Thursday, April 03, 2008

Instead of Criminals, Should Mafiosa Be Considered Role Models?

IN 1925 the Italian prime minister Vittorio Emanuele Orlando announced with suitable pomp and ceremony in the Italian senate that not only was he a mafioso, but he was proud of it too. According to the worthy PM and many others of Sicilian extraction, the term mafioso embodied the grandiose, ethical traits of honour, nobility and generosity of spirit.

“If, by the word ‘mafia’, we understand a sense of honour pitched in the highest key; a refusal to tolerate anyone’s prominence or overbearing behaviour … a generosity of spirit, which, while it meets strength head-on, is indulgent to the weak; loyalty to friends … If such feelings and such behaviour are what people mean by ‘the mafia’ … then we are actually speaking of the special characteristics of the Sicilian soul: and I declare that I am a mafioso, and proud to be one.”

In short, the prime minister seemed to be saying that the mafiosi were sadly misunderstood — they were not really criminals but rather role models.

Sounds a lot more salubrious than the waste management operation Tony Soprano was running until recently. No wonder the poor fellow was in therapy, the dissonance between the promise of his legacy and the brutal reality of the titty bar understandably got to him.

According to the 19th century Sicilian ethnographer, Giuseppe Pitre: “Mafia is the consciousness of one’s own worth, the exaggerated concept of individual force as the sole arbiter of every conflict, of every clash of interests or ideas.”

It’s a state of mind so many of our own luminaries seem to embrace with heart and soul, but I feel that they could learn a thing or two from Orlando’s rhetoric. I mean, “I am not a thief” hardly equates to the rousing battle cry of Sicily. Stake out the moral high ground, I say.

Thanks to The Times

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