Well as I’m sure you’ve heard, it’s been snowing lustily all over most parts of Romania, including here in magical Unicorn City, and looking out my window is now as pretty as a postcard.
In fact, I believe it’s STILL snowing as I write this but because it’s the first snow of the season so far people are (mostly) taking it in stride, not panicking or whining or trembling in fear of “The White Apocalypse” or otherwise indulging in typical tropey hysteria that an ordinary winter phenomenon will wipe out all civilization as we know it. So that’s a nice change.
Today is also Election Day, when far fewer than 50% of the population will go to the polls and vote for members of parliament. It’s likely that roughly half of the total votes will go to the USL, which means it is expected that they will be crowing about how “popular” they are after receiving the support of 1/4 of the population.
Or it could be that the results are far more mixed and then a series of shaky alliances will be formed, leading rapidly to betrayals and defections when problems arise (as they will), complete with lots of finger pointing and accusations.
Either way, whichever party or alliance “wins”, they will then enact a few laws to crow about, pass about 100 laws and emergency decrees that people will hate, blame any shortcomings on the opposition and take one faint word of praise from the EU or any of its constituent bodies and make it seem like an epic Homeric ballad.
I like to think of Romania’s government as an old steam train. The people are sequestered in the passenger cars and whether they complain or don’t complain, nothing they do will change where the train is headed. Meanwhile up in the locomotive, the team supposed to be driving the train is constantly busy slugging it out in a perennial fistfight, each person struggling over the controls. The EU meanwhile is constantly delivering free coal so that the train never runs out of fuel but this just causes the people in the locomotive to fight over the coal as well.
And while the passengers are sighing with frustration and there’s a vicious battle going on in the locomotive, the minions of the IMF and World Bank are silently and efficiently laying down rails and cross-ties as quickly as they can, confident that no matter who ends up winning supremacy on the train, ultimately it can only go where the track leads.
Yesterday my perennially drunk landlord, a man so absorbed in his addiction that I haven’t seen him sober even once in years (you might remember my story about him called Plumbing Fun on a Saturday Night and others), came over and we had a brief chat about the elections.
His strategy is to vote for whichever party has the least chance to win (at the moment I think that’d probably be PER). Why? Because if he votes for someone who wins and then the politician ends up doing nothing that s/he promised (as is likely to happen) or turns out to be a thief and a liar, then he won’t feel disappointed. My landlord doesn’t want to feel like some corrupt douchebag got into office with his help and so to avoid making that mistake, he always votes for a politician who is sure to lose.
Folks, you can’t make up that kind of cynicism, all this from a constantly drunk man who put in his fair share of years under the old Communism regime. I certainly understand where he’s coming from, as well as I understand the lunacy going on in various parts of this country, such as Claudia Boghicevici’s husband getting the shit beat out of him by USL “youths”. I also understand why millions of people won’t even bother to vote at all today.
When I was younger I used to watch a rather insipid show called The Greatest American Hero. But it had an interesting premise, that an ordinary person was given a magical suit with amazing abilities but then the instruction booklet was lost. So in every episode he was constantly trying to figure out how the fiddily f*** to use the suit, which sometimes worked and did awesome things but most of the time was a disaster.
Well that’s kind of Romania, eh? Shot the old dictator and then inherited powerful abilities but nobody ever got the instruction manual on what exactly a representative democracy even means. Okay you go to the polls every once in a while and vote (like today) but then what happens the rest of the time?
I’ve reached out to a few NGOs here and other organizations and they’re doing their best and occasionally making a little progress but honestly nothing they are doing is really reaching the folks on the ground, the ordinary people in their everyday lives.
All summer I was struggling to understand what role *I* could play and the answer that I came up with is Project Iceberg, which will be unveiled in the early part of next year. Until then I can’t get into any details but let’s just say that it’s my portrayal of “how to use the suit” or how to make democracy work on a real, grounded, everyday level.
Wherever you are, be sure to stay warm and don’t forget to vote for Aurelia Cristea if you live (and will be voting) in Cluj! :)
Note: just so it’s 100000% clear, in no way whatsoever am I being paid or compensated to endorse her candidacy nor is she or her team in any way officially desirous of any endorsement on my part. I just know good people when I meet them and all I am doing is expressing my own personal opinion here.
So this is my note to People Reading This In The Future Who Are Too Stupid To Figure Out Things Which Should Be Obvious and yes I mean you, sir!