Violence in Portuguese society
People are broadly the same everywhere you go, in my experience. That doesn’t rule out slight cultural differences. For example, in the Netherlands it is customary to show up at work clean-shaven; in Portugal however a beard of one or two days is quite normal. As to Portuguese men it’s no different.
It is not in my nature, to make generalisations about people – let alone, about an easy-going gentle people like the Portuguese [sorry for the generalisation]. However, I cannot help noticing some differences that ‘spit me in the eye’ almost on a daily basis – differences between Portugal and the Netherlands, Friesland to be exact, the country that gently nurtured me to 6’7”.
Violence for instance…
It never ceases to amaze me, the amount of violence in Portuguese society. All the national TV channels spend hours and hours on their daily shows to talk about crimes of violence – as a rule with specialists on judicial matters taking part, and a live connection with a reporter at the crime scene. Bullying of defenceless people, elderly or minors, domestic violence or violence towards neighbours – rape, abuse, shootings, stabbings, …you name it!
I once made the mistake to voice my surprise over the frequency of it all in the presence of a close friend of my wife.
‘Isn’t it amazing,’ I said, ‘that the first pages of the Correio de Manhã [a national newspaper] are scattered with violent crime every… uhh, bloody day!’
‘Oh, I suppose that doesn’t happen in The Netherlands!’ she almost immediately went for the kill.
That is an international phenomenon, by the way – at least, in my experience. What I mean is: it is in no way typically Portuguese.
I’m referring to the habit that natives have to grumble among each other about everything that is wrong with their country, but… as soon as a foreigner makes himself heard in the choir of discontent, they as one man immediately turn on him , ‘that smug son of a gun’.
‘Well,’ raised I a false white flag, ‘of course one occasionally reads in Dutch newspapers about someone who is put off the train in Zwolle, because he or she were travelling without a valid ticket. But, seriously… of course things go off the rails in Holland as well – shit happens anywhere! – but… not every f…… day!’
The lady fell silent; I have this rare gift to nip promising discussions in the bud. Which generally means, I have to try to find my own answers, eg to the question:
Could the Portuguese violence be due to lack of education?
It is true that dictator Salazar did not see much need for education, because he – as some fascist European version of Pol Pot – felt that Portuguese society should remain agricultural. Could it be that the Portuguese haven’t caught up yet with the backlog he created? Could that explain the violence? For instance, large numbers of kids experiencing a big gap between the society they live in and the one they see on TV every day?
It’s just a first thought.
Some diehards claim that ‘under Salazar rule, there was no disrespect towards the elderly.’
People who say that may not be badly educated, but – in my view – they are definitely educated badly. As real respect should not be based on fear, it should grow and blossom from intrinsic values.
That, however, is a matter of opinion, I suppose, or of… education(?)
But, there is more…
I see a lot of small-townishness around. It seems that this ‘mesquinhez’ is getting bigger as the towns get smaller – and my wife and I live in Smallville, Baixo Alentejo.
Hey, don’t get me wrong; I’m no stranger to small-mindedness. It is only that the rest of the world seems to be doing a far better job in hiding it than the ‘Tuga’ (nickname for Portuguese) do – raw envy, pure greed and blind hate are right on the surface here.
Once again, don’t get me wrong; I have nothing against infinite stupidity – I myself was born infinitely stupid. What leaves me speechless though, is the total lack of want to do anything about it. To make matters worse, they even flaunt it, incessantly incommoding people with it; the Tuga seem to have grown an extra gene or enzyme that makes them compulsively want to harass each other – some insurmountable addiction to vendetta(?)…
For example, in the Netherlands – as a rule – one terminates a relationship with someone else, a neighbour or another family member, stating the reason why, and that’s the end of it – let it be!
The Portuguese however seem to lack that straightforwardness; they just stop talking to you from one day to another WITHOUT even bothering about letting you know the reason why.
Is that the end of it?
No! Because then they open up their toolbox for ‘gossip and social exclusion’, engaging in backbiting and causing inconvenience.
Some claim that these tendencies towards disguised aggression are relicts of many centuries of islamic rule, when the Mores occupied vast parts of the Iberian peninsula. Genetic left-overs, so to speak, in the Portuguese pool.
I do not buy that at all – to me it is all due to lack of education. Surely, if small-town Portugal doesn’t want to have anything to do with education, or with educating themselves for that matter, they need something else to fill their time with, don’t they. ‘É costume em Portugal: comer, beber, dizer mal’ is a famous saying – ‘It is the Portuguese way: eat, drink, gossip.’
Returning to the possible cause of so much violence in this country…
I can imagine, that after having been subjected to ‘bullying’ for years in a row, the day may arrive that something snaps inside the head of the victim, a neighbour, spouse, or another family member. And he or she grabs a bat, a knife or a rifle, in a desperate effort to put an end to it all – no matter the consequences.
Does that make sense at all?
Now, if it does, please tell me: Who is the real perpetrator here, the actual culprit? And, are the acts of small-town violence that we hear and read about every day, just the face of a much larger problem, the tip of a huge iceberg of silent violence.