To visit Martin's writing website, press here.

November 13, 2011

La Liberazione, part one

I imagine some of my non-Italian readers asking me, “What’s going on over there, dude?” You’ve heard the news: puppet and puppeteer Silvio Berlusconi finally out of power, but what does it mean and how did it happen? I’ll attempt the impossible, explaining Italian politics (impossible because I don’t understand it myself, even after more than 30 years here).

Berlusconi started in real estate development and then, through strong political connections, built a media empire. The first non-public national commercial television channels were all his, as well as several national newspapers, etc. When they were on the verge of collapse, he went into politics and gave them/himself public money to keep going. He consolidated his monopoly. He kept himself out of jail for crimes like bribery, tax evasion and collusion with the mafia with his power as head of the executive branch. He bought the majority in parliament, which block-voted in his favor. He bought the racist Lega Nord party too.

For years he railroaded through laws called reforms that were destructive to the social fabric and the constitutional democracy, while helping himself and his friends with their business ventures. See my old blog about his dismantling of the universities, public schools, public health system, etc.

Along the way he had at his command an army of professional liars, appearing nightly on national TV (still his own property, as well as the government-run RAI networks). As if Limbaugh, Beck, O’Reilly, Coulter, etc., were cloned into the hundreds and sent to invade every public space with their deliberate bullshit. Those were the hysterical voices screaming at us for almost 20 years. Naturally some people grew to believe Berlusconi’s Black Is White tactic, but most voted for him because they thought they’d make more money in his alternative reality.

A pathological but strategic liar, earlier this week he said that there was no economic crisis in Italy; the proof being that the restaurants were full of people. Out of touch? Out of his mind? But was the current economic collapse the cause of Berlusconi’s downfall as all the foreign papers are saying? I think not. There’s more to it than that.

When a couple years ago, the alternative press broke the bunga bunga orgy story, that Berlusconi held nightly Hefner parties during which he had kinky sex with a number of the thirty-something prostitutes that he personally employed for his own use, at least one underage (16, he's 75), that would have been the ultimate scandal in almost any country except Italy. But we knew he’d been at it all along. In the early days of his television career, any young women wishing to work on his shows had to go through his bedroom. Many of the females “elected” (imposed) in parliament had the same apprenticeship. It makes you look at them differently when they’re on talk or variety shows. Berlusconi lives in a world of prostitution and treats all Italians as his whores.

Don’t forget that we’re talking about the richest man in the country. He can buy anything he wants, and he behaves as if he can do anything he wants. Scornful of the law, the institutions, the constitution, political decorum or just common decency, he is famous for his bizarre personality. It is no surprise that Muammar Gaddafi was one of his closest political allies, one that he apparently admired and copied. Never seen in public without thick pancake make-up, with regular hair transplants and face lifts, elevator shoes, comically excessive body-guards, he seemed to be acting the part of a statesman, but came off more like a lowlife mobster-clown, reminding me of Jack Nicholson's Joker in the first Batman movie. His favorite activity, other than those mentioned above, was telling dirty jokes, the filthier the better. A true sleazebag.

So why, you ask, could he stay in power so long? By far the longest-serving premier in Italian history, he stayed in power because the rules are written to allow and encourage cheating. When he needed more votes, for example, he approached opposition parliamentarians and offered between 200,000 and 500,000 euros for them to change parties. It worked, of course. Isn’t that illegal and punishable by law, you ask? Apparently not. He regained his majority by purchasing these traitors. So why did some of his own people vote against him this last week, so that he lost his majority? I don’t know the true answer to that one. The truth is, again, hidden in a cloud of lies.

It happened at the same time as the economy imploded, and Berlusconi didn’t have the strength to win another fight for his political survival. Even his closest allies (he has no friends) were sick of him. Perhaps the Arab spring has been imported across the Mediterranean. Now what awaits Berlusconi are a series of criminal prosecutions that will probably mark his pathetic end. I’d guess he’ll run rather than do time, and the authorities will let him, as they did his mentor Craxi.

Does crime pay? Not in the long run. If we don’t believe that and it isn’t confirmed by history, we’re sunk. But if, even after twenty years of hell, we can finally liberate our country of a disgusting, embarrassing, trashy, immoral, purely self-interested leader, then there is hope for political maturity. Representative democracy in Italy is only sixty some years old; it has a lot of catching up to do.

Happy trials, Martin

Mutt:  Once upon a time, a tribe of cannibals caught a saint sent to them as a missionary and ate him. He was very tender and tasty, yet they were all violently sick afterwards.
Jeff:  I’m waiting.
Mutt:  It shows that you can't keep a good man down.
Jeff:  And an incompetent ship captain grounds the warship he walks on.
Mutt:  Oow, clever. Did you hear about the optician? Two glasses and he made a spectacle of himself.
Jeff:  How about the man who ran through a screen door? He strained himself.
Mutt:  One can tell that a tree is nomadic when it packs up its trunk and leaves.
Jeff:  That’s awful.
Mutt:  I know. The truth may ring out like a bell, but it is seldom ever tolled.
Jeff:  Okay, when you lose something, why do you always find it in the last place you look?
Mutt:  Help me out.
Jeff:  Because you stop looking as soon as you find it.
Mutt:  Did you hear about the guy that lost his left arm and leg in a car crash?
Jeff:  I did. He's all right now.
Mutt:  So what do Eskimos get from sitting on the ice too long?
Jeff:  You got me.
Mutt:  Polaroids.
Jeff:  Sounds painful, but less than these jokes.
Mutt:  Jokes? These are legitimate questions.
Jeff:  Fer instance?
Mutt:  Fer instance, how does a spoiled rich girl change a lightbulb?
Jeff:  She says, "Daddy, I want a new apartment."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Now I want to know what you have to tell about Donald Trump. Laughs best who laughs last.
Greetings from Italy.
Francesco Tripodi