Addio pizzo!

Addio pizzo!

One of the most powerful tools in the arsenal of the Sicilian mafia is omertà, the normalization of silence in the face of extortion and intimidation. Omertà is synonymous with the hidden governmental power of the mafia. It stands for the - entirely understandable, if tragic - choice made by people to accept the coercion of organized crime, rather than stand, riskily, with the state. 

So how do you break omertà? One way, as I explore in Hidden Power, is for the state to be 'more mafioso than the mafiosi', as the Fascist tribune in Sicily, Cesare Mori, put it in the mid 1920s - to out-threaten and out-muscle organized crime. That has obvious pitfalls. Another approach - in some ways much harder, but also more promising - is for civil society itself to develop resistance to the norm, to act collectively to resist it. 

That is what is going on in the photo above. The orange sticker is marked 'Addio Pizzo!' - literally, 'Goodbye to the Piece' - i.e, 'We are through with extortion'. This is a merchant boycott campaign, pioneered by brave restaurateurs, shopkeepers, hoteliers and small merchants in Sicily who decided they had had enough of the mafia's stand over tactics. By marking their establishments with this sticker, they can appeal to responsible consumers, who seek out such business to patronize - slowly putting the squeeze on mafia businesses. What would it take to replicate this approach elsewhere?

Slavery and the limits of international criminal justice

Slavery and the limits of international criminal justice

From Castellammare with love

From Castellammare with love