What did “Papi” do today?
Writing about the recent developments in Silvio Berlusconi’s career as Italian Prime Minister is no easy task. It is challenging enough to step away from the scandalous aspect of the story in order to remain impartial, but it is almost impossible to refrain from pointing out how much this issue has began to resemble political science fiction.
Scandal seems to have become an essential part of Italian politics. Over the years, Berlusconi’s reputation has suffered many a blow but some, due to their political sympathies, still consider that it has not flinched. Yet, to all Italians, the PM’s interest in womanizing was never a secret. The Cavaliere’s former second wife, Veronica Lario, made it public after their divorce that Berlusconi was involved in a series of relationships with young girls, who attended parties at his private estate in Arcore (dubious social gatherings now tragicomically labelled “bunga-bunga”). This should have been the first sign of warning―or, rather, the most striking.
When the PM called a police station in Milan to have a girl (allegedly former Egyptian president Mubarak’s grand-daughter; in fact, a Moroccan prostitute suspected of robbery) released from custody, Italy came to a halt. Every day more evidence against Berlusconi comes to light: Karima “Ruby” El Mahroug was, for one thing, only seventeen when she started attending the Arcore “parties” (a great euphemism for these sordid celebrations of sexual promiscuity – yes, you know what I mean). Moreover, several photographs of the “bunga-bunga” were discovered in other young women’s laptops and mobile telephones. The testimonies of “Ruby” and other women who were at the PM’s house are astonishing: not only did they recount in detail the events that took place at these reunions, but they also divulged the amounts of money they were given -both as a retribution for their participation, but also to buy their silence.
It is hard to believe that this issue has not become a part of the entertainment section in the international press. Although this story is reported as world affairs, many people see this situation as a diversion from other, more serious problems happening in other parts of the globe. Quite reasonably, it does not compare to other international catastrophes taking place today, yet to many Italians this is severely tragic. In a country with a very high unemployment rate, rising taxes, in which issues such as work safety are still to be resolved; A country where laws are becoming gradually obsolete, confusing and unconvincing, the people are represented by a man whose primary concern is his trial for being involved in underage prostitution. To find a comical undertone in all this is challenging, although many of us choose, as goes the popular Italian saying, “to laugh so as not to cry”.
Those who still support Silvio Berlusconi claim this whole affair should not be such a scandal. He is a wealthy, powerful man, and he is free to spend his money and spare time as he likes. Some even go as far as saying that such a busy man has the right to relax at the end of the day – well, here’s a thought: how about knitting? Berlusconi himself has accused Milan’s prosecutors and many journalists, deeming their investigations illegal, since they are prying into his private life. One can agree with this. The law does not dictate what to do with money or free time, and it is common knowledge that in all countries prostitution is rife. Yet, if this can pass as acceptable as far as average, unofficial people are concerned, here we talk about the representative and leader of Italy. The PM complains that the evidence gathered against him has been found by prying into his private life. However, don’t all crimes happen “privately”? Rape, murder, or other acts of vandalism all happen in someone’s own privacy, which is why prosecutors need to gather evidence to determine if a suspect is guilty of a crime.
One can now understand what I mean by “political science fiction”. No other democratic nation in the “first world” would allow such scandals to gangrene its government, no other politician would go through months and months of humiliation and still believe (and make others believe) that they are being wronged. Berlusconi is to attend trial on the 6th of April, but the audience should still expect more fantastic events to occur as the date approaches.
On February 13th Italian women gathered to protest. They were not marching to denounce Berlusconi and the government as such, but the chauvinistic image that has stuck to Italian women throughout the years. The realization of this culminated with the discovery of this circle of high-class call-girls which form a “clique” around the political figures. In hundreds of different squares around Italy―and other countries―women said “This is enough”. The following day, Berlusconi indignantly condemned these women for destroying the dignity of his “guests” from the Arcore parties. One might wonder why he still worries about other people’s dignity, when his own should really start to be taken care of.