Monday, August 10, 2020

Italian Mafia make merry amidst the COVID-19 pandemic

This article is by

Share this article

Article Contributor(s)

Syed Ahmed Uzair

Article Title

Italian Mafia make merry amidst the COVID-19 pandemic

Publisher

Global Views 360

Publication Date

August 10, 2020

URL

Logo of The Godfather (a movie made on Italian Mafia) | Source: Wikimedia

Italy was the first European nation to encounter the coronavirus and it still is one of the worst hit nations in Europe. The country has been battling with an economic decline and rising unemployment for a few years now. However, the COVID-19 pandemic hitting the country was like rubbing salt in Italy’s wounds.

The strict lockdown imposed by the government in Italy has had an adverse effect on a lot of people particularly the small scale and the medium scale business owners. Thus, a lot of people in Italy have resorted to desperate measures. The Italian mafia have made merry of the situation by providing these people with the much-needed aid they have been looking for.

Even as the country struggles to pull itself together, the mafia have made inroads in acquiring influence over the locals by distributing food packets to poor families with no source of income. There have been videos surfacing from the southern regions which suggest that the mafia have been actively involved in delivering essential items to the people.

In Palermo, a mafia gang member, who has been distributing food to the poor, says "People ring me and they cry over the phone,". He further tells, "They say their children can't eat. A young woman has been calling me every single day. She has five kids and doesn't know how to feed them."

However, the Italian mafia has been employing the tactics of exploiting vulnerability of the locals in the face of economic crisis for a long time. The COVID-19 pandemic was yet another opportune moment for them to capitalise.

"The mafia has never done anything out of generosity. That concept doesn't exist for them," says Enza Rando who works for an anti-mafia organisation. "All they know is I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine."

A report by  the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC), based on virtual round table discussion between top anti mafia officials and activists suggests that the healthcare sector as well as the manual laborers and service staff who work mostly cash jobs are the most vulnerable to the mafia influence during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As per the national anti-corruption authority ANAC the mafia corruption has been a big setback to the COVID-hit Italian economy. "They are taking advantage of the emergency situations like the current one, with devastating effects on the economic system and on healthy businesses, already hard hit by the crisis," said ANAC President Francesco Merlon.

Sergio Nazzaro, a journalist, writer and adviser to the Parliamentary Anti-Mafia Commission says, ”The people who are jobless don’t care about the mafia, corruption or anything, but they see the state only talking, and from the mafia (they see) money, and I fear that at the end of all this we are going to see how much the mafia managed to buy while we were in crisis.” He stresses that the state will have to provide economic stability to the people if it hopes to eliminate the mafia influence.

Father Luigi Ciotti, an Italian priest and well-known anti-mafia activist pointed out three key areas that need to be monitored for mafia activity during the pandemic. The first is the increase in drug trafficking. The second one is new products like face masks, disinfectants etc which are suddenly in demand and provide heavy profits and third the predatory money lending.

It is quite clear that the Italian government needs to come up with strong economic reforms that ensure stability and security for its people if it hopes to counter the mafia influence. Otherwise, the mafia will always be there to trap vulnerable people by proving to be their benefactors in the short run only to exploit at a later stage.

Support us to bring the world closer

To keep our content accessible we don't charge anything from our readers and rely on donations to continue working. Your support is critical in keeping Global Views 360 independent and helps us to present a well-rounded world view on different international issues for you. Every contribution, however big or small, is valuable for us to keep on delivering in future as well.

Support Us

Share this article

Read More

January 18, 2021 2:21 PM

The Toxicity in Video Games and Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077, the most awaited video game was released on consoles and PC on 10th of December, 2020. The game went under 10 years of build-up and had kept gamers waiting for over 8 years. Cyberpunk 2077 is inspired by a cult-favourite tabletop roleplaying game. The video game was designed by well-known Polish studio, CD Projekt Red. Cyberpunk was the studio’s first big console game since The Witcher 3: Wild hunt which was an extraordinarily triumphant game that won numerous awards after its launch in 2015.

The popular video game, when released, faced backlash from the gaming community and non-gamers for several reasons. To many observers and gamers, Cyberpunk 2077 even proved to be an absolute failure. Several gamers called out the game developers for the promotion of sexiest ideologies and transphobia. However, the reviews weren’t well received by the fans. Cyberpunk 2077 fans responded with unacceptable abuses, harrasing and hateful messages and even rape and death threats.

Keanu Reeves in Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077 released ample previews, trailers, motion pictures and marketing material. Aside from this, the appearence of popular Canadian actor, Keanu Reeves as a character in the game carved the expectations of gamers and promised a sexy and kinky world of futuristic and revolutionary action. CD Projekt Red, one of Europe’s most successful video game company announced Cyberpunk 2077 project in 2012 and released the first trailer in 2013

The game is set in an alternate timeline in the city of California. The streets in the game are owned by tyrannical corporations. Everyone in the game modifies their body with illegal technology. Much of the state in the video game setting is said to be suffering from the impacts of a major nuclear attack which happened years ago. Every player gets to be a cyber-enhanced human who has to fight against physical and psychological threats to their survival. The game character of Keanu Reeves comes in as your sidekick.

In 2018, the developers insisted and had assured the gamers that Cyberpunk 2077 would not include in game purchases. CD Projekt Red did not want to lock any content behind a paywall. The studio was also insistent that the game would come out only when it was completely “ready”. They announced that the release would take place in April 2020 but it was delayed multiple times due to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as other quality problems that the game was facing. When it was finally released in December 2020, gamers expected their experience of the game to be “worth the wait”. However, the video game wasn’t well revived by all. In spite of several months of work that went into making and developing the game, the game was launched with several technical issues. Players on both PC and consoles were having terrible experiences. As a result of multiple glitches and technical problems, the characters’ faces were obscured and the game would reset randomly. Some of the environments or areas of the game map was unappealing. The game even caused consoles to crash repeatedly and sometimes sacrificed players’ progress. One glitch led to characters’ breasts and penises being exposed. The characters’ genitals would poke out of their clothes. CD Projeckt Red offered refunds to players who were disappointed with the product. In fact, they updated a self-review discouraging gamers from playing the game on console until the game was fixed and improved.

Cyberpunk 2077 was roundly criticized by reviewers, game designers, industry insiders and other gamers across the gaming community. The wait and hype for the game had already created a fanbase which turned toxic by harassing reviewers who criticised the game.

There is another reason why the game wasn’t well received. Cyberpunk 2077 transphobia was apparent in the game contradicting the fact that the developers had claimed that the game was ahead of its time. The game has an incredibly detailed character creation menu. The players can control several aspects of their character’s appearance including the shapes and size of the genitals. The game even allows players to decline the option of including genitals to their characters. However, this isn’t the problem and is in fact appreciable. The idea of not determining gender by the character’s genitals in fact made many trans players happy. But this soon turned into disbelief and disappointment. The gamers realised that the game actually assigned the gender to the characters not based on their genitals but rather by the voice. Characters with higher-pitched voices were identified as females and characters with deep-voiced characters were assigned male pronouns. This purports the toxic idea that people’s gender can be determined by certain traits. A non-sexist video game would determine the gender of a player’s character based on an independent choice made by players themselves. This is uninfluenced by other physical traits or qualities.

Several reviewers called out Cyberpunk 2077 for promoting sexist ideologies. Unfortunately, toxic fans harassed the reviewers. “You just KNOW when you're going to get harassed. If the game with all the hype has anything wrong with it, and you're honest about that, or even just want to provide any context outside of ‘it's fun’, you're going to get harassed. It's a given.” These were precisely what Susan Arendt, a podcast host quoted. She even second guessed herself whether sharing her true opinions was worth the hateful, threatening and harassing messages that she received.

Controversial Tweet by Cyberpunk 2077 Twitter Handle

In the early days of arcade, gaming was a family activity. The popular male dominance and stereotype that only boys or men are good at video games were perpetuated in the past three decades. We observe this change due to sexualisation of video games. Today, most video games aren’t family friendly as they include explicit and sexual content. This, in fact, is a marketing tactic used by developers to target the male population. In 2018, a Cyberpunk 2077 fan who was awaiting the game at that point of time tweeted that the user wanted to see more from the “guys” at CDPR. In response to this tweet, CD Projekt Red tweeted, “Did you just assume their gender?!”. On the look of it, the tweet seems innocent but it is a joke at the expense of the trans community. After receiving backlash to the tweet, CDPR took it down and issued an apology staying sorry to “all those offended”. The apology seems like another targeted mockery and CDPR did no right by not taking responsibility for its actions.

Not only is Cyberpunk2077 transphobic and sexist, it is non user friendly as well. The game has several epilepsy triggers without any warnings about it. There are several instances and situations in the game where the effects and the graphics are brighter, louder and flashing. This is a general trigger for seizures. Liana Rupert, a player of Cyberpunk 2077 suffered a major seizure and at several moments felt that she was close to another one. After bringing this to the notice of CD Projekt Red, the company agreed to add trigger warnings wherever necessary.  

The gaming industry has definitely taken a few steps forward in terms of inclusivity of all genders but has also taken a few steps backward. While all genders are welcome, they still face harassment and judgement for simply existing in the community and need a lot more improvement.

Read More