by Raffaele Crocco

As Italians, we’ll soon forget the way he treated women: remember Bunga Bunga, his private harem, his lies when he claimed that one of his “escort girls”, a minor, was Mubarak’s niece. We’ll forget the dirty jokes he told in public. We’ll forget the bribes he paid to the mafia to be safe, the bribes he paid to expand his business, the taxes he evaded and when, as prime minister, he decriminalised false accounting for his own benefit. We’ll forget the laws passed to cover up the holes in his companies, to avoid trials, to favour friends. We won’t remember his bad governance, his inability to think of the state as “common” and not as “private property”, the fascists he made respectable, and the violence of the G8 in Genoa. We’ll forget the systematic dismantling of culture, of the sense of community, and the patient construction, through television, radio and newspapers, of an individualist culture based on the lie that “everyone can achieve the goals they want”.

Above all, we’ll pretend not to know that Silvio Berlusconi, the monarch of Italy for almost 40 years, was the exact mirror image of what we Italians are, long before he entered politics in 1994. He was the man who embodied what the citizens of our country really wanted to be. He was the macho man who had women, money and power, much to the chagrin of rebellious women… He was the man above the law. He was the tax evader who got away with it. He was a cunning man who knew how to seize opportunities against all odds. He was the opportunist who knew how to win.

Berlusconi was a consequence, not the cause, of Italy’s ills. Like fascism, Berlusconi is in our gut, in our head, in our heart. We carry him inside us, transformed into the banner of ‘being Italian’. Now that he’s dead, we’ll probably wait for another ‘messiah’ to make us feel good about our contradictions and mistakes. For almost 40 years Berlusconi has relieved each and every one of us of responsibility and problems. That is why, despite the mafia, the criminal convictions, the dubious morals and the cunning, many will regret him. And just as some people still think of Mussolini, we will say to ourselves that at least the trains were on time when he was in power.

* On the cover photo, street poster of the party of Forza Italia by Silvio Berlusconi, for the upcoming Italian political elections of 25 September 2022, in a Roman street © Kraft74/