Sunday, May 3, 2009

See Naples And Divorce

73-year-old Silvio Berlusconi ( Silvio!! ) is a flamboyant, corrupt mover and shaker who has been able to control most of Italy's major media, its largest banking and insurance group, and a major soccer team, and to operate an investment company whose funding sources are impossible to trace; there have been allegations of drug-money laundering and Mafia connections.

And Silvio has become the country's Prime Minister. Three times. He's worth some $9 Billion US, and has his own Center-Right political party, "The People Of Freedom". Berlusconi pushed his way into Italy's political scene and was successful only because he's been able to create a Center-Right (mostly Right-wing) coalition to run the country. Italy is a Parliamentary system, with Silvio forming a majority coalition to run the nation from the fractious jumble of its political parties.

The country has had over 50 governments since 1945. It's hard for a Parliament to accomplish anything for The People when the central government goes into the food processor every six months or a year -- and anyone who can form a relatively stable governing coalition can be a very powerful figure. Silvio knows it. And, like any egotistical greedhead global businessperson, he's going to take advantage of his position, and of the country's potential for instability, to increase his personal, uh, 'leverage'. Hey; it's a dog-eat-dog world, right? (As a dog, I take real exception to that, but we'll let it go.)

Italy is also a nation which has included Mussolini's daughter and several Porn starlets as members of its Parliament (most famously, La Ciccolina, former wife of [con] artist Jeff Koons), and which has theme restaruants and unrepentant speakers trumpeting the good old days of fascism. But for Berlusconi, beyond government, Italy apparently exists to provide him with many personal financial opportunities, fine living, and babes. Oh, that Silvio!

Silvio's second wife, 43-year-old former actress Veronica Lario, has had enough and wants a divorce. They've been married 19 years, since Silvio divorced his first wife to marry Veronica after seeing her (then a 24-year-old performing on stage) for an hour one night.

"It was love at first sight," Silvio said. "[Veronica] has been a perfect wife. She's never embarrassed me."

La Fascisti Silvio! and Lil' Boots toast La Dolce Vita

Pity the reverse isn't true, but so what; who cares? He's Silvio! The past ten years have seen a number of pathetically typical scenes, where Berlusconi publicly parades and spends private bouncy-bouncy time with leggy supermodels. He even installed two of them as Cabinet ministers in his government. Ah, that Silvio!

After the last of these, Veronica demanded Berlusconi publicly apologize. He did -- and it was a stage-managed publicity event spun by the media he owns. Not bad, eh? Humiliate your wife, and turn it all to a political advantage! Ha ha ha -- Silvio!!!

What put Veronica over the top was Silvio's recent attendance at a girl's 18th birthday party in Naples -- the daughter of a friend; his attentions -- not altogether neutral or paternal -- gave some the impression that Mt. Vesuvius wasn't the only thing smoldering.

Italians shrug and wave a hand; it's what happens. Aah, so what? It's such good theatre; it's got everything -- operatic passions, greed, envy, the wealthy lusting after barely legal teenagers. Not like he can't afford to buy a few Indulgences, eh? The Pope is a bastard Tedeski, it's true, but those Germans are practical, and Silvio can charm fish from the ocean, that one.

But, let's not be so hard; he's Silvio!!. A buffoon with cash; one of the super-wealthy who happen to be the head of state -- and see nothing wrong with boffing a few young women, bending his country's laws (easier to do when you run the country) so he can wet his beak a little, eh? And a few bribes, some threats; hey, you can't make an empire without spilling a little red wine. Life's a banquet, and Silvio is right there, cutting in line and elbowing others out of the way to get a little more.

Berlusconi is what happens when people, cynical and disgusted with the antics of their politicians, lose any real interest in government. They're all corrupt; they're all inefficent; you can't fight Tammany Hall. Ultimately, someone like a Berlusconi appears -- flamboyant, voluble; tough-minded, who enjoys the pursuits of a man. Huey Long meets the Emperor Augustus.

The Leader both plays off the People's cynicism, and feeds it. They claim to be a fresh wind of change who speak for The Little People; at the same time they treat the country as a private feeding trough, which only reinforces the idea that Government is unreliable. Ideals? Just advertising slogans. They dye their hair in what (for a 73-year-old) is an impossibly dark shade and parade with women a quarter of their age to prove to anyone they are potent and powerful.

This formula of crony patronage and power is older than recorded history, a country kept in constant political turmoil while its assets are acquired, traded, sold or leased. And as the one at the top of that small crowd of oligarchs who benefit, the Leader, Capo tutti del Capo, enjoys his relatively brief time at the top of the pyramid. Because those persons almost exclusively focused on the acquisition of power and material possession are, of course, the highest expression of the human species.

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