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Grafica e comunicazione

To quote, to excite

You will always be subject to criticism! People will talk badly about you! It will be hard to meet someone who likes you just the way you are! So live, follow your heart! Think of life as a theater play without a rehearsal! Dance, sing, laugh, living intensely every day, every moment of your life, before the show ends without applause ...!
Happy holidays from all the staff

I spent a couple of minutes staring at this beautiful quote (sullied only by the excessive use of exclamation points), which I found glued to the window of a store selling sporting goods within walking distance from my home during the recent holidays. A young couple nearby took multiple pictures of the quote, even attempting to take a selfie with it, exuding admiration from every pore - obviously aimed at the staff of the sporting goods store capable of giving birth to a thought so bitter and sweet, polished and poetic, at the same time. Because, unless you recognized the quote, no one would dream of attributing it to the brilliant, bizarre and a bit controversial character who went by the name of Charlie Chaplin. In fact, in the window, there were no quotation marks and the quote was signed by the staff and not Chaplin.

I asked myself why they would do such a thing. Because they are ashamed of Charlie? Or simply because the goal was to appear brilliant in the eyes of others, without providing unnecessary details? I believe the latter is the only plausible option: evidently it’s no longer enough to prove one’s acumen by seeking out the right quote, you must directly express your genius, bluntly. If the store hadn’t been closed when I walked by, I would have certainly asked to for guidance from the "authors" of the quote. Perhaps I would have taken them by surprise and they would have admitted that it was unconscious plagiarism. Today this supernatural state has a name: kleptomania. Almost certainly, however, they wouldn’t have cared in the least about my complaints, considering them unnecessary scruples of a slow and ancient mind; basically, all the ethical issues related to the respect that we owe to the masters have been considered out of date for some time and this is the age of looting, thanks to the Web: when everything is in a circle, when all is accessible, fleeting and weightless, everything loses value.

But I must clarify that I have nothing against imitation. It would be idiotic, considering my job. I have often said that so-called creativity is only a question of "putting things together," a mix based on certain "references", so therefore imitation, or plagiarism (imitation, per various aspects, of a previously published work). Nobody invents anything. Besides plagiarism is the basis of any creative manifestation and it always has been (for the notes that follow, I must cite some passages taken from a beautiful text by Luigi Romolo Carrino - to avoid misunderstandings I have shared his complete name).

Creative imitation is the basis of all the poetry of ancient Rome, for example. Shakespeare drew freely from the Roman repertoire and would have been certainly have been branded a plagiarist had he lived in a different age. Lolita, Nabokov's famous novel, is a plagiarism of a short story with the same title published by Heinz von Eschwege, a German writer who lived in Berlin during the same period of Nabokov. T.S. Eliot provides us the key to understanding plagiarism, describing the technique he used in his masterpiece, The Waste Land: “Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different from that from which it was torn; the bad poet throws it into something which has no cohesion.” There is no doubt that Shakespeare, Nabokov and Eliot were, at the very least, good poets. The Catalan writer Pere Gimferrer in The Secrets of Plagiarism provides us an example: "Do you want a famous verse of Dante? Here it is: "As the snow to the Alpes without wind." He simply improved a line of his friend Guido Cavalcanti: "And white windless snow come down." He improved the cadence: introducing the mention of the Alps, and eliminating the verb to suggest the stillness of the landscape. It is a reworking, but makes us see everything with a clearer eye.

Therefore imitation has value, on the condition that the one who imitates or copies produces something better than the original, or even just different. In my humble opinion, the important thing is to try (not everyone can be Dante or Shakespeare). Therefore, in the case of the Charlie Chaplin quote tapped to the window of the sporting goods store, we see only the bravado of ignorant, lazy, and not to forget, boastful advertising. Obviously, the store manager thought he or she could draw people into the shop by boasting that the staff is worthy of an Oscar Prize. By not citing the author of the quote, they risked their own personal dignity.

Ultimately I still think I may be wrong: the public isn’t interested in originality, much less the authorship of a quote or an idea. People are far more interested in the fleeting joy and excitement of sharing a selfie together with a phrase that describes a part of their own “beautiful soul,” as if it were a personal achievement. Therefore, this double indifference, the indifference of the writer and the uncaring attitude of the reader, is dominated by fleeting and momentary emotion that is intended to be conveyed on the web to give consistency to one’s "exciting image." However, doing so everything becomes vacant and meaningless.

In the end, I regret not having been able to interview the infamous staff of the sporting goods store. Surely one of them would have said that my ethical and philosophical implications are the “mental masturbations” of an old geezer. It’s always good to hear. Carrino says the meaning is something like this: "I give something to you, and that's it: you don’t even know who gave it to you, consider it a contribution to the history of progress, ideas circulate by themselves, without an author’s rights, as they are felt by each one of us as our one. ". Lazy, cunning, democratic, contaminated, exciting. Or rather modern.

17/01/2017 Filippo Maglione