TOEFL Listening exercise 4




Professor – Good morning class! I’d like to speak to you about the Camorra today. I’m sure all of you have heard of the book “Gomorrah,” the book written about the Camorra, and that caused an awful lot of debate a few years ago. The Camorra is a Mafia-type criminal organization or secret society, originating in the region of Campania and its capital Naples in Italy. It is one of the oldest and largest criminal organizations in Italy, dating back to the 18th century. The origins of the Camorra are not entirely clear; it may date back to the 16th century as a direct descendant of a Spanish secret society, the Garduna, founded in 1417. Officials of the Spanish Kingdom of Naples may have introduced the organization to the area, or it may have grown gradually out of a small criminal gang operating among the poor in Neapolitan society near the end of the 18th century. The first official use of the word dates back from 1735 when a local decree authorized the establishment of eight gambling houses in Naples. The word is almost certainly a blend of “capo,” which means “boss,” and the Neapolitan street game, the “morra.” This activity was prohibited by the local government and some people started making the players pay for being protected against the passing police. The Camorra first emerged during the chaotic power vacuum in the years between 1799 and 1815 when a Neapolitan Republic was proclaimed on the wave of the French Revolution and the Restoration of the Bourbon dynasty. The first official mention of the Camorra as an organization dates back from 1820 when police records detail a disciplinary meeting of the Camorra, a tribunal known as the Gran Mamma. That year, a first written statute was also discovered, indicating a stable organizational structure in the underworld. Another statute was discovered in 1842 including initiation rites and funds set aside for the families of those who were imprisoned. The organization was also known as the Bella Societa Riformata, the Societa dell’Umirta, or Onorata Societa. The evolution into more organized formations indicated a qualitative change; the Camorra and camorristi were no longer local gangs living off theft and extortion. They now had a fixed structure and some kind of hierarchy. Another qualitative leap was the agreement of the liberal opposition and the Camorra, following the defeat in the 1848 revolution. The liberals realized that they needed popular support to overthrow the King. They turned to the Camorra and paid them, the camorristi being the leaders of the city’s poor, and the Camorra effectively had developed into power brokers in a few decades. The Camorra was never a coherent whole nor a centralized society. Instead, it has always been a loose confederation of different independent groups or families. Each group was bound around kinship ties and controlled economic activities, which took place in its particular territory. Each family clan took care of its own business, protected its territory, and sometimes tried to expand at another group’s expense. Although not centralized, there was some minimal coordination to avoid mutual interference. The families competed to maintain a system of checks and balances between equal powers. One of the Camorra’s strategies to gain social prestige is political patronage. The family clans became the preferred interlocutors of local politicians and public officials because of their grip on the community. In turn, the family bosses used their political sway to assist and protect their clients against the local authorities. Through a mixture of brute force, political status, and social leadership, the Camorra family clans imposed themselves as middlemen between the local community and bureaucrats and politicians at the national level. They granted privileges and protection and intervened in favor of their clients in return for their silence and connivance against local authorities and the police. With their political connections, the heads of the major Neapolitan families became power brokers in local and national political contexts providing Neapolitan politicians with broad electoral support and in return receiving benefits for their constituency.