Sunday, January 27, 2013

Berlusconi: "Racial laws biggest fault of Mussolini, who did well in other respects"

Well, I haven’t posted anything lately, but now I have something really valuable.
As you all know, today, 27th January, is the Holocaust Memorial Day.
Although generally we all tend to associate the tragedy of the Holocaust with Hitler’s Nazism, it is important to remember that Mussolini played an important role too.  Racial discrimination was imposed in Italy with the Racial Laws (Leggi Razziali) starting from 1938 for the first five years of Fascist rule. There were concentration camps in Italy, and even some really big ones.
Today, in occasion of the events taking place in Milan to mark the Memorial Day, Berlusconi made a surprise appearance.
Here is a part of his statement:

 “Today it is difficult to stand in the shoes of those who had to decide back then […] Italy, out of fear, preferred to join forces with Germany rather than to fight it, and the extermination of the Jews was imposed in that agreement. So the racial laws were the biggest fault of Mussolini, who actually did well in other respects”.

He then added:

“Italy does not have the same responsibilities that Germany has, even if there was a connivance that at the beginning wasn’t entirely conscious“

There are no words to comment what Berlusconi said. I think all I can do is apologise on his behalf.
I want to hope that his statements will at least remind us all, once again, how important it is not to forget such terrible things. 

Video (in Italian):

Friday, January 11, 2013

Berlusconi, Santoro and Travaglio: memorable episode of "Servizio Pubblico"

Last night, Silvio Berlusconi was a guest at the Italian TV programme “Servizio Pubblico” (Public Service), aired by private TV channel LA7. The show had been long awaited, for several reasons: above all, because the host of the show, Michele Santoro, and Berlusconi have an on-going row that started many years ago. Santoro is one of the victims of the so-called “Editto Bulgaro”, a statement that Berlusconi made in 2002 while he was in Bulgaria about three Italian TV personalities who, according to him, had made a “criminal use” of public television. When used by Berlusconi, the phrase “criminal use” simply means that those three people, namely comedian Daniele Luttazzi and journalists Enzo Biagi and Michele Santoro, had said unpleasant truths about Berlusconi or had criticised him too much. Following the “Editto Bulgaro”, Berlusconi sued RAI, the Italian public television, and Michele Santoro was fired (but then reinstated after he won his cause for unfair dismissal).
The idea of Berlusconi and Santoro facing each other was exciting enough; furthermore, among the guests there was also Marco Travaglio (fyi, my favourite Italian journalist). Travaglio is famous for being extremely well-informed about almost everything; it’s like he has a database in his head. Above all, he knows EVERYTHING, and I really mean everything, about Berlusconi’s connections and about his trials. Travaglio is also known for his sarcastic and critical tone, and for targeting Berlusconi more often than not (I personally disagree: some people claim that, if it weren’t for Berlusconi, Travaglio would be unemployed;  but those who regularly read his articles know that Travaglio has been, and still is, extremely critical even towards Monti).

Journalists Marco Travaglio and Michele Santoro

The show was followed by 9 millions Italians. Everyone was wondering what would happen: would they fight? Would Berlusconi leave before the end? What would Berlusconi say to Travaglio?
The first part of the show was going relatively well. Berlusconi was simply being himself. He resorted to all his old favourite topics: when he was in charge the Italian economy was doing extremely well; he never paid a woman to have sex, it’s just that he is very very generous; all the people he knows who are charged with Mafia ties are innocent and are actually really nice guys; and (my favourite one), the evil plotting Communists, who always pop up when he has to blame someone for every single thing that is wrong in the world. So, just what we could have expected from him.
Things started to go very wrong after Travaglio talked. He made what I regard as a beautiful speech about not so much Berlusconi’s mistakes, but about his lacks when he was PM: he could have used all his years and his power to defeat the Mafia, but he didn’t; he could have fought fiscal evasion, but he didn’t; he could have taught the respect for the laws and the Constitution, but all he did was trying to change them to his advantage.
After this, Berlusconi wanted to read a letter to reply to Travaglio’s; a letter that, he specified, he didn’t even write himself. The letter was simply a list of all the civil cases in which Travaglio has been involved over the years; Berlusconi actually called him a “professional calumniator”. At this stage, Santoro started yelling that Berlusconi was just wasting the show’s time. After trying to reply, Berlusconi, who was sitting in Travaglio’s spot, got up to go back to his seat, which was at the moment occupied by Travaglio.
When Travaglio got up, before sitting down, Berlusconi did the most offensive thing of the all show: he pretended to clean up the chair where Travaglio had been sitting.
And, when Santoro told him off angrily, Berlusconi replied: “You can’t even take a joke”. That's the man who represented our country for almost 20 years. A minute's silence, please.
Today, reading hundreds of comments about the show, I understand that many people think that Berlusconi came out as the “winner” of the debate, while Santoro was “pathetic” for yelling and just playing Berlusconi’s game. Personally, I don’t know if the show will make Berlusconi lose or gain votes; I think that Berlusconi was just being as he has always been: telling his same old lies and looking like he actually believes them.
I’ll be partial now, because as I mentioned I really admire Travaglio, but I think that he came out as the actual winner, as he showed more class than Santoro and Berlusconi combined: he did not yell, he stayed calm and simply replied: “Clearly I’m not a criminal, because if I were, you (=Berlusconi) would have, to the very least, appointed me as President of the Senate”.
For those who understand Italian, at this link you can see the whole show:
I only include the video of Berlusconi cleaning Travaglio’s chair, just to show that I did not make that up. You really don't need to speak Italian to get what's going on. He certainly is the one and only political leader in the world who could do such a thing and not even surprise anyone… Political absurdity, made in Italy.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Roberto Benigni in "La più bella del mondo": the two enemies of the Italian Constitution

On the 17th of December 2012, Roberto Benigni, an Italian actor, director and comedian, performed on an Italian tv channel in a reading of the twelve fundamental principles of the Italian Constitution. The title of the show was "La più bella del mondo", which means "the most beautiful one in the world". Benigni is no scholar, that is not a secret. But what I like about him is his passion for Italian history and art; he is actually famous for his interpretations of Dante's "Divina Commedia". I really enjoyed the whole show and his comments on the twelve principles, highlighting the beauty of our Constitution and how our funding fathers were able to safeguard all the basic liberties right after the experience of Mussolini's Fascism; however, my favourite part was the one in which he discussed what are the dangers that our Constitution faces: the indifference of people to politics and low turnout in elections.
I wanted to translate the whole bit, because it's something that doesn't necessarily apply only to Italy, and I find it really beautiful. I also included the video, for those of you who speak Italian. Enjoy.   

"Before I move on to the reading of these twelve fundamental principles, I will tell you two enemies that the Constitution has.
The two enemies are: first, indifference to politics. Now you will tell me: "Benigni, given the harsh times, how can you tell us to respect politics?" No, actually I'm not telling you to respect politics. I'm telling you to LOVE politics. It is the highest creation of the human thought to built our life together. In order to organise peace, serenity and work there is only politics, there isn't another science, and who is involved knows this. Not being interested in politics is like not being interested in life. If someone says "I just don't care anything at all", it's like they are saying that they don't care anything not only about their own life, but about their kids' life: if they go to school, if they get a good education, if they get treated when they are sick, if they get marry, if they get a good job. "No, I don't care, you think about it". How can you not care?! Your kids' life, and your own too, that is what politics is about: organising our life, building our life. The people who wrote the things we will hear in a while (the Italian Constitution) were politicians, men of politics, people who did politics all day long, and they wrote this great, magnificent thing which always saves us. And this is why we have to care about politics, maybe not all day long, but that is our life. If you despise politics you despise yourself. What we need to do is not to mix the institution up with the people who represent it at a given moment. There are terrible politicians. But if a father beats up his child all day long, the problem is not fatherhood, fatherhood itself is wonderful, it is that particular father who is dreadful. There are some politicians who we do not love, but they are not all the same. It is a terrible thing to say sentences like "Politicians are all the same". When we say that, we do a huge favour to the bad, dishonest and stupid: because it is like we did not recognise them, they think "Aha! Nobody noticed anything, they think we are all the same". It is awful, we are just encouraging that.
The second enemy of the Constitution, and of our living together efficiently, is not voting. Voting is the only mean we have, but to get there it took thousands, millions of victims, just to allow us to say what we want. Between two evils there is always a lesser one. Each one of us yields more power than we think in the world. Each one of us contributes, in an invisible but concrete way, to the realisation of what is good and what is bad, of what is fair and what is unfair. A tiny contribution  exists: the worst possible thing is to stand aside, not to vote. Now you tell me: "Benigni, I can do whatever I want" and it's true, the Constitution was written exactly to guarantee freedom, but there is an article about voting. It's like they are telling us: "We are giving you all the possibilities, but do not stand aside, even if you make a mistake and you vote for something wrong, at least you are giving me the possibility to fight it, to say that I disagree, and then we can organise our life; but if you do not take part, it is terrible, it is like with Pontius Pilate. Everything goes in the hands of the mob, and the mob always chooses Barabbas. It's like giving up your power. We should never do it"
(Roberto Benigni, in "La più bella del mondo", 17/12/2012)