Exactly. It provoked a lot of emotions, especially among younger people.
Edoardo: That was like, that was too much, I mean, not again, all the people started to say not again. It was rebellion of the people who said - enough. You know, I was probably still young, but that was a moment in which some seeds have been put in the ground, not for only me, but my generation as I say.
Jelena: These seeds, as Edoardo puts it, grew to become an important project in Sicily. And also, it is exactly because of the Capaci bombings that the paths of Edoardo and Antonio will cross years later.
Jelena: But before we get to that moment, let me tell you the story of how I met Edoardo.
Ben: Where was that?
Jelena: I was in Palermo for an event named “Trust and Transparency”, organised by members of the Bosch Alumni network. The idea of the conference was to enhance trust and communication between public administration, media and businesses. And Edoardo was one of the speakers there.
To understand why mafia was able to become so powerful in the first place, it is crucial to look at the concept of trust.
Ben: How can you conceptualize trust at all, what’s the basis?
Jelena: Well, you can start by understanding the concepts that you already know, that are familiar to you. This is why we began by looking at trust between individuals, then between institutions.
Vitor: First of all, trust is about taking chances, assuming a risk.
Jelena: This is Vitor Simões, a founder and coordinator at 4change, an organisation specialized in communication and consultancy, based in Portugal. Vitor wrote his thesis on trust.
Vitor: You can only trust if in the meantime you assume your vulnerability; you cannot trust if you are closed in yourself. You have to assume risk. It assumes a voluntary cooperation, so trust can be instilled through control and fear but in the long run, it is not a productive way to instill trust. Trust is better if you do it voluntarily and in a cooperative way. You cannot build trust based on laws.
Jelena: In a personal relationship - be it in friendship or in love, we usually need a lot of time to start trusting the other person. You need to trust that somebody will not betray your confidence, you need to believe that another person will not hurt your feelings if you show them how you feel. And this simple concept also applies to professional relationships.
Let me ask you something
Ben: Sure, go ahead.
Jelena: At work, have you ever been in a situation where you had to do something that goes against your values?
Ben: That’s a good question, let me think. All right, in one of the schools I worked for, one of my tasks was to get people to apply to scholarships. It was the first one we have ever had. And once we had this very qualified applicant so it seemed logical to me that she would be given the scholarship. And that what was on the lips of everyone.
But then, at the very last moment - and I was in touch with her about all of this - I was told somebody else would get the scholarship. And this person didn’t really need the scholarship, but he was a very famous face on television, and the school management wanted his very famous face in school.
Jelena: So, what did you do?
Ben: WelI, I had to get back and talk to the first woman and tell her that she would not get the scholarshi, even though it seemed inevitable. It was actually awful. I was horribly disappointed by the school management and the position I was put in. The trust I’d established with the first applicant was totally shattered. I felt sick about that. And the trust I held with the school was also damaged.
Jelena: So it’s funny because some of the participants in Sicily had very similar experiences. They lost faith in their coworkers or bosses – in public administration, media or businesses, wherever they were working. Here is one of the examples:
Conference case (woman speaking): ... So one ministry of Education got the grant and it was supposed to provide equipment to schools. And suddenly my manager, who is my direct supervisor, decided to add one additional school, besides those five, that were first selected to get the equipment..And then I have found that he did that because he had a friend who will actually buy the equipment for that school...
Jelena: This was one of the cases we discussed in small groups. I can’t play you more of these, since they were very sensitive cases and could potentially endanger the participants if they were made public . But we did come up with a list of dos and donts for each case. And we also discussed how trust in institutions could be enhanced.
Vitor: If you don't trust the formal aspects of your life, like governments, you kind of search refuge in the not formal aspects, like your family or your neighbourhood. And here in Italy, and in Sicily, you have a good example of that...If the government is not responsive to you, if its rules are not enforced, you go for the rules of other entities not so explicits and not so formal, like mafia, and others...
(sounds of Sicilian streets)
Jelena: It is not by accident that we were discussing Trust and Transparency in Sicily. It’s here, where the trust in government was low enough to enable the mafia to spread its influence.
Raffaella: La mafia è nata nel momento in cui c(è stata l'assenza dello Stato...
Jelena: I visited Raffaella Candido in a small hat shop in Palermo she runs.
Raffaella: Era l'antistato. Quindi la mafia faceva quello che lo stato non faceva. Proteggeva. Aiutava i più poveri…
Jelena: In her words, the mafia was actually born from “the absence of the state”. They offered protection to those the state didn’t protect. They positioned themselves as Robin Hoods in a way, protecting the poor. They even call themselves “uomini d’onore”, men of honor.
Raffaella: Ma infatti si diceva “uomo d’onore”, lo si chiamava, “uomo d'onore” perché una sua parola data era quella.
Jelena: Raffaella says “men of honor” comes from their integrity.
Raffaella: Non avrebbe mai cambiato l'idea. Si io ti dico; sta tranquilla, me ne occupo io;
Jelena: If they would give you their word, they would live up to their promise, stand their ground.
Raffaella: Se ne occupava lui.
Jelena: They would protect you…
Raffaella: ….e non poteva mai cambiare l'idea....
Jelena:... if they said so.
Ben: So they were filling in for a state apparatus that couldn’t provide the kind of trust that was needed.
Jelena: I would say that rather, they tried to portray themselves as a substitute for the state apparatus.
Ben: That is pretty smart. But were there actually a lot of threats they protected the Sicilians from?
Jelena: Of course no, it was more of a marketing campaign, you could say.
Although the mafia men presented themselves as protectors and good doers, they were always expecting something in return. They didn’t do favors. And of course, if you’d disobey them, if you would not show respect, you’d be in a problem. Raffaela herself actually had a close encounter with mafia, couple of years ago.
Ben: Oh really, what happened to her?
Jelena: So, as I mentioned, Raffaela runs a traditional Sicilian hat shop in Palermo. And I think you would like it a lot actually, there are hats of all colors and fabrics on shelves around the room.
Ben: Ok you have my attention, I like hats. What is a traditional Sicilian hat like?
Jelena: Now you can buy them in all the colors and they can be made of nice fabrics, but Raffaella explained me that a traditional hat is flat and was made of cheap, black fabric.
Raffaella: Allora, la coppola nasce di panno nero e spiego perché, perché anticamente...ed era usata dai contadini. Perché di panno; era il tessuto il più povero che esisteva. Ma pensarono a questa forma di cappello perché doveva servire per lavorare i campi, quindi non doveva dare fastidio, e….
Jelena: These hats were initially worn by Sicilian farmers. The hat has a short bill, important for farmers because it protected them from the sun while working in fields. And Raffaella says these hats were an important part of the Sicilian identity. She remembers her grandfather donning these hats, called coppolas in Italian, even when he was at home.
Ben: Wait, what Coppola? Like the film director?
Jelena: The pronunciation is the same, yes. And actually, you see coppolas in Coppola’s Godfather. Have you seen the movie?
Ben: Yes, of course I have seen the movie, but it was years ago. Ok, refresh my memory; where are the hats in the movie?
Jelena: So you know when in the first Godfather, Michael Corleone goes into hiding in Sicily because he killed two men who attempted to assassinate his father. So, he is in Sicily and is walking in the middle of the fields with two other guys…
(Godfather tape in the background)
And then stumbles upon Apollonia, and he falls in love with her at first sight and she becomes his first wife.
Anyways, the story is that while walking through the fields, Michael and his men are wearing coppolas. And the thing is that the mafia appropriated it as a piece of their identity. To the point that ordinary citizens actually stopped wearing the hats.
Raffaella: Con l'andar degli anni, questo copricapo non è stato più portato, perché? (In the background: Perché comincio ad identificare solo ed esclusivamente gli uomini di mafia, gli uomini d'onore, perché solo loro la portavano.)
Jelena: While the farmers would wear their coppola straight, the mafia would wear it slightly bent on one side. For many years you could see men with hats bent to one side walking the streets of Sicily: Until one man had the idea to “give back the dignity to the Sicilian coppola, to make it a hat that ordinary Sicilians would want to wear again. He reached out to Raffaella’s father to help him out - her father was in the clothing business. Raffaella eventually ended up running the store that sells these hats.
Jelena: And the business does well, she told me. Coppolas in various colors have become a fashion accessory, many tourist buy them as a souvenir from Sicily. In December 2013, Raffella had another store opened in town, at another location. It was a temporary shop, just over the Christmas holidays. But several days after setting up the shop; they could not open the door.
The lock was filled with glue.
Ben: Coming up after the break: Palermo resists.
(plug to Project ungoverned)
Hi, I’m award winning author Nicole Harkin.
And I’m Dr. Kim Ochs.
Are you interested in other podcasts that take place within the Bosch Alumni Network?
In our podcast, Project Ungoverned? The Online Learning Landscape, we speak with educators, learners, and pioneers in online education from across the globe.
We examine new possibilities, challenges, and innovative organizations in online learning. K: The Project Ungoverned? podcast is out now. Listen to it wherever you get your podcasts.
You can also find us at projectungoverned.com.
(end of plug to Project ungoverned)
Jelena: Raffaella knew what glue meant. A warning from the mafia. It is their way of saying that if you don’t pay money to the mafia you are “not getting into your shop”. Even worse: Ignore the warning and - your shop will get demolished, eventually, could be set on fire. Raffaela had no chance but to do something.
Ben: So what did she do?
Jelena: I will tell you about that in a second.
Ben: And so this extortion money is paid by everyone in Italy?
Jelena: There have been some estimates in the past, so yeah, a lot of people allegedly paid protection money, but it is very hard to determine what’s the percentage of the businesses do it.
Ben: Ok, I can understand that.
Jelena: Ok, and what is important to know is that the pizzo, an this is the way they call protection money in Italian. It is one of the ways in which that mafia actually establishes their “rule” over a territory. The money itself is not that important - if you have a small business you might pay something like ten or twenty euros per month; so almost nothing. If you have a bigger business, you would pay more, of course. What is important is first and foremost that you “acknowledge” their presence, that pay respect. Nowadays, pizzo is still present in Sicily, in Palermo, but much less so since 2004.
Ben: Oh really, 2004, what happened back then?
Jelena: So one morning in 2004, the city of Palermo woke up covered in stickers.
Jelena: Simple stickers, simple action. And the stickers read “un intero popolo che paga il pizzo è un popolo senza dignità”. Which you can translate into “an entire population that pays protection money, is like a population that has no dignity left”.
Ben: But who put the stickers around?
Jelena: People had no clue. But, we already heard from Edoardo who showed me around Palermo. In 2004 he is working in a small publishing company. The business is not flourishing, they don’t make a lot of money. And one of Edoardo’s colleagues, Vittorio, plans to open a pub in Palermo with several other friends. One of them writes a business plan so he lists all the expenses for their future business. You know. He puts rent, he puts supplies on this list; he puts like administration, whatever, and then he puts - pizzo, protection money.
Ben: As a line item? Ok!
Edoardo: It was a provocation of course, but it was an excellent provocation because all the other people of that group started to say of course we don't want to pay the money. Are you crazy, you put it in business plan and we did not even start yet, we don't even know if we will start it...But actually it’s there, and he said you know what – this is normal here in Palermo.
Jelena: The fact that people perceive pizzo as something normal upsets Vittorio, Edoardo’s colleague. So he comes up with this catchy phrase and one night he posts his stickers all around the city. And this is a very strong message. I mean, Edoardo explained it to me. It touches on the concept of the Sicilian dignity - and Sicilians are super proud. This action was repeated over the next couple of months.
Ben: Ok, but weren’t they also scared that mafia could get them?
Jelena: Yes they were actually very scared. When they started the website, every time Edoardo would want to work on the website, he would go to a different internet cafe; just to be able to change locations so that he does not get caught by the mafia. And every time they would run their sticker actions; they would do it during the night. So every next first step had to be carefully planned. However, at some point they realized they needed to shift tactic.
Ben: In which direction did they go?
Jelena: So, at the beginning this was more of a protest action for them. But then the idea of the critical consumption appeared. They thought it was wrong to call out shops that paid protection money’, so they did the opposite. They wanted to set up a list of shops that didn’t pay. They knew it would be hard to get businesses on board though, because they weren’t the first to attempt such a thing.
Ben: How so?
Jelena: It was in 1991 when a shop owner was gunned down by the mafia because he had been reporting mafia threats to the police and published it in a local newspaper. And no one would back this poor guy,
Edoardo: So what we did, before going to the shop owners, we said let's go and put together a group of townspeople, of citizens who said that in the future; when there will be a list of mafia free list, a list of business that don't pay the protection money, I will support this network, I commit myself to do it.
Jelena: They turned to customers first, asking them if they would support the businesses that don’t pay the protection money. More than 3500 people signed this petition. The names were published in a local newspaper. And it rassured the shop owners, they felt that there was a critical mass of consumers that would support them, that there is solidarity
Edoardo: So, with this list it was easier to go to the shops and say, knocking at their door basically, as you can see you will not be alone, there are already 3500 people ready to support you.
Ben: Alright, and did it work?
Jelena: They started with some dozen shops, and now they are over 1300. So it is not really an exponential growth, but they achieved that pizzo isn’t seen anymore as something normal in the society. Here’s another thing. Every Addiopizzo member gets a small sticker with inscription of Addiopizzo and a sentence saying “pago chi non paga”, or “I pay to those who don’t pay”.
Edoardo: This is a new promise we can give, it is like, if you put the Addiopizzo logo on your window, so if you join Addiopizzo in your window and put that sticker in the window, be sure that the mafia is way less inclined to come to your shop. This sticker means “be aware because I am with Addiopizzo - if you come here for the first time asking me for money, I will go to the police, I will go straight to the police”. So these stickers keepz the mafia away from the shop.
Ben: But did Raffaela have one of these stickers?
Jelena: So her shop is also a member of Addiopizzo network. But the other shop, the temporary shop, the one that got glued, didn’t. However, Raffaella contacted Addiopizzo, they went to the police together, denounced the threats. She received no threats afterwards.
Jelena: Addiopizzo has evolved into a more ambitious project, so nowadays, they also have a travel agency. Let’s say you want to book a trip to Sicily. You could book it through Addiopizzo, and they would only take you to hotels and restaurants that are part of their network, so you would be sure that no money that you pay goes to mafia. And also, you would be able to go to one of their organised tours.
And this is where Antonio and Edoardo’s path cross. When the Addiopizzo agency was looking for a person that could help them out with the tour of the place where Falcone was killed, Antonio turned out to be their guy. He still lives in Capaci and he still works as a photographer. And today he is sharing his story of that day in 1992 with groups, usually schools and universities
Antonio: Lo facciamo in qualsiasi condizione meteo - con il sole, con la pioggia, con il vento, con il caldo d'agosto….
Jelena: He meets the groups on a hill overlooking the highway, just next to a place where the bomb was detonated from. And today there is a concrete hut painted in white with an inscription in blue: NO MAFIA.
Ben: I wonder if the work Addiopizzo does in Sicily could also be s replicated successfully in places where there hasn’t been such a clear threat as the mafia?
Jelena: So I see Addiopizzo as trust enablers between the system and the citizens. And it is important, because we live in a time when there’s so little trust in the institutions. So it is not about having one specific opponent, it is more about mobilizing the citizens, and reminding them that they have rights and with rights come responsibilities. And this is actually one of the things that I took from the trip, and one of our findings that we had at the end of the conference.
Male voice,Tape from the conference: It is a question for everybody, it not just the question of the shop owner and the mafia, it is also the consumer, so this is culture, so everyone has to feel concern about this topic, and not just the one involving the corruption...
Ben: And so nowadays businesses are doing their business without the mafia involvement? Did they win?
Jelena: I mean...Unfortunately, it is not that simple. But what we can say is that Addiopizzo changed some things and it did help people to gain courage to say no to the mafia extortion. And I think that little by little, it also changes the way the society looks at itself. Raffaella told me this nice story.
Raffaella: Io mi ricordo,bambina, andai un anno in Inghilterra ed ero ospite in una famiglia, andavo a studiare. Avevo nove anni.
Jelena: So when she was a young girl, she went to England to learn the language, and she was hosted there in a family. So one evening they were all sitting in front of the TV, and all of the sudden she saw that something was happening in Italy, in Palermo. You know, her town appeared in the news. And it was related to some mafia murder- again.
Raffaella: E il mio padrone di casa disse: “Ah, tu vieni da Palermo, Palermo- Sicilia, Sicilia - mafia”.
Jelena: So her host turned to her, and said something like “Oh, you come from Palermo, Palermo Sicily, Sicily mafia”. And she felt so ashamed, she wanted to say “Sicily is not just mafia”. She was nine back then, and she tells me that today, at the age of 52 she feels that the things have changed, and she is happy to look back at that time and to tell herself that, yes, she was right and Sicily is not just about the mafia.
Ben: That sounds like a nice story….Although I do not completely understand what she is saying because I have not really spoke Italian since 1990.
Jelena: Well Ben, I guess you’ll have to trust me.
Ben: I do.
This has been Episode four of Step One.
Reporting by Jelena Prtoric.
Our editor is Yannic Hannebohn
Our theme music is composed by Niklas Kramer.
A special shout out this time goes to the crew behind the Trust and Transparency project, especially Peppe who knows where to find the best pizza in town.
The teams whose voices you hear in the piece and our team, too, we’re all part of the Bosch Alumni Network.
If you liked this episode, be sure to tell your friends about it. We’ve received a huge amount of positive feedback and we want to thank you for spending your time on this thing. We appreciate it. Also if you want to support us even further, tell one friend about this episode.
Remember the next step is always step one.
This is Benjamin Lorch.
Thanks for listening.