It may amaze the reader exactly how similar organized crime and nations are. These sorts of sentiments have found resonance in our times of mandatory taxation on any and every thing. Claims of armed robbery in the collection of tax as a last resort are close enough for most people and that is where the thought ends for most. Truth is, organized crime throughout history has in turns replicated and undermined that most recognizable status quo: the governmental apparatus. This subject and the subsequent branches can’t be taken on in one article: it’s something that can’t be dealt with properly in a single book. What I would like to begin with this article is to start on the philosophical foundations of both entities, and that would be the primitive accumulation of power.
In the West there is a narrative of governmental formation that governments share because it’s very convenient and helpful, even. The unifying myth begins as conquests of liberation or civilization, or a genocidal action against people who are nearly animals and it couldn’t be helped anyway. But a coming together brings this grouping of people by happenstance of geography into a nation with a shared destiny. America accomplished this by abusive royalty countered by Enlightenment ideals, with a great struggle against the hegemon of the world ending in a righteous defeat for freedom. The Middle East and Levant have their version thanks to various stewardships of Islam and holy places.
Once the claim of legitimacy has been established by the power, in this case a government, a whole new era of demands begin. That is for another article. Suffice it to say that governments are founded by enterprising and ruthless individuals who control murder and have murdered themselves. Political power does grow from the barrel of a gun. Let’s pause and consider all this versus organized crime…
In the so called underworld no one wants to help a potential competitor: as a matter of fact most would prefer to prevent competition however that may come about. This can come about from murder, informing to the government, and what I will call drafting. Drafting is a talent assessment of strong points or earners in a crew with an eye towards acquiring their talent for another. The result is a weakened or destroy gang that never saw its full potential. So, much like an encroaching power must fight to survive and perhaps win, the “OGs” have to carve a niche into the environment. These individuals are predators amongst predators who could perfect themselves into Apex Predators like the Five Families of old days. Territory for a nation is the Cartesian idea of space in 3D: for organized crime it may be blocks, streets, cities, or just simply tacit permission to move where they please. But this ability must be earned and maintained against everyone inside the group and outside.
The uniting myth of organized crime is usually at least partially racial or ethnic. I don’t know of a real white Blood nor an Asian Gambino made man. Along with a racial aspect is a familial one: gangs pull in peer family members of similar age and often down through generations like a secret society. Finally, the next most common is geography. If your neighborhood has a lot of Latin Kings and you’re the right shade of Latino, chances are overwhelming that’s who you will clique up with. Of course, it isn’t uncommon that many of these play into the final product such as the Rollin 40s Crips, a geographically centered black gang.
So what is the day to day grease that fills in when patriotic pride or neighborhood love just isn’t enough? For the nation it is economic and individual stability, access to services, and a judiciary. You can access a contractor for repairs because IEDs aren’t blowing everything up, and if you get ripped off you can bring a suit. If someone beats you, you can call on the police for intervention. A sense of regularity and norms to follow, in other words.
On the other hand for organized crime, the primary is cash. The macro level of societal stability gives way to the desires of the individual. If the crew is weak and cannot protect its drugs, dealers or other pipelines no one can make money. They won’t quit robbing, they’ll move on to who has the stroke to handle business. The next is the sense of family which may be true in sentiment or fact. Gangs replace families for those with awful ones and become a sense emotional stability for someone who has very little stability in any other aspect of life. These ties can be enduring and as important as other intense relationships. In the case of the Italian Mafia, the family ties are often real, as in by blood, which is also an incredible tie that binds. Betrayal in either case represents instant anomie and all the downstream issues associated with it. There is a reason almost all former gangsters report deep depression and suicidal ideation for years after leaving the gang, and that is it. Putting former friends away is not as rough to deal with as simply having no one to remember the good times with. The good times that are also over forever.
Either of these structures could become a city state or nation given enough time and the right choices. The paranoia and greed inherent in organized crime prevents any sort of higher aims beyond not ending life in a prison cell. Organized crime is not an ideological organization that can inspire genius and a willingness to sacrifice for the greater common good. It is a parasite that operates outside the law and society, extracting its life from the Society it is not a part of. Similarly, the government feeds itself off the population at large in the same way, outside of conventional life but yet all around it. It, however, has successfully brought together an establishment that perpetuates the model, like organized crime, but also inspires many to regard it as something like God. The national myth, history, a sense of greatness and a desire to share this with their children constantly regenerate this imaginary. The theme to The Godfather doesn’t bring tears to an average persons eye, but The Star Spangled Banner just might.
As readers of Gangster Report know, organized crime was denied outright or not the subject of intense investigation for decades. The reasons for why vary according to who you ask, but my guess is corruption is the first reason and a sense of inevitability a close second. Once upon a time in Europe, certain classes of people where given a break on certain offenses. Poor women didn’t often get arrested for casual prostitution, and men with a still were allowed to sell their hooch as long as it wasn’t killing people. These sort of things were thought of as part of the condition, and it was counterproductive and pointless to stop it within permissible limits. Law enforcement in this country probably took a similar attitude, and at any rate the Communists were trying to kill capitalism so… there were more pressing concerns. At some point this changed. Why? The mafia went political.
Cartels today are efficient profit driven institutions that excel in global logistics. Their bread and butter isn’t card tables and whorehouses, but the part their cog plays in a machine of impressive complexity. From farming coca or poppy to the crude pastes created by those same farmers, to the morphine kitchens to the custom subs, and then to be stomped on in the street… How the world is kept supplied is an amazing feat. If you have noticed the lack of civic pride and charity, it is because people involved aren’t warm and cuddly men looking for warm and cuddly relationships. The philosophy isn’t raising all boats, but silver or lead. Do it and get paid, don’t and someone will kill you. Make your money and get out.
Without a grander vision for society or even members, the only appeal to be made is one to violence. Discipline and consequences keep the cartel going because otherwise there is no point not to just take the first big payday you can. Death, jail and betrayal aren’t attractive to many as a new way of life, so government can be assured that there will not be a peer competitor for power from a cartel. As long as it stayed that way, there was a tacit allowance of existence. A realist expenditure of resources says that those who have aims smaller than being peer competitor can get dealt with on the state level, but once you’ve crossed a threshold you can’t go back.
Some may say that the Kennedy Assasination destroyed this social contract because the mafia killed a head of state. I am less convinced: investigation could have also resulted in arrests and it may be nothing more than that. Robert Kennedy talked a lot about the mob but we’ll never know how that would’ve actually went in execution. What we are left with is conspiracy theory and guesswork, which is fun for thought but not something we can build a criminal case from.
What we do know is Joe Columbo began a political experiment with the Italian rights group he founded. Most people explain this away as a ploy to muddy the water for future prosecution by creating a perception of bigotry amongst FBI and others. I’m sure this is true. In sword fights, however, a deft parry can open up opportunities for tactical improvement or even victory. Defensive becomes offensive. What Joe was beginning, whether he had it planned or not, couldve ended up with him and his group as legitimate political powers given criminal cover from this power. This becomes an improving cycle as one helps the other.
Not only was it through the standard channels that he could’ve benefited. By achieving recognition he achieves also solidarity with other Italians throughout the nation. The organization was “for them, by them” much like the NRA has come to equal in many eyes the second amendment. Looked at as if it was an onion, the racial layer is closer to the core than the patriot layer, if it exists at all. Governments don’t like these sort of problems, as it is very likely ethnicity will win out over a distant beauracracy most of the time. Now you have a non criminal membership who’s allegiance is tied up with someone’s DNA instead of legionaire hierarchy on penalty of death. And it’s above the table.
Political power and cover, an ability to penetrate areas of society and government totally out of reach of just a crime family means the difficulty in dealing with the group increased many magnitudes. Those in government saw this, as did some of the craftier mob bosses. Warnings to Joe to back off and keep a low profile as is said in retelling this story were rooted in the knowledge that Washington would not tolerate a turn to pseudo legitimacy without a fight. This was a fight no one wanted but saw coming if Joe’s plan fell into place. The dominant narrative is that other people weren’t willing to go to prison for Joe’s ideas, and may have played a role in putting him down as an example for others. I’d say people saw Columbo taking the symbolic torch from a dying Gambino and wasn’t having any of it.
However, after this scheme fizzled out we see that shortly afterwards a serious and sustained project began that knocked the Mafia off a pedestal it had occupied for decades. The families are constantly being clipped back and disrupted by law enforcement, satisfied in crippling that it cannot kill. If you look around, many other organizations that take political positions are targeted and given a room at Club Fed, hoping to break them mentally or at least age them out of crime. If you don’t snitch forget it, you aren’t breathing air as a free man again. Snitching is pennance to the God of the state and your only hope to be saved.
In closing, if you want to be Scarface, you can’t be Obama too.
Hit me up on Facebook: eye am Eamon Parks… www.facebook.com/caleb.parks.796