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Feature Articles


September 2017
La Mafia is Hyper Fratellanza

      By Mike La Sorte, Professor Emeritus


Mike La Sorte is a professor emeritus (SUNY) and writes extensively on a variety of subjects.

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The concept of Fratellanza refers to a band of reciprocal affections that tightly unites Fratelli into a Brotherhood, leading to the Brothers gathering under the same symbol, swearing mutual and enduring fidelity. The Society of Brothers is an elite gathering, their solidarity ironclad, a socio-psychological knot that is firm and unbreakable. Secretness can only be attained in small groups. La mafia as a functioning Fratellanza holds dear to the concept of omerta’ (silence is golden), while closely associated with the Sicilian mafia is hardly unique to its members. It is a societal norm, especially in the case of those who engage in malavita, the criminal life, or any other behavior that runs counter to conventional norms. La mafia Fratellanza will hold together as long as the malfattori (criminal members) remain firm to the omerta’ oath by not cooperating with authority. To violate the oath will breach the wall of silence, which is essential to its continuing existence. The fewer the membership of the Fratellanza, the more homogeneous its membership, the more likely omerta’ will hold.

Apart from the malavita, the concept of silence has been a value of substance in the Sicilian language and behavior for some time. It penetrates everyday life, a virtue deep in Sicilian history. There is the concept of umilta’—the virtue of humility, humbleness in behavior, loyalty to true manhood: men are by nature silent, women are not. There is the question of uomo, or omo, (man), more directly to galantomismo, the quality of a gentleman. The emphasis on the cultural requirements of expected masculine behavior is integral to the notion of mafiosita’. One must look to the turbulent Sicilian history and the passing of Sicilian cultures for an appreciation of the rules of Il Mafioso Fratellanza expressed in the initiation rites of membership. Fratellanza is a simple meeting of minds and interests. Once you add antisocial behavior to the mix there emerges a racketeering mentality, arrogance and an exaggerated sense of selfworth, a deadly brew.

The few high-status mafiosi who decided to spill their guts to the authorities did so to save their own skins. But more importantly, they concluded that “this thing of ours” was no longer what it was in its heyday: no longer a club of gentleman; no longer kinship, or honor, thus no old-school Fratellanza.


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