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Mafia History

Essay submitted by Victor Aviles

What is the Mafia? Some believe the word Mafia was the battle cry of an Italian rebellious group- this battle of cry was the following: "Morte all Francia Italia anelia!" (Italian for "death to the French is Italy's cry!") (www. gambino.com). Others defined the Mafia as, name for loose association of criminal groups, sometimes bound by blood oath and sworn to secrecy. (Microsoft Encarta 97). Despite both of these definitions the Mafia has evolved into a very complex and organized society of crime. Present time it doesn't represent Italian gangs, (even though that's what most people picture) it also includes Russian, Japanese and Chinese gangs just to mention a few. The purpose of this work is to describe some of the aspects of the Mafia. Throughout the course of this work I will use the Italian Mafia as my subject in order to exhibit my views more clearly.

The history of the Mafia is sketchy but many believe that the Mafia was born in order to protect and help the less fortunate. The methods used to help and protect were, and still remain illegal. Today, the organization still continues to practice these acts or "rituals." The difference between early Mafia and modern Mafia, is that during late 1800's to early 1900's, the Mafia used these illicit crimes to help their families and the noble good less fortunate, now they abuse their power and distribute the "dirty money" in abundance amongst themselves. (keep in mind that the Mafia was born in Sicily, in a time where authorities weren't accessible).

The Mafia also has a very organized family tree. This tree includes everything from bosses to soldiers. Soldiers usually belong in the bottom. Followed by these are called "enforcers". They usually serve as bodyguards or bouncers who watch and protect their establishment. These enforcers are able to have their own gambling or other financial establishment. They are also able to hire others to carry out tasks. Above enforcers are commissioners. They control the area of the city and are more widespread. Next is "The Boss". He controls one of the several organizations. Ultimately these are controlled by the godfather. Many times these Mafiosi have what is notoriously known as "Murders Inc" (Italian Mafia). This group of individuals specialize in murders. They consist of a small group of heartless individuals who kill whenever ordered to.

In order for an individual to join the Mafia he would pledge the following: "I (name given) want to enter this secret organization to protect my family and to protect my brothers. "Morte alla Francia Italia Anelia!." With my blood (a knife is used to place a cut in the index finger or band) and the blood of all the saints and the soul of my children. (the sign of the cross is made) I swear not to divulge this secret and obey with love and amerta. I enter alive in this organization and leave only in death! (www.gambino.com). Within this pledge there are many clues which reveal the lifestyle of a "Mafioso."

A person who belongs to the Mafia, or Mafioso is a very secretive person. This is because if any information is revealed which may harm another Mafioso, they be punished by death. The value of silence is a requirement of any Mafiosi, it is a norm of those who participate in criminal activities and those who violate it will be punished according to the grade of the offense. Depending on the offense he may have to prove himself to his boss, may be "out on the street" (the American Mafia) or if it was extremely important information, he would be killed. This information is kept within their own families (fellow gangsters) and is discussed amongst themselves despite the fact that there are several other families (chapters) within the same are or state. The reason for this is mainly concerned with financial situation.

The murder, if done, may be completed using several methods. One method is by hiring someone, usually from another family, to kill the individual. This is the method most commonly used when the individual knows most of the Mafioso's in his family. Another way may be to be "set up". In this case the individual may be set up by fellow gangsters he trusts. Many times these "trusty" individuals are required to kill their "friend" because of a "big favor" owed to the boss. The final way the individual may be murdered is purely by favor. This means that a member may kill the individual with the intentions of moving up in rank within his family. Violence is the primary use of the Mafia, but at times it is in the Mafia's interest to use nonviolent means. For example, when dealing with small offenses, Mafia bosses may use debt as means of punishing the individual. This is accomplished through secrecy and cheating during gambling bets. Another way used to punishing individuals is by taking their right to take part in any profiting activity. Any enterprise, like gambling, or any way to receive money is either crippled or taken from the individual. Non-violent means are also put through violent means. For example, if an individual borrows money and refuses to pay he will be punished but not killed. They will often scar the individual in order to warn others of what could happen if they refuse to pay. Th. final way of punishing an individual is by making him work for free until his debt is completely paid.

On the other hand, violence is the tool which is most often put to use. Violence is not only used to punish, it is used to "take over competitors enterprises." (The American Mafia) Some types of violence may include threats, destruction of property, or mugging. All of these are used to take over their competitor's establishment. This is not done directly to the competitor (other than destruction of property) but rather indirectly, meaning through customers. For example, they will not threat or mug the "owners" of the establishment, instead they will do this to the customers. Other times warfare may be the violent tool used. This is almost always the case when we hear of territorial battles. Many times individuals of these organizations take advantage of these battles and revenge upon previous, unrelated matters. This often leads to bigger death tolls.

Today's Mafia in the is different from Sicilian Mafia in the beginning of the century. This European Mafia was built upon a sense of respect, loyalty, culture, family, and heritage (Sicilian heritage) They only chose people of Sicilian background and followed their beliefs very closely. This belief was that justice, honor, and vengeance are for a man to manage, not for the government. They were also loyal to the norm of the Mafia which was secrecy. Today's Mafia, on the other hand, include a large group of thieves, murderers, and a unloyal individuals. Despite the fact that it inherited some of the basic norms, these are often broken and abused. For instance, one norm no longer followed (in respect to Italian Mafia) is their selection of only Sicilian individuals. The main purpose of today's Mafia is to use any illegal means to get money. These means include, gambling, murder, bootlegging, prostitution, and kidnapping.

A major difference between this type of society and a "normal" society would be in the justice system. In our society we are able to sue anyone with reasonable cause. This may vary from money owed to an automobile accident. This isn't the case with the Mafia. How can a Mafioso take someone to court for not paying gambling fees or drug sales? This is where their own form of punishment, which we have discussed, come to play. This is also where they take advantage of their belief, "...justice, honor, and vengeance are for a man to take care of..."

The society, which we call Mafia, has evolved very drastically. It has evolved and adapted to new ways much like a "normal" society, this being a society under government and police regulations. It is a very complex and organized group of individuals who follow old norms and take part in criminal activity in order to achieve one goal, money. I have described most of the aspects of this organization in terms of history, organization (ranks, etc.) norms, and goals. All of these elements are essential in making any society thus proving that the Mafia is a society within our society. Hopefully now you have a more clear understanding of this "underground society."

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