felons (Image source) I read this wonderful article in Hotnews today and would like to share it with you. Bravo to the author Vlad Mixich for his precision, honesty and insights. It really does merit a reading amongst the anglophones who love Romania and who struggle to understand the results of the local elections that took place over the weekend. Perhaps there are some Romanians who will be touched by its thought-provoking content too.

Those who say that this article speaks of nothing but stupid triviality say so because they live with corruption and dishonesty every single day and it isn’t, therefore, worth discussing. But for those of us who cannot get our heads around how anyone would vote criminals into chairs as important as city mayor, it makes an excellent stab at explaining the Romanian point of view – and her psyche.

Such a deep-seated complacency for corruption and dishonesty can never truly be dealt with. The idea that someone like Edwards here in the US (for example) could EVER be mayor after what he did is preposterous. But to the average Romanian, a dodgy mayor? So what?

To share this splendid article with you, I have written something between a translation and a summary with the main points as I have understood them. It is incomplete, so do click on the original link (first line of this blog) if you read Romanian to see the whole text. Please also note that when "I" is mentioned, it refers to the author, Vlad Mixich.

So, here we go with the translation/summary… and thank you once again to Vlad Mixich for such an excellent, thought-provoking article:

crooked mayors(Image source) Why do Romanians vote mayors with a criminal record? All the files initiated by prosecutors against the mayors of six large cities were weightless in voters’ decisions to apply a stamp in their favour. Even their slogans omit mention of honesty or justice – they only mention ‘trust’ and ‘love’.

The Romanian voter and the criminal mayor can be likened to a couple in which the husband slaps his wife about, but only from time to time. The man takes care of the household. The wife is used to it. She feels the slaps only when they don’t happen.

“We are all on the same road” says one of the logos belonging to a criminal mayor - one that pocketed 3 million euros from public funds, no less. Why on earth shouldn’t you vote for him again?!? Not only the party members and members of influential networks that milk the general public voted but also jerks, professors, idiots and smart-arses. The majority all put a stamp for a criminal mayor.

Why?

-         Because “all of them steal anyway”.  We are a people of cynics and realists. We know that all of them steal and whoever is not is suspect - the generalisation of theft has transformed it into a way of life.

-         “He stole but he also accomplished something.” The criminal mayors have discovered that the violets and paint can successfully replace hospitals and good highways. In a grey country where apartment buildings haven’t been washed or painted in 30 years, a facelift can attract not only eyes but votes, too.

-         Those who have this ‘theft gene’ are actually respected. The Romanian voter lives in a country in which everyone is trying to outdo their neighbour. When the son comes home from the baccalaureat, the father doesn’t ask, “did you do well?” but “did you manage it?” To ‘manage in life’ is the dream of any mother for her child.

-         Poverty influences one's mentality, and money in a poor country where appearances count (ie. brand names to show off, etc.) remains the ultimate proof of success, regardless of how it was made.

buletinvot(Image source) This is the mentality for the majority in today’s Romania. Those who put their stamp on criminal mayors do it because they identify with them and dream the same dreams.

There are exceptions, of course – the 10% in Bucharest who voted for Nicusor Dan.

I heard and read much from this 10% rejoicing in their percentage. At Nicusor Dan’s HQ, the results were met with cheers. What does this 10% mean? It means that WE exist, WE who are incapable of voting criminal mayors. How does this oasis of culture and concerts exist in Bucharest? It is simply who we are. A couple of tens of thousand of us. No more, no less. Perhaps the size of a stadium full of Steaua fans. We have then demonstrated that we are the 10% and that we count. We have proven that we too have a little muscle, maybe more, in the light-weight category.

But do you think anyone cares? Does the name Horia Mocanu mean anything to you? In this same Bucharest, the candidate of Dan Diaconescu’s party got as many votes as Nicusor Dan, but for those voting for general mayor, the names of Horia Mocanu and Nicusor Dan meant nothing. The voices they hear every day are not ours but Diaconescu, Becali and Irinel – they dominate today and model the synapses of Romanians in that struggle between a 'good' and an 'un-good' Romania, not by percentage in the voting booth, but by influence. Education and media are the two channels through which society is moulded.

greedy1s(Image source) Today in Romania, both are dominated by the stereo-types of Diaconescu-Mang. People with money who endorse this model come from the world of ‘criminal mayor’ – a world in which theft is just a detail. None of them are interested in supporting a school in a ‘good’ Romania, which is what WE should be doing, especially when we have found something to support.

We are good at talking, but how many of us would actually be interested in spending $10 a month sustaining quality journalism, for example, whether it be Hotnews, Dilema…? In the US, I talked to the director of an on-line paper with 7000 subscribers, each paying $10 a month to read quality articles. Access to this publication is free to everyone and those 7000 subscribers consider that they do their bit to fulfill their civic duty. You’ll say, “that's America” but aren’t we not the most westernised and civilised of Romanians?

You’ll say I’m an idealist, but I’m not. Dan Voiculescu is the latest Romanian to have started a school of journalism. Dan Puric goes through hundreds of villages and small town schools to talk to adolescents. We hold summer schools every year and tens of motivational classes that are useful but not essential. There are foundations that persevere and help pupils and students practically in excellence here in Romania but we can count them on one hand, such as the model ‘New Europe College’ founded by Andrei Plesu. They are very few or supported by foreign funding. There are a couple of serious programmes in which people like us, those 10% go to or three times a month to a village where we tell children about art, history and common sense. But alas, they are so few. And it’s not the money that is lacking. You’ll say once again that I’m an idealist and that I’m not giving the famous example of Melania Medeleanu who continues to do this, but I’ll give you instead the example of my mother in an isolated village in Oltenia. She brings professors, artists and scientists from the city for conferences dedicated to the young. She even has a site, www.casapentrucultura.ro . For almost a year, she has had a constant following of ten young ladies from the village and so the voices of Diaconescu and Becali are not the only ones to be heard. She is not a wealthy woman. She has a decent pension and a big heart. But she is alone and it's a shame she can’t talk to more people while Diaconescu’s voice is heard by tens of thousands.

The major discovery though, is that WE EXIST!! If ten thousand each talk to ten adolescents, isn’t this the principle?

To put a stamp for Nicusor Dan cost us nothing. We gave a couple of minutes of our free time and we left the polling centre convinced that we’d done something that made sense. This is because we still live in some kind of under-developed democracy where we are still seriously looking for fairy-tale characters such as a political leader without a party, clean, with strong principles and capable of governing. This doesn’t exist in Romania, and the clean and white will never be a position to influence our present and future. Even if we know that each man is meant to disappoint us, whether his name is Nicusor Dan, Arafat, Ungureanu or whatever, we always continue to hunt for immaculate princes. In this case, we find him, give him a ‘like’ and add a stamp if he wants one. In reality, it means little. In order to have the country we want, a country in which the synapses of the majority are NOT modelled according to criminal mayors, we need something else. Only a stamp applied on a piece of paper won’t do it.

We, the 10%, must mobilise and really put our shoulders into it. And we, the 10%, know damn well how much work and patience is required to build what we desire.