25 years meditations#2: School

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I have some trouble evaluating the relationship from people with School these days. Maybe it’s still the same, the deciding factor remaining the attention we pay and what we make from our experience and school years . Portugal was an illiterate country for most of the 20th Century and a key to bring the country up, after the revolution, already in Democracy, was to make an investment on people: teaching them the basic tools for life and any activity. Writing, reading, adding, subtracting, dividing and multiplying. There is still a small percentage of old people that can’t read or write but it’s now residual when compared to the reality when grew up through the Seventies and the Eighties.

This reform wasn’t been always peaceful.It still ins’t.  There’s an active Education lobby (even though our Constitution forbids it)  and a dangerous liaison to the principal textbook publishers. Every Education Ministry, when taking office,  has a tendency to wipe out good and bad, to start over, focusing  mainly on politics and ideology  and putting little trust  in the virtues of a solid, experienced, tested system. Students and teachers  here in Portugal have to be used to have new cards  dealt almost on a yearly basis and that says a lot about how chaotic things can be for the principal agents of learning.

I do not wish to dwell much in the red tape and hard task of teaching and learning and dealing with the system in Portugal. I believe it’s everywhere , with the unfortunate note some countries do not even have a School system to show for. Instead, I romantically and scientifically  believe that School teaches us not only what is there to be taught, but grants  tools, abstract thought, writing papers, stimulating intelligence and praxis we should use to triage, for example, alternative facts that are dumped our way on a daily basis, especially online.

In all truth, I want to share two moments that show that what I learnt in School was applied to my activity as a musician and lyric writer later.

  1. Opium: our dear hit track. It was the year of 1991 and I was sitting in a Portuguese Literature class. The atmosphere was that of a High School class, noisy, all over the place. People talking, heads on cloud number nine, waiting for recess. Some paying attention, others not really. Our teacher (Miss Ferreira) was quite a character. She wore skirts and sat on the table and we could see her legs. She once asked us if anyone had a problem with it. She was brave, an independent woman, felling at  ease with herself and her amazing teaching skills. I remember when she started introducing more “existentialist” poetry, I was quite into it. Step by step, word by word, poem after poem, class after class we reached the time of reading and discovering Pessoa. Fernando Pessoa is a big name in Portugal and our most celebrated writer. Naturally important for grades in Portuguese Literature. I don’t believe in instant enlightenment , I believe all is a process. In Philosophy we discussed many times the capacity of wonder, of amazement, the spark of all curiosity without which all knowledge is impossible. I believe that it was more such a moment that happened when she first started reading Opiário (Opium den) by Álvaro de Campos (one of Pessoa’s several heterenomyous). Those words “Por isso eu tomo ópio…” resonated and I wrote them on my notebook not knowing I would use my amazement with those words, five years after for Irreligious. Even tough these words are not the final words of that larger poem, they sounded quite final for me (interpretation) , that verse, a vivid consternation, using opium to fight tedium, spleen, life. They came in quite handy when I finally wrote Opium and decided to end the song (using the original in Portuguese) with exactly  that quote from the poet. A song that was born in High School and that so many heard about while on High School themselves.
  2. 1775: our  forthcoming album, totally sung in Portuguese. It was the year of 1998 and I am sitting now at Lisbon University, coursing Philosophy. The class is Social Sciences’ Epistemology and my teacher is a star. Prof. #ViriatoSoromenhoMarques goes on about Theodicy, Lisbon Earthquake, the end of the 18th Century,Illuminism,  the politics of religion and everything clicks. I am a 24 year old young man, trying to find some substance for things I have been brewing inside my mind and already writing down publicly in my lyrics and letters to friends and fellow Underground musicians. Voltaire, Espinoza, Kant, sounded big in my ears and between all fragments and distractions, I made my notes. Now, almost twenty years later I picked them up to write a new album. Go back a few years, to High School again, I am sitting in a (Portuguese) History class. The theme is the reconstruction of Lisbon. The test is different. My teacher (Miss Machado) picked up a few between us in class and attributed chapters to study. She chose me to be the Minister (Marques de Pombal, main responsible for Lisbon’s rebirth) and all my colleagues had a field of expertise and we’d discuss it in front of the class, like in a class Parliament. Goes without saying, I had to go through all the chapters while my colleagues had to go through just one. I wasn’t too happy with that. I was no nerd, had my girls to kiss and my music to play and my demo tapes arriving from all around the world. Now, I am thankful not only for one of the best memories and best planned/interesting  classes ever, but for the knowledge I had to gulp down, from building constructions’ new techniques to the dissolution of Inquisition and the power loss of both Church and Crown, leading to a modern Portugal.

 

So, I have a lot to thank to School, and if you’re a fan of these songs, you have to thank them too. I could end and say how important is School and how you all should never give up knowledge for easy money-precarious jobs; or tell you that getting your sources exclusively online won’t benefit discussion and triage. I could say all of that, but in fact when I woke up today I turned the TV on the news and watched incredulous what happened in Holland with the Turkish Family Minister (she’s doing a terrible job btw) and how Erdogan called Holland (one of the most progressive countries in the world and a lesson for individual freedoms) the last remains of Nazism in Europe (250.000 dead just in The Netherlands). I thought I would never live to watch that with your my own eyes and ears.  I can’t help my will to be silent and let intelligence runs its course, and hope everyone will be able to know what counts, what’s keeping us and what will make us go and have a future together.

 

 

25 years meditations#2: School

9 thoughts on “25 years meditations#2: School

  1. Thank you for sharing! And thanks to your star teachers as well, for planting a seed that would yield such flowers 🙂
    I especially agree with that everything is a process. I recently listened to a podcast where they talked about some lessons and concepts as the kind that you have to give time to either sink in or become really useful, and it is then not so surprising that some people (including my teenage myself, despite my nerdy nature) would go through the school system wondering “is this really worth my time? I could be doing X or Y”. An education (any kind, I believe) is helpful not just for the skills learned but also for opening doors and giving students the opportunity to consider a different perspective. And in a way, for letting them know that they are not alone, when they stumble upon something that had been on their mind but they lacked the words for. I know it was like that for me during Literature classes. By the way, we unfortunately did not cover much of Portuguese literature during my school years, rather Spanish and Latin American, but I did start looking into Portuguese poetry and fiction after discovering Moonspell as a teen. One never knows where the ripples will reach.
    I am so looking forward to 1775 and learning more!

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  2. Well, we think same about schools and yes they give many tools and experiences. However they are also ideological state apparatuses like Althusser said. States create their “acceptable citizens”, it’s same in every countries. States need enemies… I have some words for your last paragraph. Sometimes schools find us “enemies” too… As a Turkish guy, I can say that I learnt many things about Turkey and Ottomans… How great we are, how honourable we are, bla bla bla… As you know, there is a referendum on 16th of April and people will vote for Erdogan’s one man rule and he is trying to collect nationalist votes. The best way for it to attack Europeans or Israel, etc. Because he has no potential vote from Kurdish people, democrats, socialists, some nationalists who are against one man rule or Erdogan and seculars. It’s like a parody, we are in state of emergency, many academics were kicked from universities, many workers were kicked from their governmental jobs and many journalist were arrested, also co-presidents of HDP (party of kurds, socialists, democrats, lgbtis, poor people, seculars and trustful muslim people) were arrested and they are giving democracy lessons to Holland. They need it, they need a fight for referendum. If they win, it doesn’t mean we loose. Because we have a motivation for a sunrise, they don’t have this motivation. By the way, believe me you only watched him in a morning, we had to stand him for years… There is an old word in Turkish, if someone is talking about something so much, he/she is lack of it. Democracy, freedom, etc?
    I don’t need and want enemies. I have a Portugal flag which you signed, on my workroom and I framed our photos from last concert and put them on the wall near to my wedding photos. I really don’t want an enemy and states cannot decide my enemies or my friends. Geert Wilders is my enemy because he is an enemy of humanity and I have some Turkish enemies too who are the enemies of humanity like Wilders (I would like to write who are they, but you know… If I locate to Portugal I will write 🙂 )
    As a result, you and your songs give us a hope for a future. You know but, it’s not the idea of all Turks. We didn’t fight in WW2, that’s why some people think that to call someone “nazi” is a normal thing. It only helps real Nazis like Wilders or far-right politicians…
    Looking forward to see Moonspell in Istanbul with new album!

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    1. Theportuguesewolf says:

      I see your point dera friend. Programs spin everything. But in an abstract form schooling provides tools as well, it incites intelligence if one cares. And if man can’t save the world, his intellect might keep it together and functioning. Your leader is not intelligent, he is cunning like many of the leaders of the world. What puzzles me about turkey is the gap between real people and him, the secular vs the backward moves of his policy. Wilders is an asshole, a guy who doesn’t represent the progressive minded country he was born in. He is the epitome of a center-north european who projects in the south his wicked ambitions and racist jargon. To be called a Nazi is never normal. That war changed the world. Look fwd to be in Istanbul again, no fear!

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      1. Thanks for your answer Fernando. The gap is getting deeper and deeper. I see the light at the end of the tunnel but we are going to see on 16th of April, is it sunlight or a train which come to us. But I believe in people’s strength and solidarity against ignorance against Wilders or the guy (you know not mine but as you said “so-called leader”:) )
        Best wishes… especially in these terrible days…

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  3. Monique says:

    Thanks for another interesting post. The words in Opium made me read Pessoa, and i’m just totally blown away by it. So i must thank you for that too.
    My interest in Lisbon has grown after my visit for the Pequeno show. A man in a little souvenirshop spoke about the earthquake and the king that rebuild the city again. Pessoa also writes about Lisbon in a way so that you can picture yourself in those streets. There are many translations but maybe it’s worth to learn Portugese. It also comes in handy for the new Moonspell album. 🙂
    I’m from the Netherlands and what you said about what happened here with the Turkish family minister and the reaction of Erdogan is so true. Now more than ever we have to make sure to keep in mind what’s important.

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    1. Theportuguesewolf says:

      It wasn’t the King but the Prime Minister. So it seems, History has many flaws, the King lived in wooden barracks for the rest of his life and people celebrated his death on the streets. The violent end of an Era. Learning Portuguese has always my support and don’t you worry i still love Holland and I don’t think some of your politicians represent you at all 😉

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  4. Monique says:

    Seems that the man in the souvenir shop had the story all wrong. I will go and find him when i’m back in Lisbon for the vacation 😉
    And i’m glad you still love Holland, people like Dijsselbloem and Wilders don’t represent the majority.
    Both bad hairdo’s though… 😉

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