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This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Monday, November 8, 2010

The need for heroes?

Sarah in Romania has another great blog today on the Paunescu obsequies phenomenon which is well worth reading for its analysis of the possible social meaning of the outpourings of emotion and rhetoric which greeted this Poet and Senator’s death on Friday. First there is the issue of his status as a poet on which I’ve already made a comment. Strictly, of course, I’m not qualified to comment since I’m not able to read his poems in Romanian. But the mere fact that his poetry has not been translated into English seemed to me a fairly powerful signal that he was not regarded internationally – although Daniela tells me that his style would make him very difficult to translate. The Romanian Voice website offers 60 of his poems (in Romanian) – as against 28 of Sorescu’s. Perhaps he can be regared like Britain’s Roger McGough – one of the Liverpool poets of my generation whom I throughly enjoyed but was not considered then quite fit to join the poetic canon. Although Daniela also tells me that his poetry was so powerful that he was the subject of study even when still at University. He certainly was a larger than life figure as you can see on his blog which – given the life he led – was an intermittent one. We normally associate poetry with a quiet, reclusive life!
Then there is the issue of the overblown nature of the response to his death. Sarah is pretty outspoken on this -
I have come to see what a well known journalist meant when he said that Roumanians cannot discuss in a civil way, allowing themselves to respectfully disagree with other points of view. They do not debate, they only rebuke and call names. A very good example is here on this blog following a posting yesterday of a superb article in Vox Publica. I didnt remove the comment of invectives since everyone is entitled to express an opinion. But it seems that everyone who believes Adrian Paunescu was a paragon of virtue refuses to listen to the other side of the story. There is mass impertinence, rudeness, a refusal to take on board those who lived this time, knew him, were part of his circle and thus know very well what they are talking about. Several of these people are excellent journalists and also friends of mine who are always careful of what they say and how they express themselves for they have emerged from the times when they had to be very careful indeed. I have been profoundly disappointed by people on the 'he was an angel and so what if he adored Ceausescu' fence because I considered them better armed with reason, were far more capable of listening and were better educated than to be as vitriolic as some have been. This has been a very sad result for me of Paunescu's death - without it, I would not have witnessed this seemingly national feature and I still cannot bear to believe it is true.
And finally, it has very much brought home the point to me that Roumania is in dire need of someone or something to be proud of. The country is full of corrupt mafioso types on the wealthy list and there seems little chance of them ever vanishing - Vintu, Patriciu, Voicu, Gheara etc... and lets not even get started on the government. Of course there is need for a hero. Of course there is need for some kind of outburst of grief, of pride... even if it's not for the right person. It doesnt matter really. As the justice system proves itself time and time again to be one of injustice, the education system goes from bad to worse, the health system - well that you know as it's one of my repetitive lamentations, the capital mutilated of any beauty Ceausescu left behind...the list of disasters go on and on and Roumanians have to live with it every day to the extent that many friends of mine dont even bother with the newspapers anymore for they are totally saturated by bad news. There is such desire for a glint, a spark, a ray of hope, something to grab on to, someone to be proud of, to show to the world...and the death of Adrian Paunescu is the one. The country of my heart is in moral crisis...
The more disappointing the present is, the more one yearns for the past and Roumania seems to be suffering from a very dangerous form of amnaesia. They urgently need some kind of injection of clearer judgement for they are blinded by nationalist talk and mystical rhetoric
It’s good she brings in the concept of „civility” – as a Brit I have always been struck with the adversarial nature of discussion here – at least amongst its (highly) educated people. Intellectualism is alive and well here – and is perhaps one of the reasons to explain why elite people are so distanced from one another in a constant struggle for position. The last 2 decades has also brought the empty loneliness of conspicious consumption which is not so obvious in some neighbouring countries which also went through the communist experience such as Bulgaria and Slovakia. Hardly surprising that there seems to be a search for something to be proud of. People are alienated from one another. There is no vision or force capable of binding people together.

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