Commentary. There is no lawfulness without social justice. If fundamental social rights are lacking—work, housing, education, health care—mere lawfulness risks becoming a principle which excludes and discriminates.

The prophecy of Giovanni Falcone in the fight against the mafias

It’s been 28 years: 1992-2020. Things have changed a lot since then. And I am sure that if he hadn’t been barbarously murdered in Capaci together with Francesca, Vito, Rocco and Antonio, Giovanni Falcone would urge us today to find a new paradigm in the fight against the mafias. Because nowadays, these have found their most powerful and zealous ally in a discriminating economy, which, on the global scale, has produced abnormal concentrations of money and power on one hand, and levels of injustice and poverty as have never been seen before on the other.

Places with a dearth of rights and democracy have always represented the fertile ground on which organized crime thrives. This is a new paradigm, because, going beyond investigations and arrests—coming from the extraordinary efforts of the judiciary, state institutions and police forces—the fight against the Mafia today must begin again from the awareness that organized crime is now an organic part of a wider system of injustice.

By making the tracing of cash flow—“follow the money”—into one of the cornerstones of his own investigative method, Giovanni had prophetically prefigured the economic and entrepreneurial development of organized crime.

He warned us against the risk that, in a world that worships the idol and the logic of profit, the mafias would find more and more space, hidden in the folds of a social fabric with many tears, fostered by politics that pays little attention to the common good. His forecast has found chilling confirmation nowadays: the mafias are not only everywhere, in many parts of Europe and the world, but they are able to act in the shadows, almost undisturbed, using the money they possess in disproportionate quantities instead of the weapons they used to employ before.

As the most perceptive analysts have confirmed, corruption has now become the phenomenon that serves as a hinge between us and them, a grey area which makes them similar to us and, at the same time, makes us Mafia-like—similar to them—ourselves. This is why remembering Giovanni Falcone today means having to rethink the fight against organized crime, and also rethink the very concept of law-abidingness.

There is no lawfulness without social justice. If fundamental social rights are lacking—work, housing, education, health care—mere lawfulness risks becoming a principle which excludes and discriminates.

It becomes an instrument not of justice, but of power. Never has there been such widespread talk about being law abiding as in the last 28 years, and never before have we had such a weak, sick and unequal democracy, as the pandemic is now highlighting unsparingly. This proves that a rhetorical abuse has been made of the notion of being “law-abiding,” which acts in some ways as a moral “sedative.” Many people invoke being law-abiding in order to quell their consciences, to feel that they are on the right side. They are exhibiting lawfulness as a credential, and then use it as a free pass, as a fig leaf covering everything, including misdeeds and loathsome behavior.

Giovanni was well aware that being law-abiding is a means and not an end, because—like Paolo Borsellino and like all the magistrates who have served democracy by fighting against criminal powers, but also against the so-called “powers-that-be”—his guiding principle was justice, which means the freedom and dignity of every human being.

But Giovanni was also a true utopianist, one of those who not only dream of utopia, but build it day after day. This is how we must understand his invitation to hope—one that today, more than ever, should shake our consciences: “The mafias are not invincible, because, like every human fact, they have a beginning and an end.” If Giovanni were still with us today, he would say the same words all over again, but with a small addition: “The mafias are not invincible, because they are a human fact. But in order to defeat them, we must all go back to being more just and more responsible.” Which is to say, more human.

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