I wake up in the cold morning to take a walk through Rome. There are so many stories to tell about this place that I don’t know where to start. I won’t start at all. I’m here to report on the revolutionary movement of the indignados, and besides, to be perfectly honest, I don’t really like contemporary Rome.
Rome is all about tourism and shopping. You can find that anywhere. Instead of a visit to this city I definitely prefer a well written book about it.
So I wonder, not about all the monuments, but about the great Italian thinker Pier Paolo Pasolini. He saw it coming. In the sixties and seventies Pasolini was one of the most fervent critics of modern capitalism. He decried the devastating effects of the economic boom on popular culture. He witnessed how the traditional meeting places of the Roman people – le bettole – slowly disappeared as people were induced to stay home and watch tv.
He went as far as to say that capitalism was even worse than fascism, because under the surface of Italian fascist rhetoric there was still an Italian people with local customs and traditions.
Capitalism destroys the soul. It has wiped out countless cultures on a global level. Italian culture today isn’t fundamentally different from French, Spanish or American culture. We have all adapted to the same way of life. If there are still differences, they are differences of flavour, not of substance.
Typically, Pasolini was also very critical of the social upheaval in the late 1960s. When one of the Roman faculties of architecture was occupied in 1968 and students armed with red flags were shouting proletarian slogans to the police, he couldn’t surpress an ironic smile. ‘Look at yourselves. You are all figli di papà, sons and daughters of the bourgeoisie. You have the privilege to go to university. The real proletarians, the sons of the working class are the police officers on the other side of the barricades.’
I wonder what Pasolini would have thought about the movement of the indignados. In the end, we are denouncing the same ferocious capitalism that he had warned against when it had only just begun to assimilate the peoples and nations of Europe.
Pasolini wanted to preserve the authenticity of cultures, but for us, a generation or two down the road, it’s too late. We can’t go back. For better or worse, the world is globalised, and so our revolution will have to be a global one. If we can’t reclaim our culture, as humans, we can at least reclaim our human dignity.