One friend post today, in Portuguese, in Facebook a note that he called “IMIGRA ou MIGRA?”, asking if once once we get out of Portugal we forget about what it mean to be Portuguese. I’ll not link his note, because his profile is protected and the link would take most people nowhere. But I think the subject is important. So, here are my thoughts…
First of all, I don’t understand the need of being proud of belonging above being themselves. Most people aren’t proud of themselves, but they are still loudly proud of being part of some specific group – that group is for most people living outside of their country their nationality, as it is sometimes the sports club, the sexual orientation support group, … It’s usually something that make them different from everyone else, but similar to a sufficient number of people that make them recognizable, acknowledgable.
That kind of behaviour makes it simple to justify and validate their behaviour. Make it easier to explain why they join in the club and don’t go to the street barbeque. It make for simpler explanations for almost everything. But if people can be simple, persons never are. Even when part of group and with a lot of similarities with everyone on that groups, every single person is also very different from everyone else on that groups.
But groups are, mostly labels. They make easier to other to make you part of their group or part of the “others” group. For every single person, “Us” is usually the union of all the group that person belongs to. But there is no “US” that works for two single person, it doesn’t matter how you choose those two person. Even for two twin brothers “US” will include all the twins there’s a group that includes one of them and not the other (those who were born first).
I’m also part of groups. Some of them are obvious – I’m Portuguese, I’m a Perl Webdevel (that is a small subgroup of a bigger group – WebDevel – that is part of at least two different groups – Web workers, including designers, content managers, web editors and a lot of other people who work for web, and Computer Programmers). Do I identify with those groups? Yah, sure. By the core of the group. Do I identify with the people who belong to the group? Yah, sure, some.
But groups are not all created equal. In most cases Nationality is not a choice. It’s a core part of everyones personality. We can choose a lot of things in live, but where we are born is not one of those things. And it doesn’t matter if we latter choose to change our nationality. We only have a birth, and the first years of our life have a very wide impact on our personality. They define which language we speak best, which types of food our taste most apreciate, which type of social interaction we get used to.
And most groups – sports club, nationality and religion on the top of this lists – come with filtering glasses, that exist in two types, the pro and the against. In the “Portuguese” group there are an aditional filter, the called Sebastianismo.
But, Am I proud of being Portuguese? Who in the earth would be proud of a country with the history Portugal have? Yes, we have a very unique history. Portugal is the country in Europe with their main land frontiers fixed for more time (and few in the world have older frontier than Portugal). Portugal had a very important contribute to the world see nagivation – as Empire, we followed the Roman – that we were the first to successfully fight. Spain, to find America, needed Portuguese Navigators (and it’s told, maps). We divide the world with Spain (our neighbor) while the rest of europe were still fishing in their own backyard. We’re a peaceful, charming, caring society. Yes, I love the Portuguese history. But I hate the Dom Sebastião Portuguese way of waiting for the future.
The legend says that in 1578, in the Alcarcer-Quibir Battle (also known as the Three Kind Battle), Dom Sebastião, the then young king of Portugal, were able to survive the battle that Portugal lost, and that he would return to Portugal and that the old Portuguese power and prestige would be restaured. Well, that may had make sense at the time. But three spanish kings rulled in Portugal, and five hundred years (ok, four and a half hundred) are gone now. the prodig king will not return! It’s time to look around and find the big stone that need to be moved and start moving them.
Yes, Portugal have fantastic weather, fantastic food, fantastic people, fantastic views. But it also have severe problems in Education, a gigantic trust issue with the political class, a lot of opaque business stratigies, an awful resource distribution, strange work laws and pratices – over protective law and under protective pratice.
But to me, live is not in fault. I’ve had good and bad things and growed with both. A lot more with the later ones. I lived in Portugal for more than 30 years. I studied there, I have several jobs there and I was given the oportunity to grow there. And it come a time when I had a choice between continue in Portugal and come to Amsterdam. I made a choice, and I’m living with it. I choosed the one that I believed at the time that would give me more changes to provide a better life for myself and my family. I still believe that I made the correct option.
But it’sn’t not because I’m live aboard that I stopped calling my mother frequently (in Portuguese, obviously) and my family. Even if I changed the idiom of my blog (and even most posts on my twitter and facebook).
Most of all, I respect myself. The groups I’m part of are also part of me. And I keep asking myself how do those groups change me and how can I change those groups! So, how can we change what means to be Portuguese?