To Figaro, the Barber


Revolution for the revolution


Dear Figaro,


You have come back! I have seen your Wedding on the small screen.You were the son of the town, who treats as an equal, and with the hat put on, the formerly privileged ones. Together with your Susana, you represented the youth that fights so that the right to live, to love, to the family, to a right freedom can be recognized.


Before your dynamic "artist style", before your aggressive and youthfully mischievous energies, nobility represented the sad part of a frivolous, decrepit class on the way to extinction.


I have heard your famous monologue again. From the scene, you said more or less: "Then, who and what am I, Figaro, before all these noble of lineage, these bourgeois magistrates, who are everything and they do everything, whereas, in fact, they are neither better nor worse than me? Barber, matchmaker, pseudo-diplomatics advisory, yes, sirs, everything what you want! But in addition I am, I feel I am, before all of them, something new, something strong. They think that I am only honest in a world of cardsharpers and ruffians. I do not accept it: I rebel; I am a citizen !"


That night, in Paris, a true tumult started at the theater. The stalls applauded, but nobility, scandalized, put their fingers in the ears. At the same time, the king shut you up by sending you to prison. All in vain. From the stage and from the jail, you have jumped to the square by shouting: "Gentlemen, the comedy is over. The revolution has started!"


And, in fact, the French Revolution broke out.




While returning now, you will discover that millions of young people do everywhere what you have done two centuries ago: they are compared with society and, seeing it decrepit, they rebel and get out to the street. 


There in Liverpool, on a cellar walls, there are written these words: "The Beatles were born here. Everything began here!". In case you don' t know, it refers to four ruffled young singers, with the same "artist style" as you, to whom the Queen of England, not only hasn' t shut their mouths, but has conferred them a high nobility title. 


They have sold millions of discs and made a lot of money. They have been made them applaud by much more big audiencies than yours; they have caused anywhere in the world the appearance of "bands", in which, accompanied by batteries and electric guitars, young singers are shaken under the violent light of powerful lamps, they drive mad psychologically on the spectators, inflaming them and taking them to collective positions of frenetic participation.




Look around! Many of these boys wear ponytails like you, and take care of their long hears with an almost feminine worry: all kind of "shampoo", "waves", curls, even "permanent" at lady hairdressing salons. And how many beards! How many sideboards and big sideboards!


And variety of dresses! A real strange mixture between old and new, feminine and masculine, eastern and western! Sometimes, only a pair of blue-jeans with a shirt or T-shirt or a fur jacket. Others, Renaissance stockings, jackets similar to which the Napoleonic officials wore, with eighteenth-century embroiders and shoes with ecclesiastical clasps. Sometimes, shocking colours and flowered trousers and jackets, and, in addition, gypsy "coats". Sometimes, suits voluntarily torn, that make think on a mythical city of Barbonia. For the girls, miniskirt, shorts with maxi and midi coats and other dressings.


What do you think of this phenomenon? I feel incompetent and profane before it, and also a bit amused and curious, without stopping being critical.


They call it "young people music"; but I see that the record market provides lots of money to a series of quick-witted old men. They invoke spontaneity, non-conformism and originality; in fact, astute "dress manufacturers" manipulate the sector, calm and sovereign. They are considered themselves as revolutionaries, but the meticulous cares excessively dedicated to the mop and the dress are threatening them to become only into effeminate. The young women, when are dressed in such a brief way, think on elegance and fashion. I want to be neither Manichean nor Jansenist, but I sadly think that with it they are not helping the young people' s virtue, at all.     


Naturally, these young people get on with "revolution", understood like a means of finishing the exploitation of the man by the man.


Some of them consider the reforms as inadequate and counter-productive, and justify the revolution as the only way that leads to social justice.


Others, however, wish fast and deep social reforms. Only like extreme policy and in very serious and exceptional cases, they accept violence.  


There are others who free themselves of all scruple. "Violence - they say - is justified by itself and it is necessary to make the revolution for the revolution!


Mao-Tse-Tung has told the Chinese: "Let us place the cultural revolution, by making a clean sweep of the bourgeois ideology that is still in Marxism!"


The French Regis Debray has told the South Americans: "Your revolution cannot be like it has been carried out in other countries, with a party at the head; the guerrilla of all the people, this one is the true revolution!"


From Mao and Debray, one has gone to Fidel Castro, to Giap and the French May students: "The target of the student revolution - Cohn-Bendit said - is not to change society, but to destroy it".


Evidently, dear Figaro, they have gone farther than you; they follow your teachers: Castro, Che Guevara, Ho-Chi-Min, Giap, and dream about being guerrilla and desperate. With good intentions, let us be understood; but, meanwhile, they are manipulated by others; they do not realize it is an utopia to want to divide, radically and without appeal, the good ones from the bad ones, loyalty from fraud, "progress" from "standstill"; they do not understand that disorder brings with itself "the spiral of violence", it delays progress and seeds dissatisfaction and hatred.




And, however, we can learn something as much from you as from them. For example, this: that parents, educators, employers, authorities, Priests, we must admit that we have committed mistakes of method and that we have not paid enough attention to young people. That it is necessary to start again with spirit of humility and true service, getting ready for a meticulous work, long and without brightness.


In a certain occasion, a half crazy guy broke the window and the objects of a store by hitting them with his walking stick. The street filled immediately with onlookers, who watched and commented. Shortly after, a little old man with a box under his arm arrived at the store: he took off the jacket, took some glue, rope and tools from the box, and with an infinite patience, he started repairing smashed flowerpots and glasses. He finished after many hours. But this time, nobody stopped to watch, no onlooker was interested on this work.


Something alike happens with young people. They create shoutings and demonstrations; everybody watch and speak. Little by little, with fatigue and patience, parents and educators are preparing them, filling gaps, rectifying ideas; nobody sees it nor applauds it.




It will be necessary to show us very open and understanding towards young people and their failures. Failures, nevertheless, it is necessary to call them by their name and it is necessary to introduce the Gospel "without glosses", without cutting it to get a wish of popularity. Certain approvals do not produce satisfaction: "Poor you - the Lord says - when all the men praise you, because this was done by your parents with the false prophets" (Lk. 6, 26). Young people, besides, wish the truth can be said to them and feel the love behind the sincerely frank and admonishing word.


We will also have to accept that young people are different from us, adults, in the way of judging, behaving, loving and praying. They also have - as you had, Figaro - a word to say to the world, a word worthy to be heard with respect.


It will be necessary to share with them the task of leading the society through ways of progress. With a warning: that they step more on the accelerator, and we, however, put more on the brake. That, in any case, the problem of young people cannot be separated from the problem of society; their crisis is, partly, crisis of society.




Figaro! Your knew how to attack sharply abuses and weaknesses, but you were not so sharp when proposing solutions. I find right - putting aside exagerations - your critic of society; but it is necessary the therapy.


However, for young people of today and all the times, the therapy exists: to make them see that the right answer to the questions that fill them was given by Christ, more than by Marcuse, or Debray, or Mao.


Do they want brotherhood? Christ said: all you are brothers. Are they thirsty of authenticity? Christ reprimanded every hypocrisy strongly. Are they against authoritarianism and despotism? Christ said that authority is a service. Are they against formalism? Christ condemned prayers said mechanically, charity made to be noticed, charity for interest. Do they want religious freedom? Christ, on one hand, wanted that "all the men... can arrive at the knowledge of the truth", and by another one, he did not impose anything by force, did not prevent the opposite propaganda, He allowed the apostles' abandoning, Peter' s negations, Thomas' doubt. He asked and asks to be accepted as a man and as God, it is true, but not before we have seen and verified that He deserves our acceptance, not without a free election.




What do you say about all this? Figaro' s protest, plus Christ' s proposal, won' t they- together- be able to help as much the young people as the society? I think so, full of hope.



April 1972 






* FIGARO , personage from the famous comedies of the French writer Beaumarchais (1732 -1799): The Barber of Seville, The Wedding of Figaro. Symbol of the youth that fights so that the right of living, loving, to the family and freedom can be recognized.


GCM 2002