Tim Etchells - All We Have (2011)
Tim Etchells - All We Have (2011)
-Alicia, wait up! - The acoustic on the hallway allowed Alicia, who was several feet away, to listen Giulia’s shouting from outside the classroom, the school had almost emptied as usual on a Friday afternoon, when the only thing all the students had in common was the hurry they were in to get out. Giulia ran towards Alicia with her school stuff almost falling behind, a real disaster.
-I thought you were staying with Professor Jones- She said as she jokingly shoved her shoulder with the characteristic gesture of the best friend who knows about the secret, and above all, imaginary romance between her friend and an older man. They kept walking while Giulia anxiously laughed and blushed. –No, I’ll leave him hanging today- she said in jest.
Alicia and Giulia were best friends, or as close as two teenage girls could get after half the semester of being together. This was their first year in University, they knew no one, but not more of a cordial hand shake was needed to notice the spiritual affinity they had. That was their explanation for it: affinity between their spirits, since they had gotten pretty close, pretty quickly. They had a lot in common, but what tied the real knot was their mutual love for music and reading. Their favorite read was “The Catcher in the Rye”, they were fascinated by the censorship that surrounded the book, and they could both profoundly relate to Holden, protagonist and anti-hero of the story.
They often spent their afternoons in the ice-cream shop nearby the University, they talked for hours about their plans and thoughts in general. They loved spending hours chatting about any little thing; they could branch out a thousand topics out of the dullest of them all, and almost every time they chose a subject learned in Jones’ class as main discussion. They loved, above all, ethical problems, the freedom one was their absolute favorite.
Were their choices conditioned by laws foreign to them? A lot of arguing went on about this question; Alicia thought that even though we couldn’t tell at first instance, there was always a motive or explanation that pushed you in a certain direction. Like the road was there already, and you just had to walk towards the future, already written, and waiting for you. And Giulia… she was a bit more existential about it, she wanted to believe she steered her will completely, at least on some occasions.
-Like earlier, I cut Dav… cut Professor Jones off mid sentence and stormed out, there was a foreign and inciting motive for me to stay, but I didn’t-
-Doesn’t really count if the real reason was that you cringed out of embarrassment-
They laughed in complicity, this was an unavoidable subject between them, the conversations could start with philosophical arguments heard earlier in class, but inevitably led them to him in the end, philosopher and Professor, David Robert Jones.
He spent two hours trying to objectively explain what Keynes’ macroeconomic theory was all about as the program stipulated, intrigued by the reason why he had to explain the current economic model in his class, but still however hoping to awaken student’s curiosity about other economic models, other thinkers, Marx for example. He by all means would try to deflect the lesson so he could offer a bigger range of thought in his class, causing students to realize that Keynes’ was not the only model, nor the best one.
But as soon as the bell rang one of the students loudly sighed in relief and walked out as quickly as he could, leaving Professor Jones in the middle of a sentence. David closed his mouth and eyes with slight irritation, for one thing he was glad he didn’t have to keep talking about Keynes, but on the other hand the constant manifestations of disrespect stabbed his hope for humanity with tiny and painful needles. –You are dismissed- he said out loud to the rest of the students who hadn’t yet gone out – Except you Giulia- finishing the sentence he started cleaning the board.
-I should’ve run like Thomas does every time- she said jokingly referring to the guy that had just ran off, she took the liberty of making a joke since this was not the first time she stayed with Professor Jones after class.
-I hate that lad- His tone was dry, full of disappointment. –Lad? – She asked scronfully–I’d forgotten you’re British, either you’re losing your accent, or I am very used to it- David noticed the naughty smirk on Giulia’s face and immediately softened his expression, which was her intention all along.
David was indeed British, a not so wealthy one, which was why he had emigrated to the United States of America. He was not expecting to build a fortune of course, but he knew that with the British’s beliefs and ideas he would’ve never been able to teach back home, he could’ve luckily given a philosophy course in a crappy University, but he would’ve never had a job as a teacher. He despised various things of North America, but he was thankful that anyone could be whatever they wanted over here (he later learned that was not really the case). No place in the world was free of prejudice, that he knew, but the rivalry here concerned who had the biggest paycheck, not if they were born with paychecks under their arms. And he couldn’t care less about the money, he was comfortably living in a two bedroom apartment, alone, and had a vehicle that he rarely made use of. That way he was free of debts of any kind.
-I haven’t lost my accent, you’re just too absentminded- he signaled her to sit in the chair in front of his desk, she abruptly denied and mentioned she wasn’t in the mood to talk about President Kennedy, she reaffirmed that anything she could contribute to the case would be silly, and then hurried out of the classroom. She knew if she had let him respond before she had left she would’ve most certainly stayed there with him. -I’ll see you later- she yelled from the hallway as David remained alone in the empty room.
He paced around the classroom with his hands on his back, he knew that any conclusion would be too adventurous, even coming from him. So he was willing to forgive the fact that not even one of them wished to go along with the discussion. Students knew that it was one thing to talk to other classmates, repeating whatever they had heard reporters say, and other very different thing was to formally set out a theory about something, especially in this class.
-Gullible, you are- He said in sign that he didn’t expect more from them. He opened his book, looking for the lesson that was set for this date; he sat on the edge of his desk going through the pages not at all focused on them, he did this while he tried to set aside JFK from his mind, at least until the class was over. He turned around and walked to the board looking for his markers, when he faced the students again, he noticed a hand rising in the middle of the room. He raised an eyebrow with skepticism.
-Need to use the restroom, Giulia? - He asked not wanting to upset her, merely victim of his unconscious hostility.
She didn’t even care about the offensive comment and simply stated:
-JFK wanted to end with the Cold War- She didn’t make eye contact with David while saying it, not because she was afraid, but because her mind was still going over every fact she had in her memory that concerned her newly formed judgment.
-I too want to end with the Cold War- David answered to take away relevance to her statement in front of the rest of the students, but that was certainly one of the reasons he himself had concluded had something to do with the murder. He intended to discuss this with her once the class was over.
He turned his back to the class; he started writing the first part of that day’s lesson. Keynes, what an unfortunate coincidence, he said to himself. He loathed having to teach ideologies he passionately disapproved of.
Oh, thanks I didn’t notice that. I think I had it all made in my mind and just forgot I had to got slowly with it, sorry.
I’ll try and fix it. (:
As he entered the classroom he noticed the obvious commotion of every single student, although he couldn’t catch more than two words of their conversation, because like always, the moment his feet crossed the door, everybody became deadly silent.
David was one of the most strict professors according to the students, when in fact, he considered he was asking for little more than minimum to get through his class, the real problem was that the lazy well-offs they called teachers had accustomed the, even lazier students, to do the minimum effort and have maximum profit. Of course David’s insides slowly rotted with this idea, he was disgusted with the thought of how many good work and relevant reflections of clever students he could find under a ton of McDonalds wrappings in other teacher’s desks.
He gave them the coldest look, and smiled crookedly. – I take it everyone heard the news – He said, almost mockingly. He then started refuting every single rumor he had heard on the hallway, disapproval faces could be spotted along the classroom, after all, one of those many idiotic theories surely belonged to one of his less brilliant students.
-You think this is just a coincidence? - He asked, almost begging for a slightly intelligent answer. Silence owned the room once again; no one dared to answer one of David’s questions without having the right arguments to back up their opinion. This he had achieved late in the semester, but he warned them since the first day of school. He didn’t intend to encourage quietism, but, on the contrary, nourish them to investigate, to go deeper. This, however, was probably not clear in his students heads, they knew David was brilliant, but were annoyed by his inflexibility.
EDIT: CHANGED THIS PART.
The unhurried walk of David Robert Jones was a side-effect of his incapacity of coordinating the speed of two of his actions at once, he was walking so slowly because his mind, a thousand per hour, went through what he had just heard in the news this morning, what it could mean, and how nonetheless any change was going even slower than his feet. It was November 23th, 1963, John F. Kennedy’s murder had the whole nation in shock, but nothing stopped that day, chimneys kept smoking, people kept consuming, and he had to attend the University and give one more of his classes.
The University was at a distance that could be walked faster than driven to, this was made possible with the ludicrous amount of people who had acquire a vehicle in the past years; this bothered David almost as much as hearing the obtuse criticism of students passing by as he made his way to the teacher’s lounge, this morning the vein on his forehead had increased its volume considerably compared to other mornings, as the chats between illiterate teens about the deceased president were nothing more of stupid suppositions and pitiful attempts of maintaining a political conversation, and of course, between them, their arguments gave them the false illusion of real knowledge and understanding.
David didn’t blame the students as much as he blamed the educational system and the media in general, television might have attained color recently, but the press was as yellow as always.
He kept walking all the way to his classroom, after having a cup of coffee and nicely greeted the teachers in the lounge, like he always does. He never followed up the conversation after the salutation; he despised almost every opinion coming from that “bunch of lazy well-offs” as he called them. Why was he still a teacher? He even asked himself that question more times that he’d like to admit, but the answer was always the same: he expects to inspire the few talented students that go by him. He daily realizes the puerility of his intentions, and that was not a reason to abandon them. Now less than ever, he was surprised by how his subject had not yet disappeared from the program of studies, given the present not only national, but worldwide situation. The world had taken a no way back direction to life as machines, consumer machines, and for this, people hardly needed a critical point of view or even thinking more than you’re supposed to.
And that was what he was trying to implant on the young minds he had the possibility of building, so to speak, he found that the best way of living was if you had contact with philosophy. That’s what he taught at that University, Introduction to Philosophical Doctrines. Of course he had to keep his classes limited to what the U.S. Department of Education demanded, however, he always tried to ask the right questions to the students so they would reach the truth and that way he could embed that protest spirit that was beginning to grow strong, and this cheered him up a bit, some kids had been opposing to the lethargy established by this new industrial times. They had to had one right at least, he agreed with the protest, or at least the main idea of it.