I buy an illusion – Ugo Foscolo and Giacomo Leopardi in the age of the shopping mall

 

Illusione

Illusion

 

Dreams are wishes for happiness, sang Cinderella in the Italian translation of Disney’s fairy tale. This is not a simple, innocuous quote. Because from Cinderella’s songs, we slide to Freud’s theories and the question about dreams becomes serious. What interests us now is that dreams are the basis on which the instruments of conviction stimulate the lust for having.

What we buy are our fantasies. We spend money on lotteries or scratch-offs, but we dream of a better life beyond winning. We buy food not only to feed ourselves but also to comfort ourselves. We smoke because we delude ourselves that it gives us a moment of calm. Also, we take refuge in virtual realities of various kinds to escape the daily grind.

Dreams are illusions and we need to feed them. Foscolo said so, Leopardi thought so too, albeit with some differences.
The heart of man needs illusions to face the harshness of life, yet reason knows perfectly well that they do not exist. According to the poet of Zakynthos, poetry is the main illusion because it perpetuates the deeds of men towards eternity, overcoming death. It is the same concept that we find in the Sepolcri, Foscolo’s best-known work, and that delivers him to posterity.

In Giacomo Leopardi, faith in illusions is linked to youth. Reason and the miseries of life destroy its meaning. For the poet from Recanati, illusions are closely linked to the continuous search for pleasure. Pleasure, an unfulfillable desire, constantly guides existence, subject, therefore, to a seesaw of feelings such as pain and unhappiness.
These thoughts are also valid in mass society. Man shuns suffering and for this reason, is willing to get on any train that leads him away from it.
Of the years I spent in large-scale retail trade, I have to say that, if the most common phrase is that of the shopping cart (I came for one thing only and now my cart is overflowing), the second is linked to advertising: I saw that new product on television and I wanted to know if it arrived there.
Yes, advertising. It creeps in, attacks when our defenses are low. It penetrates our innermost thoughts, rises and stays there quietly, and then does its dirty work when we enter the supermarket, turning on like a spy to induce us to buy. Advertising, yes. More than an art form, a devious persuasion.

Some remain in the collective imagination, such as that of the real estate agency that does not sell dreams, but solid reality. I mention it because it represents a reversal of the concept: in reality, advertising sells dreams, illusions. In the case of a real estate agency, however, it becomes perfect because a house, at least in the bourgeois sense of the term, is solid and real. Behind a slogan, there is, always, a deep reflection that escapes the public.
In the system in which we live, modern man, to escape latent unhappiness, finds pleasure in consumption, and advertising is the tool that creates the illusion. The following film shows simple optical illusions, more or less perceptible to the eye. Try to think about the effect that illusions, in a general sense, cause in the human psyche.

 

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