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A blog for English learners and their teachers everywhere, initiated in 2010 with the contribution of students from the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. More about me on the On-line Profile below. Welcome!

Week of Mourning: Day 7

Repairing Our Society

by Magdalena Gunska

Alexandra, a Romanian short movie by Radu Jude, starts with the title character walking back home from the city with her father. As we follow them, we come across various malfunctions. First, we see a broken tram, then the girl’s bike stops working. Not even the lift in the block of flats where Alexandra lives can be used, either. When the girl and her father return home, we learn about something else that is damaged in a more serious way: the relationships in Alexandra’s family.

Not only are her parents divorced, but also they still do not get along well. Tavi, the father, accuses his ex-wife of trying to separate him from his daughter. Not without reasons, as Julia arranged piano lessons for the girl right at the time of her meeting with father. What is more upsetting for Tavi is that Alexandra insists on calling him by name instead of “daddy”. However, the woman considers him crazy and his accusations evidence of obsession. This leads to constant arguments between the two. Not even Itza, Julia’s mother, who loves both her daughter and her former son-in-law, is able to stop them from fighting. What is more, although Julia is the one who raises Alexandra, she does not show her love to her daughter as openly as Tavi, and does not seem to have a good relationship with her.

The movie shows us that many things and mechanisms are far from being ideal. They are prone to get broken. This applies both to inanimate objects and to society, but the latter is much harder to get repaired. To fix a machine one needs only appropriate knowledge and tools. In the case of relationships, however, the most important thing is whether the people in question are willing to reconcile, and whether or not they are able to change themselves. Without that, anybody else cannot do much to improve the situation. Alexandra’s parents are a good example: each of them thinks he or she is right and the other one is wrong, and neither want to give in. Even Itza, despite her efforts, can only wish to be able to help.

Repairing is even harder when the flaws are in the system itself. Fixing such ‘malfunctions’ is possible only by complex rebuilding, which means changing habits people had for years (if not centuries), habits which they do not want to give up. Hence such changes usually take a long time, even if they are successful. Furthermore, man-made systems are never completely free of flaws – the new ones could subsequently appear to have as many flaws as the old ones. Electing the government by vote seems better than, for example, members of government inheriting their power, but what if inappropriate people were elected? And if that happened, then who has the right to judge and take the power from them?

As we see, some flaws in a system can only be predicted on close examination. They cannot be completely avoided, but we could try to minimize them by certain modifications of the system. However, constant changes in the world can reveal some weaknesses one could not think about before. In many cultures people tend to have as many children as possible. This used to make sense in the past, when many children died at a very young age. But now, when the mortality was reduced due to development in medicine, maintaining the tradition of such large families may lead to overpopulation.

Nothing in our world is ideal. There will always be mistakes in our society, and we are not able either to predict of correct them all. It does not mean, however, that we should not try to repair at least some of them. Although it is often tough, we can fix broken relationships between one another if we really want to.

Filed under: ■ Poland, ■ Week of Mourning 2010, ■ Writing Samples

6 Responses

  1. mike says:

    It may sound really nice, but in my opinion it’s an utopia to think that we can fix our relationships if we want to. A single person can’t fix a relationship with another person without his or her consent. The will to mend it must be noticeable on both sides of the conflict and no matter how much we would want it, we can do nothing alone. That’s why it is so hard. Our ability to influence others, especially those who don’t like us is limited, quite impossible actually. In my opinion we can fix our relationship if both sides, independently, want it.

    • Magdalena G. says:

      Maybe I didn’t say it clear enough in the last sentences of the essay, but the main idea of the third paragraph is generally the same as your post’s, mike. But you’re right, I should have written the final sentence a bit differently, to emphasise the need of willingness of both sides of the conflict to reconcile more.

    • Szymon H. says:

      I agree with you, but only to some point. We cannot wait until both sides are ready to reconcile – we could be waiting for ages.
      What we can do and what we have to do is to make a first step: express our willingness to end the conflict. I think we should also at least declare the readiness to do the things the other side expects from us.

  2. rybbydiaspolkin says:

    All this is certainly interesting but how to live further?

    • Alina Alens says:

      How to live further? You mean how should people in Poland continue to live their lives after the catastrophe? I am afraid I don’t have the answer to this question. The answer is with each and every survivor, different every time.

  3. Chrisco says:

    Quite an interesting point of view, mike!
    Many people who, by the way, live in democracy don’t seem to be aware of its potential. This system equips us with a variety of tools to solve certain problems in society. We should focus on the basics of democracy which are : tolerance (to other people’s opinions), good will and compromise… Linking these elements all together can bring the right solution…

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