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Saturday, August 13, 2022

Even dancing is not just like that

By: Dr Tamara Besednjak Valič

From my student days, I remember a professor who asked me the question during one of the last exams during my undergraduate studies: “When can we say that people became a civilisation?” Perhaps the conversation on the oral exam was already leading to the question itself, I do not remember, I remember this question and the answer to it is something I think about many times – the answer the professor wanted to hear from me was: “When we start burying our dead.” In general, however, it is considered that civilisation began when people began to unite and develop the first social rules. Those fundamental postulates on which the entire human existence stands. Those rules that all members of society follow. In the Western Christian tradition, these most basic rules are known as the “ten commandments of God”.

The fundamental question now is what do the 10 commandments and dance have in common. At first glance, probably nothing, but they follow the same way of thinking – what counts in life and in interaction with others are the rules of the game. And these must be the same for all participants. When dancing, one must either follow the prescribed steps, or have enough feeling for rhythmic swaying. In short, there are at least minimal rules to be followed in order to dance. If there are no dance rules, we find ourselves in a cacophony of uncontrolled movements that can do more harm than good in their surroundings. Thus, we have examples of newly minted dancing politicians who (un)knowingly violate the rules of behaviour (when a minister appears with chewing gum in his mouth at the funeral of a world-famous Slovenian writer) and protocol (exposed tattoos and beach dresses in parliament).

But you (will) say that rules are meant to be broken, to be tested and, if necessary, to be bent or adjusted. In this way, civilisation develops and strengthens. Each parent has tested this in practice with their up-and-coming child, whom, in the process of growing up, is civilised into a being, capable of understanding and acting in a social environment.

Of course, you will say, even adults are always testing the rules, employers in relation to employees who establish such and such practices, some of which are totally reprehensible, others strive to build a stimulating environment where the employee, having accepted the rules of the game, can take care of his professional development. And here is the key to the meaning of the rules of life. That they give us a frame of reference within which we can develop sensibly and optimally. As personalities and as professionals. We develop our stronger points and correct our weaker ones, but we can always make progress in this way. And of course, when we smile and tell ourselves that rules are meant to be broken, it is always only when we conquer them, internalise them and know what the consequences of breaking them are. But it applies one step further – when we know how to correct the consequences. And on a symbolic level – I do not know if the consequences of broken rules can be fixed. You will say, because in a few years it will be forgotten who what happened in the parliament, who wore such and such shoes and who violated the protocol. The aftertaste remains. If you break a plate and glue it back together – is the plate the same?

And here lies the heart of the problems of Western societies, not only Slovenian. In the social space, groups are gaining voice and importance, which require systematic violation of the rules that we in Western society have developed over thousands of years. Rules on the basis of which we can demand respect for human dignity and freedom of speech today. Thus, in the United States, they fear that Twitter will be taken over by Elon Musk, who has pledged to respect freedom of speech. Thus, someone in Slovenia is afraid of the commentator Miran Videtič and restricts his freedom of speech. In the rainbow month of June, when we celebrate pride, it will probably be necessary to raise our heads and proudly demand what is constitutionally ours. Respecting the rules of the game so that we can all dance: “One afternoon, Sunday, the Old Market Square: The trumpets and fiddles and zithers all played; From all of Ljubljana, lo, every fair maid; Light-heartedly danced in the linden-tree’s shade…” Without fear of the one who will know the rules better than us and twist us into: “A whirlpool was seen from their boats by some men, but nobody ever saw Urska again.”

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