Citizen’s desperation, political attraction

Watched on television, 2011 Romania is a country of torments, dissatisfaction, frustration of all kinds, poverty and desperation. Naturally, the appetite of commercial TV stations for tragedy, for speculating on general as well as individual issues of the society is well-known. In Romania today, even tragedy is only valid for the media as long as it brings good viewing ratings, afterwards entering into an eclipse of public interest. I found interesting the brief, yet very deep analysis by Andrei Plesu in the ‘Dilema veche’ publication: ‘Using general desperation as source of rating, turning it into televised show or political weapon, hunting suicidal cases in order to parade Christian love and civic feeling is obscene.

And also irresponsible. I admit that, whenever I see a former despaired man recycled into a political commentator on one or another TV show, or simply brought into the studio accompanied by feral comments, just to break his co-nationals’ heart I believe that, I suspect a harmonious equal footing co-operation between the government and mass-media, some kind of conspiracy meant to keep the general state of desperation.’

I admit that the idea of this column came exactly from the lines reproduced above. But, to me, it seems that the true, profound desperation is the silent one, the one of the many who have not enough income, of the ones who are ill and hopeless and of the ones the crisis has put in a situation audio-visual media overlooks as it doesn’t make a rating. Good ratings are ensured by a general deploring of the situation of large masses without identity, an amorphous and impersonal mass which cannot either confirm or deny the situation depicted. But there is something else, even those who are in a critical situation have the at least odd inclination to watch the death hymn performed for them on TV screens.

Politicians are the first who want to derive a benefit at the expense of people who are already despaired or on the verge of desperation. The government wants to sell at reform price rushed or despaired measures to rescue the economy. It has thrown Romania into debt with the IMF, WB and EC, as well as with local commercial banks. It has raised VAT from 19 to 24 per cent and even the IMF people admit that the effects the measure has had on the budget fall short of expectations. It has operated wage cuts by 25 per cent and lay-offs, has frozen hiring in the public sector, without making any clear decisions on how to conduct public procurements – the ‘spot’ where public money leaks in the absence of thorough controls. Pensions are being taxed and, more recently, retired persons are also supposed to pay the 5.5 per cent social security subscription. All this is presented to us by both President Traian Basescu and PM Emil Boc as achievements in the area of reforms. The only real reform is, perhaps, the re-calculation of pensions in accordance with individual subscriptions, but, as seen with the military pensions, the idea is not at all easy to digest or implement. Moreover, the inequity rests as long as selected social categories (such as justice or national security professionals) to which the mainstream method of calculation does not apply.

With the pretext of making labour market ‘flexible’, a battle is now being fought over the new Labour Code. It may be true that the current Labour Code is still under the influence of the relevant legislation prior to 1990, with employers often complaining about difficulties encountered when trying to downsize their staff. However, the step now taken with the new Code is in the exact opposite direction, is an extremely tough one making (at least in the currently proposed version) the employees modern slaves on the employer’s ‘plantation’. In the current context, the limitation of employees’ rights (their only advantages in the ‘fight’ with the employers) shows the desperation of a government that has run out of options when it comes to procuring money for the budget or, in the worst case for the public, to how to pay the citizens less. Didn’t the head of state say some time ago that the individual does not represent the concern of the state?
On the other hand, the opposition is not striking a false note either. In their tooth and nail fighting with the power, the parties make a fuss of Romanians’ desperation, while voting in Parliament to keep their own privileges, obviously financed with tax-payers’ money. On the other hand, they bring to the fore cases such as the one featuring Social-Democrat Constantin Nicolescu, President of the Arges County Council, which, in their substance, have nothing to do with democracy, or with people’s welfare and interests. Remanded in custody for an initial period of 29 days, Nicolescu suffered a stroke, was taken to hospital and was operated on. As a result, PSD rises against the power accusing it of interfering with justice affairs and organising pickets at ruling party PDL headquarters on Monday. However, the evidence that has become public in the meanwhile seems to incriminate Nicolescu. What is the relevance of the case? In PSD’s view, it is fight for democracy. In PDL’s view, it is pressure put on justice. In the view of the regular citizen, it is just fighting for power, something that is not of particular interest to him and that does not affect him in any way.

But, obviously, they are all fighting for democracy – a less and less interesting subjects as far as Romanians are concerned, whose desperations is making them regret the regime before 1989: a recent poll suggests over 60 per cent of the people deplore Nicolae Ceausescu’s disappearance and the lack of the job security they had during communism.

But, if anyone is despaired about the future of democracy, the Minister of Regional Development and Tourism, Elena Udrea, reassures us all, referring to the president: ‘No one should remain with the impression that there is a premise, a trace of intention for dictatorship, I have not seen a more democratic president than Traian Basescu, I have not seen so much press freedom and freedom of speech.’ We can only suspect that Mrs. Udrea is a big fan of Fashion TV or Fine Living as long as she cannot think of any other more democratic president.

On the other hand, PM Emil Boc is a courageous prime-minister, because it is hard to be one when there is no money in the budget and when you cannot pay pensions and wages, the same minister tells us. Then, Mr. Boc’s courage must be commensurate with the citizen’s desperation.

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