Paper type: Essay Pages: 10 (2338 words)
When non-Italian citizens think about Mafia they picture huge villas in which bosses spend their entire time surrounded by bodyguards, beautiful women, and a lot of drug. Despite this scenario could resemble a perfect Hollywood movie, the Italian Mafia is all but showing one’s power and wealth. One of the most powerful but at the same time more hidden Mafias, is the Ndrangheta, the Calabrian one. To reflect briefly on the etymology of the word “Ndrangheta” is not merely an academic exercise, but could instead give us important cues on its historical analysis.
The most convincing etymological hypothesis is that the word Ndrangheta derives form the ancient Greek term ἀνδραγαθία, or andragathia, that means “virile virtue, courage” (La Piccola Treccani). the andragathia is the quality of a man that is brave, noble, and worthy of respect, and the Ndrangheta had historically wanted to create consent boasting to be the holder of these popular values; in particular, the Ndrangheta claimed to hold the belief in justice and social order that the legal powers couldn’t assure, manipulating people’s trust to turn it against the State and the other institutions.
Since some decades ago, the term Ndrangheta was used in Calabria even to indicate a high level of heroism and virtue embodied in an elite of superior men, or ndranghetisti. In Calabrian dialect, the word ndranghetista identified a talented man, capable of protecting and let his honor to be respected (La Piccola Treccani). According to the myth, at the end of the seventeen century, three knights sailed from Spain for an affair of honor and landed in Italy. Their name were Osso, Mastrosso, and Carcagnosso.
The first one, devoting himself to Saint George, decided to stay in Sicily and to found Cosa Nostra; the second one, devoting to the Virgin Mary, choose Campania and gave birth to the Camorra; the third, praying Saint Michael the Archangel, decided to move to Calabria where invented the Ndrangheta. ( “Vieni via con me- Puntana Intera”). In reality, the Ndrangheta was born in the second half of the Nineteen century in Calabria, the region that resembles the toe of the Italian boot.
Calabria was always a very poor region, with a fragile economy, a weak industrial apparatus, and small enterprises; but the very hint to its expansion was the lack of legal authorities on the Calabrian territory, that let Ndrangheta grow bigger for the further 50 years. From 1861 Ndrangheta started to be mentioned in official documents that denounced the appearance of organized crimes (Gratteri e Nicaso 21). During the Fascist era, the Ndrangheta lost a little bit of its power, because all the rural people that supported it where now protected by the Fascist regime, and some peasants managed to rebel and denounce this criminal activities.
Nonetheless, the Ndrangheta managed to infiltrate its members within the Fascist ruling class, and at the end of World War II many Ndranghetisti were appointed mayors by the Allies landed in the south of Italy. In 1955 the Italian journalist and writer Corrado Alvari mentioned the Ndrangheta for the first time outside of Calabria, describing it on his article on Corriere della Sera as something not shameful to be with, since it helped managing the chaos generated by the lack of government (“Breve Storia della Ndrangheta 1/3”).
After few months from the Alvari’s article, the first official operation against Ndrangheta was leaded in Calabria by the police commissioner Marzano who managed to imprison 261 people and to remove from office many others (Gratteri e Nicaso 39). During the 1960s, the Ndrangheta moved to the north of Italy where it started operating in the tenders and drug business, while keeping enriching itself thanks to a series of kidnapping operations that boomed during the 1970s.
In 1975 the first Ndrangheta war started with the assassination of the boss Antonio Macri. About 300 people were killed and more wounded, in what was defined as a generation war, with the young against the old ndranghetisti. From 1985 to 1991 the second Ndrangheta war busted in Calabria, but this time it wasn’t about age differences: some independent Ndrangheta gangs couldn’t find an agreement on how to divide the incomes of the traffics, and so the war begun.
In 1991, after 700 people killed and after the assassination of Judge Antonio Scoppelliti, the gangs decided tot sign “a pact of non-belligerence: the war ended without winners or losers, but with the common will to remove the guns to start focusing on the huge drug trafficking”(Gratteri e Nicaso 66). With its businesses and incomes growing year after year, and its trades expanding all over the world, the Ndrangheta shaped its features becoming what it is nowadays, the most powerful Mafia in Italy and one of the most influential at the global level.
The main strong point of Ndrangheta is its criminal enhancing of family connections, something that differences it from other Mafias. The basic molecular structure is formed by the natural family of the boss (capobastone), that is the axes on which the gang – or ndrina – is bounded. historically, each ndrina was responsible for it own territory, unless there were other Ndranghetisti’s families. In that case, the territory would have been strictly divided to let everyone exercise its power.
More ndrine could have been bounded under the same locale, a bigger criminal group. Except for this coordinative organism, the ndrangheta never developed in a vertical structure, like Cosa Nostra did. It was only at the end of 1991 that a unitary structure was created to coordinate the organization. Despite the oriental level in which the ndrangheta develops itself, it’s not very easy to distinguish between the different organisms that operate. We can make a distinction between the Minor and the Major Society.
The Picciotto is the first step of the Ndrangheta’s “career” in the Minor Society: he is merely an executor of orders, forced to obey the high levels of the ndrina with the only hope of gaining immediate benefits. The Camorrista is an affiliate that deserves a certain importance because he reached this position after a period of training. He can complete missions that the Picciotto cannot afford. The Sgarrista is the last step of the Minor society, and has the highest relevance. Within the major society we have a huge variety of roles, among which we can mention the Vangelo (gospel), that is a person who has sworn with his hand on the gospel.
It is interesting to notice that all the people that don’t belong to the Ndrangheta are called the Contrasts, while those who are not members but sympathize with it are called Honored Contrasts. (“Roberto Saviano – La Ndrangheta al Nord”) Another feature that differences Ndrangheta from the other Italian Mafias is the role of females as members. Women had an important role in this organization, not only because their marriages could strengthen the ndrine, but also because they were admitted to the organization and could have climbed the structure to the highest female role, the Sisters of Humility.
This position requires to take care of the fugitive members, to let them contact the other Ndranghetisti, and to collect bribes. (“‘Ndrangheta”). Also, the Ndrangheta has always had a mystical feature, and were often sequestered codes in which the rituals and the ceremonies of this organization were carefully described; there were also rules to obey in cases of betrayal, as well as rules for how to use images of saints and readings of ritual phrases during the ceremonies.
Today, Ndrangheta is reported to be involved in a wide range of illegal activities including drug trafficking (it has the Italian monopoly of cocaine), murder, bombings, counterfeiting, gambling, fraud, theft, labor racketing, loan-sharing, alien smuggling, and kidnapping (Shanti and Paban 462). According to the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, the Ndrangheta turnover produces 43,7 billion euros per year, a little bit more than the GDP of Estonia (13,2 billions) and Slovenia (30,4 billions) (“’Ndrangheta, con droga e appalti giro d’affari di 44 milliard”).
Ndrangheta is today one of the most powerful organization in the world: liked with corrupted politicians and obscure secret services, it’s less exposed – compared to Cosa Nostra – to the external infiltration and to the phenomenon of pentitismo, but mostly it has ramifications all over the world: from all over Italy (especially in Lombardy) to Germany, Russia, France, Spain, Switzerland, Bolivia, United States, Canada, and Australia. (Mammone and Veltri 176-180).
But the Ndrangheta is not just an archaic system of bandits: it’s a criminal organization that progressively penetrated the bourgeoisie and the elites, and that reached every sector of the society, from public services to mixed enterprises to electoral organisms. The Ndrangheta has become not only the entrepreneurs, but also a social subject that gives weak answers to the needs of citizens unsatisfied by the limits and the lack of public policies.
In the last decade the police operations against all Italian Mafias were duplicated, and several ended with great success, imprisoning and denouncing not only Mafia members, but also politicians, entrepreneurs, engineers, doctors, and a lot of people involved in corruption and Mafia scandals. Several important bosses were also captured after years of delicate operations that required the collaboration with police forces of other countries, United States and Germany included.
Consequently to the successful operations, the Italian state managed to gain a lot of confiscated properties; in fact, according to the Codiretti analysis, more than 2. 000 agricultural grounds were sequestered until 2009 (“Oltre 2 mila terreni confiscati alla mafia tornano alla legalita”) The confiscation means a lot in the battle against Mafia, not only because of the economic incomes that follows the re-qualification of these territories, but also because it’s a psychological defeat of the Mafia’s apparatus, that sees its properties becoming useful for the Italian state.
A Mafia member would expect to get imprisoned (although it tries so hard not to), but would never want to see his grounds re-used for a legal purpose. Also, the projects send a clear message to local people – it is possible to fight the mafia and build successful businesses on the right side of the law” (“Organised Crime – EU Funds to Redevelop Seized Mafia Land in Italy”). Beyond the many associations that work to re-enable these territories there’s Libera Terra, a no-profit company that was born from the greater organization Libera, founded in 1995 by Don Luigi Ciotti.
With LIbera Terra, “the confiscated lands in Sicily, Calabria, Campania, Puglia and Lazio have been taken over by cooperatives of students and have produced oil, wine, pasta, taralli, legumes, preserves and other organic goods” (“Libera – Chi Siamo”). In 2008 I had the opportunity to participate in one of the summer camps organized by Libera Terra; it was the hardest week of my life, because we had to wake up early every morning to reach the lands and work there for six hours, but it was also one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in my life.
Despite all these good news, the Ndrangheta seems to flourish day by day, with its major port, Gioia Tauro, frequently subject to searches but always at the center of international drug trafficking. For a long time, the Ndrangheta remained underrated, sometimes even ignored by scholars of the organized crime. For a long time it was marked as a merely folkloristic phenomenon deriving from the Sicilian Cosa Nostra.
Ndrangheta managed to survive the huge deployment of forces held by magistrates and policemen thanks to its family structure that basically ignored the repentant attitude that many members of Cosa Nostra had: no one would have ever betrayed his father, his brother, or another member of his or her family. On the long run, the Ndrangheta system has demonstrated to be stronger than others, thanks to his flexible but at the same time bounded structure.
Plus, the Ndrangheta survived because it always operated trying not to show up nor to gain media’s attention, and had never experienced a period of famous killings, except for judge Scoppelliti in 1991. In the last decade, tough, this way of operating seems to be changing; the massacre of Duisburg, Germany, in 2007 (Holmes 1), and the murder of Vice President of the Regional Council Francesco Fortugno in 2005 (“Francesco Fortugno, Un Ostacolo Alla ‘Ndrangheta”). Despite the Mafia topic has been broadly discussed and denounced, there is still a lot to do.
First, people should understand that the Mafias are not just a peculiarity of Southern Italy, but that every region is penetrated by their influence, whether more or less visible. Second, Mafia is more a way of thinking than a way of acting, a mentality that pervades citizens – especially Italians – in a very easy way. Think about an ordinary day: how many times did you see or heard something wrong and just keep going on because “that’s how it works”? how many times did you break the rules? how many times you did your job wrongly?
What must be eradicated from the Italian mentality is this easy-way-out mentality, this will of not caring, not being involved, and not pointing the finger. A habit that kills the society at its fundamental and that lets Mafias flourish heavily. To quote Roberto Saviano, “the true revolution today is doing your job in a proper way” (“Roberto Saviano: “Io in Politica? La Rivoluzione e Fare Il Proprio Lavoro”). Third, complaining without acting never solved the problem: people should start operate within their local territories to see the changes in the higher spheres, because a democratic society literally starts with the δῆμος the people indeed.
Fourth, to be as more concrete as possible, citizens could volunteer for one of the many associations that fight against mafia, or could contribute to finance them with a financial aid or simply by buying the goods they produce. Finally, never stop talking about Mafia; as judge Paolo Borsellino said, “Talk about mafia. talk about it, whether on the radio, on TV, on newspapers. But talk about it”. (“Per Combattere La Mafia Bisogna Parlarne”).
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The Mafia Phenomenon in Italy. (2017, Jan 22). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/the-mafia-phenomenon-in-italy-essay