As a specialist in the anthropology of law with extensive fieldwork experience, professor Antonio Luigi Palmisano from the University of Salento. He has traveled within societies most of us only read about. He also had the privilege to be in the role of an expert for the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on several important missions. Palmisano is an advocate of action anthropology, which stands for empowering people and protecting local resources.
He has also developed a new theory which he calls “Post-global anthropology”.
As we are facing the ongoing refugee crisis provoked by the global politics, crumbling economies and the abuse of natural resources, professor Palmisano shared some very important insights into the current global affairs.
Have you ever heard about odious debt?
“Ever heard about the odious debt”, professor Palmisano asked me. I admitted my complete ignorance. Odious debt is a very important international instrument, he continued. In international law, odious debt is also known as illegitimate debt. It means that, if the national debt is incurred by a regime for purposes that do not serve the best interests of the nation, it should not be enforceable. In simple terms, the state is not obliged to pay the debt if the previous political elite was corrupt.
“If a despotic power incurs a debt not for the needs or in the interest of the State, but to strengthen its despotic regime, to repress its population that fights against it, etc., this debt is odious for the population of the State.” (R. Howse, UN publication)
Professor Palmisano, who was also doing a researchin South America, commented that in 2008 Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa succeeded in proving that 80% of the state debt was, in fact, odious debt of the previous corrupt regime. The concept of odious debt was actually established by Alexander Nahum Sack in 1927. The law of odious debt was used only a few times in history.
Who was using the law of odious debt apart from Ecuador?
Palmisano: “The United States of America managed to use the law of odious debt in a total of four times. Other states that proved the odious debt of the state were, as I mentioned, Ecuador, Cuba, Island, and Mexico. The last time the USA advocated for odious debt was in Iraq that owned money to Italy, France, and Germany. As we know NATO invaded Iraq with false arguments and managed to convince the international community that the debt of Iraq was, in fact, an odious debt. UN commented that the odiousness of debt might be the hindrance for rebuilding Iraq. But that was not the only legally binding consequence, which the USA intervention implemented in Iraq. The constitution of Iraq was supplemented with Order 81. It is very important to understand it, as it limits the use of local seeds in Iraq.”
Eufrat and Tigris are synonyms for agriculture.
Palmisano: “Order 81 limits the use of native seeds. Some of them are more than 5000 years old. Now their use is regulated through the constitution. Such is the power of multinational companies such as Syngenta and Monsanto. I am afraid the same is going to happen in Europe after certain laws got a green light in the European parliament. In Italy, many people have a little garden and neighbors pass seed varieties between them and are very proud of their local vegetables. If the trend continues they will be considered criminals for using their own seeds. They could be persecuted for growing their local seeds, just as if they would be for growing opium or marijuana”
That means that companies are more powerful than national states.
Palmisano: “In Roman Empire, there were extremely rich people, but they were not richer than the Empire. Now we live in times when individuals are more powerful than 20 national states. This is unperceived in history.”
Where could be the roots of this troubling trend?
Palmisano: “For example the West-Indian Company was a venture of approximately 225 private share-owners that managed to enslave the whole subcontinent of India. Their experiment proved that it is possible to crush states and governments with private investments.
Royal privileges in Europe are intact in many European states which claim to be modern democracies. While royal families live in palaces at the expense of taxpayers, just like in feudalism.
Palmisano: “When I was in Afghanistan as a member of an international delegation for promoting democracy, our American colleague was asked about the American presidents. It was quite obvious that it had been a “family business” of the Kennedy brothers, then Bush and Bush junior, and after that the Clintons. While they “keep it in the family” and claim to be profoundly democratic, they still push other national states to be “more” democratic. The same goes for the royal families. There are eight royal families still in power in the national states of European Union. I guess I should also mention that Prince Charles has an MA in social anthropology.”
Anthropology of royals makes an interesting subject as well. Prince William went to a charity event to advocate against bullying among children. Everyone had to write down what defines them as a person. William wrote: “I am a prince.” Such events seem to cast a long dark shadow on EU democracy.
Palmisano: “In Italy, the situation is not much better. Our Prime Minister Renzi was not elected. This has an unpleasant connotation to Italian past because Mussolini was not elected as well. How can such government be legal? Because there are acute debates now about Syria and president Assad, we can note the obvious: Assad is an elected president, while Renzi is not.
Besides that in Italy, we have atomic bombs in Aviano, about which no one seems to be very concerned. Equally worrisome is the constant pressure to privatize water in Italy. We had a referendum about that in 2011; the majority of voters were clearly against privatization of water. Case closed, but politicians are still pushing this agenda, this time, they want to privatize the public management of water. Again it is proven that private management of water has failed. Constitution is very clear about such matters but the private interest is aggressively trying to ignore the referendum.”
Why is it that such a quite unthinkable idea that the Christian religion is less violent than Muslim religion, is gaining popularity in European media?
Palmisano: “All religions, if we do research, have an interwoven intimate moment where there is violence, because of the connection between the individual and God. This can be (miss) used as a sign of legitimization - what I do is good and sane, while others are not. Christianity had a revision of the Old Testament with the New Testament, but that is not the main point. What is propagated now is that there are two different prospects of God, with books like Huntington's Clash of Civilizations. But such claims have already been proven false.
What we are witnessing is mythologizing the differences between Christians and Muslims.
Palmisano: “There were Muslim pirates and Christian pirates in the Mediterranean sea in the past. Both were taking slaves. In the 17th Century, there were about 75.000 Muslim slaves working on ship constructions in Spain, Italy, France and Greece. There were always conflicts between various states and interests, but business came first. There is this idea that wars are waged between “good guys and bad guys”. But war is an affair of subordination. The current geopolitical structure is governed by 3000 people and 7 billion of people follow. Obama or other most visible politicians are not the main cause of the current affairs, but the so-called third power, the financial one. If the Rothschild family or Bill Gates publicly announce that there is a “demographic problem” such things are not just shallow talk and should be taken into consideration. Because nowadays the wealth is concentrated, which means an immense power to control states and population.