National leaders need to be friends to deal with the euro crisis but sometimes carefully hidden emotions burst out. Peter Popham probes the real relationships at the top of the European family.
Berlusconi. The Italian Premier – the national disgrace that permeates every nook of Italian life while simultaneously ruining the nation’s image abroad – has continued in his quest to make Italy a standing joke on the international scene.
“In the same way the Bush administration reflected badly on Americans, as the rest of the world wondered how a man of such limited intellectual capacity and personal charm could become the elected leader of the most powerful country on the planet, Berlusconi is damaging Italy and Italians”
This time, he remarked in Parliament that he is considering changing the name of his party, the People of Freedom, because people no longer carry the name in their hearts. It was a seemingly innocuous proposal, but calm gave way to a storm as he suggested changing the name to “Forza Gnocca”. This phrase hides a range of meanings, the most innocent of which is “Go babes”, but gnocca is generally taken as a reference to female genitalia – hence the media reaction.
Berlusconi’s latest transgression is a throwaway line, a mere footnote to a rap sheet that stretches over decades, covering everything from allegations of sexism, to collusion with the Mafia, corruption, embezzlement and fraud, without even mentioning the Bunga-Bunga farce that is still being played out daily in the Italian press. The evidence is unwavering: the man is unfit to run a country. His charm has receded much like his hair; but a personality transplant is far less straightforward to arrange.
As a nation where people value self-image (la figura) extremely highly, Italy is reeling as its international reputation – built on inimitable style and design, sumptuous food and over-zealous hand-gestures – is clumsily hacked to pieces by this buffoon.
In the same way the Bush administration reflected badly on Americans, as the rest of the world wondered how a man of such limited intellectual capacity and personal charm could become the elected leader of the most powerful country on the planet, Berlusconi is damaging Italy and Italians. The constant stream of allegations and charges against him, peppered with his own offensive opinions and mindless comments, form the global perception of Italy, and plant the same question in foreign minds that haunts the majority of Italians: how is this man the Prime Minister of Italy?
Undoubtedly his time is nearly up; he simply cannot go on forever. But, at present, his perma-tanned figure happily bathes in the sleaze and the smut, as he continues to justify his shameless vulgarity and coarse sexism as part of his “man-of the-people” persona.
Who are these people, and why is Berlusconi representing them?
Surely a leader should reflect the best of his people, not the most base, stereotyped elements that have no place in modern Italy.
- The writer is a student at the University of Warwick, studying English literature and creative writing.