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Chaos and order

Is order and organization associated with a certain sense of the other and the whole? Is the chaos a consequence of a sad individualism?

There is a supermarket 40 km from Lisbon where, they say, the manager is a Frenchman.

I don't know if it's true, but the supermarket is an example of organization and good functioning. There is an excellent quality of meat and fresh produce. Everything is clean and looks good. The staff are friendly, cheerful and seem to be in good spirits. All because the manager is French?


A new supermarket, from the same franchise brand, opened on the outskirts of Sintra. But the quality is different. And that's because the manager here isn't French?


We had the opportunity to travel through some European countries. We passed through France several times, always traveling by car. We spent the night in Dax, a French commune in Aquitaine, in southwestern France. As we pass by a hotel, we glimpse through the windows of the facade, guests in bathrobes going down to the hotel's cellars. In fact, it is a thermal region. In the basement there will be plenty of hot water for therapy and relaxation.


There are around 20 km2 where 20,000 inhabitants live. There was at the beginning of the century. XXI many houses in ruins and abandoned. However, the ruins appeared to be clean and organized. We visited the central area of France: La Creuse, one of the poorest areas in this country. A poster said: "Poor people in France? They exist...", reflecting the surprise that the French themselves might have when faced with some of the poverty in the country. However, in a small village, with strong evidence of poverty, with houses in ruins, there are also signs of surprising organization.


Italy is another chaos. Florence has palaces on every corner, but poverty is there. Chaos, some disorganization and dirt are evident, a little everywhere. And yet, there is beauty, art and history everywhere.


Portugal has changed a lot over the last 50 years. Eduardo Gageiro's exhibition at the Galeria Municipal da Cordoaria Nacional in Lisbon shows the contrast between 1974 and the last years of this half-century cycle. Passing through many municipalities, there is great organization and attention to detail. The quality of life in many areas of the country has increased significantly. I envy the tranquility and new social facilities in many Portuguese cities. Arouca is a wonder and Ponte de Sor is a marvel.

Where does the sense of order and organization come from in a territory like France? Why is there a lack of organization in countries like Portugal and Italy?

Is it the school that shapes this sense of organization or chaos in children and young people?

The idea of organization seems to have been associated with tics of authoritarianism. The revolution of April 74 brought the hope of freedom. The “eighty’s” (those born in the 80s) grew up with the idea that freedom is the refusal of norms. I remember a discussion with a teenage student in the 90s about the meaning of a given word. After many considerations about the etymology of a word, the teenager turned his back, saying "For me, what this word means is...". And the discussion ended.


What this eighty had not yet understood is that the meaning of a word needs to be accepted by all speakers. If each word has a different meaning for each person, communication does not exist.


In this simple reaction of a teenager to the meaning of any word, the entire perception of the social dimension of our life is at stake.


Look around and perceive the meaning of the social whole, whether in the meaning of a word or in the need to assume a certain order. And this seems to be fundamental to satisfying our needs, even the most individual ones.


But does one of the traits of our Portugueseness involve this constant individualism, which leads to a certain chaos on a social level?


It is very interesting to observe how cars are placed in parking lots at the beginning of the day, when these spaces are still empty. Park anyway. Is it again the lack of perception of the social dimension?


When a group of students leaves the classroom and, outside, is asked to form a semicircle, it is clear how difficult it is for 11-year-old children to line up. They seem closed in their own bubble, unable to understand that, arranged in a given way, everyone will be able to see and hear better.


Is order and organization associated with a certain sense of the other and the whole? Is the chaos a consequence of a sad individualism?


And what can the school do to, at the very least, make the human beings who live here more aware of these dynamics?


By the way: the manager at the supermarket... is not French after all. Misconceptions...

© Eduardo Rui Alves

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