Interpretation of “Must” (Of course we mustn't) by Vicky Moscholiou

For this entry I have picked a beautiful old Greek song which was originally performed by Vicky Moscholiou (Βίκυ Μοσχολιού). Here is a decent recording I could find:

Also check the masterful cover by Socratis Malamas (Σωκράτης Μάλαμας): (I prefer this one because I love his voice).

Below are the lyrics, my translation of them, and philosophical commentary.

Πρέπει (Ασφαλώς και δεν πρέπει)

Εμρηνεία:  Βίκυ Μοσχολιού
Στίχοι:    Άκης Πάνου
Μουσική:   Άκης Πάνου

Ασφαλώς και δεν πρέπει να μας δούνε παρέα
Επεράσαμε ωραία λίγες ώρες μαζί
Είναι η πρώτη μας νύχτα, πρώτη και τελευταία
Ασφαλώς και δεν πρέπει να μας δούνε παρέα

Ασφαλώς και το ξέρω πως δεν είμαστε ίδια
Μοναχά στα παιχνίδια είμαστε όλοι παιδιά
Και αν εσύ το ξεχάσεις η ζωή στο θυμίζει
Και πεθαίνει η αγάπη και σωπαίνει η καρδιά

Είμαι εκείνη που είμαι και έχεις όνομα κάποιο
Σε χρυσό κόσμο σάπιο δε χωράω να μπω
Κάνε εκείνο που πρέπει, όλα τα επιτρέπει
Το δικό σου το πρέπει ένα πρέπει θαμπό
Must (Of course it musn't)

Singer:  Vicky Moscholiou
Lyrics:  Akis Panou
Music:   Akis Panou

Of course we musn't be seen together
Had a good time for a few hours together
It is our first night, first and last
Of course we musn't be seen together

Of course I know we aren't the same
Only in games everybody is a child
And if you forget it life reminds you
And love dies and the heart remains silent

I am who I am and you have a certain name
In a golden rotten world I can't fit in
Do what you must, it allows everything
Your must is a blurred must

The apparent message of this song is that of forbidden love, of an affair that cannot materialise under the prevailing circumstances. Though there is nothing particularly erotic or romantic in the lyrics. They are but a description of how norms, roles, and social stratification or segregation work.

[ Read/watch: Expectations, rules, and role-playing ]

Each person has their status. It is not about the person, but the institution. Prince William is not William. The actual human being does not matter all that much. The focus is on the office and how the person performs in accordance with its demands. And if William forgets, life (i.e. others) will remind him that he is the Prince.

Either we conform with our role or have to escape from its grip. To rebel successfully or die trying. Else we embody the institution: we become the bundle of all those “must” and “must not” that are fastened upon the cultural construct we represent.

[ Read/watch On insecurity, confidence, and aloofness ]

How class or caste can divide people is quite clear. Though consider other types of relationships that suffer from discrimination and prejudice, such as a person from a deeply theistic community loving an atheist, instances of homosexuality, a foreigner in a racist milieu… “Of course it mustn’t” happen because the prevailing values and traditions demand otherwise.

Values and traditions do not speak, have no opinion, and no means by which to carry out actions. These are ideas that are shared by people and only become actualised through the behaviour of those individuals. They are preserved, substantiated, and enforced intersubjectively.

The “must” or “mustn’t” are products of institution: the process of enacting concepts as enforceable rules. The social whole applies its notions and works for their preservation or proliferation. Through this mechanism, the effective emergent organism reproduces itself in the form of intergenerational representations, else culture. Seen in macroscopic terms, this happens organically.

To institute is to set apart an opinion and exalt it as the right one. Not in a spirit of openness, but as a matter of favouring a certain view of the world. The instituted reality necessarily is opinionated and resistant to counterpoints.

[ Read/watch: Conventions, relativism, and cosmopolitanism ]

It is common for private choices or group behaviours to be justified by the presence of certain institutions. Values and traditions serve as the indisputable authority that people invoke in support of their deeds. When someone appeals to authority, they are not really interested in deliberation. They have no intent to cooperate in a joint pursuit to figure out what the truth is. The authority is absolute. The “must” or “mustn’t” tolerates no alternatives.

Especially in so-called “Western” countries, we can been conditioned to think that these sort of issues do not exist. We believe we have perfectly open societies that simply tolerate everything. Love everywhere! Yet hidden behind that facade of superficial “progress” are deep-seated biases and simmering culture wars.

Every society comes with a latent capacity of intolerance and totalitarianism. Those who think otherwise, those who hope that some constitution or legal document will by itself safeguard fundamental rights are naive. What is instituted, is continuously affirmed. What is instituted can be reinstituted. Freedoms can be rolled back. Absolutism may be established as the new normal. A civilisation declines when its members grow complacent.

The specifics of the forbidden love, then, are a reminder of what the effective instituted reality is at any given moment. Going by its precepts, we mustn’t proceed. But why should we provide assent to them, anyway? Let love speak. Enough with the “must”!