Franco "Bifo" Berardi. Photo: Disclosure

Philosopher Franco Berardi's diagnosis of the present is acid and accurate: we live in the death of the capitalist system, we inhabit a putrefying corpse, but which still stands and dictates the rules of the game. Even defining society in the terminal phase of capitalism in such a skeptical way, the thinker proposes an encouraging image of struggle and transformation of this dark scenario, summoning youth, poets and artists as strategic agents of transformation, seeing the forces of struggle necessary to overcome the serious problems that plague humanity and put it at serious risk of extinction. Against the feeling that we are living in inexorable moments, the despair regarding the rise of fascist movements around the world and the serious environmental imbalances that the planet faces, Bifo – as he has been known since childhood – clearly stands on the side of those who do not conform to the limits of an oppressive daily life and dare to fight in defense of a more just, solidary and egalitarian society.

He thus boldly responds to the reference to the “art of the possible”, a term adopted as the subtitle of the seminar “In Defense of Nature and Culture”, in which he participated on the 8th of October. And he emphasizes that we should not consider the “possible” as a limit imposed on us by a naturalization of the barbarities 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, the economic debacle, we have a way out: solidarity and frugality too. 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 when he begins his speech citing the protests that shook the Chile last year and welcoming the holding (October 25) of the referendum to overthrow the constitution that has remained in force since Pinochet's military regime, which, according to him, 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 the one in defense of the environment led by Gretta Thunberg's resistance, the various demonstrations that erupted in 2019 throughout the planet and the explosion of the anti-racism movement in U.S.

The theme adopted by the North 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, even serving as a title for Asphyxia: Financial Capitalism and Language Insurrection, one of the three works of his authorship published in Brazil by the publisher UBU. 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 new coronavirus pandemic, a disease that profoundly weakens the respiratory system. We live, according to Bifo, “the convulsion of a suffocated body”.

The theme adopted by the North American protests, “I can't breathe”, became a strategic piece in Berardi's reflection. Photo: Fusebox Radio Photography

The effects of the pandemic, which he compared to an overwhelming storm, which has been killing thousands and brings the idea that human survival is at risk, in a way, 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 reveals himself to be extremely concerned with 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 ills. The philosopher, who since his youth has aligned himself with libertarian movements such as May 1968 and the Italian autonomist movement, dares to say that we are living in an apocalyptic moment. After all, in its etymological sense, “apocalypse means revelation, a sudden realization that something has gone horribly wrong”.

“The real origin of the current disaster is the capitalist aggression against the freedom of people, the environment, the acceleration of the pace of exploitation, extractivism. All this left democracy hollowed out. We are powerless”. And it's no use thinking in national terms anymore, since the effects of this emptying of politics spread, like the virus, all over the world. The epidemic, in a way, demonstrates  the impasse we are facing. It makes the collapse more intense and palpable.

“Covid-19 is not the catastrophe itself”, says Berardi, who in the heat of the moment, during the confinement of the quarantine, wrote a kind of diary. Extreme – Chronicles of Psychodeflation delves into the meaning of this pandemic, seeks to analyze its effects on the collective unconscious and revives hopes for a profound change, guided 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 type of contraction, of suffering. Psychoanalysis, music, poetry are the political languages ​​of the future.”

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