Of dys­func­tion

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books - Stephen Ben­netts

Winch­ester killing, Ital­ian pros­e­cu­tors have long sus­pected it was an ’ Ndrangheta hit, and the case is to be re­opened in Novem­ber. In 2011, Ital­ian po­lice un­suc­cess­fully sought the ex­tra­di­tion of Tony Val­le­longa, a Cal­abrian prop­erty de­vel­oper and for­mer mayor of Perth’s City of Stir­ling, af­ter he was se­cretly recorded in con­sul­ta­tions with the boss of Siderno dur­ing a 2009 visit to Cal­abria.

One of Mafia Repub­lic’s many strengths is its com­par­a­tive fo­cus: whereas Si­cil­ian and Cal­abrian mob­sters ‘‘ climbed the so­cial lad­der un­til they merged with the state, Neapoli­tan camor­risti bul­lied their way out of the pris­ons, broth­els and slums [but] never quite left the al­leys be­hind. Un­able to call on the kind of po­lit­i­cal pro­tec­tion that the Mafias of Si­cily and Cal­abria could boast, the Camorra was vul­ner­a­ble.’’ In fact, this Neapoli­tan poor cousin of Cosa Nos­tra col­lapsed be­fore World War I, only to re-emerge with un­prece­dented vi­o­lence in the post-war pe­riod.

For Dickie, mafia dom­i­na­tion rep­re­sents ‘‘ the an­tithe­sis of the val­ues of freedom and democ­racy that un­der­pin Europe’s post-war pros­per­ity’’. Yet de­spite re­cent suc­cesses in the anti-mafia strug­gle, he seems to find lit­tle rea­son for op­ti­mism: Too much of Italy is dys­func­tional, the state ap­pa­ra­tus is mired in in­ep­ti­tude, pa­tron­age and cor­rup­tion. A large slice of the econ­omy is cash in hand, and there­fore in­vis­i­ble to the law. Whole ar­eas of the vis­i­ble econ­omy are hob­bled by in­ef­fi­ciency and sleaze. Ital­ian so­ci­ety seems in­cur­ably ad­dicted to the same vices, nor is there much prospect that Ital­ians will elect a govern­ment hon­est, de­ter­mined and au­thor­i­ta­tive enough to im­ple­ment the re­forms the coun­try needs. For as long as Italy re­mains in this con­di­tion, then en­dur­ing vic­tory over Cosa Nos­tra, the Camorra and the ’ Ndrangheta will be out of reach.

The af­ter­math of the 1993 mafia bomb­ing of the Uf­fizi Gallery in Florence

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