Sunday, June 07, 2009

José Saramago: The Berlusconi Thing

The Nobel-laureate Portuguese novelist and journalist on why Silvio Berlusconi's Italy is looking more and more like a "lower empire".

I don't see what else I could call it. A thing perilously similar to a human being, a thing that throws parties, sets up orgies and rules a country called Italy. This thing, this illness, this virus threatens to be at the root of the moral death of Verdi's country, unless a spew manages to double kick it from the Italians' conscience before the poison eats the veins away and rots the heart of one of the richest European cultures.

Every day the slimy paws of the Berlusconi Thing trample on the basic values of human cohabitation. Amongst its talents lies a bamboozling ability to abuse words, twisting meaning and sense, as it's the case with the name of the party he used for his onslaught to power, the People of Freedom Party (Popolo delle Liberta').

'Delinquent' I called this Thing and I harbour no regrets. For reasons of semantic and social nature that others may explain better, in Italy the term 'delinquent' has more negative connotations than in any other language spoken in Europe. To translate clearly and effectively my opinion of the Berlusconi Thing, I will use the term in the sense given by Dante's language, though I doubt if Dante ever used it at all.

'Delincuencia', in my Portuguese, means, according to dictionaries and current communication practices, "the act of committing crimes, disobeying laws or moral principles". The definition fits the Berlusconi Thing without a single crease or wrinkle, to the point that it looks more like a second skin rather than a layer of clothes. It's been years since the Berlusconi Thing started committing offences that may vary in nature yet are always demonstrably serious.

The irony is that it's not as if it's breaking any law; worse, it's making them in order to safeguard its public and private interests, whether in the guise of politician, entrepreneur or minors' playmate. As for moral principles, they're not even worth talking about, for there there is nobody, in Italy or worldwide, who isn't aware of how low the Berlusconi thing sank them a long time ago.

This is the Italian Prime Minister, this is the Thing the Italian people twice elected to act as their guide, this is the path to ruin along which are being dragged the values of dignity and liberty that characterised Verdi's music or Garibaldi's political work, and those who, during the fight to unify the country, turned 19th century Italy into one of Europe's spiritual guides.

This is what the Berlusconi Thing wants to chuck into the binbag of history. Will the Italians end up letting him?

Read 'La cosa Berlusconi' in its original Spanish version on El Pais.

Click here to read 'Anatomy of Berluscoland'.

No comments: