Friday, 8 April 2011

Alternative Mobilities: Drug Dealers, Show Girls, Prostitutes.

Suppose you are born poor and want to get rich. And suppose you live in a country where all the best ways of getting rich are or seem to be monopolised by powerful families and fraternities. The barriers to entry into their ranks are very high.

That's the situation in many parts of the world, maybe most.

So you look for alternatives. It's not new for young women to exploit their attractiveness to older men. In the past they could be geishas and courtesans. Now they can attend Silvio Berlusconi's bunga bunga parties and reap handsome cash rewards. If they crave celebrity, they can hold out for jobs in his media empire. If they have a taste for power and not just for money, even a seat in parliament is a possibility. The court proceedings against Berlusconi will, in due course, show just how extensive and generous is his patronage. And, luckily for the women, Italy is full of Berlusconis.

To succeed in this game, you need to be young and pretty. But you also need to be feisty, determined, organised and even ruthless - all qualities which would be assets if the world around you really offered careers open to talents. But it doesn't. You come from the wrong suburbs, with the wrong accent and you are the wrong colour. Your education leaves a lot to be desired.

In the Berlusconi case, it is the political patronage which is most interesting. Sponsored mobility from a bunga bunga party to Parliament may not be such a bad thing. The country has a poor record on women's rights and the Roman Catholic church aims to keep it that way. A few show girls and prostitutes in Parliament could be a breath of fresh air. It's not as if they represent a tiny minority.

For young men, it's tougher. There was a traditional way of getting rich which involved starting with a barrow in the market. Nowadays, there is a quicker way up and that's drug dealing. With any luck, you will have your Beemer or your Merc in your twenties.

It's risky but not that risky, so even University students with funding problems deal drugs. After all, they have immediate access to one of the largest markets.

But if you are going to make serious money and avoid going to jail, you have to be feisty, determined, organised and even ruthless - all qualities which would be assets if the world around you really offered careers open to talents. Instead, you make your money selling to those who have already got or made theirs, some of whom will become Members of Parliament and admit to youthful "experiments". Then they will still send you to jail.

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