Friday, 18 March 2016

Organized Crime

The Polesotechnic League protects Merseia from the effects of a nearby supernova. Merseia is not yet politically united so the League deals with the Merseians' only international organization, the Gethfennu, organized crime. Thus, humanity earns the enduring enmity of the Merseian aristocratic party.

Flandry enriches a vice boss on Irumclaw but only so that the vice boss will then pressurize the Empire to continue defending that Imperial frontier - against the Merseians.

In Jerry Pournelle's and SM Stirling's "The Children's Hour," the Yakuza, Japanese organized crime, still operate in the Solar System and have also moved to the Alpha Centaurian colony where they will help UN agents against the kzinti occupation without charge. Kzinti estates are squeezing out human society. Yakuza can try to deal with either but are safer with the latter.

I think that the Mafia is a survival of feudal social relationships (tradition, protection, violence, personal loyalty, religious observance) into capitalist society. A survival and an adaptation: organized criminals want either to transfer into legitimate businesses or to continue to prey on legitimate society. Either way, they need to protect that society against any invader (Nazi, Draka, kzin) that would really try to change the rules of the game.

17 comments:

  1. Kaor, Paul!

    Commenting on your first paragraph. I dunno, it seems rather implausible for Merseian leaders to nurse a grudge against humanity for 700 years over something relatively trivial as the League dealing with the Gethfennu in "Day Of Burning."

    If something analogous to what we see in "Day Of Burning" happened to our Earth, I can think of only one truly international organization of brokering or organizing the means necessary for saving Earth from a supernova: the Catholic Church. Altho I have my doubts many in the Church would have wanted her to take on so worldly a role.

    I agree with your second paragraph and would add that Leon Ammon's reopening of the mines on Wayland would also have been useful for reviving a stagnant economy on Irumclaw and the surrounding sector of the Empire. And that too would have helped induce the Empire to continue holding the line in the Irumclaw frontier.

    Sean

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  2. I forgot to add to my previous note that I have my doubts about either the Mafia or Yakuza having feudal origins (but I'm very ignorant of their history and so I might be wrong). These organizations are CRIMINAL outfits making their money from sex slavery, drug trafficking, shakedown "protection" rackets, etc. All of these things being at least formally disappoved of and punished by the state. Granted the state was sometimes too weak or corrupt to truly crack down on organized crime. Whatever "feudal" resemblances criminal organizations like these had weere happenstance, not deliberately created to be like that.

    Seam

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  3. Sean:
    If aliens tried to put the Catholic Church in charge of disaster mitigation in the manner done with the Gethfennu, the resulting anger and bitterness would be far, FAR worse, because just about EVERYONE not Catholic would be outraged at being forced under the authority of what they'd regard as infidels -- a threat to their SOULS, not just their pocketbooks.

    It wouldn't only be non-Christians such as Muslims who'd be hostile; some Protestant groups in the U.S. still insist that Roman Catholics aren't truly Christian. (A woman in Tennessee, Vicky Frost, raised objections to the local school even mentioning Catholicism in history lessons UNLESS the children were explicitly taught that the Roman Catholic faith was WRONG.)

    With regard to Mafia and Yakuza, I can't properly sort out the truth from propaganda, but there are certainly CLAIMS that their origin was at least partly feudal. I've seen statements, for instance, that the Mafia began as a resistance movement against French occupation. Naturally, the actions of such a group would be considered crimes by the overlords they resisted. As for the Yakuza, here's a quote from Wikipedia (for what it's worth):

    "Yakuza are regarded as semi-legitimate organizations. For example, immediately after the Kobe earthquake, the Yamaguchi-gumi, whose headquarters are in Kobe, mobilized itself to provide disaster relief services (including the use of a helicopter), and this was widely reported by the media as a contrast to the much slower response by the Japanese government. The yakuza repeated their aid after the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, with groups opening their offices to refugees and sending dozens of trucks with supplies to affected areas. For this reason, many yakuza regard their income and hustle (shinogi) as a collection of a feudal tax."

    As to WHY the Japanese government might grant the crime syndicate "semi-legitimate" status, let me refer you to the work of fantasy writer Sir Terry Pratchett. He portrayed a brilliantly Machiavellian* tyrant, Lord Vetinari, granting criminal groups the status of guilds and letting them function openly. Then one day, Vetinari invited the Thieves' Guild bosses to his office and said, essentially, "I forgot to mention one thing. NOW I KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE. I know where to find your wives and children. You ARE going to be MODERATE in your crimes, aren't you?"

    * Actually, some people have speculated that Vetinari would consider Machiavelli merely a promising beginner....

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  4. Hi, David!

    Many thanks for your comments. Exactly! You made explicit what was merely implicit in my remarks: anti Catholic hatred and bigotry would greatly reduce the effectiveness of the Church's efforts to organize disaster mitigation if something like "Day Of Burning" happened on our Earth. At the same time I truly can't think of any other effective, world wide organization aside from the Church.

    Yes, your suggestion the origins of the Sicilian Mafia goes back to resistance to French rule reminded me of the French conquest of the Kingdom of Sicily (including the southern half of the mainland) 1266. The bloody revolt of the Sicilian Vespers of 1282, driving out the French from the island of Sicily might owe something to "antecedents" of the Mafia.

    And one think I thought of as regards the Japanese Yakuza organizing disaster relief in Japan was how this was an example of a private organization, even one I disapprove of, showing itself more competent than the state. Yes, the Yakuza does have resemblances to the Gethfennu. I would only stipulate that it is not truly an INTERNATIONAL crime syndicate (I think!).

    Your comments about Sir Terry reminded me of how, even here, Poul Anderson at least touched on similar themes. In THE WINTER OF THE WORLD, the very, very, ancient city of Arvanneth (New Orleans), thousands of years from now, during an Ice Age which brought down our civilization, had criminal gangs organized into guilds. Guilds which had come to be grudgingly recognized by the ancient, ossified theocracy ruling Arvanneth. This reluctant tolerance was probably based on the understanding the criminals would be similarly moderate in their crimes.

    Sean

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    1. Kaor, Sean!

      If I recall THE WINTER OF THE WORLD correctly, the criminal gangs were it the same as the Guilds, which were more conventional guilds of merchants and artisans. The criminal gangs did interact with the guilds in various ways. I don't beliebpve that the ossified theocracy recognized the criminal gangs as legitimate, although it seemed not to be very effective in policing the city. The Barommians were fiercer against the criminal gangs, leading the latter to join in a rebellion.

      Best Regards,
      Nicholas D. Rosen

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    2. Kaor, Nicholas!

      I'm not sure what you meant in the latter part of your first sentence above. Did you mean "...the criminal gangs were NOT the same as the Guilds..."? If so, I have to disagree because this is what I found in Chapter 1 of THE WINTER OF THE WORLD, when a gang boss from Arvanneth sought assistance from the Rogaviki: "The third was Casiru, former thief, swindler, and cutthroat, presently vice chief of the Rattlebone Brotherhood and hence a director of thieves, swindlers, and cutthroats." And, exactly! The new Barommian conquerors of Arvanneth regarded the criminal guilds (which I still believe is an accurate term for them) with moralistic disapproval and cracked down harshly on them. And Ercer en-Havan, one of the Lords Spiritual of Arvanneth even expressed satisfaction and approval of this in Chapter 3: "Why, alone, the criminals you have hunted down and executed put us in your debt."

      I conclude from all this that the criminal guilds of Arvanneth were both organized into formal guilds or Brotherhoods and had won a grudging tolerance from the ancient theocracy ruling Arvanneth. But only a reluctant tolerance and it was pleased the Rahidian/Barommian authorities were hunting down the Brotherhoods.

      Best regards, Sean

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    3. Kaor, Sean!

      Yes, that's a description of the Rattlebone Brotherhood, and apparently there are other Brotherhoods like it, but I don't think that the criminal Brotherhoods are the same as the Guilds. I meant to write "were not the same", but it seems to have been autocorrected to "were it the same".

      Best Regards,
      Nicholas

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    4. Kaor, Nicholas!

      Of course a guild of criminals like the Rattlebone Brotherhood would not be FUNCTIONALLY the same as guilds of goldsmiths, coppersmiths, merchants, etc. I do argue the Arvanneth crime gangs had copied the ORGANIZATIONAL forms of legitimate businessmen and artisans.

      Sean

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  5. Morte Alla Francia Italia Anela!
    (Death To The French Is The Cry Of Italy!)

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    1. Feudalism itself was a protection racket. Small landholders payed one lord to protect them from others.

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    2. Kaor, Paul!

      Your quoting of "Morte Alla Francia Italia Anela!" reminded me of seeing something quite similar in Dante's DIVINE COMEDY. The poet was mentioning the Sicilian Vespers in one of many passages where he alluded to events in Italian history.

      I do see your point about feudalism, at least in its beginningsm, was a kind of protection racket. But I'm not sure how true that remained as time passed and feudalism was hedged about with rules, laws, customs, precedents, etc.

      Sean

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    3. Kaor, Paul!

      I thought of something I should have included in my comments immediately above. Was feudalism truly a "shakedown protection" racket if smaller landholders or tenants of a great landowner paid him for his protection or agreed to do military service for him?
      Esp. if this happened during times when the state that should have enforced law and order was declining or collapsing. A CRIMINAL shakedown racket in the ordinary sense is a gang of thugs threatening business owners or shop owners into paying them money NOT to destroy their property or harm them personally. The latter is mere extortion, not feudalism.

      Sean

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    4. Sean,
      Shakedown sounds like feudalism gone wrong or outliving its usefulness.
      Paul.

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    5. Kaor, Paul!

      I would agree more with the "outliving" part than I would with the "gone wrong" bit. Also, a declining or waning feudal shows us more the powers and privileges of local lords becoming slowly obsolete or transferred to a steadily more powerful central state.

      Sean

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  6. Paul:
    Ah, you've heard that version of the origin of "mafia," too. I thought of mentioning it, but wimped out in the end. I encountered it, by the way, in one of Leslie Charteris' novels about Simon Templar, the Saint.

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    1. Hi, David!

      And Poul Anderson was a fan of Leslie Charteris' "The Saint" books. I really should get one or two of Charteris' books and see if I would like them as well.

      Sean

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    2. David,
      Please feel absolutely free to say whatever you want. That is what this blog is for. The only no go area would be the expression of racist views but no one here is going to do that in any case.
      Paul.

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