Karl Marx between consumerism and meditation

In my book Dear costumer, I write that Comrade Terapia, sifting through the analysis of the capitalist society operated by Marx, repeats the concept that relationships between people are mediated through goods, which are therefore not authentic.

Listening him, there is the imperturbable and dopey cashier Vacca, for whom, with the word “Marx”, you can only define the classic chocolate bar with mou caramel, and that he could not care less about the difference between the value and price of an item. Since neither do I have to write an economics essay, in the following post I will just stick to the fact that relationships between people are not authentic.

Who has dedicated his life - or part of it - to work, achieving the present goals, have marked their territory with those efforts. The position reached, in our society as it is conceived, also regulates social relations. Common sense, combined with some brain, suggests to always relating to the best ones because they will help you improve yourself more. The idea of the guy who leaves his born country in search of fortune and, once he finds it, returns to his hometown to show it, is not just a stereotype.

However, many people, both those who live on salary and those who could live on annuity, have felt a need to go further. Paraphrasing the song by Roberto Vecchioni, Stranamore (Strangelove N.d.T.), he catches the symbolism of the man who conquered nation after nation, and when he was in front of the sea, he felt like a fool because nothing could be won beyond that line.

Who follows me, knows about my passion for the Beatles whom, at the peak of their success, or using the incautious words of Lennon, when they were more famous than Jesus Christ, had to go to Rishikesh, India to follow a path of transcendental meditation.

When the logic of the society in which you live takes over, there arises the need to save yourself and to dissolve tensions, anxieties and angsts, we leave for a weekend, we go to the gym, we immerse in a hobby. We even get to relax. Then, all these moments pass and returning to our things, the tensions that seemed dormant, resurface.

We are all a bunch of badly tuned frequencies, our strings need stimulation. This is what happens, for example, with music. Its social function has reached unthinkable levels at the dawn of modern society. The prima-donna behaviour, the communication, the messages, the image, the representation of a model in which everyone can recognize themselves, replace, especially for the young audience, a fugitive educational figure. Musicians, and showbiz people in general, as well as the sportsmen, take on a role that we cannot define spiritual, but at least represents a goal to be pursued or a prototype to be traced for the audience.

Sometimes these archetypes do not have the depth to stay committed to the role that, in spite of themselves, had assigned. Other times, if they are not a danger, society itself, through the press and information organs, imposes them a models for the masses. Indeed, when fame reaches very high levels, it can happen that politics look for them for its use.      


When a piece of music catches your attention, isolating you from what you're doing, you do not understand the mechanism well and maybe you do not care, but it connects you with someone you should be, or at least, approaches you. Or maybe it's none of this, it simply shakes your feelings.

Something similar happens with meditation and training. You feel two opposing feelings: get away and get closer. Actually, you move away from what already held you away from yourself to get closer to yourself. We are talking about that worn-out and abused term called alienation with which philosophers and sociologists already have worked hard. It is an aspect that affects your way of doing and living, your way of speaking: it is the conformism of the is everything ok?

I call it the conformism of the is everything ok?, but actually it is the dialectic adhesion to a common way of synthetic and, at the same time, polyvalent speaking. Our usual dialogues consist entirely in is everything ok? Yes, it is; Oi, hey; yeah; c’mon; cool; great; the newcomer ciaone (not translatable Italian slang, literally “big hello/goodbye” used in a mockery way N.d.T.) and ma anche no (not translatable Italian slang, literally “but also not” translatable in something like “you don’t want to” or “why not consider NO?”, always in a mockery way N.d.T.); and all the possible translation from English. Mind you, it is not serious: it seems original, perhaps irreverent, it is actually compliant.

It is only our body that get the better of our mind. It is the first one who makes the decisions, and not the second one. I recently read a book on meditation that dealt with this aspect so I reflected on something that happens to me every day.

In my place of work, I have to go through a door that requires a code. I cannot remember it by heart. Often, we colleagues forget it and everyone asks it to the others. Nobody remembers the code and yet, every day, many times a day, we pass by that door. In the exact moment we have to type the digits, the fingers slide on the keyboard as if the mind was turned off: we memorized the movement of the fingers, not the numbers. It is something that happens to me even with the computer keyboard. Over the years, my vision is no longer the one of a twenty-year-old. Sometimes I forget my glasses but I keep typing. Oh well, written this way, it is not a great help for my books, but ... I made my point, right?

In my books, I threw up all the unacceptable, until I was empty. The characters of my stories, from Nick La Puzza in The revolution that is not there, passing through Leopoldo Canapone in The exitless city up to the precarious Renato Calloni in The big baby, all of them (and the others I do not mention only not to digress) , they are in contrast with the environment around them, they react differently, but they are looking for themselves. Some succumb, others tell only their stories, hoping for the solidarity of the reader; still others will find a dimension, not without suffering a battle or risks.

The most important meeting of our life is the one with ourselves. Entering into ourselves everything is possible, everything is right. Yet, many people I have spoken to answered me: nooo, will I leave my husband? Will I run from home? Will I abandon everything I do? Will I close the family business? These are legitimate doubts and fears, but they concern habits, not ourselves.

Living to work or work for a living?

For Karl Marx, work would be the only manifestation of human freedom, however, for the German philosopher, in capitalist society, man is expropriated of his own value as a human being because he enjoys only a minimal part of the product of his work. It is the capitalist, his employer, who holds the reins of his existence.  

Today, every person who works as an employee, and does that job to make a living and not because they like it, perceives this feeling. It also happens to those who do a job that they love.

Actors, for example, know it. They understand how it feels because they are prepared to come and go. If an actress has to play the part of a waitress, maybe she starts to work as a waitress for a while because she has to understand how thinks, how feels, how struggles someone who serves at the tables.

The politicians never do it. They cannot do it, they cannot understand how is experienced an increase of any kind, from a car tax to a health ticket, because it will always seem sustainable to them as they travel on different economic trajectories.

They cannot understand what it means to attend the local public hospital or book a performance and wait, because they do not get sick and when they do, they have other solutions ready.

Who decides the fate of the human being, does not understand a thing of the life of that human being. They do not know what a strike is, how to get through a traffic jam, they do not know what public transport is. They cannot understand a protest, they cannot know what it means getting up at four in the morning or losing your job or not having one at all.

Never as in this historical period, at international level, there are folks who have overcome difficult obstacles or have made memorable feats. No wonder, the myth of the superman is more alive than ever. Never as in this historical period, the human being can and must also be beautiful, well-groomed, fit.

These perpetuated models do not take into account – because they cannot know – those people who have to deal with them. Indeed, these models think that such a concept is only low rhetoric because they think that the poverty line is a social fault that fate gives to that part of society with demerit.

Now if there is people in this society that thinks that anyone who has some merit in any field must also have the right recognition, this is unexceptionable. But if someone think that, in this society, the selection criteria are operated only by meritocracy, well this is debatable. If someone is convinced that to be born in the West, in the Middle East or in Latin America, to be born heterosexual, homosexual or wolf-man, is an acquired merit (or demerit), this is illogical.

It is difficult to live in a society where preached doctrines and proposed disciplines only serve to control the masses and not to free the individuals from their chains or invisible cages.


A cold beer is not enough anymore. You wait for the evening, maybe the sunset, you try to close your eyes, and to reflect on everything that flows inside and outside of you. The breath becomes regular, the mind relaxes, and your body follows. You reflect on your existence, on your lifestyle, on your reactions. Everything is clearer.

There is that place, that point where time is not there and you are still you, where you let that absurd external world ruled by others continue to flow and you connect with your universal consciousness where nobody can enter without asking permission.


© Enrico Mattioli 2018