The diagnosis of the philosopher Franco Berardi on the present is acid and accurate: we are living the death of the capitalist system, we inhabit a putrefied corpse, but that still stands and dictates the rules of the game. Even defining society so skeptically in the terminal phase of capitalism, the thinker proposes an encouraging image of struggle and transformation of this gloomy scenario, calling youth, poets and artists as strategic agents of transformation, seeing surviving in the chaos, the fighting forces necessary for overcoming the serious problems that plague humanity and put it at serious risk of extinction. Against the feeling that we live inexorable moments, despair at the rise of fascist movements around the world and the serious environmental imbalances facing the planet, Bifo – as he has been known since childhood – clearly stands beside those who do not conform with the limits of oppressive daily life and dare to fight for a fairer society , supportive and egalitarian.
It thus responds boldly to the reference to the “art of the possible”, a term adopted as a subtitle of the seminar “In Defense of Nature and Culture”, in which he participated on October 8. And it emphasizes that we should not consider the “possible” as a limit imposed on us by a naturalization of the barbarism committed by capitalism, but rather the search for a new path, the strengthening of our capacity to challenge the march that, if not contained, leads us to extinction. “Against social misery, geopolitical chaos, economic debacle, we have a way out: solidarity and frugality as well. We need to develop the ability to focus on what is useful for our life, for our pleasure, and forget about money, competition, monetary abstraction”, defends the philosopher.
Bifo introduces a fundamental element of his reflection by beginning his speech citing the protests that shook Chile last year and hailing the holding (on October 25) of the referendum to overthrow the constitution that has been in force since Pinochet’s military regime, which he said perpetuates the dictatorship – military and neoliberal – imposed by the authoritarian regime inaugurated with the coup of 1973. Thus, it reinforces the importance of spontaneous, supportive, combative movements, such as that in defense of the environment led by the resistance of Gretta Thunberg, the various manifestations that broke out in 2019 throughout the planet and the explosion of the anti-racism movement in the United States.
The theme adopted by the American protests, “I can’t breathe” (in reference to the murders of Eric Garder and George Floyd by the police), became a strategic piece in Berardi’s reflection, including serving as a title for Asphyxia: Financial Capitalism and Language Insurrection, one of three works of his own published in Brazil by UBU, book publisher. If the work already pointed out and reflected on the suffocation, literal and metaphorical, of contemporary society, the issue ended up acquiring new developments with the outbreak of the pandemic of the new coronavirus, a disease that deeply weakens the respiratory system. We live, according to Bifo, “the convulsion of a suffocated body.”
The effects of the pandemic, compared by him to an overwhelming storm, which has been killing thousands and makes more close the idea that human survival is at risk, have somehow contained the transformative power of social movements, making solidarity difficult or almost impossible. “It is necessary to reactivate the erotic body of society,” says the philosopher, who is extremely concerned about the devastating effects of this disease, not only on the physical level but on the psychic level. “The proximity of the skin has become a kind of metaphysical danger,” he diagnoses, saying he fears the effects of this phobic sensitization in relation to the body, to kissing. But he warns that we must be aware that, despite the danger posed by the virus, it is not the cause of our evils. The philosopher, who since his youth aligns himself with libertarian movements such as May 1968 and the Italian autonomist movement, deed to say that we live in an apocalyptic moment. After all, in its etymological sense, “apocalypse means revelation, a sudden understanding that something has gone horribly wrong.”
“The real origin of the current disaster is capitalist aggression against people’s freedom, the environment, the acceleration of the pace of exploitation, extractivism. All this has left democracy empty. We are powerless.” And there is no point in thinking nationally anymore, since the effects of this emptying of politics spread, like the virus, all over the world. The epidemic in a way highlights the impasse before which we are. It makes the collapse more intense and palpable.
“Covid-19 is not the catastrophe itself,” says Berardi, who in the heat of the hour, during the quarantine confinement, wrote a kind of diary. Extreme – Chronicles of Psychodeflation plunges into the meaning of this pandemic, seeks to analyze its effects on the collective unconscious and revived the hopes of a profound change, led by pleasure and not by the destructive politics of “people who hate the world, because they hate their own lives”. “Political reason cannot deal with this kind of contraction, of suffering. Psychoanalysis, music, poetry, those are the political languages of the future.”