Friday, August 8, 2008

Anti-corruption Italian comedian/activist a lesson for corrupt Lebanon

For those who haven't already come across Italy's fiesty anti-mafia comedian, Beppe Grillo, the ABC's Foreign Correspondent program this week reported on the activist.

It's worth watching, just click on the link below, which will take you to ABC's new Internet TV service, iView.

Italy's political establishment has long been a comedy from afar, but from within the country many people are crying frustration and anger at the blatant corruption. As the documentary reveals, Italy has had a staggering 62 governments in 63 years of 'democracy'.

Mafia bosses, media tycoons and corrupt politicians with conviction records still seem to find their way to power in Italy in the 21st century. The public's anger has catapulted anti-corrupt comedian Beppe Grillo into fame. Perhaps Grillo's most famous achievement was unveiling financial fraud in dairy giant, Parmalat, in 2003.

His arguments, and Italy's joke of a mafioso democracy, strike at the heart of its Mediterranean twin in political corruption ... Lebanon.

Like Italy, the Lebanese have for 60 odd years of independence been submerged in a corrupt political establishment that has shown no signs of disappearing despite bloody civil wars and endless economic failures.

Both Lebanon and Italy are void of independent media and the crucial 'Fourth Estate' of power that holds the other three estates of power in check. The main media in the two countries are openly partisan and are generally owned by political leaders, operating as virtual propaganda mouthpieces.

The Italian comedian states that everyone in Italy knows about the corruption scandals, but thanks to a politically-driven media, no one speaks up. Sound familiar, dear Lebanese? Probably explains why The Daily Star never publish my material.

Grillo, consequently, has been shunned by Italy's mainstream media for daring the undareable - calling for a total overhaul of the political establishment. It is a cry that is also much needed in Lebanon.

Rome and Beirut share similar traits not only in its corrupt political culture, but in a certain public political apathy. The documentary refers to "la dolca vita" in Italy, the sweet and vibrant Italian life encapsulated in natural beauty that serves as a stagnant pill in the drive for political activism.

The scenario isn't much different in Lebanon. The sudden obsession with material possession, brand names, and a bubbling Beirut nightlife have contributed to the political fatigue, and soured the call for desperate change. Many Lebanese, like many Italians, prefer to ignore the political corruption stifling their daily lives by indulging in alluring material riches.

When it comes to election time, Italians and Lebanese alike still vote into power the same corrupt officials that they deeply disdain. It is a preference vote for a corrupt status quo that they have grown accustom to, than the dangerous uncertainty if challenged.

The flock are no doubt fed up, all they need is to be galvanised by someone willing to take that challenge. Italy has found its shepherd to lead its idle, yet angry sheep in Beppe Grillo.

The galvanising Grillo offers no political solution, and declares no intention to dive into politics, but still manages to draw tens of thousands of supporters to open-air concerts and rallies that are determined to overthrow the establishment and knock some sense into the country. It is Italy's wake up call.

Now we just need to find Lebanon's wake up call.

Click to access Grillo's world famous blog.

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