Axadi, the best kind of solidarity tax #ikaria

Photo: hellenicgourmet

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The axadi or axai (1)  is a small quantity of oil that the oil press withholds as payment: Instead of the olive oil producers having to pay actual money for the services of the oil press, they give a small amount of the olive oil produced, that then gets sold to large olive oil companies, securing the income of the oil press owner.

In Ikaria though, the land of confined farming areas but of intense sense of solidarity, the axadi also stands for something else: an oil canister that will be sent to the actual owner of the field!

As not everyone in Ikaria owns their own piece of land, those who actually do, if they live far away, or cannot, for any other reason, gather their crops, franchise their properties to families in need. For this act of kindness, no actual payment is expected, just a few ounces of the olive oil produced. Something like a second axadi, a type of tax, that makes the concept of solidarity function in its highest form.

Thus, the axadi, in Ikaria is a form of social contract for survival, a direct tax, that gets collected the minute the oil production takes place, and also, a collective model of property management. It is a truly worthy example of the proper use of the word solidarity, especially in times like now, times of general misuse of terms, institutions, taxes and Constitutions.

I do not pretend to have the knowledge of an economist, and certainly this is not my purpose. However, it has become clear to me, that for a taxation system to actually work, we need to learn from examples like this; where taxes (especially solidarity taxes) have a sound reasoning backing them up, and they work bidirectionally, benefiting everyone.

I am one of the lucky ones to have carried canned treats to Kissontas for the harvesters to eat during their breaks. One of the lucky ones that were around to see Gregory’s oil press in Vaoni, the largest oil producing area of Ikaria, that served as a means to survival in times of difficulty and foreign occupation in the past. I was one of the lucky ones to have tasted kapira (2) , made out the Stellia’s kneaded  bread, hot out of the oven, made in the kazani (3) that “washed” the oil. I am one of the lucky ones that got to see the oil strained out of the olive pulp with the traditional method of the “towels”.

I am one of the lucky ones to have paid this solidarity tax proudly.

At a time that it was proper. At a place that there was need.

Nicholas Kountoupis for

(1) Also pronounced ‘xai in the mainland of Greece. The word derives from the byzantine term ξάγι(ν) [pronounced ksagi(n)], that in turn comes from the latin word exagium, which meant a balance, a weight.
(2) Slices of bread, roasted in an oven, sprinkled with salt and oregano and dived in high quality olive oil.
(3) Kazani was called the whole system, with the wood oven, used for the “washing” of olive oil.