I once met an Italian journalist living in Beirut, a wonderful, warm, successful woman with the world at her fingertips. She was leaving Beirut, and thinking about other cities where she might pitch her tent. Paris? Istanbul? Why not Rome?, I asked her. She looked at me like I still had the crack pipe in my right hand. As an Italian, she told me, she can't stand to live in Italy. Life under Berlusconi is just too depressing. In The Berlusconi in Us All: Bunga Bunga's Real Meaning, a new piece that ran today in the Atlantic, I excavate the hidden meanings of the goofy-sounding term "bunga bunga." After hearing it repeated uncritically across the international media, I thought it might be worth exploring where this term came from, and what it represents with respect to the sexism, racism and corruption that plague Italy and that are part and parcel of what Italians call "Berlusconismo."
In interviewing a dozen or so Italian professors, researchers, filmmakers, journalist and political analysts, that overwhelming sense of "WTF" came through loud and clear. Every interview ran an hour long. Several slowly morphed from interview to therapy session as the subjects unloaded one after another complaint about Berlusconi and everything he stands for onto me, the willing listener. Thanks to their insights and observations, I was able to put together this article about what "bunga bunga" really means for Italy.
I hope you enjoy. Read it here.