There’s obviously a lot of chaos in Italy right now with the government. And there’s been a lot of chaos in Italy politically for a very, very long time. For much of the postwar era, I mean. To what degree do you attribute the Italian state’s inability to really get a handle on organized crime to that general political chaos?
There are two dynamics there. The mob thrives on chaos. It likes chaos. It likes to be the alternative authority that you go to because you can’t get anything done through the legitimate state. For that very reason, I think there’s no doubt that it promotes that chaos. It likes civic distrust. It likes cynicism. It can profit from that. I think the great tragedy of Italy is that, to a large extent, it’s kind of succeeded. It plays on the divide between north and south Italy. It plays on the idea that Italy has never really coalesced as a single unit but is terribly regional and terribly factional. And at the heart of that is a hole at the heart of Italy, where there should be a center and established certainty and facts. There’s a vacuum.
There’s a famous bomb attack, for instance, in Rome in 1971. To this day, nobody knows who did that, and there are both fascists and communists serving time for the same bomb attack. That’s the real tragedy of Italy. Nobody knows what’s true. And in that environment of distrust, the mob thrives, because you can’t really point at them and say with certainty, “That guy’s a criminal.” Because he’s pretending to be something else and everybody’s pretending to be something else, and therefore nobody’s to be trusted. In that kind of atmosphere, where it’s difficult to distinguish right and wrong, wrong can thrive. And wrong can paint itself as the righteous champions of southern resistance to northern domination.
The whole thing about the mafia is it’s a massive lie. There is no honor to the “men of honor.” There’s no righteousness. They don’t care about the rights of southerners. They don’t care about the economy. They are parasites. They are predators, but they’ve managed to create this myth around themselves of, as I say, “men of honor.” It’s that uncertainty in Italy that allows them to persist.
Monday, June 18, 2018
What if Organized Crime Runs the World?
It's a question I ask myself every once in a while: how influential is organized crime? Can it bring about the fall of governments in places like Italy or Mexico? I read once that parts of the World Trade Organization charter had been modified to benefit organized crime; is that plausible? And so on. So I read with interest this interview with Alex Perry, author of a recent book about the ’Ndrangheta (Calabrian Mafia):