giovedì 9 luglio 2009

Berlusconianism and the Modern State

By Clara Schulze

Italian TV news failed to adequately report on the latest scandal surrounding Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi – namely, the alleged attempt by a real estate manager to bribe the premier using women instead of money. The newspaper “La Repubblica”, which has instead extensively covered the story, also pointed out that 4 Italians out of 5 do not read newspapers, but rely entirely on TV news. This may be a common international trend, but in Italy it is a reason for worry since 85% of major Italian TV news are owned by Silvio Berlusconi himself.

It is part of Italian culture to take an anti-scandalistic perspective on happenings, especially if they are unrelated to political performance. Still, it is true that the non-existence of a decent political opposition in Italy has helped the deterioration of political accountability and transparency and this has been reflected in the quality of information available to citizens. The character that media communication has taken in Italy is not consistent with the model of democratic government - it holds more resemblance to the propaganda commonly used in developing countries or in former European regimes. But this is not yet the worst that Italy can expect from media communication.

English press, always keen on scandals and rumours about private life of public figures, confesses its astonishment for the fact that Berlusconi will not resign. The mere fact that the personal behaviour of a politician might or might not constitute a ground for his dismissal is central to the question.

In fact, from a Berluscon-ian point of view, there is no ground for resigning. Berlusconi owes his popularity to extending his personal-style managerial ideas to public functions.
People like him because he is a “smart guy”, because he knew how to make money and because he can be alien to the boring, useless State ceremonial. He is smarter, uses common sense to waive bureaucratic burdensome procedures and achieves new results, namely obtaining an unprecedented amount of funding from the European Institutions to help solving domestic issues.

But, above all, he is “fun”. This is the rationale behind the jokes he is famous for during diplomatic gatherings. This is also explains some of his claims, like the pledge to reduce the number of Parliamentarians and the fact that any scandal or objection he encounters is rebuked as a manifestation of personal envy from the poorer, less successful and disorganized Italian Leftist.

But, by doing so – through his anti-bureaucratic, anti-ceremonialist, private-sector approach to politics - Berlusconi is eroding the structures which are essential to modern State, and which in Italy may be already weaker than in other European countries, due to the historical fragmentation of the country and to the survival of anti-state organization within its territory (read: Mafia).

When the Parliament is dismissed as boring, and too expensive, the judges are mocked, and, on the other side, Berlusconi surrounds himself with an inexistent party and insignificant or flattering co-operators, and proposes himself as a candidate not because of this program, but because of this person, then there is no point in being too surprised that he proceeds to the appointment of personal friends to public position, or that he behaves unconventionally with respect to his public role.
Italians have called exactly for this, and his consensus relies on his ability to “win” external negotiation and to be “the smart guy of the group”.

This pattern has a very dangerous side-effect in the long run, which is, the lack of support of Italian to their own State, which paradoxically makes the very game of Berlusconi. If you talk of politics with an Italian, most times he will encourage some form of blame on Berlusconi, he will confirm you the decline of the nation and his distrust in the State. Such attitude is unfortunately far away from humour and badly hides a growing shame for being Italian. Beware: not for having this or those premier behaving in a certain way during particular occasions, but for belonging to the Italian nation itself.

The concepts of Berlusconi and Italy are now becoming blurred, in the mind of Italians even more than in the mind of foreigners. This leads to a vicious circle. The more Modern State in Italy is despised as such by citizens, the more they are likely to see its institutions from a Berlusconian, managerial point of view and accept to see them bypassed by the “strong man” initiative.

What should be made clear is that the germ of the problem relies in Italian citizens themselves, who continue to choose to despise their country by voting the one who is happy to make it ridiculous. Instead of blaming circumstances and cry for secessions, they would need instead to re-think their approach and become more clear about what they want from politics. Of course, Berlusconi’s TV news will not help this process to develop.

lunedì 6 luglio 2009

Farewell at the Serpentine

I took some white bread and went say my goodbyes
to all the grey ducks of the lake Serpentine
But someone had fed them, so they'd went away
thus turning that party into'a lonely stay

The heat was just fading, the day almost gone
the day was reflexing the mirroring sun
In such pond of light was my mind then all stuck
beginning to think to my old yellow duck

That love which was crossing the Channel and Alps
had now become weaker and come to a halt
The bread that once fed all his shuddering soul
now seems to this duck distasteful and cold

The passion of senses will fade with the time
I sit now lonely at the Serpentine
The threats and the whispers now, man, come in vain
The party is over, it's now time for pain

Apollon and Venus had paid for this play
rewarding us both with sucj wonderful days
The drama is now over, the curtains now close
The Serpentine rocks me, the sky smiles, all rose. 

sabato 4 luglio 2009

Drunkenness and truth

Drunkenness. Withdrawal of awareness. Lowering barriers.
Yesterday night, a Friday night of course, in a warm Northern city full of ghosts, I wandered on buses and buses together with a drunk man. We were heading home.
His colleague had tried to put hands on my hips, unsuccessfully - I had seen flows of coppery spirit flow in their throats - they smelled of strawberry as there was red bull in them. Strawberry and liquorice: Jaegermeister.
He was already a bit high, but in control - he lost awareness in 11 minutes by drinking extremely fast and taking others' drinks. I guess that you compensate the tolerance of alcohol with the heightened ability to swallow fast - so you can get drunk anyway. I could not swallow a pint of water in 15 seconds, as he did with beer, shots and spirits. The volume of the music was high, he tried to get two pints of beer after the bar closed. He pissed on the street, graciously, while I was throwing away one of them. His irides were a bit higher than normal, and became totally inexpressive. But the fun part was still to begin.
He could not walk straight, but was not heavy on my arm, which I used as a base for his. He was holding my hand with a pressure slightly higher than normal, as to say "thank you, happy to walk with you". He wanted a cab, crossed streets regardless of traffic lights, but never in a very dangerous fashion. The guy was smart.
He waived at bus and cars and whatever just hoping that one of them would be a free cab heading towards home. There were none.
Then, the bus.
He could not walk straight but had a very clear picture of the London overground network in mind. He dragged me on a bus, and started calling a female friend on the phone. It was weird, the scenario he depicted her was about him being alone on a bus a trying to head home, and "being fucked". "I am fucked...I am... ridiculously...Yeah... Hey guys, what number is this buuus??... Yeah... Please call me in 20 minutes... I will be at the flat...Are you OK..."
He got off. and then on another bus. And then off. and then on another bus. Now all buses went exactly in the same direction. He called her again "Yeah... I am fucked... [silent]... will be home...OK... [whispers]". It began to be a little nightmare for me to go on and off buses, I tried to deal with that but as soon as I began to object he got wood-head and would not comply. I just tried to express tenderness and care, and to follow his thoughts, but it was probably not the best approach.
I have seen him dealing with drunk people, and he is outstanding in doing this. He is rough, speak loud and detached, as a nurse would do with an elderly patient in the hospital. Exactly like that. He keeps distance, and imposes authority. I instinctively tried the co-operative approach, instead, also because he always led in the couple- and I was not used to command him. I also wrongly assumed that he was still the same person, with the same set of feelings. No. No. He was in another state of mind - like dreaming. We got off the third bus. "Get the fucking out!" He cried. Suddenly he felt the need to rush. I stayed calm and tried to resist, and also tried to distract him and it worked, for like 10 seconds. He took my wrist and tried to drag me. While I did not want to loose him on the street, at that moment I felt I had enough and I let him run ahead. He stopped and waited for me. This probably tells he was somehow acting, with me, and the more you are tolerant, the more a drunk man feels he has space for manoeuvre. Just like an elderly patient on the bed of a hospital. Suddenly, just in front of home. "Fuck!" he said, and sit legs crossed in the middle of the street. But he was wise enough to sit in a not dangerous road, where cars were slow and he did not risk to be ran over at all. I was not scared, I just wanted all that to finish quickly. He threw me the keys "open the door, I will stand up when you open the door" I did that. I took care to make him shout so the cars would have noticed him. This happened, a taxi slowed down and then all the other cars understood something was in the middle of the street, and slowed down. Inside! Inside! We were inside. Inside the elevator now. "You know, this is a FLAT! There are different people who rent it..." "I know" I replied. "Thank you". He now tried to open the fridge and eat, and again called her friend. He acted much more respectfully with his friend at home, they had a normal conversation. From which I now reckon that he was probably just acting, with me. He is a wonderful actor. Too good to me to understand that on the spur of the moment last night. He is nasty when he thinks he can afford. This is why, probably, you have yourself to be authoritative like a doctor, when you face a drunk man. Very simple, loud and authoritative. He could not stand while phoning to her friend, I sustained him and this just prolonged my agony. He told her "yeah...I try to have you been up to.....oh, reading?[silence] Do you need some sort of...motivation?...How can I help...." he was sliding on the floor, I tried to sustain him, he grabbed by breast and then pushed me away. The phone fell down and the battery came out. He was down as well now. "Stand up!" He told me. "When I will see you?...Well....I suggest...I will see you...very far away....cheers...". I had enough and finally I realised he was just bright enough and used enough to help himself, "I am now on the couch, if you need me you know where to find me" I said. I wanted to sleep. He immediately came to be and hugged me on his bed and fall asleep heavily in 10 seconds, breathing very fast and noisily.

I freed myself up and went on the couch. I slept, badly, but cleanly. I though I did not want to carry on a life like that - that this was detrimental to my time and ability to be light and independent, that I was a daylight, tidy person and had no time to waste on this shit, with a person who fundamentally disrespected me. I thought I did not want to bear this for long hours, maybe in a marriage. No. I am made for delight and mornings. I thought the circumstances had revealed his tender friendship and trust in the other woman, and his conflicting relationship with me. He had a very discriminatory behaviour with people he respected and people he didn't - his tone of voice, his arguments, his attitude and the logic he put in his words were very different in the two cases. And I was seen as belonging to the second category. I was not prepared to. I woke up at 5, 7 and 9, every time I went to visit him and he was getting slightly better each time, a bit more aware, sleep gradually lighter, always trying to hug me or happy to hold my hand, always egoistic like a cranky child. At 9:30 I felt the shiny day was mine. I got up, had a bowl of cereals, closed his doors, washed my face and trimmed my nails and got ready to go to the British Library. I got a nice message from a friend. It evoked like, day, action, delight again. On the door, I felt sorry and attracted by him and went to give him a kiss. Still snoring, half-unconscious "I have to be.....!". I left. Hyde Park had burnt, golden grass, the breeze was warm and whispering, I felt wasted and went home and I am writing.