I know very little about the shadowy world of corruption which I’ve always understood to mean the procurement or solicitation of money for real or imaginary favours. I was speaking with a Lebanese colleague the other day who was stopped at Alexandria airport and the customs official quite openly invited him to pay money in order for his luggage to pass through Customs unmolested. To his credit, the man refused, whereupon he was subjected to a humiliating search and his luggage confiscated for an hour for ‘further examination’, all of which was clearly designed to inflict maximum inconvenience on a perfectly innocent, if stubborn traveller.
Silvio Berlusconi has an extensive record of criminal allegations, including Mafia collusion, false accounting, tax fraud, corruption and bribery of police officers and judges. He has been tried in Italian courts in several cases and in three of them, accusations were dropped by the judiciary because of laws passed by Berlusconi’s parliamentary majority shortening the time limit for prosecution of various offences and making false accounting illegal only if there is a specific damaged party reporting the fact to the authorities. It does look as if crime does pay after all. Not bad for a former vacuum salesman and night club singer. But, like Al Capone, an Achilles heel seems eventually to have been found and since the man is arrogant beyond description he may well be brought down by that simplest of temptations – a little bit of friction. Prostitution is legal- it is not mentioned in the Penal Code as such – brothels and pimping are illegal and sex workers working from apartments are ‘tolerated’. Loitering is permitted but soliciting (‘unabashedly inviting clients on the street’) is illegal. If the ‘firefly’ is only seventeen, however, charges can and indeed have been brought. Berlusconi is of course, unrepentant, indeed he said after the initial allegations in November last year  “I am a man who works hard all day long and if sometimes I (use to) look at some well-looking girl, it’s better to be fond of pretty girls than to be gay”. OK, Silvio. Two out of ten for tact and a rather scary indicator of the degree of power you hold that you can make such remarks without fear of censure or even reprisal. It’s been suggested that absolute power tends to lead to absolute corruption, whether moral or financial. Those at the pinnacles of power who believe themselves impervious to litigation, it appears, develop an opiate-like addiction and reconfiguration of brain chemistry. The anti-corruptioneers may have the last laugh, it would appear, but just because Berlusconi may be brought down it will not take place out out of righteous repudiation of corrupt behaviour which his enemies have alleged for years but because he supposedly paid for sex with a teenage girl, subsequently using his influence with the police to get her out of a bit of bother. The Italians won’t be fooled, I suspect, as along as they don’t care about tarnishing the reputation of their country.
Good political morality cascades down to ordinary people – like airport workers – so they are not tempted to abuse their position in order to make an honest living. In the Church, we used to talk a lot at one time about accountability, where our behaviour and decision-making could be moderated by the counsel of the wise. Parochial Church Councils, I imagine, are supposed to operate under this, the Jethro principle. Such requires humility, however, in short supply not only in Rome, but in Cairo where police power is virtually unassailable and corruption and brutality is endemic, indeed the same sorry tale could be told almost anywhere in the world where one group holds absolute sway over another.

2 thoughts on “Bunga-Bunga

  1. Hmmm…the “Jethro principle.” Moses had a wise father-in-law. I remember my own father telling me (during one of my many adolescent arguments with him about power and authority) that anyone who cannot hear wise counsel also cannot be warned of danger, and when that person holds power over others, he will cause damage. I think my father is little bit wise as well. “He” in this case being representative of humanity not gender – though at this point 100% of the world's examples of this truism are male.
    Just saying. =)


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