from “Mafia and Blood Symbolism” by anton blok [pg. 120]:

“[Buscetta, a mafia guy] compares the ‘mentality’ of mafiosi in the United States with his own attitudes finding the younger generation more Americanized:

‘They always talked about the rights and obligations of the individual. It was almost an obsession. At home in Sicily this ‘individual’ did not exist. The ‘family’ came first before everything else. Also before the real family, that of blood.'”

sicilians, and southern italians in general, are quite inbred — especially compared to anglo-americans who have a long history of outbreeding and are the originators of these ideas about the “rights and obligations of the individual.” mating patterns — whether a population is inbred or outbred — affect the genetic relatedness between members of a population, strongly impacting on the prominence — or not — of the individual within a population.

bear with me a sec … this will feel a little weird seem a bit fanciful, but i’m going to attempt to illustrate what i mean.

here are two unrelated individuals, mr. blue and miss pink, come together randomly to mate (click on images for LARGER view):

and here is a representation of them with their offspring, mr. deep-blue, who has inherited half of his father’s chromosomes and half of his mother’s chromosomes. as you can see, he is a square just like each of his parents:

now, here are mr. blue and miss pink again come together to mate, but this time they are first-cousins, meaning they probably share (approximately) 1/8th of their genes in common. see? they overlap:

and now here they are with their son, mr. deep-blue. mr. deep-blue has still inherited one half of his chromosomes from each of his parents, but this time he has inherited some duplicate genes from both of his parents, i.e. the area where the two parental squares overlap:

notice that in the inbred scenario, mr. deep-blue square has shrunk in size. (actually, he’s not even a square anymore, is he?) he is not as large as mr. outbred deep-blue, who has inherited a greater number of unique genes since his parents are unrelated.

in a way, you could say that mr. inbred deep-blue is less of an individual than mr. outbred deep-blue — he is less of a unique individual, anyway.

now imagine what happens in a society where inbreeding is the norm and has occurred generation after generation after generation. you’re gonna have to imagine it, i’m afraid, ’cause i can’t draw it!

it’s not strange that the “‘individual’ did not exist” in sicily the way it does in the u.s. because the individual really doesn’t exist there. at least, not so much anyway.

previously: english individualism

(note: comments do not require an email. i’m an individual.)