Friday, 13 November 2009
This cleverly designed bag with the handy noose-shaped handle might be the closest we'll ever get to seeing justice done in Italy. It's the old story. You've read it here on this blog a tedious number of times and pretty much anywhere else that's talked about Italy in the past twenty years. It's the one that begins: 'In any normal western democracy...' and then goes on to describe the latest exploits of a governing class that has never quite grasped the concepts of shame or accountability (in other words, the guardian angels of any democracy worth its name). It was bad enough under the Christian Democrats, who regarded the electorate as ignorant and tendentially obedient subjects, cowed by the authority of their masters. These days, under Berlusconi, we're simply tele-customers and it would, indeed, be more than fitting if the tin-pot Duce were to meet his end on the side of a shopping bag. What continues to astonish, though, is the extent to which shame has been excised from the body politic. You probably remember that Berlusconi's most recent attempt to wriggle out of the various court cases in which he's the accused was blocked by the supreme court a couple of weeks ago. But a couple ofweeks is all it takes to come up with a new solution. This time a bill has been proposed which exempts all ex-cruiseship crooners with hair transplants from prosecution, as long as their surnames begin with B. I'm joking, of course, but only just. It might have been better if such a law had been proposed. It's obvious that Berlusconi will never serve a day in jail, so legislation which really is ad personam might be the simplest option, howwever hard it is to swallow. Because the worrying consequences of this new proposal are that the putative prison doors will be flung open not only for our wily hero, but for all other kinds of equally serious evildoers, who will simply walk away scot-free and ready to re-offend, secure in the knowledge that they'll almost certainly walk free again, however many people they rip off. These are white-collar criminals, which means they're up there with Bernard Madoff, destroying lives while feathering already gilded nests. In my wilder days, I'd have called them filthy capitalist scum, and, guess what, those words still work for me. These people will be practically guaranteed immunity under the new law, which imposes time limits on trials. The more complicated the trial - and financial crimes are necessarily complicated - the less likely it is to be concluded within the time allotted. Oh yes, illegal immigrants, while fulfilling all the conditions of the measure, whose presence in this country is not a crime but an infraction, will nonetheless not be able to benefit from the law. The banker who squirrels away the savings of a thousand pensioners, in other words, will emerge unscathed. The Filipino woman who wipes their arses will find herself doing time. This, you won't be surprised to hear, is a sop to the Northern League, which tolerates, indeed encourages, large-scale business malpractice but doesn't like black faces cluttering up its super-sized shopping malls.