Political life in the European Union has become more or less irrelevant to large swathes of the population in most countries. The politicians are too insignificant to have made a mark. Few people even know their names, and fewer still have any expectation that the EU is going to get out of its mess any time soon.
Years ago Benito Mussolini quipped that anyone can govern Italy but it is pointless to do so. Today Italians are in a particularly bad economic bind, so bad that the only valid approach is to make more quips about it. Former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi laid the blame on the European Union but his bunga-bunga antics accustomed everyone to think that he couldn’t be taken seriously. Now there is someone by the name of Beppe Grillo for whom there is no distinction between politics and buffoonery. All wild curly hair and grimaces, he looks and behaves like an ageing hippy. Comic invention has given him a large public. Mario Monti, the new prime minister, is obeying the demands of the EU to impose cuts and austerity on the country, for which Grillo has coined the unforgettable pun “Rigor Montis.” He has launched V-Day — the V standing for vaffanculo, an exhortation to the high-ups too rude to be translated. He has founded the 5-Star Movement as an anti-party, and it may do well in forthcoming elections. Writing him up, the London Times guesses that the 5-Star Movement could capture 100 seats in next April’s parliamentary elections. Grillo and the EU are a case of one good joke deserving another.