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Roberto Saviano = Italian Altruisim

roberto saviano

Roberto Saviano the writer of Gomorrah is one of a very small group of Italians who dare tackle one of Italy’s oldest and stickiest issues – the mafia.

Saviano’s efforts have caused him to sign his own death sentence.

Many Italians have asked me for what Italy is known, and many pre-empt my response by suggesting ‘pizza and mafia’.

Italy = mafia = No Surprise

And it is true, and probably comes as no surprise, that I was aware of the mafia long before I set foot in sunny Italy.  However what has always amazed me is just how log the mafia has managed to retain so much power in Italy for so long.

roberto saviano
Roberto Saviano

I’ve put this to Italians who usually retort that I’m not Italian and so I cannot understand why the mafia exists.  When I mention that I have read that the mafia were nearly ruined during Mussolini’s reign, I am told that all the mafia did was play along with Mussolini, or Mussolini played along with the mafia.  Whatever happened, the mafia still exists today.  Of course I should say mafias, for there are several, but the rest of the world is only really used to hearing this shady organisation referred to by its stage name – the mafia.

The Naples Chapter – the Camorra

Perhaps after the trash crisis down in Naples a few more will be aware of the Camorra, which is the Neapolitan chapter of Italy’s group of criminal organisations.  Certainly Roberto Saviano knows more than a thing or two about the Camorra, indeed he wrote an exposé on the subject called Gomorrah, which has been turned into a well known film.  And no, I have neither read the book nor seen the film, although I’ll do one or the other, if not both.  However the book and the film are mentioned regularly by Italians.

Roberto Saviano’s Altruism Destroys His Life

Writer Roberto Saviano deserves a medal for bravery for undertaking such a revealing work.   Perhaps one should say ‘such an accurate work’, for Saviano has managed to incur the wrath of one of the fabled Godfathers of Italy’s crime clans.  A price has now been put on Saviano’s head.  He is to be killed by Christmas the Godfather has decreed.

Yet Saviano must have known just what he was letting himself in for in writing such a work.  After all others who attempted to tackle the mafia issue, Falcone and Borsellino for instance, were executed.  The mafia network is so efficient that it can even discover the hyper-secret movements of senior anti-mafia prosecutors.  Tracking down poor Saviano, who has been under 24 hour police protection since 2006, should be a piece of cake.

Other Silently Courageous Italians

Aside from extremely courageous people like Saviano, and the late Falcone and Borsellino, Italy also has a hardcore of phenomenally brave men and women who work on Italy’s anti-mafia squads.  These people know that they are running a huge risk, but not only for themselves, but for their families and even their friends.  Yet despite the incredible risks they face, people willing to have a go at stamping out one of Italy’s oldest and most notorious problems still come forward.  Altruism pure and simple.

Saviano Knew What Would Happen

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Philosophy graduate Saviano knows a thing or two about thinking, so he must have thought long and hard both before and during his writing of Gomorrah.  He must have known that he was virtually signing his own death sentence, or at least condemning himself to a life on the run.  Yes, I’m sure he has a good size bank account, but he is going to have some serious problems enjoying his wealth, even if one suspects that someone like him may not have been motivated by money.  Saviano is a clever chap, and he must know that money is not likely to save you from Italy’s most dangerous form of criminal.

Can Italy Save Saviano?

Will Italy be able to protect Saviano?  Probably not, and he appears to be talking of leaving the country.

Can Italy Save Itself from the mafia?

Will Italy ever stamp out its mafia?  Maybe, but 60 years of unstable government have enabled the mafias to gain something of a stranglehold on Italy.  Indeed, rumours of top level politicians with mafia connections abound in the living museum, and such rumours reach all the way to Mr Berlusconi himself.

It is possible that the Italian army have been sent down to southern Italy to try to discourage mafia activities because, unlike Italy’s various police forces, the Italian army is possibly the sole Italian institution which has not been penetrated by the mafia.

Not Only a Southern Italian Feature

Should you think the mafia is a southern Italian phenomenon, think again.  Construction projects which will need to take place in preparation for the Expo in Milan in 2015 have already attracted the attention of Italy’s underworld.  Only this time it’s not the Camorra of Naples that is sniffing around, but the Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta.

Will Italy’s few brave altruists win the war, or will Italy remain synonymous with the mafia?  A good question.  Has anyone got an answer?


Read more about Roberto Saviano on Wikipedia


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