"I haven't been so inspired since 1994," an Italian friend of mine posted on her Facebook page.
Well, I too can remember the year 1994, when I was in Milan, giving a public speech among some so-called intellectuals, soon after Berlusconi was elected. I had come there directly from Serbia, struggling in the thick of the Milosevic reign of terror.
I remember warning my Italian friends, feeling frightened, extremely emotional. I described a 'soft dictatorship,' how a small caste of oppressors gets into power legally, because WE vote them in, and then they steal and fake everything that WE, the people, never delegated them to do. And how, finally after waging wars against all the OTHERS in our own name, they finally turn on their ultimate victims and wage their war against US.
How they destroy every aspect of reality that stands in the way of a total exploitation: meaning the destruction, the ruin, of the people, ideas, customs, habits, prosperity, morality, of a nation and its history, of a time and a space. Afterwards, after the dreadful crash, who feels empty and responsible? We, the citizens who voted, we whose states were surrendered to the exploiters and profiteers, we, the participants, we are the ones humiliated in front of our children and the whole world.
Tonight, while Italians danced in front of the parliament, impatiently waiting for Berlusconi to officially resign, I remembered, once again among many times, how Milosevic was finally toppled after his miserable endless reign. Milosevic stumbled in the elections. He took Serbian support for granted, since he controlled all the Serbian mass media, and all the local means of patronage and favors.
Milosevic admitted his electoral defeat, promising to regroup and return to power soon. He faked a compliance with democracy, but we believed in his defeat. We didn't allow him to return to the statehouse. Instead we paralyzed Belgrade by occupying the streets in a crowd of a million, surrounding the parliament until the police and army deserted the criminal and agreed with the population.
Italian change came more smoothly: but the exasperated crowds in Rome were harshly insulting their premiere. "Mafioso," "buffoon," "go to jail now," "up your ass, Silvio," between sentimental fits of patriotic singing, huge crowds of people in the nation's capital called their elected leader awful names that haven't been heard since the fall of Mussolini.
Italian state TV channels were very prudish about reporting the rude scenes in the streets and squares of Rome. Only one Italian TV channel, plus online video streaming from Italian newspapers, recorded the historic moments. Italian journalists had to rely on Al Jazeera, BBC, Sky and other foreigners to tell the Italian people about the public scenes and public events within their own capital city.
As usual, Twitter was raving and reporting live. These 140-character messages from widely-scattered cellphones are hard to repress. However, bandwidth on the net got very patchy as Italians poured online massively: their government was collapsing headlong while their leader's pet TV machine offered them nothing but game shows, vapid repeats and busty dancing girls. So much for their national media and their role as informed citizens.
Silenced and humiliated.
Anonious people are courageously shouting in the public streets: the buffoon is gone! We lived for this day! Prison for Berlusconi, out with all the cowards!
People around me are more than happy. They are extremely frightened. They don't need the somber warnings of Italy's President, Napolitano, an old man in a figurehead post whom many now credit with saving the country — for the time being. It is as if, only now, the Italians can realize the obvious truth of their dramatic situation, the grave national crisis they have somehow survived.
The future carries a worrisome burden of long-denied truth. After so many blatant and revolting personal scandals, people somehow imagined that they knew the truth about their Big Boss. They knew how to maneuver and how to protect their own interests in the minefield of official illusions. But that is not what real life is like, after the Fall.
The aftermath is like a mudslide after a torrential rain: it carries away the innocent as readily as the guilty. Since every citizen is entirely implicated in a nation's official fantasies, you cannot tell the clean from the polluted. Berlusconi brought out the worst instincts in every Italian, Eugenio Scalfari said.
Tomorrow is a big day for Italy: the first day of reconstruction. A new government, a new prime minister. Emergency stability law has been passed, as required by EU in a terrible haste, as Prime Minister Berlusconi crept from the President's house through the side door after resigning.
He finally departed his TV stage-set in a cloud of angry Twitter #hashtags: #byebyebungabunga, #finecorsa (end of the road), #maipiu (never more) #rimontiamo (Italy rides again)!