Le monde entier est un cactus: the Berlusconi gaffe

The whole world is a cactus and it’s impossible to sit down…

Photo courtesy Scribbles of a Dutch/Polishman.

Do Bianchi’s habitual albeit well-meaning detractor often chides me for including geo-political commentary and notes on Japanese food on the blog. And he’s right: I really don’t have any business posting on either topic. But I do feel the recent Berlusconi gaffe merits a word or two since I do know something about Italian politics: when I worked as an interpreter for the Italian Mission to the United Nations during Italy’s EU presidency, among my other responsibilities, I was foreign minister Franco Frattini’s personal interpreter and I viewed the Italian political world from the inside out.

A lot has been written about Berlusconi’s recent and past off-color remarks. (My personal favorite is “Mussolini sent people on holiday.”) But, as far as I can see, no one has pointed out that his words were doubly offensive to the many Africans who live in Italy, a country whose citizens are only now beginning to address issues of race and identity. According to The New York Times, the gaffe was not mentioned in a “long, cordial” talk between Obama and Berlusconi and I think Obama was right to ignore the imbecilic wisecrack. But I also feel it’s important to note that in a country like Italy, a former colonial power in Africa and now one of the biggest stakeholders in Africa’s future (in both its commercial and humanitarian enterprises there), such racist slurs are doubly obscene.

Berlsuconi is a cactus lover and his Villa Certosa in Sardinia is famous for its extravagant garden of cacti (more than 500 species, according to some). As the song goes, Dans leurs cactus, il y a des cactus, even in their cactus there are cacti.

*****

Le monde entier est un cactus
Il est impossible de s’assoir
Dans la vie, il y a qu’des cactus
Moi je me pique de le savoir
Aïe aïe aïe, ouille, aïe aïe aïe

Dans leurs coeurs, il y a des cactus
Dans leurs porte-feuilles, il y a des cactus
Sous leurs pieds, il y a des cactus
Dans leurs gilets, il y a des cactus
Aïe aïe aïe, ouille ouille ouille, aïe

Pour me défendre de leurs cactus
A mon tour j’ai mis des cactus
Dans mon lit, j’ai mis des cactus
Dans mon slip, j’ai mis des cactus
Aïe aïe aïe, ouille, aïe aïe aïe

Dans leurs sourires, il y a des cactus
Dans leurs ventres, il y a des cactus
Dans leurs bonjours, il y a des cactus
Dans leurs cactus, il y a des cactus
Aïe aïe aïe, ouille, aïe

Le monde entier est un cactus
Il est impossible de s’assoir
Dans la vie, il y a qu’des cactus
Moi je me pique de le savoir
Aïe aïe aïe, ouille, aïe aïe aïe

— Jacques Dutronc

7 Responses to Le monde entier est un cactus: the Berlusconi gaffe

  1. vocativo says:

    Meno male che all’estero c’è qualcuno che ci dice la verità… Il premier-barzellettiere vuol far credere agli Italiani che ha molto credito tra i governanti esteri. Il guaio però è che dobbiamo sorbircelo noi :(

  2. Strappo says:

    vocativo, mi raccomando, Berlu e’ uno scherzo all’estero. Pulcinello.

  3. vinonyc says:

    Il bello/brutto è che il povero Silvio crede solo di fare il simpatico, poi rimane stupito (e anche s’incazza) quando la gente è offesa. Obama ha fatto bene non fare riferimento a quest’ultima “barzaletta da cabaret” (Veltroni) — tanto un commento di questo genere fa ridere più che altro, ma fa niente per sollevare l’immagine cadente d’Italia nel mondo.

  4. Esping says:

    Dutronc has another song that seems written for Berluscone, Et moi, Et Moi , Et Moi

  5. Alex says:

    Haha,

    love that you came up with that old French song!

    Alex

  6. Cristiano says:

    The fact is that Berlusconi,and a lot of people in Italy for that matter,don’t seem to be able to see the fact that the pun is indeed a racist one and feel offended if this is pointed out to them.

    I really wonder how Berlusconi really is viewed by people out of Italy.
    Cristiano

  7. Luca says:

    C’mon, it’s not a matter of gaffe here…we’re talking about a criminal who become a politician to make laws not to be put in jail…
    Italian democracy RIP.

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