April 8, 2009

Not even an earthquake

Up until a few hours ago I was kind of suspecting this might be the case, but now it’s a certainty: not even an earthquake can stop them. I mean, not even an earthquake can keep both Silvio Berlusconi from making embarrassing gaffes and my beloved British newspapers from reporting them to the public with great emphasis. Needless to say, it’s not a criticism, it’s an observation: we are facing something more than a mere chain of events (only incidentally connected with each other), rather there is, so to speak, something like a metaphysical connection.

What did the Cavaliere say this time? Well, he told a German TV station that the 17,000 people left homeless by the Abruzzo earthquake should consider themselves to be on a “camping weekend” …

Touring camps set up for survivors of Monday’s disaster, in which at least 250 people were killed, Mr Berlusconi told a reporter from N-TV: “They have everything they need, they have medical care, hot food... Of course, their current lodgings are a bit temporary. but they should see it like a weekend of camping.”

As I already said, I don’t want to criticize anyone or pontificate. After all, though I voted for Berlusconi, I am not what could be called a fan of il Cavaliere, whose legendary gaffes made him possibly the world’s political gaffeur par excellence—though he is undoubtedly in good company… Yet, let me just say this about that: It is not the best statement a Prime minister ever made, Ok, and he shouldn’t have said so, but I saw him on Italian TV saying these things: his voice was broken up with emotion, and while speaking his right hand was caressing a little girl’s head—well, I suppose I can understand what he was trying to do: just to boost the morale of families in very, very difficult times. What I wonder is whether the author of this article, for instance, had any idea of what was going on, and where he was when Berlusconi said that “sometimes, even during a tragedy like this you’ve got to smile because you can’t get results without optimism.”

Berlusconi also said that a staff of 1,000 technicians would begin evaluating the damage to public buildings and homes on Thursday. As for L’Aquila’s artistic heritage, it is to be said that it suffered very serious damage. Berlusconi has announced a €30 million ($40 million) aid package to rebuild historical buildings and to restore damaged artwork. In addition, U.S. President Barack Obama (thanks: John W. Clarke and Sandra Kennedy Shimmelpfennig) telephoned to offer aid to repair cultural sites and artistic works.