It was a sunny Saturday morning when I heard that song for the first time: the trees were still bare and white under the winter sunshine. Despite the cold wind, there was a sweet smell of spring in the air, which pushed me to walk fast without paying much attention to the few cars passing by, or to the twittering of pigeons.
I stopped at the traffic light and heard a loud music for a few seconds. It probably came from the radio of some car around me. That song amazed me so much that I still remember the few words I could catch:
Hey! Said my name is called Disturbance
I’ll shout and scream, I’ll kill the King I’ll rail at all his servants
Well then what can a poor boy do except to sing for a Rock and Roll Band …
I don’t know why, but I kept singing those three lines the whole morning: I brought them with me in the big building of the Tribunale di Cassazione, staring at the marble statues of famous Roman legislators and singing the lines in my head. That made me think of some kind of disrupting impact, something like a fire eruption in the soul. I stared at the eyes of Cicero, probably looking for comprehension, but at the end I could only find his arrogant gaze, probably underlining some kind of superiority. So, I just moved to the other side of the road, just upside of the river: there the wind took me another fragment of the song, which echoed on the wall of the Tribunal and, whispering through the arms of the statues, surrounded me finally.
Ev’rywhere I hear the sound of marching, charging feet, boy
Cause summer’s here and the time is right for fighting in the street, boy
But what can a poor boy do
Except to sing for a rock ‘n’ roll band
The rock music was digging deeper into my heart and the drums were playing louder and louder. I felt this strong excitement coming up from my feet and I had to walk away. Run away. That’s how I got here, into my house. I came running from Lungotevere; it has been quite a big rush.
Laying on the ground, exhausted because of the twenty-minutes marathon, I noticed a red writing on the grey wall in front of the entrance. I had never noticed it before. It said:
Evolution is completed
nothing more to add
R-Evolution, where are you?
I suddenly understood when I had listened to that song before. It was The Rolling Stones’. My memories went back to several years ago, when my father bought me my first CD: “Street-fighting boy”. The song was inspired to the student protests of May 1968 in Paris.
Those years definitely contributed to a significant change in people’s life and culture. What always dazzles me are the photos of that era; a perfect combination of revolutionary needs and pop culture. Richie Havens improvising “Freedom” on the Woodstock’s stage, the occupation of the Paris’ Odeon Theatre, Tommy Smith’s salute at the Mexico City Olympics.
Despite the ideological context and polarization that characterized those years, the most significant element is the purpose of a radical and complete change, a switch in mentality. The furious effort of a society that struggles to renew itself, the dreams of a youth that seeks change as an imperative, as a moral philosophy.
Interdit d’interdire (banning is banned). This was the slogan of the French youth that in May 1968 occupied the Sorbonne University and that imagined a new idea of power, a new framework for society as a whole. The movement was really an international one, and it assumed different faces and aims in every country: the civil rights movement in the USA, social and economic reform in Prague, Mao Zedong’s cultural revolution in China, independency claims in Poland, student occupation and marches in France, Mexico and Italy. The differences were many, often substantially heterogeneous, but a common root was at the base of them: imagine the change.
When I came back from this long open-eyes dream, I still found myself in front of the same grey wall. Where had the students gone? Where the fighters, where the police, where the theatre and the songs? Where was the revolution?
Without idealizing too much those years, I felt that that vivid feeling of change, of challenging the establishment in order to imagine and create something new, was silently dying in my timid soul.
I had always been waiting for the Revolution, I had always pictured myself in a movie, leading the revolution like I was the protagonist of Romano Bertolucci’s The Dreamers, but, still, I have actually found the courage to raise my hand in class only a few times.
I realized I was too afraid of living in a world where the revolution has definitively left, where everyone is just content with what life gives them. I still wanted to desire something bigger, something powerful, something idealistic and romantic, but I did not have a clue of where to start. I still wanted to be convinced that humanity evolves through change, that evolution needs a r-evolution to speed it up.
Where is our R-Evolution? Where should we look for it?
I still can’t find an answer, but I can tell you what I did that day that I heard that song and then laid on the ground wandering about the past: I stood up, looking at the writing on the grey wall for a few more minutes, and then I walked away, following the advice of the Rolling Stones. After all, I could still sing my revolution, as the poor boy of the song.
In a few months May will come, and, who knows, the street fighting boy might come back with it.