I have friends who are artists, painters, but not only, who are living a difficult year since the pandemic started. Exhibitions are closed but they don’t receive any state contribution. It is a situation common to many categories of artists and operators around their world. But beyond the economic difficulties, which are very serious for many, they also experience a continuous devaluation of their activities, as if they were marginal individuals in our society. It seems to echo the now famous phrase by Tremonti: “you don’t eat culture”. They do not produce goods, and in time of crisis forget about someone taking care of them, people who basically do not work and do not produce! Useless people.
Here, I would start from this last word “useless”. Nowadays, we are so immersed in a culture that includes profit only, goods, that we take for granted and give a derogatory value to the word useless. I read on Treccani: useless, from Latin inutilis, which does not give advantage, that is not necessary.
So I would like to make a list, certainly partial, of useless things: music, cinema, theatre, painting, sculpture, making love, dancing, writing, reading, playing, falling in love, etc.
Now try to take all these things out of your life and tell me what’s left. So, perhaps we should make a different thought: are we sure that our human reality finds its fulfillment in profit? The profit has in the reason its loyal ally. Since ever, they’ve been telling us that the man is such because is rational: and if it’s not? Men is distinguished from animals because they are rational: what if it’s not? Animals are very rational, they follow the energy saving, they have extremely precise predatory modes, aimed at profit. We could give lots of examples. It’s hard to find in animals behaviors which are not useful.
It is us human beings who become rational, in our relationships, when we lose the joy of living, the imagination, the vitality, when we are sick and then we try to prevent others from playing, making love and we consider these things with contempt.
It is clear that the human being needs to eat, to have a certain hygiene, to protect themselves from cold and heat. If all these needs, useful, are not satisfied, the body gets sick and dies just like in animals. But, once these needs are satisfied, which means the useful, the animal is fine. Can we say the same for men? I would say no. We need love, affection, interest for and of something else, fantasy, knowledge, all those useless and not rational things that, if they are not realized, the body does survive but the mind gets sick and we lose the affections, the joy of living, the fantasy, the vitality. And it is precisely when all this happens that we then become rational in human relationships and at that point we try to prevent others from playing, from making love and we consider these things with contempt.
The reason, so useful with material objects, fails miserably when it tries to understand human reality. As well as the current psychiatry is failing, that can only see that human reality knowable by reason, which is the behavior. But manifest behavior tells us very little about an individual’s mental health. The ones who let us understand much more about the human mind are undoubtedly the artists. Just think about Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, Picasso, to name a few.
Not to mention that reason, which would give human identity, takes over at a rather advanced age in the development of an individual. And wouldn’t everything before be human reality? That world of feelings, affections, images that characterizes the first years of life, which many artists totally tap into, what would it be then? So a baby would not have a human identity? And our dreams?
I quote two famous phrases by Picasso, which should make us think: “All children are born artists, the problem is to remain an artist as we grow up.” “At the age of twelve I painted like Raffaello, but it took me a lifetime to paint like a child.”
Now – apologies the embarrassing strident – I quote a tweet by the president of Liguria region, Toti, on 1st November 2020, that you certainly know:
“As much as we grieve every single victim of Covid 19, we must take into account this fact: only yesterday among the 25 deaths in Liguria, 22 were very elderly patients. People mostly retired, not indispensable to the productive effort of the country, who however must be protected”.
Well, these chilling phrases that have scandalized the public opinion, if you think about it, are actually extremely rational and show us the disasters that rationality creates when dealing with human reality!
But they’ve always been telling us that man is such because is rational: may it be time to change thinking?
P.S. Papillon is not necessary and gives no advantage.
Thanks to Chiara Fanasca for the translation of this article