Monday 5 December 2016

Matteo, Silvio & Diversity

The "President of the Council of Ministers of the Italian Republic" (i.e. Prime Minister) is a political leader of Italy since 1861. In the past six years, Italy has had four prime ministers (via). After the referendum defeat last Sunday, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi - "the Justin Trudeau of Italy" as The Washington Post once called him (via) - declared he would resign.

In 2011, Sun King Berlusconi said, gay couples would never be allowed to marry in Italy or have adoption rights (via). In 2016 - thirty years after lawmakers first proposed the legal recognition of civil unions in Italy -, the Italian Government gave final approval to the law recognising civil unions of same-sex couples; the bill was supported by Matteo Renzi (via). Before Renzi, Italy was "the only major Western European country with no civil partnerships or gay marriage" (via). Renzi met LGBT civil rights activist and Mayor of a small town Alessia Ballini when he was the Mayor of Florence. She inspired him to support the Civil Unions Bill which was passed five years after her death (via).
"The two soon grew close, and the traditionally Catholic Renzi - a man opposed to civil unions - and the lesbian civil rights campaigner found they shared more similarities than differences. Ballini introduced Renzi to her partner, Teresa Vieri, and it was through his experience of this relationship that Renzi learned the powerful lesson that love is love." (LOTL)
“In these crucial hours I keep close to my heart the thought and memory of Alessia. And that’s enough for me, because laws are made for people, not for ideologies. For those who love, not for those who make proclamations.”
Matteo Renzi

“I have a gruelling work schedule and if I happen to look pretty girls in the face now and then, well then, it’s better to be a fan of pretty women than to be gay.”
Silvio Berlusconi

When Renzi unveiled his cabinet in 2014 (at that time Berlusconi was about to start serving a suspended sentence, i.e. working four hours a week in a nursing home with Alzheimer's patients; via), "one of its most striking aspects was that, for the first time, it was to be split equally between women and men" (via). Renzi's step was a huge one in a country that has never had a female prime minister or head of state, in a country where female politicians are still judged by their looks and outfit (via). In 2008, "gender-equality challenged" Berlusconi made the following comment concerning the Spanish Prime Minister's decision to have a cabinet with more women than men (via):
"[He] has formed a government that is too pink," reads one. "That's something we cannot do... because there is a prevalence of men in politics and it isn't easy to find women who are qualified for government. Now he's asked for it. He'll have problems leading them." The other imagines "the merrie Lawes by them newly Enacted, To live in more Ease, Pompe, Pride, and wantonnesse: but especially that they might have superiority and domineere over their husbands [and] cure any old or new Cuckolds...".
Silvio Berlusconi
To be fair, Berlusconi had also chosen women for the Parliament: a Miss Italy contestant, a former contestant of the Italian "Big Brother", an actress, a soap opera star, and a topless model (via) ... all of them supporting the "harem culture" message he has been sending with showgirls on his TV channels for decades (via).
"(...) while other European lands actively promote gender equality as a builder of national prosperity, Berlusconi has led the charge in the opposite direction, effectively stifling women by creating a world in which they are seen first and foremost as sex objects instead of professional equals." Newsweek
“It is clear to everyone that a mother cannot devote herself to a job (...)"
Silvio Berlusconi

"Let's hope it's a girl."
Matteo Renzi before the Clinton-vs.-Trump election

"I said to a girl to look for a wealthy boyfriend. This suggestion is not unrealistic."
Silvio Berlusconi

"Women are lining up to marry me. Legend has it, I know how to do it."
Silvio Berlusconi

"When asked if they would like to have sex with me, 30% of women said, 'Yes', while the other 70% replied, 'What, again?'"
Silvio Berlusconi

"I never understood where the satisfaction is when you're missing the pleasure of conquest." 
Silvio Berlusconi denying that he would pay sex workers

Women are "God's most beautiful gift to men."
Silvio Berlusconi

In order to prevent rape, "we would need as many soldiers as there are beautiful Italian women."
Silvio Berlusconi

"Italy is now a great country to invest in... Today we have fewer communists and those who are still there deny having been one. Another reason to invest in Italy is that we have beautiful secretaries... superb girls."
Silvio Berlusconi
(In 2015, one of his "superb" secretaries was jailed for three years; via)

"Angela Merkel is an un****able fat ****."
Silvio Berlusconi

"An Aids patient asks his doctor whether the sand treatment prescribed him will do any good. 'No', the doctor replies, 'but you will get accustomed to living under the earth'."
Silvio Berlusconi

"We must be aware of the superiority of our civilisation, a system that has guaranteed well-being, respect for human rights and - in contrast with Islamic countries - respect for religious and political rights, a system that has as its value understanding of diversity and tolerance..."
Silvio Berlusconi

"The West will continue to conquer peoples, even if it means a confrontation with another civilization, Islam, firmly entrenched where it was 1,400 years ago."
Silvio Berlusconi

"(...) in the China of Mao, they did not eat children, but had them boiled to fertilise the fields."
Silvio Berlusconi

"Ah, Barack Obama. You won't believe it, but the two of them sunbathe together, because the wife is also tanned."
Silvio Berlusconi

"(...) the man who has invested in hope over cynicism, who has raised a generation to try (Yes, we can).” Obama will go but "stay in history and the hearts of many of us."
Matteo Renzi on Barack Obama

Finally, two of my favourite quotes:

"I don't need to go into office for the power. I have houses all over the world, stupendous boats... beautiful airplanes, a beautiful wife, a beautiful family... I am making a sacrifice."
Silvio Berlusconi

"I am the Jesus Christ of politics. I am a patient victim, I put up with everyone, I sacrifice myself for everyone."
Silvio Berlusconi

In an interview, Matteo Renzi's wife Agnese Renzi openly said how much she had learned from her little niece Maria who had taught her "the true meaning of love". Maria has Down Syndrome and was adopted by Matteo Renzi's sister Matilde Renzi (via).

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- photographs (Vanity Fair) via and via and via and via and via
- List of Prime Ministers of Italy by time in office: LINK