---------- Forwarded ----------
From: Alexei Sharov <[log in to unmask]>
To: leo <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Mon, 19 Mar 2007 13:56:27 -0400
Subject: Re: Fwd: parasitism and viability - one more comment
I like this comment that mafia is an indicator of a dysfunctional government.
It happened in Russia as well, and now is happening now in US where the
government is unable to control the immigration and drug trafficking.
>Sorry to pop in late to the discussion - I've been
>being a tourist in Rome.
>Going back a bit, the line between symbiosis and
>parasitism isn't always that clear. For example, a
>symbiot who eats other parasites living on the host by
>preference may eat directly off the host if none are
>The same is true in society. In the United States,
>before Prohibition it was perfectly legitimate to
>operate a pub. Then came Prohibition and it was
>criminal, then Prohibition was repealed and it was
>legitimate again. Some of the activities labeled as
>criminal are providing services that substantial
>numbers of people want to buy such as liquor,
>marijuana, off-track betting and prostitution. All of
>these can be utilized without harm to some or most of
>the population but not to everyone. All of these vary
>in their prohibition from country to country and all
>are legal in some places so this is definately a
>cultural difference. There are also interstices within
>the law (mentioned by Norbert Wiener in "Human Use of
>Human Beings")such as the grey market where people's
>safety and consumer protection are at risk.
>As I understand the origins of the Mafia, they filled
>a gap in Sicily where the then Italian government was
>not able to provide the things that governments
>normally provide. Something similar might be said of
>youth gangs that offer belonging, structure and the
>possibility of gaining respect in a social environment
>where these are in short supply. Both of these live
>off their societies as parasites but it can be argued
>that they began as result of deficiencies in the
>societies they occupied. A proportion of regular
>crime as well amounts to legitimate goals (prosperity,
>status...) pursued by illegitimate means.
>There is a sense in which many legitimate businesses
>and social relations carry an element of exploitation.
> If it is mutual it approaches fair exchange but when
>it is not they look very parasitic to me. Values come
>in here, especially where a breakdown in trust makes
>the whole atmosphere a bit toxic. It is easy to see
>the extremes but not so easy to draw the line as some
>will feel or be exploited in circumstances where
>others will not.
>As to universals, I submit that they exist in a
>general sense such as people should have access to
>legitimate means of living a good life, should be able
>to have trust in their transactions and should have
>some autonomy to make choices on their own behalf.
>These contribute to a viable society and one where the
>worst forms of parasitism will not find a nutrient
>medium. As to particulars and perceptions, they vary.
>There was an excellent example of this emerging into
>Rome with the crowd. People were dressed in
>everything from short sleeved t-shirts to down jackets
>and scarfs. The air temperature was constant but the
>response was not.
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> Leonid mailto:[log in to unmask]
Alexei Sharov, PhD, Staff Scientist
Lab. of Genetics, National Institute on Aging (NIA/NIH)
333 Cassell Dr., Suite 3000, Baltimore, MD 21224
Phone: 410-558-8556 Fax: 410-558-8331
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Leonid mailto:[log in to unmask]
For more information go to: www.metaphorum.org
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