Socially Sicilians are very closed in and insular people. Not to say they are dull, on the contrary they are as warm-hearted and vivacious as anyone, they simply are reserved. Their distinct dialect keeps foreigners firmly locked outside of a conversation. Even as you open the code of their language there is precious little small talk in their lives other than the insipid gossip which keeps their society’s wheels oiled, no sharing of real emotions or opinions with others unless it involves politics or sport, then they posture and yell as much as they please.
The most astounding form of decay in Sicily is the corruption which has seeped into every aspect of society. There is corruption in public works, employment, education and health. The most stunning thing is people stuck in the cycle are only harming themselves and their fellow Sicilians, their own relatives, friends, society and their country.
I’m not a politician nor an economist but the corruption here is a very real part of life and infiltrates every aspect of Sicilian society. Fraud is rampant and public, it has lost its shame and now has become normal. There are many excuses for it from the large population, high unemployment, to the belief it has simply always been like this. Perhaps I’m being too idealistic, but I don’t accept any of these excuses. For me it is about making the right ethical decisions. Why would anybody choose corruption over honesty?
Children are taught unquestioned dishonesty from an early age. At school their teachers have been chosen by a distorted system. All teachers in the public school are assigned employment through a complex lottery since there are more applicants than positions, not only in the education sector but in all professions.
The first step in this gambling employment system is for everyone to sit an exam which classifies the applicants according to their results. Each person is assigned different points according to qualifications, experience and courses attended.
This super classification ladder is the basis for the allocation of employment positions which are assigned by working down the list from top to bottom. On the face of it, it seems relatively fair, only those administering this lottery can call a teacher at any moment. If the teacher isn’t home or is unavailable they pass onto the next name on the list. Those who are skipped are put back into the mix of the classification to be recalled only after every other name has been called. It is common if the person telephoning doesn’t know the person on the list they will skip ahead until they find someone they like.
There are many other ways of manipulating the classification: some teachers have gone in search of a political favor from a minister of government or a union or they might conveniently be the son, daughter, god child, niece or nephew of someone important who can push them up the list or they can simply bribe someone to be put onto the list. It is common to see the answers of the initial exams leaked beforehand, giving certain people perfect exam results. So those who get the jobs aren’t those best qualified, they are those with the best network.
So we have a majority of under qualified teachers in the Sicilian schools, engineers in the construction industry, bureaucrats in government administration, a whole range of white-collar workers who are under qualified and clueless about their profession and have found positions because of being recommended by others. This is the real source of decay in Sicily.
These ‘lucky’ teachers who have scrambled, lied and fought for a place, teach the same behavior to their students. Children see their teachers argue in front of them for extra education projects, funded by the government designed to teach students more about culture, history etcetera. Instead of being assigned to teachers without permanent positions the extracurricular projects are divvied up between teachers already working giving themselves a pay bonus.
Children see how pushy parents pester teachers to get their classmates better grades, they see the teachers’ favorites being chosen for extra attention. Children aren’t taught about the dangers of copying and plagiarism. Under the guise of parents helping children we see them writing essays for children and doing their homework instead of teaching them how to study and write for themselves.
There are few written exams and the grading system for oral exams is extremely subjective. The marking system is very lax and has come under the influence of political correctness, as no teacher has the power to fail their students without permission of the parent. Class averages are high, when generations before grading curves were more realistic.
The children who have been helped by their parents, favored by teachers and given high grades even if they are not warranted become bloated by a sense of false self-confidence. The result is a generation filled with arrogant, spoilt students who are ultimately unequipped to interpret the world in a critical and logical manner.
What does Sicily and Italy do with these students? They send them onto further education which reinforces elements of favoritism, plagiarism and corruption. Then they go onto participate in the same lottery system as their parents, commit the same hypocrisies and so the cycle of corruption continues.
Everybody knows the system and does the best to work it. This is part of the decay which comes from within Sicilian society, it is the fermentation that re-enforces a mentality that pushes the ‘raccomandati’ forward. I shudder to think about what goes on behind closed doors.
It would be naïve to deny favoritism doesn’t occur in other countries but at least with a résumé, an interview or a reference letter there is more of a chance someone well qualified will get the job. Nor do I want to suggest that Sicily is a region full of incompetents, as those good at what they do cannot help but find work eventually. My point is how Sicily is sabotaging itself through a system of methodical corruption.