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the extraordinary relevance of his critical spirit

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Today November 2 is the anniversary of the death of one of the most important intellectuals of the 20th century: the poet, director, screenwriter, writer, Pier Paolo Pasolini. Revolutionary and anti-conformist, he undoubtedly represented one of the most lucid critical thoughts of the Italian political-social reality of the 20th century. Beyond his untimely death in 1975.

His positions have always been driven by the desire to unmask the mechanisms of power. Of any political flag whatsoever. This makes him an uneasy poet, an authentic corsair – as he defined himself – of contemporary society.

Pasolini PHOTO ANSA / DANIEL DAL ZENNARO

His intellectual freedom has often led him to clash with intellectuals and personalities from all political backgrounds. Because his personal struggle against these new “alienating and false” values ​​of consumerist-bourgeois society had no flag. And his thought is still relevant today after almost fifty years, in a contemporary society where no one questions the economic framework on which the current world order is based. Based on neo-liberal financial capitalism. A new evolution of consumer power, which has found new resources thanks to globalization and techno-financial evolution. Pasolini’s free thought continues to offer revolutionary and up-to-date lines of thought.

Pasolini and the new Power: the totalitarianism of consumerist ideology

“Everyone hates the power he is subjected to”, said the Friulian poet. And the power that was taking its first steps in the early 1960s was that of the consumer society, at the start of the economic boom. Pier Paolo Pasolini was able to describe and identify them even then with extreme clarity, implications and social changes of the times. Above all, he had understood the depersonalizing and totalitarian force that consumption would have exerted on consciences. Educate them to the rhythms and needs of the new post-modern industry. He warned us that consumerist hedonism would end up homologating and shaping the ideas, desires and values ​​of men, depending on the occurrence of the ruling elite. As no political regime in the West had realized before.

Pasolini / ANSA photo / US Cineteca di Bologna

It is that the new power did not assert itself by oppressing individual freedoms like totalitarian regimes. On the contrary, it promised the blossoming of the senses and the overcoming of the old ideological apparatuses of the 20th century. By creating in its place a new “foolishly secular and rational” ideology, as Pasolini called it, perfect for the needs of the new industrial bourgeoisie. This was aimed at Development and not Progress. Where the first represented the enhancement of a technological and economic dimension, while the second allowed the population to feel better. Two actions which therefore did not automatically coincide. It was often enough to raise “good consumers”.

Pasolini and the false revolution of 68

The new consumerist-bourgeois ideology therefore penetrated Italian society in the early 1960s, gradually devaluing and distorting customs, traditions and the sanctity of life, according to its own needs. In 1968, what is presented today in the history books as a great revolution in an anti-bourgeois tone by the students and the working class never happened for Pasolini. In reality, these demonstrators were the unwitting exporters of a new orthodoxy, a new moralism; almost a new blackmail in the name of the struggle of the just. This is why he defines the revolt of 1968 in terms of a false revolution in morals: presenting itself as Marxist, it in reality represented nothing other than a form of self-criticism by the bourgeoisie, which used these young people to destroy its old myths.

The power system of the consumer society

Today, nearly fifty years after Pasolini’s death, the anti-consumerist debate is almost non-existent. Whereas in the 20th century there were intellectuals, artists, poets, painters, who vigorously opposed it, questioning and highlighting all the limits of the bourgeois capitalist system. Like the philosophical reflection on what is the best economic model capable of giving equal opportunities and equal dignity to man. Today, however, there is a lack of intellectuals and artists capable of formulating and identifying what progress means today, beyond technological evolution and the continuous increase in GDP. A tangible sign of how the consumerist system has in fact produced a totalitarian regime of consciences. Perhaps that’s why Greta Thunberg’s Friday for Future protests had a seemingly disruptive effect: because they offered a paradigm shift for the first time in years.

PASOLINI / Photomurals in Scampia

Power often allows citizens of the consumer society to fight for various freedoms of expression, except to rethink the consumerist practice, the liberal-capitalist logic. Pasolini had warned us that the freedom offered to us by the new Power would in reality be “compulsory”. Which was not even born to set us free, but to impose a new code and social order, pre-packaged and pre-established. Dominated by hedonism, which emptied concepts such as morality, God, nature, and attachment to one’s land. Also transforming happiness and progress into commodities and consumer goods. And today social networks do the same with us and our lives: in exchange for mediated human contact, they make us a bargaining chip, an exchange value, a currency of the new hedonistic anthropology. Often misunderstood by the masses of users.

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