Remember when the Mob was merely corrupt, savage and murderous? It’s still all those things, but, as Neapolitan philosopher Saviano writes, it’s also become a globalized multinational corporation with a long reach.
“The Camorra,” laments Saviano, “is made up of groups that suck like voracious lice, thus hindering all economic development, and others that operate as instant innovators, pushing their businesses to new heights of development and trade.” Operating on the vicious margins, but also in the space that government and development agencies might otherwise occupy, the Neapolitan crime syndicates, with their “flexible, federalist structure,” are far more populous than the Calabrian ’Ndrangheta or the Sicilian Mafia and cast a wider net. They set up companies, pull down others, band together and pull apart. Far from the thugs who conspired in postwar Italy to smuggle cigarettes in from Montenegro without paying taxes, they have their fingers in every aspect of the consumer economy, for “consumer goods have replaced the nicotine habit as the new contraband.” Say “consumer goods,” and you immediately implicate the Chinese, whose own organized crime groups care little about how their wares enter the European market so long as they get there. (The American market, too—buy an Italian-designer anything, and the chances are good that it was made in China.) By Saviano’s calculation, 1.6 million tons of Chinese goods enter the port of Naples legally, but at least another million tons “pass through without leaving a trace.” The Chinese themselves do—visit a morgue in Naples, and the Asian bodies—in the wrong place at the wrong time—are everywhere. Saviano also offers an interesting bonus: instructions on gun use. As one older Camorrista complains, “Ever since Tarantino, these guys don’t know the right way to shoot!”
Saviano’s account is sometimes florid—the consequence of sending a poet to do a journalist’s work—but endlessly eye-opening and sobering.