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Underwearld: An Exposè of Italian Politics

Are the winds of change sweeping the country that gave birth to Leonardo Da Vinci, “Lucky” Luciano…

Story by Phil Sick - frankymachine@hotmail.com Photos by Icarus Blake
Photo © Icarus Blake

Photo © Icarus Blake

Are the winds of change sweeping the country that gave birth to Leonardo Da Vinci, “Lucky” Luciano, and many of Madonna’s and Lady Gaga’s blood relatives? Or is it just the behemoth and his good pal leviathan farting banshees over Europe’s Gomorra because they get a good kick out of it? Whatever it is, something is definitely blowing over the peninsula, and it is lifting the black and red robes of the flustered cardinals. It also seems to be blowing the sails of the five-starred mother ship of something that started off as a tiny movement on the web, led by what some consider to be just another buffoon in the circus of Italian politics, while some others praise him as another Guy Fawkes.

Photo © Icarus Blake

Photo © Icarus Blake

In the land of Machiavelli, conspiracies hunt even the saintly cardinals nowadays (as if they didn’t in the past…), and all must change, for everything to stay just the way it was… Meanwhile, The Cinque Stelle (Five Stars) movement has won its way into the parliament, shaking its marbled walls, promising to take no prisoners in its fight for social justice. So here comes Beppe Grillo the political heretic (I might get sued by writing the word “political” so close to his name), and, all over Europe, very democratic people whisper their concerns amongst each other, fearing that his call for direct democracy might be dangerous and demagogic. How can a man who instituted the Vaffa Day (literally “the fuck you day”), aiming it at our politicians like a scud missile, be even allowed near the senate or the parliament? The same people despise the ridiculous claim made by Beppe the Clown (The Economist called him that, dears) that politicians shouldn’t have a criminal record. Now that’s hilarious. It must be a joke. He can’t be serious. What would be the Italian Chamber of Deputies or even the Senate without a few jailbirds humming their tunes of freedom? In a double-breasted suit, smoking a cigar, possibly with a fedora, and… Fuggetaboutit!

Photo © Icarus Blake

Photo © Icarus Blake

The first time I ever saw Beppe Grillo on television was in the mid-eighties. I was visiting my grandparents in Italy and watching great deals of television. It was too hot outside, and the kids at the park wouldn’t let me play soccer with them ‘cause I spoke funny. They were a bunch of little shits anyway. I remember there was this odd looking fellow on TV, who looked like a disheveled Bee-Gee screaming like a lunatic, eyes popping out of his skull and veins throbbing. At first I might’ve been a little scared, but then I saw that everyone was laughing, the audience around him, my grandma, my grandpa. It was just a comedy show, yippy! So, despite the fact I wasn’t exactly catching every word, nor most of the jokes, I went along giggling, like seven or eight year olds usually do. Laughter is like syphilis, it’s contagious. Even the name of the guy was catchy, as Grillo means “Cricket” in Italian. Fuck, imagine the parliament held hostage by a cricket, or, actually, a multitude of them. It’s almost biblical…

Photo © Icarus Blake

Photo © Icarus Blake

Grillo’s comedy was strongly satirical and would often expose corrupt politicians and huge financial frauds such as Parmalat and, more recently, The Monte dei Paschi di Siena (an Italian bank). Grillo was such a huge success in the early eighties that his yogurt commercials had a cult following. Don’t worry, Berlusconi was a piano player on cruise ships before he found a big bag of money somewhere. Grillo’s parents weren’t rich, but their kid sure made a lot of money. Laughter isn’t only contagious, but profitable, I might add. His leftist tendencies never conflicted with his passion for nice villas and fast sports cars, an Italian classic. The real snobs in Italy have always been reds. One of his adolescent buddies told a very inspiring anecdote involving a young Beppe with a bunch of friends on some school trip to Spain. At some point Grillo asked one of his friends if he could have a sip from his bottle of Coke. The jerk, who was a rich kid, refused. Watch it now, because that refusal might’ve created a monster. So Grillo called his parents, hardworking low earning people like I said. They wired him money and he bought Coca-Cola for the whole crew, except for the jerk who didn’t want to share with him earlier on. So the young Beppe poured a whole lot of pop in a basin, and gave himself a footbath. He told his greedy friend that if he wanted some soda he could drink it from there. That’s the genesis of a leader right there. Grillo is caustic and ill-tempered, smart and well-off. When I say that Grillo is a rich man, it’s because I recall a joke that was pretty popular during the ‘80s when the Socialists in Italy ruled the country with the Christian Democratic party (DC). The Socialists pretty much turned corruption into the national sport. So basically some guy asks his friend if he ever thought about going into politics. The man replies “Not really, I was born rich, so I didn’t feel the necessity”.

Photo © Icarus Blake

Photo © Icarus Blake

We know that before going into politics Berlusconi was probably the richest man in Italy, but, then again, if he didn’t end up in politics, some say he would’ve gone to jail and lost most of his fortune. Grillo now has very little to lose. Perhaps his credibility, but he has a hell of an ego anyway…

Some say Italy is a republic founded on television, others on soccer. There are over thirty political parties that run in every election (they grow like mushrooms) every year. To understand why a comedian/actor/blogger like Beppe Grillo has stricken this political homerun, that many feared but very few expected, you have to understand what twenty years of Berlusconi has done to the “Bel Paese”. In the corruption perception index where the least corrupt country ranking at number one is Denmark, Italy proudly stands at seventy-two between Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Sao Tome and Principe (the USA’s rank is 19th, by the way).

Photo © Icarus Blake

Photo © Icarus Blake

Okay, we’re practically a Banana Republic, and I’m not talking about the clothing brand. On top of this, the bright and corrupted people, AKA the honourables (yup, that’s the title they get once they step into the parliament), who govern Italy earn the highest salaries in Europe while our average wages are a lot lower than most of the Western European countries, except for Spain, Portugal, and obviously Greece. One might think, I’ll feed my hog ‘til he can’t move and, sure, he’ll leave my pretty flowers alone so my nice bees can go along doing their business, making honey and lots of royal jelly for their queen. I don’t think so. It’s more like, let’s starve the bastard to death and build a fucking electric fence to keep him off my flowers if he’s all that greedy. Now this little haiku I’ve presented roughly indicates one of Grillo’s movement’s objectives.

Photo © Icarus Blake

Photo © Icarus Blake

Now that the Five Stars Jedis have rocked Italy’s elections, some say they’re unfit to govern the country. Grillo’s a blogger, a comedian, what does he know about the economy and foreign affairs, for instance? The economic part, I must admit, has been a bit foggy up to now, but as far as foreign affairs go, the bearded cricket might be an improvement. Although he might crack a joke when meeting Angela Merkel (after all he started off as a comedian), I strongly doubt he’ll go down as hard as Berlusconi, who called Germany’s prime minister an “unfuckable lard ass”.

Photo © Icarus Blake

Photo © Icarus Blake

Well, the future seems to be getting pretty bleak down here. I know Grillo and his “Grillini” (members of his movement) haven’t been trained to be politicians. So what? Here they are. They didn’t just grow inside the institutions like mushrooms, they were elected. Can’t they learn to bribe and corrupt, to pillage and plunder like their previous colleagues pretty much did throughout history? They say Teddy Roosevelt owed a lot to his wife Eleanor. Politically speaking, Grillo owes a lot to Roberto Casaleggio, who is basically the Italian brother of Side-Show Bob both in appearance and intelligence. People say the real guru behind this whole operation is actually Mr. Casaleggio, internet mastermind and co-founder of the movement. Also, let’s not forget that the five starred symbol has been copyrighted just like Pepsi or Starbucks logo, and this gives Grillo and “Side-Show” Casaleggio a lifelong leverage over all their candidates. Direct Democracy meets Brandocracy on the web? Come on, we had porn stars in the nineties and people convicted for Mafia activities just a few months ago. Are we going to pretend the parliament is a sacred institution that demands nice tailored suits and fleshy grins just because this time a few regular Joes made it all the way to the top?

Photo © Icarus Blake

Photo © Icarus Blake

Remember Cicciolina? Jeff Koons’s Hungarian bride? She took a shot to our parliament too, or was it the other way around? I know, it is getting weirder and weirder as we speak. Journalists and former members of the movement are accusing Grillo and his pal of undertaking real hacker warfare against those who do not buy every single word the leader’s sellin’. Real Botnet and all sorts of web witchcraft seem to have been unleashed on those who’ve questioned authority. See, authority and direct democracy don’t really get along. It’s like feeding snails a la Bourguignonne to a six year old. Whether Roberto Casaleggio is another web genius devoted to good causes or a wicked puppeteer, I’m not sure yet. What has freaked me out a tad is this prophecy he broadcast on the web a few years ago, it’s called “Gaia”. The future of politics”. According to our man, in 2018 the world will be divided in two: the west, driven by a direct democracy via internet, and the east, a totalitarian system with a limited internet access. In 2020, the two factions will trigger the third world war, which is going to last a couple of decades and will produce six billion victims. The sea level will raise something like forty feet more and in 2040 the survivors’ identity will only be certified by the web. In 2054, we’ll have the first global elections via World Wide Web to elect a government, leading an international community that has abolished political parties, ideologies, and religions. Well, well, well… Just now I imagine this Casaleggio dude having people wear coned shaped hats like in the movie “Bowfinger” (Steve Martin & Eddie Murphy), which cracks me up every time I watch it. Nonetheless, when I come to think that this guy is the mastermind behind a new party (Twenty-five pest in the last elections) that’s supposed to sweep away the old and corrupted forces of the past… I’m hardly managing a frosted smile, and sure as fuck I won’t be wearing no cone shaped hat. Not now, not never… But what do we know? The various mud machines have been switched on, and lots of this mud is starting to hit the fan. And you know what? I’m not even that sure it’s mud…

Photo © Icarus Blake

Photo © Icarus Blake

All the same, one cannot deny that the permanent twins (in terms of hairdos for now) have given voice to the multitude that got fed up with all the scandals, the ineptitude, the never coming job reforms… In February, Italians decided to take a stand by filling up Grillo’s Blog with protests, and now the parliament with his people. According to Grillo, he doesn’t want to be prime minister (he has a criminal record, so according to his party’s standards he’s not eligible), he just wants to kick some ass. The cleansing of the temple. Oh boy, and what a temple it is. By the way, doesn’t he remind you of someone? Well, maybe Grillo is a little older than 33, a bit more plump, but the beard and the hair are almost the same, and I know for a fact he loves to wear sandals. Now the next question is, how comfortable will he be on the cross? I’m pretty sure that as long as the wood doesn’t come from the Amazon rain forest, the crown of thorns is air conditioned, and the vinegar they’ll squirt on his wounds is organic, he’ll be just fine…

 

Photo © Icarus Blake

Photo © Icarus Blake

Photo © Icarus Blake

Photo © Icarus Blake

Photo © Icarus Blake

Photo © Icarus Blake

Photo © Icarus Blake

Photo © Icarus Blake

2 Responses to “Underwearld: An Exposè of Italian Politics”

  1. Gaya Holmes says:

    very cool

  2. phil sick says:

    Thank you