The Mafia

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The Mafia

It exists. You probably won’t see it if you visit Sicily. You probably won’t see any of its effects, either, unless you look very closely. But considering it’s profound influence on Sicilian life, no twentieth-century history book on Sicily would be accurate without mentioning the most famous Sicilian fraternity.

“The word ‘Mafia’ was formally recorded by the prefect of Palermo in 1865, after the unification of Italy (57 Robb).” It wasn’t until 1982 that it was added to the Italian penal code. Until the end of World War II, the Mafia was a force that the landowners and state of Sicily found useful to maintain power and property. In the nineteen seventies The Oxford English Dictionary was still listing the Mafia as

Often erroneously supposed to constitute an organized secret society existing for criminal purposes.

When the New Shorter came out in 1993, the first five words had been dropped from the definition.

Cosa Nostra (literally translated means “this thing that is ours”), or the Sicilian Mafia, had the perfect social setting for their concealed rise to power. Between the clannish nature of Sicilians, their almost instinctive dislike for inconsistent law enforcement, and a repressed hereditary aristocracy created a favorable cultural petri dish for the Mafia. “And it’s no secret that the criminal justice system does not function very well in Italy. And where there is no law, there is no sin (”

In the 1930’s, when the Fascists rose to power in Italy, Mussolini had most of Cosa Nostra thrown in jail. This gave way to the Mafia’s sympathy to the American cause, or at least their hostility to the fascist one. “In reality, the relationship between the Fascists and the Mafia was ...

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...n Union has no judicial authority. Another problem is international regulation. Only Italy, Germany, Belgium, Ireland, Netherlands, and Great Britain have national regulations about money laundering and criminal activities, and some countries are delaying the introduction of legislation that’s required by the order.

The Mafia is, and always has been working like a well-oiled machine. That is, if by oil you mean blood. Intimidation is the basis of any formal government, some way or another. Even in democracies there is crime and punishment, action and reaction, cause and effect. It seems that the Mafia is going to continue being the (almost?) formal system of government in Italy. Long live the capo di tutti capi.



Robb, Peter, Midnight in Sicily, New York 1996

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