Berlusconi the maiale: pig in Italian

7 Jun

Even though the world really needs no extra proof, the recent New Yorker profile of the Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi by Ariel Levy provides the extra fat on the slice of prosciutto:

(Or maybe the extra little speckles of preservative on a cheap slice of pepperoni….)

Though Berlusconi’s many, many egregious political gaffes, mistakes and tragedies truly need no addendum at this point, an anthology of his misogyny (and its inevitable spillage into the Italian political system) still begs mention. After all, dinosaur that it may arguably be, the nation of Italy still stands as one of the members of the increasingly obsolete collection of nations known as the G-7.

Oh! the G-7! A group where a nation such as Russia can disguise itself as both democracy and economic powerhouse; a collective of raging giants who were once great but now often appear anachronistic, patronizing, and oblivious to a constantly evolving international world.

That said, perhaps it’s fitting that Italy remains a member. A country that insists on electing a man who has shown himself time and time again to be remarkably unsuited for the governorship of a rapidly changing country. An oligarch who, unlike the buff Renaissance stud of a man Vladimir Putin, shows little indication of any knowledge of an outside world, or maybe little recognition of the fact that he needs to at least pretend to adapt.

And Berlusconi has persistently refused to adapt. A billionaire who urged poverty-stricken Italians to “Do it my way! Earn more money!” The head of a nation enormously affected by immigration from North African, who travels to the island of Lampedusa during the Arab Spring and tells an audience of immigrants the following: “Did you hear the latest poll? They asked women between twenty and thirty years old if they want to make love to Berlusconi. Thirty-three per cent said yes! Sixty-seven per cent said ‘Again?’ ”A prime minister who, in response to a national upsurge of sexual assault, replies “We don’t have enough soldiers to stop rape because our women are so beautiful.”

Really?!? How is it possible that the leader of a country as culturally significant, historically rich, and arguably evolved can respond to horrific factual violence in such a manner? How is Berlusconi still standing?

Levy writes, “according to the World Economic Forum’s 2010 Global Gender Gap Report, Italy ranks seventy-fourth in women’s rights, between the Dominican Republic and Gambia.” This status is by no means bragadocious; but on the other hand, it cannot lead to any presumption that, because of such statistics and the actual repugnant fact of Berlusconi, Italy is a feminist backwater.

However, it cannot be that just because Berlusconi owns the majority of television and cable channels in Italy, he controls information, cultural perceptions, and national expectations.

There is an ongoing trial attempting to convict Berlusconi of indulging in a prostitution ring with state funds; maybe this is an attempt to bring him down once and for all. But such grandstanding ignores the central tenets at stake here: who cares if Berlusconi is a philandering, sexist, misogynist, chauvinist, egotistical pig as long as he does a good job of governing? The latter has yet to happen, so the former continues to be the issue.


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