IKEA is Our Highest Utopia

or

Gottgläubiger(in) : the term implies someone who still believes in God, although without having any religious affiliation. 

Chapter 1:  the hedonism of consumerism – what do we live for ?

I first heard this sentence while smoking a joint with what I used to consider my girl, just my girl, nor my friend, nor my girlfriend, but surely I used to consider her mine, and I like to define myself a feminist, but I am on the top of male chauvinism as every lesbian, anyways-. I used to let her talk when I was tired because to me she was expressing exactly what I was feeling and her voice was sweeter than mine. She was back from Berlin, spending there six months of her life, living as in the 80s you could live, no phone, no inside-outside world, just the world in its totality, heroine, squats and music on the streets. The last year of High School gave me two options  (I used to see just two extreme paths), the humble way of love and freedom, as an Alexander Supertramp discovering the world, changing the world from its roots, a bottom-up revolution. Or, the one I pretentiously chose, chaining it with the tool of culture, of hard work and sporadically homologation. She chose the other option, but our lives were faces of the same coin. We were choosing to be extreme, to feel null separated. That was at least how I felt, who knows about her. Anyways, we were smoking, making some love, watching Everyday Rebellion, when she stopped the movie and asked me to explain her about Economics, I told her the small that I got, that small that suffice to make my world change.

I spent all my life (not that long period, I’m nineteen) thinking that money was just a big lie, something absolutely negligible. In my mind never emerged the idea of how an apartment or a car may cost, this not only because I was raised in a wealthy family, but because for real I thought it had no meaning, I was, of course, extremely right. To me, studying the world of Economics was the same as studying the world of a cocoon, a wonderful and maybe deceptive world, surely something negligible to my personal survival. I told her about the supply and demand curve, about utility, about the Nash equilibrium and the idealistic perfectly competitive market. Before adding words to this speech, I have to say that I have grown up in a family that gave me space for not-caring, gave me time to think if I cared, I was grown up with a grandfather who is still sending his wage to the PCSU (if it exist, still!). Even if I could be considered a smart child, capitalism to me was a monster, a deficit of something else, something that do not even present a pure form, I was, of course, extremely wrong. So what deeply shocked me was that capitalism was in its pure form, better than communism, I repeat, in its pure form, it was amazing! Nobody of us, of me, of my friends, of my people, could ever imagine something like that. You know, we are – in our wealthy families- raised in ignorance of pure forms, we are empiric creatures. Is this just? Not completely. Empiricism is a quarter or less of our intellective mission.
“If you hate something you must hate for its pure form, for its idealistic mission, not for its empiric result conducted my humans!”, I was screaming to her. But she could not understand me, she was grown up in a wealthier family than mine, but with any political or cultural – I would say – affiliation, but religion.
You see, I am Italian.. and religion may have the worst collateral effect: you may judge the message of God -love- for priests’ pedophilia as you judge capitalism for Chinese people suiciding while building your iphone, or the computer I am writing on.  It does not seem a super smart behavior, eh?

What tragically happens when two soul sisters receive a different education is that soon one of them will talk ignorance and the other is forced to explain instead of simply talk. Everybody who had ever got a ruined friendship know what I am talking about. That is, by the way, why we should spend most of our time with people like us.

She was by then, extremely far from my way of thinking, of perceiving reality, that was mainly because I destroyed my stereotype of the Monster of Capitalism. My heart was full of pity: my beloved girl, she had no more an attractive brain for me. Therefore, while lighting the second joint she told me something that refreshed my love for her, for her way of living as an Alexander Supertramp. She said not to consider our lives, which were – and are for real- exceptional, but trying to care once about this famous middle class. She told me that Capitalism brought them a terrible Christmas present, that was, the hedonism of consumerism. Even if, she said, we personally are not spending all our free time in malls but reading poetry and discussing philosophy, we should not ignore most of the people doing so. “what are we, as a people, living for?” her eyes asked me silently;
Chapter 2: our exogenic will – I promise I will buy

Ronald Inglehart argues that the ’70s generation (in Western countries naturally) was the first generation who grew up in wealthy conditions. If not just your basic needs are satisfied but if you are living in the golden age, as Hobsbawn says, you have your time and mental space to go back to what is not material, in this sense consumerism, the praise of materialism had killed materialism itself, giving space to everyone (not anymore just to élites) to ask themselves ‘metaphysically’. Our era is a paradise of consumerism! Think about this, I told her, also our addiction to drugs increases consumerism. We will never be free, my dear, you should at least know that those who proclaim freedom as Beatles have done, surfed on the wage of consumerism, capitalism and intellectual prostitution that fews will do in life. She looked at me differently, with pain.

Sometimes I found myself being extremely critic with my era, as she is, I find it empty and evil, I do it because there is too much beauty. I am tired of it. But this is another story. My girl was right, our era gains pleasure from buying, and nobody gets excluded. Why do I want to buy?

The need is endogenic, the will is exogenic.

I do explain in a second; A need comes from your guts, you cannot refuse, seems irrational, but you may want to drink water, as you desire a cigarette, as you desire to watch football matches or a new bag. Its your guts talking. You control your need with your will, and here comes the problem. You rationalize your need when it expresses a will.

Once I read this book – maybe an essay, I’m still confused with this official forms- of Rampini, about the power of the web, I found it stunning. It explained me the surveillance that smartphones have on us. Almost everyone now knows about this eternal control that they impose on us, all of us think, in our ignorance, that they read our messages and see our naked pictures. Of course it is not like this, who cares about this bullshit. The point is that the surveillance has the aim of analyzing the choice of the consumer, of personalizing our buyer’s profile in order to suggest us what we may want to buy in the future. The aim is merely economic, I laughed about this surveillance which do not regard me. I’m that type of person that always buys second hand and has no regard for sales or prices of new clothes.

Then -another story- I travelled to Kenya, I was doing volunteering in Africa for my first time, you can imagine how it shaped me, or maybe you cannot. The first day I got back to my hometown I was mesmerized by my bedroom: I spent all my day there, watching my walls, it was a long time I hadn’t seen a clean wall. I fell asleep. The day after, I woke up, I wore a dress, I put some heels on, ear-rings and make up, I brushed my hair gently.  For almost a week I did not realize what was going on, how I was reacting. That week-end I was in the center of Rome, biking with one of my dearest friend, I had my credit card with some money on, I spent eighty euros to buy a personalized t-shirt that was only mine. That is how I have reacted, then I realized.

I understood what that eighty euros meant to me. I was also grown up with a mother that has the strongest passion for Africa, she was always telling me stories about that wonderful country. Once she told me that with eighty euros in Africa you can build a well; I never forgot that, I think I was twelve. From that moment I became the type of adolescent that was spending maximum ten euros per week, even five. I simply did never think about money anymore. “I want a new pair of shoes!” I was thinking sometimes, eighty euros, was the price, I was putting chewing gum on  my broken sole , thinking about a well.

What happened in Africa? Why did I changed my extremely just behavior in do not being a consumerist? Did I felt betrayed? Yes, I did.

There was no where in the world, where I could find an endogenic need and an endogenic will. I saw Africans abusing their will in order to satisfy their needs. I saw their children whimpering for a stolen toy, as we may do. I saw them taking drugs as we do, praising for suicide as we do.

They want you to buy for them, not water, or vegetables, they want you to buy and that’s it. Consumerism in the sake of consumerism appeared to be the highest value. When I saw them praying for God I believed them praying for Consumerism, I believed them corrupting themselves in order to keep the promise with their new God that they would buy.

I promised myself I would buy, coming back from Africa, I did.

I promised myself to praise consumerism because I have it, I promise myself not to avoid eating because I have no money, not to avoid myself the pleasure of a new clothe, I promised to stop going around dressed like a damn hippie because I can dress like a wealthy women. I understood for the first time what the Barack Obama meant with Yes, we can. What Fidel Castro meant with Si, se puede.

If I can, I should not pretend I cannot.

chapter 3:  a praise for the middle class –  The IKEA triumph

Yes I can. This is the point of something like Ikea, my generation and I do not realize completely what Ikea meant to our parents’ generation. It meant that you can buy low-cost couches and this meant that your couch was not anymore burnt by cigarettes for decades. This meant that your house, whatever your job, will have a decent aspect and it will seem a house of a happy middle class family. This is not banal, I have great respect for its pioneer. He realized a dream for people, as few of us will do in life. This was the same for low-cost airlines. Beloved generation, imagine a world without low-cost flights to Amsterdam! Is this hell? Imagine your bedroom having a small old bed of your grandmother’s nanny. Is this hell?

These were great and hidden steps towards equality. This is a kind of God I’d love to pray, in this sense I am a Gottgläubigerin, I believe in something but I have to suspend my judgement. I have to create my ideas, to collect yours, and ours will destroy ideologies. IKEA is the highest utopia, the justest, but I do not still trust, I still hate myself when I pray Consumerism God, I still hate my self when I promise myself I will buy, I hate my self when I realize that my deepest hedonism comes from buying. May I be a layperson a day?

 

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