Waiting for Silvio

(From The Year It All Fell Down, co-written with Damian Spruce, to be published by Penguin, June 2013)

Silvio Berlusconi carried a single sheet of paper into the Chamber of Deputies. His rounded, flamboyant handwriting was large enough to be read in the photographs of him afterwards: ‘308’ it said (his estimate of the numbers he commanded on the floor of the chamber), ‘minus 8 traitors’. Below were listed his options, ‘Vote’ and ‘Re-election’ and then there was a heading ‘Take action’; and then, ‘a solution’. It was November 8, 2011.

But there was no solution; and by the end of the day he had written and handed in his resignation to the President of the Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, on condition that his austerity measures were passed by the Parliament. This was his last flourish of showmanship, casting himself as the fiscal hardliner whereas in truth he had scorned all pleas for these measures from the rest of the political class since the start of his present term in 2008
He was in big trouble elsewhere also. On February 15 three judges had set a date for his trial for underage sex with a Moroccan nightclub dancer whom he had claimed, when police came after him, was the niece of President Mubarak. His major right-wing ally, and the repository of political and moral credibility in his alliance, Gianfranco Fini, had deserted him late in 2010. He had survived more than fifty motions of no confidence in his government.

While each of these in themselves might have been fatal for another politician, Berlusconi had built up a resistance to scandal that enabled him to treat them as minor ailments. He had been the subject of more than twenty-five criminal prosecutions or investigations. His telephone conversations with callgirl Patrizia D’Addario had been publicly released. His second wife had left him for consorting with minors. His offences had achieved such acceptance that it became difficult to think of any further action that he could take that would shock the Italian public or debase its political institutions to any lower level.

He was like a decadent Roman emperor or a colourful Chicago gangster, and the Italians, keen on that sort of miniseries, loved him for it. He owned most of the media, had brazen facelifts, sang on CDs new songs by himself, charmed most audiences as he did when he was a ship’s entertainer; and, thus far, survived.

This time, as in 1994, when he lost government first, it was his friend Umberto Bossi who dealt the fatal blow. The head of the Northern League, a far right group who had advocated the secession of north Italy and opening fire on immigrant boats, had been a charmed member of each of the four Berlusconi governments. And when Bossi had informed him before the vote on November 8 that he could no longer support him to bring the country out of its financial crisis, he knew that he could not long survive.

That night the Roman streets flowed with prosecco and the sound of scooter horns and young people singing. They did not know what was to come but they knew that for the first time in seventeen years Silvio Berlusconi had left the political stage.

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  1. Yes, spectacular footage just on the news of three feminists topless coming out swinging in a polling booth where the old grub must have been voting.

    • Those naughty Italian feministas swinging their bare boobs and not a bambino in sight…there’s work to be done for our Kochie…

  2. I want Berlusconi back, you have to admire a guy who nakedly prefers and avers power over money, Silvio points to the future, he makes evident he has a long term plan if not for Italy at least for himself. In the past we would describe this as a “calling”, “get up and go”, pep and ambition and all those other good things we try to instil in our children from the time they start to attend kindergarden.

    Compare Silvio to the outgoing Pope, negative, defeated, resigned, whereas Silvio just can’t get enough of the challenge of life, he’s back for more.

    The likes of Doug and M Ryutin prefer to limit themselves to the “facts” whatever they may be. It has been a growing understanding of mine that one should not limit oneself nor define oneself by facts, and this behaviour is completely detrimental to living a meaningful and interesting life.

    “Information” and “facts” are the least of what you need. Opinion and circumstance, context, subjectivity and propaganda and an outright refusal of the facts is the way to go.

    Facts are contentious, gathered as they usually are by the unimaginative. They stand like skittles at the end of the alley waiting to be bowled over and then reset in place until they are bowled over again; never a perfect game there is always a spare. Notice the never ending roll call of books of history published on the same subjects over and over again; whereas opinion and circumstance have the weight of imagination, the gravitas of personal experience, life’s filter propaganda, they have an aroma, a scent, a perfume sometimes they even have a stench.

    “You couldn’t make this shit up”, really? You can, we do, and there should be more of it!

    “Just forget the facts Ma’am.”

    • ‘Facts are contentious, gathered as they usually are by the unimaginative.’

      And there we have it, dear reader, in less than 12 words. The ‘fact’ that the modern world is a technological construct which operates on the basis of replicability and reliability in the material realm, and has been painstakingly assembled bit by little bit by legions of scientists, engineers and other technicians whose very existence is contingent on determining the boundaries to their discoveries and inventions, dismissed. Unimaginative clods, all of them.

      All those Nobel recipients, dull, prosaic, workaday clods.

      Yes indeedy, facts are for the nerdy and uninteresting. Let the opinions roll…

    • Rootin’ is a boring old shit I’d prefer to ignore, and perhaps I will from here on in.

      But when the narrative is being perverted by those who should know better, the urge is hard to overcome!

      Facts are such stubborn things . . .

    • Allthumbs, one word: sociopath. Berlusconi is modern day Caligula minus the blood. Minus the blood part we can never know nor find out. He is powerful enough to do and control everything in Italy. He is also a first rate clown’s monkey. I can confidently say that if he was a prime minister back in the seventies he wouldn’t be around long enough to monkey. :cool:

  3. Prosecco? In Venice, perhaps. In Rome, more likely Frascati. There is a spumante version.

  4. Italy has always been ungovernable!*

    So what is new?

    (* since Marcus Aurelius, 180 CE anyway :smile: )

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