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"More fundamentally, the Camorra is simply a part of life."
April 10, 2012 8:39 AM   Subscribe

The Camorra Never Sleeps: "The Camorra is not an organization like the Mafia that can be separated from society, disciplined in court, or even quite defined. It is an amorphous grouping in Naples and its hinterlands of more than 100 autonomous clans and perhaps 10,000 immediate associates, along with a much larger population of dependents, clients, and friends. It is an understanding, a way of justice, a means of creating wealth and spreading it around. It has been a part of life in Naples for centuries—far longer than the fragile construct called Italy has even existed. At its strongest it has grown in recent years into a complete parallel world and, in many people’s minds, an alternative to the Italian government, whatever that term may mean."

Journeyman News: The Curse of the Camorra (YT, March 2009).

Short blog post via Mental Floss, with the trailer for Gomorrah, an Italian-language film set in Naples. Gomorrah was based on the book of the same name by Robert Saviano

Last month, 16 judges were arrested near Naples, Italy, with over $1.3 billion in assets seized.
posted by the man of twists and turns (29 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
Very apropo, I am 1/3rd through Gommorrah and a new resides in Bella Napoli. I do not have any (thankfully!) first hand experiences, but it talking to the locals that I work with its presence is felt right below the surface.
posted by aggienfo at 8:45 AM on April 10, 2012


'Ndrangheta, a similar organization in Calabria, on MeFi
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:47 AM on April 10, 2012


Gomorrah was a pretty good movie, I can recommend it. I didn't know it was based on a book and I am excited about this post, thanks.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:50 AM on April 10, 2012


I wonder if the Camarilla, the vampire society in the pen-and-paper RPG Vampire: The Masquerade, was taken from this society? How interesting.
posted by Malor at 8:55 AM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Gomorra, the book, is also pretty good.
posted by box at 8:57 AM on April 10, 2012


Malor, I was coming in to wonder the same thing.
posted by Tesseractive at 9:47 AM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


From the NYTimes book review posted:

Since clans are Campania’s “primary economic force,” he adds, for local politicians, “refusing a relationship with them would be like the deputy mayor of Turin refusing to meet with the top management of Fiat.”
posted by bukvich at 9:51 AM on April 10, 2012


Great article.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 9:52 AM on April 10, 2012


That's one hell of a Vanity Fair article. It took a little time to get going, the writing's a bit much, but by the time he starts talking about Di Lauro it gets really strong. William Langewiesche, I should have guessed.

I really like the way he puts this story in the context of the weakness of Italy. "People may wring their hands about the horror of it all, but this is Naples, one of the great alternatives to modern life." "The Camorra has created an anti-state whose very existence threatens the legitimacy of the Italian state. If the courts did not act, they would not be real. If the courts are not real, Italy will not endure. Our role is not to prevail over the Camorra but to go through the motions of trying.” “The anti-state is the state itself. It is the state, not the Camorra, that is strangling Italy".

The article talks a lot about photographs of the family but, annoyingly, doesn't seem to contain the photos. Here's a few I found. Paolo di Lauro arrest, mugshot. And Cosimo di Lauro the supposed heartthrob, one, two, three.
posted by Nelson at 9:55 AM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


This kind of Corruption - and by corruption I mean the state and camorra - in the heart of one of the wealthiest and most 'educated' regions in the world leaves me in despair sometimes. Have you ever tried to function as a scientist or someone that actually wants to do good, evidence-based work in an environment like this?

Here (I mean the places I've worked - coastal US, UK) the lies are bold faced, the system broken at a high level, but there are enough pockets of not-corrupt and evidence-respecting people with resources and a shared culture to GET THINGS DONE - meaningful things that nominally expand the circle of knowledge - or improve people's lot - but in a place like italy or spain.....I have friends. Everything is patronage. Everything must be pushed by greased palms. Golden rule: never step on turf. Golden rule: some things are not talked about*

We have serious problems as a species: primarily about enviromnental degredation and resource depletion.

Serious people are working on this: All their efforts - necessary for the survival of our species, efforts of economists, environmental remediators, city planners, culture warriors, educators, scientists, liberal politicians will be sucked into the swamp if we allow this kind of thing to infect us too. It's happening here, slowly....in a different cultural context.....but here nonetheless.


* Yes I know these things apply here, but the scale is just different.
posted by lalochezia at 9:56 AM on April 10, 2012 [9 favorites]


Di Lauro comes off as such an astute businessman, banning extortion and creating a legitimate business out of his illicit earnings. Makes me wonder how he couldn't convince himself to leave the illegal side.
posted by KGMoney at 10:05 AM on April 10, 2012


Makes me wonder how he couldn't convince himself to leave the illegal side.

Stolen steaks taste better.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:11 AM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Camarilla, a 'little chamber,' similar to a 'kitchen Cabinet,' or the power behind the throne.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:50 AM on April 10, 2012


Have you ever tried to function as a scientist or someone that actually wants to do good, evidence-based work in an environment like this?

Well, whatever you can say about these organized crime syndicates, they don't seem to have any ideological beef with the physical sciences.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:04 AM on April 10, 2012


lalochezia, it's funny that you mention that because when I was talking to an astrophysicist friend to explain to me the whole neutrino breaking the speed of light thing he dismissed the study entirely stating that he didn't trust the results because you have to take italian science "with a grain of salt". I thought he was being weird and ethnocentric, but then he went right into discussing the systems of corruption that effect hard science in places like Italy and Spain. I didn't know how much to really believe at the time, but your corroborating comment is interesting.
posted by WASP-12b at 11:21 AM on April 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Di Lauro comes off as such an astute businessman, banning extortion and creating a legitimate business out of his illicit earnings. Makes me wonder how he couldn't convince himself to leave the illegal side.

KGMoney, why on earth would you assume that astute business sense correlates with a desire for law-abiding behaviors?
posted by IAmBroom at 11:42 AM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Malor: I wonder if the Camarilla, the vampire society in the pen-and-paper RPG Vampire: The Masquerade, was taken from this society? How interesting.

I doubt it. A camarilla is just an informal, influential group around a ruler. I remember thinking the same thing when I was reading Jonathan Steinberg's biography of Bismarck and he described how a camarilla of influential aristocrats controlled Prussian society in the early-mid 19th century, but then was disappointed when it turned out it was just a general term with many historical examples.
posted by Sangermaine at 12:37 PM on April 10, 2012


lalochezia,

Can you explain what you mean exactly on how this affects science? You and WASP-12b talk about the corruption of hard science, but I really can't see why a criminal organization would care about astrophysics or microbiology or any other hard science unless it in some way impacted or harmed them. What does the Camorra care about neutrinos breaking the speed of light?
posted by Sangermaine at 1:03 PM on April 10, 2012


I love William Langewiesche's tone. He can call a murder "a strangely final event" without making you smirk.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:14 PM on April 10, 2012


> What does the Camorra care about neutrinos breaking the speed of light?

Every transaction in that society pays a tax to the Camorra, but more, promotions and advancement in organizations depends at least in part on your friendliness to organized crime.

This is as true of scientific research as any other field. If the Dean of your department is a made man, do you think scientific rigor will not be impacted?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:35 PM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've read about Italian higher education is notoriously fucked up, with an endemic system of mediocrity (where younger scholars are actively punished for producing work), but I hadn't read about anything in the "hard sciences."

"Here (I mean the places I've worked - coastal US, UK) the lies are bold faced, the system broken at a high level, but there are enough pockets of not-corrupt and evidence-respecting people with resources and a shared culture to GET THINGS DONE"

Can you give some specifics about what you're talking about in the U.S./UK ?
posted by stratastar at 1:38 PM on April 10, 2012


If the Dean of your department is a made man, do you think scientific rigor will not be impacted?

That'd be a hilarious scenario worthy of a terrible sitcom.

I've read about Italian higher education is notoriously fucked up, with an endemic system of mediocrity (where younger scholars are actively punished for producing work), but I hadn't read about anything in the "hard sciences."

Honestly that just sounds like generic educational institution problems not "the dark crimelords of the anti-state putting the kibosh on pure scientific research." Those goshdarn 'Ndrangheta capos taking protection money so that the astrophysics department at the University of Calabria can't afford new lenses for their telescopes this month!
posted by Apocryphon at 1:53 PM on April 10, 2012


Sangermaine/Apocryphon: I wish I had hard data. I have anecdata, so I apologize if I came across as seriously knowlegable: perhaps this is a form of prejudice based on the bitching of people I know....like most prejudice, it has a kernel of truth to it...how much I am unsure.

I'm not suggesting that corruption extends to interfering in results. I'm suggesting that it involves the acquisition of resources.viz

i) Stories of things being incredibly difficult to order (supplies) becuase they weren't through the right supplier.
ii) Funds being 'diverted' with no recourse.
iii) Crony appointments - although the latter is at least partially function of apocryphon's analysis and the even-more-stasis-than-other-academic-institutional culture.....


The stories below are not a function of mafiosi's direct involvement, but rater of a culture where impunity is rampant.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/family-fiefdoms-blamed-for-tainting-italian-universities-2089120.html

http://www.pacitti.org/articles_IN052002.htm
posted by lalochezia at 3:00 PM on April 10, 2012


Statsastar: too long a discussion - esssentially a throwaway commentary on the dilution of the academies mission by rigged market forces/sports/politics at a high level, etc.
posted by lalochezia at 3:02 PM on April 10, 2012


This is one step away from gossip - but I have heard stories about an advanced astronomical instrument built by the Italian members of an international consortium that turned out to work far less well than expected. Supposedly, various precision work was farmed out to a machine shop owned by someone's brother-in-law (or maybe it was cousin)... pieces of paper were used as spacers inside the instrument to get everything aligned (in a situation where fractions of a millimeter can count)... and most unfortunately, parts of the instrument were made out of non-stainless steel, so it started rusting as soon as it was installed (this, at least, I was told by multiple reliable sources). The instrument has since been rebuilt completely by the observatory and is now working better.

I have a friend who got his PhD in Italy; but because he spent his time as a postdoc in the US and France, he had basically no job prospects at home (the fact that his thesis advisor died, leaving him even further cut off from the old-boys' network, didn't help either).

To continue the talk of how stereotypes carry over into the science community, I can say that astronomical instruments built in Germany have the same reputation for quality and meticulous construction as German cars (while English instruments seem to fall somewhere in between).
posted by janewman at 3:05 PM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Child labour re-emerges in Naples
Local government officials are afraid to enter the area’s tower blocks, and there are very few educators like Giovanni Savino who are able to enter Barra.

At the head of an association called Il Tappeto di Iqbal, "Iqbal’s carpet", named after a Pakistani child-slave who led a revolt and was subsequently murdered, Giovanni Savino has angry words for the mafia, a failing education system, and a state "which abandons its children." In Italy, there is no automatic access to benefits. Support for the young people and their families is distributed by 150 associations, which are wholly dependent on local government financing.

Since the onset of the crisis, funding for such initiatives has been cut by 87 %: and the 20,000 educators in the Campania region, who have not been paid for two years, have to rely on their own resources to do their work. If no alternative funding is found, Il Tappeto di Iqbal will soon be forced to close down.
posted by ob1quixote at 3:12 PM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Italian school of algebraic geometry was important for early insights, but did not continue with mathematical rigor.
posted by sammyo at 7:01 PM on April 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sure would be a shame if something bad happened to these nice complex manifolds you've got here...
posted by kmz at 9:29 AM on April 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


To continue the talk of how stereotypes carry over into the science community, I can say that astronomical instruments built in Germany have the same reputation for quality and meticulous construction as German cars (while English instruments seem to fall somewhere in between).

janewman, I'd say that is not about mere stereotypes; it has more to do with attitudes prevalent throughout the university system (which produces engineers of all stripes, who go on to make both cars and telescopes).
posted by IAmBroom at 1:26 PM on April 11, 2012


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