Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What did he say?

"We must be aware of the superiority of our civilisation, a system that has guaranteed well-being, respect for human rights and - in contrast with Islamic countries - respect for religious and political rights, a system that has as its value understanding of diversity and tolerance...

"The West will continue to conquer peoples, even if it means a confrontation with another civilisation, Islam, firmly entrenched where it was 1,400 years ago." - Silvio Berlusconi

You do have to watch the slippery slope, it's not only easy to slip and hit your head, but before you know it the hate could be turned on you. I wrote a few months back about the racial violence in South Africa caused by the upsurge in Zimbabwean refugees, quickly brushed over some American intolerance and also mentioned some problems they'd been having in Italy. Yes, in case you missed it, Silvio Berlusconi is back in power in Italy, having ridden to victory partially on a wave of old-fashioned, finger-pointing, it's their fault intolerance. Well my friends, it seems that even the Vatican is sitting up and taking notice.

There's been talk in the past, mostly whispers mixed with the occasional warnings from Nobel laureate Dario Fo that what we are witnessing in Italy can only be called creeping fascism. However, when Fo would say of Italy that "the new style fascism is already with us", the right would just call him a communist looney. Then last week I noticed a story about an Italian Catholic magazine called Famiglia Cristiana that ran an editorial claiming that Italy may be witnessing the re-birth of fascism and finishes with "Let's hope their fears are unfounded that another form of fascism is looming here". This is the Catholic Church, to whom most right wing politicians swear allegiance. In an odd schoolyard type reply, junior minister Carlo Giovanardi, attacked the magazine saying: "You are fascists, with your bludgeoning tone". The government had previously labeled the magazine Catho-communist for an earlier editorial against anti-crime measures. The head of Berlusconi's People of Freedom party in the upper house of parliament, Maurizio Gasparri, said he would sue the editor of the magazine. Still, it's not like the Pope called them fascists...oops!

"I am the Jesus Christ of politics. I am a patient victim, I put up with everyone, I sacrifice myself for everyone." - Silvio Berlusconi, 2006

Yesterday as Pope Benedict XVI (B16) was delivering his weekly Sunday sermon, he was telling a story from the gospels about Jesus meeting a pagan woman and rising above his initial misgivings to perform a miracle for her daughter. A little later the pope said: "One of humanity's great conquests is the overcoming of racism. Unfortunately, however, there are new and worrying examples of this in various countries, often linked to social and economic problems that nonetheless can never justify contempt or racial discrimination." Later he reminded Catholics of their duty to steer others in society away from "racism, intolerance and exclusion [of others]".

Um, dude, er, Il Cavieliere, Berlusconi, the pope just called you a racist. I'd love to see him try to keep that smarmy smile on his face as he reads the news. He seems to be having some problems with the Church, this on top of the whole marriage problem he's trying to 'fix'. Seems he's been trying to get them to lift the ban on communion for divorcees. If only it were as easy as changing the laws of your country for your own purposes when you're a fascist dictator. Berlusconi has faced multiple charges of corruption, tax fraud, false accounting and illegally financing political parties over the years but has always protested his innocence. He has even been found guilty, only to have the decisions overturned on appeal. In under a month between June 26th and July 24th his government managed to introduce and pass two bills to protect himself and his buddies. The first froze long-running trials, including one involving Il Cavieliere for a year. The second, and perhaps most audacious, grants himself, the president and the speakers of the two parliamentary chambers immunity for the time they are in office. Berlusconi has long criticized what he sees as the power of the magistrates but now has a strong enough majority to pass such laws. Most people see the magistrates' power as necessary as their dates back to the post-war era, when a strong court system was seen as a bulwark against a repeat of fascism.

"If I, taking care of everyone's interests, also take care of my own, you can't talk about a conflict of interest." - Silvio Berlusconi

Fascists are easy to spot, they us the same repertoire and shout the same slogans: freedom, effort, fatherland, Italy, defense of the race, culture of our civilization, original civilization. In Italy, Berlusconi swept back into power while the far right won the mayor's race in Rome where liberals had ruled for years. Berlusconi's coalition is an assortment of far-right extremists and dangerous, deluded rabble-rousers. The Popolo della Libertà coalition, for example, includes Alessandra Mussolini, granddaughter of you-know-who. It also includes the remains of the so-called post-fascist party, the National Alliance. Its leader, Gianfranco Fini, once said that Mussolini was the greatest statesman of the 20th century. Perhaps most worrying of all is that the Northern League, led by Umberto Bossi, won 8% of the national vote. Their xenophobic rantings are truly evil, one recently suggested that foreigners should be forced to use separate train carriages; Bossi himself has, in the past, urged the Italian navy to use live rounds against the thousands of immigrants arriving on Italian shores. If you don't like it Bossi has said the rifles are still warm and that he has 300,000 martyrs ready to battle those who get in his way. It's been seen before, first you whip the people up into a rage about the problems of a country being the fault of Others, intolerance grows and violence breaks out, in this case a concerted action along with the authorities. New laws are passed, against immigrants, particularly Roma, they gradually grow more menacing, to the point where they are identifying people according to ethnicity, not only those you don't like, but everyone.

"Mussolini never killed anyone. Mussolini used to send people on vacation in internal exile." - Silvio Berlusconi

I'm not the only one comparing Italy 2008 to 1922, or Hitler's treatment of minorities to the creeping xenophobia that's entering Italy's mainstream. The celebrations following Berlusconi's victory saw amid the sea of tricolour flags were hundreds of people raising their right arms to the skies, their fingers tense and straight. Everywhere you could see the old fascist salute. It is back in fashion and many are now wondering if the boot-boys themselves are back in power. There is much indifference in Italy to this movement, as usual there are other, more important things to worry about, the timing is right with Europe nose-diving into recession. The concentration of power, particularly in the media allows Berlusconi to shape public opinion. Making things even scarier is the shift in how the fascist past of Italy is now being looked upon. Mussolini has been reconsidered and rehabilitated. Fascism is nearer than you think and not only in Italy, who knows, maybe this time the pope is the only one who can save us from its grips.

"A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude. To make them love it is the task assigned ... to ministries of propaganda, newspaper editors, and schoolteachers."
Brave New World (P.S.)


Anonymous said...

Interesting, well-sourced and amusing post Shane. I remember reading something about Berlusconi in the Guardian a few months back (along the lines of 'creeping fascism' etc).

I didn't quite realise how blatant he is though. Reminiscent of Citizen Kane in certain ways. I guess, seeing as his political and media connections are so apparent, it's actually more honest than the system in the UK or America.
In a perverse, nihilistic sort of way.

Jim @ http://www.onemorepromethean.com