Jasmina Tešanović: Violence in Milan

(Guest-essay by Jasmina Tešanović, video here.)


Silvio Berlusconi, the controversial Prime Minister of Italy, suffered a severe physical attack in Milan this past week. The man who attacked him with the plaster model of the Duomo cathedral, at the site of the same Duomo cathedral, is said to have a history of mental illness. He was immediately arrested and found to have also possessed a vial of pepper-gas.

Berlusconi's face was bleeding, his teeth were broken, and his lips torn when he stood up from his car to wave with a desperate face at his confused audience. He was immediately taken to the hospital.

The day after, his first question was: why do they hate me so much? The scandal-prone prime minister has been the center of sexual, political, and mafia-linked scandals over the past year. Only a week ago, a big worldwide demonstration was held to demand that he resign from power, and set Italy free from his dubious ways of ruling, which involve corruption, underage girls, prostitutes, and attacks on freedom of press and the civil rights of both citizens and immigrants.

The president of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano, declared immediately that the spiral of violence must end at once. Other Italian political officials condemned the physical attack, but some did mention the personal responsibility of the premier: whoever hits will be hit in return.

One hour after Berlusconi was hit in the face, a Facebook protest page was opened and 1,000 signatures appeared. In a couple of hours that number grew to 50,000 people who were pleased to see the head of state assaulted. Some were asking for the attacker to be declared a saint. Other websites representing opposite opinions but just as impassioned, appeared very quickly. The authorities are considering closing some violent websites.

This is a very dangerous turn of events. Milan and Italy remember the 'years of lead' in the 1970s, when extra-parliamentary terrorist left and right groups were tormenting the city, causing the death of innocent civilians and massive political confusion. The spiral of violence ended in the kidnapping and execution of the politician Aldo Moro. Until this day some dark acts of those years have not been resolved, the witnesses have been eliminated, the political pressures clashing.

What will come next? The government can use this episode for repressing public demonstrations and other political freedoms. The security issues are on top of the national agenda.

Was this episode the random case of a lunatic, or a calculated step in the escalation of hate and violence in Italy? Berlusconi denounces partisan polarization and bitterness, yet he provokes it. As prime minister, he has the first responsibility for this sorry state of affairs.

The president Napolitano claims that opposite parties should not accuse each other, but that each side should take its part of responsibility and try to bring peace.

Medical reports say that Berlusconi will need to stay in the hospital to heal his jaw, but that his blustering sense of humor is undamaged.

It is Italy that seems hurt, sorrowful and trembling, from top to bottom, and justly so. Everybody wants to go back to normality, in a normal democratic state, but that normality was not lost this week in any single wild attack.

Italian political stability and dignity have declined over the course of many years, slowly and painfully. To restore civic health and a sense of pride in their public affairs, many Italians will have to take action.

Jasmina Tešanović is an author, filmmaker, and wandering thinker who shares her thoughts with BoingBoing from time to time. Email: politicalidiot at yahoo dot com. Her blog is here.

Previous essays by Jasmina Tešanović on BoingBoing:

Report from anti-Berlusconi demonstration in Rome

On Marina Abramovic, a "grandmother of performance art"
The Murder of Natalya Estemirova.

Less Than Human
Earthquake in Italy
10 years after NATO bombings of Serbia
Made in Catalunya / Lou and Laurie
Dragan Dabic Defeats Radovan Karadzic
Who was Dragan David Dabic?
My neighbor Radovan Karadzic
The Day After / Kosovo
State of Emergency
Christmas in Serbia
Neonazism in Serbia
Korea – South, not North.
"I heard they are making a movie on her life."
Serbia and the Flames
Return to Srebenica
Sagmeister in Belgrade
What About the Russians?
Milan Martic sentenced in Hague
Mothers of Mass Graves
Hope for Serbia
Stelarc in Ritopek
Sarajevo Mon Amour
Killing Journalists
Where Did Our History Go?
Serbia Not Guilty of Genocide
Carnival of Ruritania
"Good Morning, Fascist Serbia!"
Faking Bombings
Dispatch from Amsterdam
Where are your Americans now?
Anna Politkovskaya Silenced
Slaughter in the Monastery
Mermaid's Trail
A Burial in Srebenica
Report from a concert by a Serbian war criminal
To Hague, to Hague
Preachers and Fascists, Out of My Panties
Floods and Bombs
Scorpions Trial, April 13
The Muslim Women
Belgrade: New Normality
Serbia: An Underworld Journey
Scorpions Trial, Day Three: March 15, 2006
Scorpions Trial, Day Two: March 14, 2006
Scorpions Trial, Day One: March 13, 2006
The Long Goodbye
Milosevic Arrives in Belgrade
Slobodan Milosevic Died
Milosevic Funeral