Sylvia's writing to freedom

Fair Trade? 27/12/2010

In 2007 I started a little business within the black economy. For many years I was making handmade gifts for birthdays of friends and classmates of my kids. People asked me why I didn’t start a little business out of it and then I asked myself the same question. Why shouldn’t I? Back in Holland it was easy to start a business and taxes were quite fair, here in Italy on the other hand Berlusconi has made regulations wherein it is almost impossible for little businesses/free-lancers to survive. One pays easily more taxes than one earns, so one has to get a loan to pay ones taxes. The people complains, but Berlusconi keeps on being populair. Why the majority here in Italy so fateful, adoring the man who has all that they envy and all they want and they’re not willing to stand up and stop this man from destroying our country? I can only guess for the motives people have. So I started a business within the black economy, even accountants advised me to not register my business. For the law these businesses are not being properly labeled and therefore the tax box you’re belonging to is that of a normal size business and the taxes don’t fit the sales volume.

Moving within the black economy was moving within secrecy, something I didn’t feel comfortable with. I decided to stay low profile, organize Tupperware like parties at women’s houses with their own invited friends. That wasn’t easy, because it was something people are not used to do. Don’t go against the traditions and how people do things here in Italy, because one will fail. I wasn’t willing to give in so easily, but in the end I had to. When we moved into a bigger house I had my own space where I made a studio and I also started offering garments repairs and dressmaking services. I did exhibit my gifts in the studio where I received my customers for the garments repairs.

How did I start off? I launched my first product at a very low price and promoted it at the local stores so they could do some advertising for me. The grocery store did a lot of word of mouth and in one of the local wine bars I had my own glass case. My first product was a simple velt handbag with an animal sewed on it and the tail were the handles of the bag. My price was €14,50, the material costs were €5,- and the labour 8 hours. Here the price for such undeclared work is €8,- per hour, so in total the handbag would have been €69,-. I wanted a fair price to convince people buying my products. The question after 3 years I’m asking myself now is: was it a fair price? I didn’t count my own labour or cost of maintenance for my sewing machines.

I forgot a few essential points. The price of my product wasn’t that relevant in the end, if people want my products they’re going to buy it anyways. I was bribing my customers with the wrong bate. I was trying to do business outside the system with the wrong type of business. The black economy is for the big boys who sell drugs, white washing money, to go short; the Maffia. I was going against the capitalistic system and didn’t want to play along with the game for no reason at all, yes I wanted to fair trade, make a win win situation. But was I? I wasn’t paying any taxes, I didn’t get paid for my labour and made unrealistic prices. There is no common sense here.

Why was I abusing myself in such a way? I tried to survive and make a living. I was afraid that people weren’t going to buy my products, I accepted all requests and tried to think of all kinds of psychological ways to convince people into buying irresistible products. I was selling myself out and feared not being seen as good and kind and therefore not selling my products. People loved to watch my products and liked to try on my shawls, hats and bags just for the fun of it. That made me bitter while in need of money, it’s so easy to take these things as personal and get bittered.

Within an Equal Money System I would never consider to start such a business, I probably had continued making gifts for people because I enjoyed making these personal gifts. I participated within a system where we produce all kinds of products that are not of any use or purpose. Products that are only responding to the greed of people, what a waste of time.

I forgive myself that I’ve accepted and allowed myself to abused myself for the sake of surviving.

I forgive myself that I’ve accepted and allowed myself to fear not making enough money.

I forgive myself that I’ve accepted and allowed myself to be preoccupied with money.

I forgive myself that I’ve accepted and allowed myself to find the soft spot of greed into people to work with while making new products.

I forgive myself that I’ve accepted and allowed myself to fear not being seen as good and kind.

I forgive myself that I’ve accepted and allowed myself to be dishonest in not paying taxes although I wouldn’t have been capable of paying them.

I forgive myself that I’ve accepted and allowed myself to go against the capitalistic system in order to fair trade.

I forgive myself that I’ve accepted and allowed myself to get bitter at people when they weren’t willing to buy my products.

I forgive myself that I’ve accepted and allowed myself to ask a ridiculous low price out of fear not to sell.

I forgive myself that I’ve accepted and allowed myself to feel bad about myself while trading within secrecy.

I forgive myself that I’ve accepted and allowed myself to participate within producing useless greedy luxury products.

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