Berlusconi’s joke – A laughter that will bury you all

A video of Berlusconi telling a blasphemous joke was published on La Repubblica website  a couple of weeks ago. The video was recorded in L’ Aquila last July, just before the G8 meeting kicked off.

Even though the fact is not that recent and it received a lot of coverage by press, I’ve decided to handle it since it will work as a sort of preface to my blog.

I believe that behind the joke and its irritating swear, something more relevant than a vulgar and disrespectful attitude can be found. A whole country, a whole civil society and its customs are indeed depicted by a laughter. Then, being my aim here to acquaint you with Italy and the Italians, a review of the concealed meanings of Berlusconi’s joke and reactions to it is due.

Firstly, as you probably know, this joke is only the apex of a long series. A series of jokes conveying the constant development of power in Italy. Every joke is the ring of a long chain, getting stronger and stronger as we come across to a new ring. This 16-year-old chain is now the image of a power without shame, a power of a ruler with no ruled,  a power that has pervaded several levels of Italian society, eventually managing to reach and shape the language of Dante and Petrarca.

An example is given by Berlusconi’s dream: the so-called “processo breve” (short trial), a law that would take down thousands of trials (the three trials concerning Berlusconi that could restart next January are among them).   A part of the Italians find the approval of this law auspicable, having no idea what Berlusconi’s short trial is really about. That’s because they’ve been taught by Berlusconi’s media that short (namely, legally abolished) and efficient trial mean the same.

Then, you may be thinking: how about the rest of the population? Why don’t they stand up against Berlsuconi’s regime? The reactions to the Prime Minister’s joke within the civil society will offer you a colorful picture of the Italians.

Those who laughed

  • Berlusconi’s fans:  they found the nearly well known “Orco Dio” brilliant. They tend to show little analytical skills. They lack objectivity too as they live in a fairy world Berlusconi’s media shaped for them. The Prime minister is a hero to imitate: he’s got power, money, beautiful women and a football team (I didn’t mention newspapers since Berlsuconi’s supporters are not used to reading and that sort of stuff).
  • Berlusconi’s fierce opponents:   their laughter conveyed a posh sense of superiority. They believe Berlusconi’s agenda can’t be subject to a serious review. 

Those who protested

They considered  the joke outrageous. The main actor of protest was the Church, by the means of its newspaper, L’ Avvenire. However, protesting bishops and priests lack good memory: it looks like they don’t remember how Berlusconi bought their votes in 2005, approving a tax exemption for the Church leading to the waste of 500-700 million euros that would have normally flown down state coffers.

Those who sighed

They make up a great part of the population. They lost their faith in politics and politicians. They don’t trust neither Berlusconi’s party nor the Left. Some of them believe we are represented by the politicians we deserve and this can’t be changed. Their main activity is to sigh deeply while listening to politicians’ speeches on the tv.

Those who didn’t laugh

They didn’t feel offended by Berlusconi’s joke but they got the implications we have seen above. They consider berlusconism an extremely serious issue, a concrete threat to Italian democracy. In 2008 some of them voted for the Left Party, others for L’Italia dei Valori, a small coalition led by Antonio Di Pietro (probably the fiercest opponent to Berlusconi in the Parliament), while  others believe the country should get rid of politicians and embrace the project of Beppe Grillo, a comedian who has founded an organization which clashes the system of parties.

As you can see, in Italy a banal laughter hides numerous implications, turning into a very big issue. Sometimes even a laughter can be dangerous. However, you don’t have to confuse my review with moralism. That’s not the point. Laughing at Berlusconi’s jokes is not simply immoral. Laughing at Berlusconi  means to accept the overwhelming  glance of the Big Brother over you.

When will those Italians who are still asleep realize  that what Berlusconi has been creating over the last years is a new country, shaped on his mere interests?

Then, Italians, if you don’t want a laughter to bury you all, please, stay serious.


About Ruggero Galtarossa

I'm a BA Journalism and Sociology student at City University London. I was born in Padova, Italy.I cover Italian politics and society from the angle of an Italian part-time exile. You can find me on the Huffington Post UK. View all posts by Ruggero Galtarossa

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