Saturday, November 15, 2008

Young, beautiful and tanned

The whole world seems to be celebrating Obama's victory, and even Iran's President Ahmadinejad sent a message of congratulations. Just two world leaders don't seem to have figured out the significance of the event: Silvio Berlusconi and Dmitry Medvedev (the dauphin of Berlusconi's old mate Vladimir Putin). At least Medvedev seems to be hastily backtracking from his sabre-rattling, whereas Berlusconi is still insisting that it was a harmless joke to describe Obama as 'sun-tanned'.
The only consolation regarding Berlusconi's gaffe is that its 1970s-style paternalistic racism demonstrates to the whole world what years of cosmetic surgery and hair transplants have been trying desperately to hide: that Silvio Berlusconi is an old man. Just like the defeated John McCain, in fact. Life expectancy for rich westerners may be well over 80 these days, but being 72 all but disqualifies someone from high political office in my view.
This is not just because it usually means that you grew up in a world where the west was white and black meant poor and uneducated; in the end someone with the right moral fibre can make the effort to understand today's multicultural reality.
Far more serious is that we're entitled to doubt what stake a 72 year old politician has in the world 20, 30, 40 years from now. Can a 72 year old really be expected to tackle climate change and understand what the emergence of new powers such as China and India really means?

I guess Berlusconi knows this, which is why he let slip his bitter, barely sub-conscious, envy towards a man who doesn't need to pretend he's 20 years younger.