Love & Anarchy

Most of us are in our second lockdown and it isn’t easy to stay in high spirits. Being closed again is frustrating especially after having tasted some semblance of back-to-normalcy over the summer. Nevertheless, I like to remind myself that this period is the right moment to welcome new perspectives and begin seeding again. At least, let’s open the gate. What will come… may come!

It’s this time again where I need a stimulus, an inspiration and inspiration comes in many forms. Like many, I love watching tv shows and lately, a few crisp and witty ones really brought what I would call a cool effect. They refresh my mind and that enough, is inspiring. From Call my Agent (an irresistible portrait of French film stars and their agents where the guest actors who play their own roles, find themselves in free-wheeling hilarious scenes), to This Way Up (sweet and sour show that evolves around the loneliness of its characters — it’s witty, sad and funny). But surely the unexpected desire for ‘light craziness’ came from watching the Swedish Love & Anarchy.

Relaxing about Life, 2016 – oil on paper 30*42 cm

Every now and again, we need a little reminder of how our minds can slowly fall asleep when the routine intricately installs itself in our lives. Set aside the terrible health complications that the Corona virus has created for some people, there has also been many positive side effects of a several-months-long lockdown. Spending less money, eating healthier and more at home (in my case, I developed a passion for making my own bread and generally improved my cookery), exercising and getting in shape (like having Olympic rings installed in a flat like ours!), catching up with reading and/or learning an instrument, in short: being more attuned to ourselves and our surroundings.

The second lockdown though, feels very different. There is a general exhaustion and incomprehension in regard to governments’ decisions: who and what is essential? It all feels random and unfair. That’s how we end up with ridiculous situations like wrapping in plastic all the books from French supermarkets in response to the unfair competition with bookshops that are being closed. So here we are, a bit disillusioned about a world that doesn’t necessarily move in the best direction. Maybe we should be more patient and more positive; at least, we should try to make things lighter on our end. This is why we need Love & Anarchy in our lives, and I mean it literally, too.

The series takes place in a publishing house and follows the meeting of two of their staff who, apparently have very little in common except for a taste for games. Quickly, the two of them start giving each other weird challenges, pushing the boundaries every time farther. From screaming onto someone who doesn’t deserve it, to spicing up things at a serious conference of their firm, the pair doesn’t lack creativity. Their intention isn’t to sabotage the company they are happily working for, but to feel the adrenaline that arises from those gentle-crazy-dare games. The results are absurd situations which affect the whole company, but somehow lead to positive changes. Most characters were indeed lost, lacking the courage to allow their true selves to emerge. A lesson for life.

I have always been attracted to Scandinavian freshness and I am quite sure that every kid dreams of an education the Scandinavian way. Even though I have excellent memories of my school days, it is more because I met the precious friends that I still see and care for, thirty something years later. But what do I remember from the classes themselves? Not much, except for a rather permanent boredom and an urge to invent dares among us to enlighten the long days of learning volumes and volumes of ‘stuff’. I am sure there were exceptions to the rule — yes I loved my Latin classes, not so much because of Latin but thanks to our lovely teacher who managed to install a playful and warm atmosphere for a topic that isn’t the most fun. Mainly, when I wasn’t stressing about exams, I was drawing in class and listening to music from the left ear bud.

What is it that Scandinavians understood better about our learning skills? Maybe that Study harder! Live less! is not working for every one. Education system in Finland is considered the best: its teaching is based on equity over excellence. They have no standardized tests because they believe in a personal track of progress on an individual basis. My dream! I was always a fairly good student, not because I excelled in anything, but because I didn’t have difficulties. I was ‘average’ and I hated that. I simply fell in the box of the many pupils that the system doesn’t look at, thinking they will find their way.

Being rather unnoticeable in school is surely a good thing for parents who, like mine, worked very long hours and didn’t need to worry about being called to discuss their daughter. Nonetheless, looking back and from my point of view, I wasn’t really challenged, pushed or simply guided. Hence, the difficulties that arose when it was time to choose studies and envision a professional path. I could have studied anything, chosen any profession, I only needed to decide. But either I had no vision for myself, or I had one too many — at this stage, it felt the same. The memory of this decision-making is still painful, I can see like it was yesterday: the university leaflets, pins and stationary piling up in my room, while I remained paralyzed, eaten by doubt and the anxiety of choosing the wrong path.

Looking back, it is funny to realise that the two subjects that I’m the most passionate about are music and arts and are precisely the two topics that were badly taught in my school. I therefore abandoned them very early on in my curriculum. Saying that, anyone would have fled from a classroom of thirty kids with no sense of rhythm playing Yesterday on the flute recorder. This was meant to be a failure! From the readings I did on the educational system in Finland, even the concepts of success or failure (the way we know) have a different meaning — Finns learn them in the context of cooperation, not competition, which is a very refreshing perspective. As for myself, I recall hating the flute and worse, wanting to strangle my fellow classmates. We came out of that class deaf, depressed and devaluated, and we were only ten years old.

It says a lot about our fear of change and trusting the old-fashioned education method as being the best option for everyone. While most children — and adults alike — are struggling to find themselves in an overly competitive system that firmly decided to ignore their natural rhythms and individualities, young Finns are busy growing as the best human beings they can be, proud of their singularities. Why not take this second lockdown as the right moment to rethink education and institutions? At least, that’s what I do and I find it rather thrilling.

I’ll leave you with a beautiful quote from the Finnish novelist Samuli Paronen: Real winners do not compete.

Love, Ethel