“…the Vlach people are completely unfaithful and rotten… they lack loyalty toward God or emperor, toward relative or friend… they seek to deceive everyone and they lie and steal a lot… taking daily oaths toward their friends and easily breaking their vows and also entering blood brotherhoods and godfatherships and imagining that with this they will deceive the simple-minded and because they never remained loyal to someone” – Kekaumenos, 11th Century chronicler from Thessaly.
That’s the view that the Byzantine Empire’s chroniclers had, over 9 centuries ago, on the Dacians and Wallachians in the Balkans, at a time when they were under the direct rule of one of the biggest power colossi that faded away in time immemorial.
I always said that history represents an issue of subjective perception of some events, people or times, taken through the filter of their contemporary witnesses, who are human in their turn too, under the influence of their time.
Now, in the 21st Century, the writings of chroniclers who lived hundreds of years ago may seem completely subjective and unfriendly toward our ancestors who were in fact considered, by other contemporary chronicles, “a brave people in matters of war.”
But back then, just as now, did everything depend solely on the sympathies or antipathies that other peoples had toward us, as a people, as humans, as presences in a temporal, geographical, social and political space?
I’m Romanian and contemporary to this century and today’s Romania. The 21st Century one. I crossed the closing stages of the 20th Century and entered the 21st during a time in my life in which I can say that maturity allowed me to observe, carefully and with minimal subjectivity, the times and the way in which the country I live in and its people managed or failed to change some of the bad for the better, some of the fewer for the more.
And today, in 2017, more than 27 years since the moment when Romania experienced the biggest political-social revolution in the last half a century, I often wonder whether the people I am part of by birth really underwent a great and important change for the better.
In the last 28 years, I lived almost on a daily basis, as I’m sure millions of other Romanians did and do, with the feeling that things are not going as they should and something is fundamentally wrong in the DNA of my people.
Because, day in day out, for well over 28 years, I have seen ever more dissolution, dissatisfaction, lying, superficiality, theft, a worrisome, exponential, proliferation of the job poorly made or not made at all, a common aberrant tendency toward libel and the destruction of the last remnants of the moral, cultural and traditional values of this people.
We revolted in 1989 and, since then, we have remained coupled to this eternal purposeless revolt with a variable cause that has in the meantime become a leitmotif for anything that starts with anti- and ends in political.
We are more pro-European, pro-American, pro-West, pro-wellness, pro-happiness, pro-vegan, pro-right or pro-left, pro-Schengen, pro-Euro and pro- anything that is not ours and that we find more interesting or worthier of taking into account because it comes from more progressive and foreign countries and civilisations.
We are more of anything else and less of us. But who are we and how are we in fact?
Was it sufficient for others to give us a spur toward liberty and dust off decades of dictatorship, oppression and stultification for us to be able to become more Romanian, more patriotic and more aware of who we really are?
Maybe too much liberty, after decades of moral and mental imprisonment, was for the worse rather than the better. Just like too much liberty given to a child could transform them into victims instead of heroes, through their simple inability to understand the true meaning of liberty, the good and the positivity that they confer to themselves and to others with whom they interact and will interact in life.
We are free. But are we wise too?
As I was saying, I don’t know the actual, gregarious answer to these dilemmas that have been consuming our national identity for hundreds of years. But I know that today’s Romania is not the Romania we hoped for and dreamed about at the dawn of those years that followed the alleged revolution of 1989.
It is said a person’s change stems from their consciousness. From that awakening to a reality that, whether we like it or not, is the only possible variant of truth.
However, it seems to me that the awakening that should have happened to us is far from existing in the reality in which we are living and moving physically, socially, humanly.
We converted this reality into a single possible variant. That of the continuous revolt against everything political.
The transfer of consciousness took place against the backdrop of the revolt accumulated in decades of communism, which yeasted and spilled over and has continued to systematically spill over for over twenty years, channelled and well-directed by any attribute of Western modernism that we gained with difficulty and which we barely understand, released through a unique and deleterious personal and national channel – the political one.
It’s all whine, woefulness and fury toward the political class of the last 28 years. We got rid of Ceausescu only to complain more – day by day, hour by hour, for years on end – about Iliescu, Basescu, Constantinescu, Iohannis, Ponta, Nastase, Dragnea, Tariceanu and all that derives from them, up to the ninth political spoke.
We hardly get over a media scandal headlined in large font and presented – first thing in the morning or late at night – as being a bombshell, a cataclysm, a devastating blow, that we jump even more aggressively and hysterically than before at any jugular in reach. Whether we are talking about the jugular of those close to us or a purely virtual one hideously and compulsively exposed and undressed on the stalls of television sets, personal computers or in the markets and streets.
We are enraged by the simple utterance of words the likes of “politician,” “political,” “binomial,” “system,” “structures,” “barons” etc., taking us to nervous paroxysm that violently or slowly corrodes us, certainly doing it at a rhythm in which, just a few generations from now, we will witness more national coverage given to prisons, rest homes and hospitals than to schools, playgrounds and relaxation spots, national well-being.
Out of principle, we have become allergic to all that is political, up to suffocation and the loss of any trace of reason. But is the political the great allergen that stirs so much revolt, discomfort and emotional rash in us as a nation and as people?
The answer is simple and can be found in parts of this whole called a country. At home, at work, on the street, at the market, at the movies, at the restaurant, at the mall, on holiday or elsewhere, at every step you run up against behavioural anti-models that do not have the slightest de facto link with Liviu Dragnea and the way he defines himself politically, or with Klaus Iohannis or any other political element and entity that could become a national role model and avatar in terms of civilised behaviour, respect for the other, consideration for people and for human values such as love, care, warm and disinterested attention toward the problems and desires of the person close to us, taking care of a child, animal or elder person, attention and care for nature, for the common sense we owe to each other and to everyone to the extent we would like to see or demand the same from others.
We are asking politicians to be fair, honest, dignified, elegant, well-intentioned, open to and careful with our needs. We are asking them not to lie to us and not to humiliate us because we are humans and, for centuries, generations of humans before us fought for some fundamental human rights that other nations, which have grown civilised long before us, saw fit to transpose in Charters and Constitutions and make them the foundation stones of the states in which they live. Not just formally and in a petty political or philosophical manner, but practically, through everything that defines the day-to-day life of each person.
However, let’s not forget, the political is but a reflection of what the social represents. Politicians are but the product and exponential sum of the people that they are part of and that they represent.
So, where does the real political revolution and the great inner change, not just transfiguration, of this element of state organisation begin?
I believe we missed something fundamental in 1989. Namely, the fact that the true and most important and urgent revolution should have been that of social consciousness which would have become, in the end, naturally and positively, a great, holy and beneficial Romanian political revolution.
“Thus, let’s not brood over and take fright thinking that the Romanian world is rottener than others. No, definitely; this people is not a rotten people, it’s just not yet cooked; it’s not yet properly yeasted. It’s still not clear of the centuries-old filth under which it smouldered with broken heart; it’s yet to believe in justice; it’s yet unable to raise from its midst the one who could lead it; it doesn’t yet know who to listen to – because for the time being it trust no one… Bitten once by a snake, it dreads even rope. It is yet to reach the point of properly considering what is being put up against it; and thus, it is yet to understand that it’s up to it to fix its fate and own it in full – just as it is fair and just as it’s going to happen at one point.” – Caragiale to Vlahuta, in a letter from 1894.