University of Kent – Paris. Festival May ’68 – 200 words-Revolutions (evolving attitude to gender and sexuality) – A Revolutionary Man – Truth has to be lived, not taught. Prepare for battle or writing!”
A man walks down on the street, he thinks of his youth –Milan, 1968, he’s a tiny part of the big capitalistic machine at its dawn- about fifty years have passed by since then. Now retired, he feels a sense of failure as a man and as a father. A new revolution is on the way, a patriarchal society is at its sunset.
Where did sexual revolution and capitalism lead us? Has man lost any possibility of fatherhood? Or this could be the aim of the new man who will rise from the ashes of the old one? While the emblematic case of Weinstein marks a hiatus and gives rise to the #metoo movement, a man tries to reflect on his past. In the society to come is shame going to be reversed? And will revenge or independence be the answers of feminism? Since harassment is not a peculiarity of man’s world, but just a consequence of men’s power, will women be able to build a fairer world, considering that they are still far from getting their independence.
In the meanwhile the artist seems to say: let’s start again from desire, let’s start again from fear.
A Revolutionary Man
“Truth has to be lived, not taught. Prepare for battle or writing!”
Milan,1968. The city is rapidly changing its face, becoming the first and perhaps only modern Italian capital. Carlo is only 20 years old when he is catapulted into one of the biggest Italian companies of that time. Then, things went so fast for him that he had the impression of enduring his life rather than choosing it.
May 2018. It’s a rainy day, he walks by the Dome, his hands clasped behind his back, gripping the newspaper. It’s a gentle rain which is falling, like the one his son describes to him when he calls sometimes from England, as if it has always been raining in England, or that was the only thing to say.
He’s looking at the tips of his toes when some stronger noises break out and capture his attention: a group of students are organizing a demonstration against “I Padroni” for the next day. “What a strange revolution was that of ‘68”, he starts thinking, “It was like a pledge a generation made to their sons without really keeping it, a Munchian scream of youth against a gerontocratic society, but after jeopardizing old values, they were unable to replace them. They protested against Vietnam and see what is happening in Syria, they stood up for sexual liberation and currently women have set up a movement to fight against sexual harassment. What a mess. At least, during the 70s, there was a political logic underneath the strategy of tension and, before divorce, family was better preserved”. He quickly opens the newspaper, to have a look to the front page, and closes it again, “That actress, the astray girl of the cinema, I really can’t believe she was that innocent girl, she just enjoyed taking her revenge in bed with that Hollywoodien pig, the only space where men let women prevail, stupid girl”. Then he thought of her daughter, he never knew anything about her sexual life and he was wondering if she had ever endured harassment or violence and, because of shame, never spoke about it. Now, it needs a break: would he have trusted her?”, very likely, not. She was quite a sassy girl, she would have provoked them, for sure”. Carlo was the kind of man who never participated in demonstrations, he never got involved in any revolutions. Notwithstanding, thinking about his children, he felt for a moment like Count Ugolino, though he didn’t eat them, they just went away, because of a society he contributed to building. He was more an agnostic Pontius Pilate than the cruel Count of the Divine Comedy.
“A world planned by men through Trilaterals, Yaltas, Bildeberg groups, FMI, Banks, can’t take children into consideration, children belong to women, while men run the world. But women always liked powerful men; they wanted this patriarchal society in the end, and now some of them have changed their minds, spoiled beings”, he thought. He keeps walking. Walking is a pleasure Carlo has discovered recently, it helps him to think and carry on with is life.
He didn’t like his job that much, by contrast he was in love with his wife; things just ran out of his control and one day, out of the blue, she left. Was he unable to love her? “That’s impossible”, he did his best, he didn’t know what love was before her, he just thought children were women’s affair, because his mother also taught this to him. Also sex was unsatisfying, perhaps the reason why he was deceived by love, but he remained faithful to her, allowing himself just a Tinto Brass film once a year. But, without openly saying it, he blamed his wife for the death of their daughter, though when she stopped eating, he just got angry at her.
The rain stops in Milan and the Navigli inspires him to get some rest. He sits on a bench and feels old, then his mind brings him back again to his daughter’s memory: “The Berlin wall fell that year, the victory of Western civilization, but also the beginning of the end of it. My daughter Francesca died. She used to wear shredded jeans at that time, which I really couldn’t bear, she was against me and my values, perhaps she was right somehow, but in spite of this, I’m still a Catholic and left wing.”
Carlo was the kind of man who thought that the flower power battle for a freer society and free sex just ended up in a big sexually promiscuous orgy, watered by a lot of LSD, and that when his children came back with green hair and holes in their ears, he thought they definitely had become drug addicted. He never really listened to the Beatles. But somewhere in his room, there were still vinyls of Inti Illimani, a revolution he could better understand because of his rural origins.
The sky is cleaner now, only a couple of small, stratified clouds on the horizon. He looks in front of him: a pretty young woman, thin and extremely pale, is walking in his direction. She lights up a cigarette and sits on the same bench. He has never been a talkative person, but the light spring rain that was hitting the ground before, has also melted his tongue. “Do you feel well?”, he asked. “I don’t know how to answer your question, sir. Should I feel well? I don’t know. Should I feel happy or sad? I don’t know either. I’m pregnant, do you think a baby is still a gift?” and she concluded with a big puff on her cigarette. “This is quite hard to understand for a man, I was a father by accident, I just took children for granted, a consequence of a wedding and sex. She turned her big eyes to the sky and said “I’m going to lose my job and I can’t count on the father, he doesn’t earn enough. Babies are for the rich, they are the only ones who have the right to generate and to fall in love. Or for the very poor, if you prefer, who are unaware that they are just generating new soldiers and new slaves, especially women, who often can’t escape their destiny. I have to be more ashamed of being poor than of killing another life, and this kind of shame can never be reversed. This is why men throughout history wanted women to be ignorant, because women were not supposed to know the truth, they were not supposed to understand they have the power of life. So they let them believe that life was not so important, and women rejected their womanhood in order to survive and share a bit of power with them.” “My dear young stranger, do you believe in God?”, “Do you mean the Church? That sort of exclusive club ‘for men only’, where women are admitted only as slaves? They are against abortion but don’t care about how to maintain children. Free love doesn’t exist, flower power didn’t have a clue of what they were fighting for”. “I don’t know what to say”, began Carlo “I think this patriarchal society excluded love because love and babies are only troubles for men, sex is the only reality, that’s all we need, and we had the arrogance of sometimes thinking it was the same for women”. The girl had an outburst of emotion “I just wanted to have some fun with my boyfriend, but I can’t, I can’t have sex for fun like you, unfortunately I’m programmed for love, and I don’t want to have this enormous responsibility which overwhelms me, because I’m not getting out alive from this, and I want to live”.
Carlo had the impression of listening to his daughter, who preferred to die, who was maybe too fragile to put up with all this, who, instead of losing her identity as a woman, preferred to die. “You know what?” she continued, “It’s all a big conspiracy against our sex, even worse than before. Sexual revolution only brought a greater lack of responsibility for men, because since sex is free, you don’t even have to pay, in exchange we had the possibility of killing our essence and being your partner in crime. Or become lesbian, a small palliative, a fake victory, because you know sir, despite men, I prefer dicks, and not plastic ones. What a silly battle in ’68: sex equality will never exist, the only possibility would be to reverse nature and let men generate”, but a world A Rebours is not the one we have. If only women had been aware of this, I wouldn’t have had this awful decision to take.” Francesca, his daughter, was only fourteen when she passed away, she had just started to become a woman when she died, sadly or not, he will never know her. Then he replied, “You’re right, it’s a classist society where we live, where money gives value to things and people, and the masses are the new slaves. It’s the perpetration of the pact of the Inquisitor, which will never be broken until fear for freedom lets the masses exist. And the masses will exist until there are no more slaves, and if women are the slaves of this patriarchal society, which is failing because it denies femininity, women, as well as Jesus, have to fight against the Pharisees in order to be free, but not free from themselves, as we did, free to be themselves. If you think you’re denying your identity in killing the baby, leave yourself a chance. I didn’t. I’m old and I don’t know who I really am, I just followed the stream, thinking it was what I wanted and what was right, but its fastness didn’t leave me the time to understand, because if this is not a world for poor babies, the Virgin Mary should be the first to be aborted, while Jesus was born, instead, and he was king and he fought against the Pharisees. If you want to win without destroying, as we did, try to go against the stream and bet on life, perhaps the most illogical choice is the right one, though I’ve never been illogical. But to have slaves at your bidding perhaps wouldn’t be the solution, and nobody will ever get out from this dialectic of the masters”.
A doubt about her choice came up in the girl’s mind, though no solutions seemed to present themselves, just a clearer sky and the crazy idea of going to Pope Francis and asking him for a job or money for the baby, which made her sneer. She got up, lit up another cigarette and disappeared. For Carlo, only remained a sense of dismay around him and throughout his life, which was canalized in the obsessions he lived with. Perhaps the only alternative would have been an idealized, suspended time like in The Dreamers, by Bertolucci, but dreams exist only in the cinema, while reality is time which flows.
Lunchtime has already passed. Carlo slowly leaves.
Strangely he isn’t hungry. He has never lost his appetite, even when his wife left, so he skipped his favourite restaurant. On his way home, he thought that he would have liked to know his daughter.