When my big brother recently mentioned one of the songs we loved to listen to and sing along to as children, I thought he was going to get me in the mood for some good old sentimental dwelling on the past. I should have known better. Mr. Academia is known to read between the lines, analyse, dissect, anatomise. And even the most innocent of all childhood memories end up under his razor sharp mental scalpel, cut open and left to bleed with a simple comment: ‘Did you know that the song about the digger and the house was a praise for socialism, condemning Western capitalism?’
In disbelief I sneaked onto youtube to find the song he accused of being contaminated with radical socialistic ideas. When I found the song and started listening to it, I almost fell off the chair. I couldn’t believe my ears. Here is a rough translation of the lyrics:
It is cold in the morning when Willibald starts his work. He climbs into his digger and starts digging a big whole. His co-workers come and join in, they build the basement and soon a house is emerging.
Only very posh people will be living in the house, as the rent is very expensive – 1,000 quit. Who on earth is getting the rent? The boss!
The boss is making it big time; he owns the house, the crane, the digger and all the tools, that sucks!
The stupid boss lingers around the house and talks too loud. His house shall be worth a lot of money. You can live in there, if you can afford it. If you are poor, don’t even try. So mean!…
[lyrics from ‘Baggerfuehrer Willibald’ by Dieter Süverkrüp]
What were my parents thinking? I agree, it is somewhat funny that I have been innocently trumpeting political ideas without understanding them, and even funnier that I took a subtle ‘hint’ from my brother and me reaching the ancient age of almost 33 to realise, BUT WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?
Both my parents come from fairly traditional, conservative, middle-class backgrounds. I have been brought up with a vast range of values from this side, too, especially after spending much time with my grandparents. Unsurprisingly, I was a little troubled as a kid, unsure of which ideas I would like to follow and call my own convictions.
Looking back, I am not sure my parents have been sure about theirs either. It slightly bothers me to have been exploited in favour of their half-baked political ideas. To her defence, I think I should mention that when my mum was my age, she was divorced and already had my brother, (then 11), me (8), my younger brother (3) and my younger sister (1). On top of it, she was the breadwinner and paying the mortgage. Songs that go like ‘girls are just as smart as boys; they can run, spit and hit’ were for sure meant to give me strength and confidence, but at the same time, seeing her little girl singing these lyrics confidently reassured her in the life she was leading.
Alerted and appalled, I searched for another childhood favourite. An Italian love song (so I thought), that I remember my father playing for me on the piano. I found it. Turns out ‘bella ciao’ is indeed a beautiful Italian song, but one that mourns the deaths of Italian Partisans during WW2. I am depressed now.
My political inspired upbringing did neither make me an overly political engaged person, nor a man-hating, overly emancipated feminist. I believe in the ideas of privately owned wealth and chose to be a stay-at-home-mum for little L during her first two years to come. But as a result of it all I am lacking any innocent nursery rhyme repertoire to pass on to little L. Any recommendations appreciated.