Sunday, 3 October 2010

A legal alien

Back in junior and high school, I've learnt English by listening to songs over and over again, until I could understand the words and grasp the meaning of them.

Sometimes it was even easier: my English textbooks would have some songs lyrics appearing through the pages randomly.
True, there were no Clash or R.E.M. lyrics, and "Whole Lotta Love" was not in the syllabus, weird isn't it?
On the other hand, it was very easy to find Beatles' songs or lyrics by the Police... well, even here not every song: I don't remember reading the lyrics of "Lady Madonna" or "Roxanne".
I can't see how that could have been a problem however, as the purpose of placing songs on the textbook was only analyzing the grammars and learn new words.

The meaning behind the words was not part of the school programme.
When the class got to the page of Sting's "Englishman in New York", that's what I did: I analyzed the grammar and I also learnt the new words.
Only later, many years later, I moved to the meaning behind those words. It looked so straightforward that any further thought was pointless: he's English, he's in New York, that's it.

Then about 3 years ago, something changed.
I still remember it being a Sunday, back in Surbiton; one of those lazy Sunday mornings when you just stay in bed until reasonably late, as there's nothing better to do and, even if it were, you couldn't do it, as outside it's raining cats and dogs.

I managed to got up, fix me a well deserved coffee and watched a bit of TV. I ended up on a music channel and watched the video.

Something caught my eye. Or rather someone.
How come I didn't notice it before?
Who is that man?

Back in the days it would have been a struggle, but in 2007 I just needed to google for some info on Sting and the songs to make the acquaintance of Mr. Quentin Crisp.

As fate would have it, that same evening BBC broadcasted "The Naked Civil Servant". I was completely fascinated about it, and even more about my ignorance on the subject.
It goes without saying that he's not very famous in Italy.
At a first, superficial, look, his look would make him such a perfect example of the caricature many Italians think gay people are.
Problem is Quentin Crisp has a bigger than life personality, he's strongly opinionated and his bluntness on many topics make him incompatible with politically correct society.

In this past few years I read his books, encountered quotes of him here and there.
I read "The Naked Civil Servant" sitting on the floor in the biography section of Woking library: it took me 2 afternoon and while the first afternoon all the chairs were taken, on the second they I kept sitting on the floor as I rejoiced the frowns of dislike people would cast over me.

Few days ago I stumbled upon something quite witty and wise he once said about British: "The British do not expect happiness. I had the impression, all the time that I lived there, that they do not want to be happy; they want to be right."

It was a sort of epiphany as I think he might well have nailed one of my main issues with this kind of society, or at least the London/Southern English part of British society. Everything has to be right, at least at surface level, and god forbid if one shows emotions or has a temper tantrum. You can't say you're happy or you wish you could be. Emotions are not to be part of the picture. Luckily, however, that doesn't mean that I should stop from trying to put them, the emotions, at the center of the stage. They are what really matters at the end of the day, aren't they?

And it doesn't mean I should conform to the people around me either.

To quote Quentin Crisp once more, "[...] I know a lot of people who are saying that their object is to take their place in society. Don’t ever do that. Stay right where you are and wait for society to form itself around you."

I'm pretty sure I know several people here that share this same point of view. And I think I'm very lucky because of that.

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