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Harvey Specter

I had a group of five very young students, all engineers, all from Norway. The first few days things were a bit like that, I felt some coldness and struggled to find topics of conversation in class. One day I asked what they were watching on Netflix, and they all said: Suits.

That surprised me, I didn’t think it was that popular. I thought that by watching an episode, I would also understand something about my five Norwegians and it would be easier for me to connect with them.

In fact, not only did I like Suits, but one of its two main characters gave me a lot to think about.

Harvey Specter. Senior partner in the big New York firm Pearson Hardman, of which he is the most brilliant lawyer. He has a reputation for being cynical, ruthless, emotionless, and he brags about it.

But is he really? In the first episode of the series, he hires a penniless kid as his deputy, preferring him to a host of young Harvard graduates, and in doing so he risks a lot himself.

But he does it. He has a strong rational component, but he never lets his thoughts or all the information he gathers slow him down in making decisions.

Even though he flaunts a total rejection of morality, throughout the series Harvey Specter always ends up supporting what we would call “the good”: and the young boy, Mike Ross, takes pleasure in provoking him and pointing out his emotional side that has probably been repressed and is therefore itching to come out.

Harvey Specter seems to embody – according to the definition of Goethe’s Faust – “that force which constantly wants evil and constantly works good”. In short, the Devil, who, as we know, is never as ugly as he is made out to be. Especially in all forms of literature and entertainment, because if he were as ugly as he is portrayed he would also be very boring and therefore stop scaring us.

Neither the Devil nor Harvey Specter can afford this: they must continue to frighten us, and even offend us to the limit, they must preserve their reputation as sharks in order to continue to deserve our respect. No one should even think that they want to hide some secret goodwill under their sharp teeth.

The Devil’s presence today is also one of the major themes of Bulgakov’s masterpiece, The Master and Margarita, written and rewritten several times between 1928 and 1940 (published posthumously in 1967). The phrase from Faust is so substantial in this work that it is its epigraph.

In the chaotic Moscow of the 1920s, the Devil is called Woland and his arrival triggers a chain of events that are apparently negative but ultimately have praiseworthy consequences.

In recent years, the Devil’s presence in our world has taken the form of Donald Trump: he is the perfect portrait of the Devil, with all his physical, anthropological and, of course, political characteristics. He is the villain of fairy tales, and in fact we watch world politics like a fairy tale, or a Hollywood film. French director Mathieu Kassovitz says that the best TV series in the world is American political news, he wakes up in the morning and shoots two hours of CBS, FOX News and everything else. “A mind-blowing show,” he says, “It makes you want to die, but it’s brilliant.”

Restorations’ LP5000, released in 2018, has as its theme precisely our relationship with this beelzebub of our age, Donald Trump, whose name is never made explicit because even saying it is harmful: “No, I don’t wanna hear that name again” (Melt). And the hatred of the righteous towards Beelzebub does not shy away from wishing him dead: “Glance at your phone and you mumble, I hope he dies / Yeah, I hope he dies, too”.

Sooner or later, after all, this Beelzebub too will pass away and we will see him in all the weakness of passing human phenomena. And who knows if, as with the Faustian devil, we will not end up recognising some positive result obtained: perhaps that of having demonstrated the dangers of democracy, a form of government that is certainly better than many others but always at risk of becoming a tyranny of the majority (even if only relative) to the detriment of all minorities. The fact that the voice of the people can be that of the devil is already clear from the New Testament, when the people themselves decide to send Jesus to his death and save Barabbas. Then again, we know that Hitler was also democratically elected, but we have never given it much thought: because it is uncomfortable to admit how ineffective a system is that, based on the moods of the masses made manipulable in the age of communications – made such an outcome possible, and makes it possible to repeat it. And whoever wins even one round of elections, even Beelzebub himself, hands over the keys to a nation. The obnoxious but highly acclaimed Mayor Kobayashi in Wes Anderson’s film Isle of Dogs (2018) is just one of countless examples that could be given in this regard.

Perhaps then it was necessary for the arrival of a new Beelzebub – or even a wave of new Beelzebubs, as in Italy, England, Russia, France, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Brazil and so on – to finally push us to look for new, less violent forms of government, which still do not exist today except on an experimental basis (such as sociocracy practised in intentional communities, and very effective in small groups). After all, the madness of direct democracy – on which the 5 Stars have built their fortune – inevitably leads to totalitarianism. So we should stop considering ‘democracy’ as a totally positive word, and certainly not to go back to dictatorships or monarchies or theocracies, but to move forward. Sooner or later, mankind will have to come up with less “democratic” constitutions, yes, but in the sense that they will be more advanced, freer and respectful of those minority rights that a democracy – controlled by the “people” in quotes, i.e. by those politicians who have won the elections – is not always able to guarantee.

However, the phenomenon that mirrors and complements the Faustian devil from which good is born consists of good people who unwittingly do evil. The imbeciles, or even, we would say today, the good guys.

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