The social culture and its leftovers: the Manduria’s (Italy) baby gang case


Livia Corbelli

Livia Corbelli

During these months, I read several articles reporting news about this fact: I have been touched by some expressions as “checking for silence”, “confirmed culture”, “criminality”. This kind of events must not be minimized, on the contrary we must say that they represent the most explosive outburst – so, the most (apparently) unexpected and destructive outburst – coming from a cultural substratum rotten for a long time and, still, not uprooted, no matter how much directly stoked.

            Stano the mad, Stano the weirdo, Stano the solitary – Stano was a man who was subdued to the violence much earlier than that moment when the youngsters raised their hands on him. A violence that melts with the silence and acceptance of the status quo: sometimes due to the lack of the courage to change it, sometimes due to its hidden subscription. Antonio Stano is an example of forgotten leftovers’ destiny in this country: they are the embodiment of a crisis to get through – but it’s a crisis concerning the contrast between greatness dressed with arrogance and inadequacy, fragility, deficiency. These problems are the ones no one actually want to realize so not to engage in the seek for solutions, a self-defence for keeping on feeling good and – above all – powerful, stating a social order where the weakness that falls out of what is considered to be “normal” is not allowed. In this country, the forgotten leftovers are scapegoat. In this way, the retiree from Manduria is a pharmakos.

            In Plato’s pharmacy, Derrida talks about pharmakos as someone excluded from the social space and defined by a double ambivalent nature of cure and poison : his singularity discloses society’s ailing side letting inadequacies and anomalies emerge and, for this reason, he “must die”. So, Stano-the-outsider is a man becoming a man – which means someone who is recognized as a human being – only when forever gone. Stano dies for real, but in general the “must die” identifies the need of not to trouble the social order and this – in Italy – happens with anyone being a part of troublesome social categories (I could mention the homosexuals, the disabled, the immigrants… but what would this mean after all?). Nevertheless, always taking Derrida as reference, what is not openly said is that pharmakos’ life as we described it is fostered by the social community itself. It needs to face the pharmakos in order to silence him and, thus, keeping power and cohesion – both more or less aware final aims of a society gripped by a collective neurosis leading to constantly feel under attack. In this way, diversity is the top threat.

            Here is then, if we want to talk about “confirmed culture”, we have to have a 360° thinking and to wonder which culture we are talking about. In this case, we could fairly enough say “the culture of pharmakos”, but in the most bare and devious sense which do not hold anything of its ancient holiness.

We are in the midst of a sacrificial crisis (Violence and the sacred, Girard) where we are struggling with the detection of types of violence and where we enable impure, infectious and mutual violence to spread all around. This means we are in the midst of a crisis of difference concerning the cultural order in general, so that machismo and intolerance become the expression of a kind of power which wants to be shown. And the more this expression of power is spread, the more it feeds the ego and the prestige of the one performing it. A prestige that never gets to be an attribute of the one committing the violence, this being because his condemn (if not just for simple moralism) moves faster than him especially when it comes from an authority that is socially (and politically) higher.

The Manduria’s baby gang in a picture from the Italian Police

Is it clear the paradox? The sneaky game made of incentivating and hitting the problem? The Manduria’s baby-gang performed a criminal action. Despite being a despicable and condemned one, nevertheless it has its roots in the fertile ground of a social and cultural context that keeps on stigmatising deviances and weaknesses without integrating nor solving, but fostering them increasing the space in between.

Being reached this point, if the pharmakos was the “cure-posion” tool used by the community to keep its cohesion, today it seems it no longer belongs to the to the community (being the sense of community lost nowadays) but to the individual that needs these behaviors to find oneself. This, anyway, means not to get out of one’s own perimeter. Hence, maybe, the root problem leading us to reach a new, powerful, different and effective reaction to this violent individualism is “what is the meaning of the community today?”

Livia Corbelli

– Derrida J., The Pharmacy of Plato in « The dissemination », Paris, Collection ‘Tel Quel’ at Editions du Seuil, 1972

– Girard R., The violence and the sacred, Paris, Pluriel, 2010




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