Our Father, Berlusconi

New details surrounding Silvio Berlusconi’s decadent ‘bunga-bunga’ parties have surfaced during the course of a federal investigation aimed at bringing charges of soliciting underage prostitutes against the Italian Prime Minister. Among them: cell phone shots of women engaged in sordid behavior, including model Barbara Guerra dressed up as a policewoman, and the claim by another model, Nadia Macri, that "grass was available in all the rooms, it had been brought in on the prime minister’s private jet."

These additional tidbits only underscore the image of Berlusconi as a modern-day Caligula, spending his wealth as the world’s 37th richest man (Forbes) in extravagant and amoral indulgence. They also make Berlusconi look like our dad - specifically, Sigmund Freud’s figure of the primal father.

In Totem and Taboo Freud explains symbolic castration with a bedtime story. Why am I ‘castrated’ subject, that is, why can’t I enjoy everything I want, whenever I want? Why do I have to compromise? You see, a long time ago, before history began, there was a father. His kids were called the ‘primal horde.’ They (presumably all boys) were jealous of their father because he had access to all the women, so they rose up and killed him. Freud uses this figure to argue that every universal is grounded by an ‘exception’ that proves the rule. We imagine the primal father as a figure of unbounded gratification because his exceptional status paradoxically justifies the bounds we must endure on our own pleasure. This father was never put in his place by succumbing to symbolic castration - He is not subject to the law: he is his own law. This fantasy father image stays with you even though you’re a ‘castrated’ subject, because castration is never complete.

Walter Benjamin finds a similar figure to the primal father in that of the‘great criminal,’ writing "however repellent his ends may have been, he has aroused the secret admiration of the public. This cannot result from his deed, but only from the violence to which it bears witness, (for) even in defeat he arouses the sympathy of the mass against law." The ‘great criminal’ Berlusconi, with underage tits in his face and weed in every room flown in on private jet, reminds us simultaneously of our castration and our fantasies of non-castration, and as well that no matter how ‘violent’ he is, that is, how much he disregards the law, this only mirrors the very violence of the law itself, its arbitrary imposition. The fact that he gets models to dress up as policewomen only reinforces his ‘bad father’ relation to the law - he can have every woman, even and especially the woman who embodies the law that should tell him NO and thwart his obscene enjoyment.

There has been much media speculation about the origin of the slang term ‘bunga-bunga’ used to describe Berlusconi’s orgies at his Sardinian villa. Many commentators refer to this old joke, which also happens to demonstrate the violence of the primal father: two European explorers in Africa are kidnapped by a hostile tribe and asked whether they would prefer to die or undergo bunga bunga. The first one opts for bunga bunga, and is immediately subjected to a sexual assault by members of the tribe. The second one, who now grasps what "bunga bunga" means, says he would prefer to die. To which the chief of the tribe replies: "Okay, you will die - but first a little bunga bunga."

The truth of this joke is that when you’re dealing with the primal father, even when you don’t choose bunga-bunga, you still get it, because there is always bunga-bunga. Berlusconi bedding a woman dressed as a cop insures this: he has thus overtaken the symbol of the law, and with it, the capacity to distinguish between yes and no, between death and bunga-bunga.

It’s curious that Berlusconi’s drug of choice appears to be cannabis rather than cocaine, the stereotypical substance of the Caligulan wild man, like Charlie Sheen, Berlusconi's closest contemporary in yellow journalism today. Acid Age would not be surprised to learn that bunga-bunga was now a strain of marijuana available on the streets of Italy - the name would give the strain a tinge of seedy glamour, a ticket to the cheap seats at the primal orgy.

No comments:

Post a Comment