Let’s Talk About The Flipping Witch Tax


I don’t talk about Twitter too much but the truth is that I use it quite a lot. Amongst watching Markovian chains unfold in real time and other fun with ngrams, it’s an extremely useful tool to see what people (worldwide) are saying about Romania at any given time.

Imagine one of those TV-style heart monitors in a hospital with the green background and the line that spikes and beeps. That’s exactly what happens on Twitter when a story (like the guy who jumped in the parliament) gets repeated, mentioned and commented upon by hundreds, if not thousands, of people.

Right around January 1 there were several such stories but the one that got repeated the most ended up in the New York Times on January 6. Therefore it is now officially a story millions of people heard about Romania and lots of people have messaged me personally to ask my take on it.

It’s full of all kinds of delightful jewels, such as:

Superstitions are no laughing matter in Romania — the land of the medieval ruler who inspired the “Dracula” tale — and have been part of its culture for centuries.

President Traian Basescu and his aides have been known to wear purple on certain days, supposedly to ward off evil. And the Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife, Elena, had their own personal witch.

I seriously do not have the mental patience to deconstruct the entire article (including the “witch” hilariously named Bratara – hopa!) but let’s look at that paragraph.

The verb “inspired” is incorrectly used here. I know that sounds petty but if you’re going to call yourself a respected newspaper, get your words right, son!

There were actually two Dracula “tales”, one written by Germans shortly after Vlad massacred the merchants of Brasov (1400s) and one written by an Irishman (in 1897) who never set foot in Romania.

Therefore Stoker was inspired by Vlad Tepes, or the story of Vlad Tepes. Vlad Tepes didn’t inspire Stoker because they never met.

And the German residents of Brasov who wrote the first “tales” sure as heck were not doing it out of “inspiration” from Vlad either.

As for superstitions and personal witches, Ronald Reagan’s wife had her own personal witch too. So what? Get over it.

The rest of the article (as well as other ones I see regularly) are of the same mentality always – Those Wacky Primitive Romanians. Yes, don’t you know they wear bear skins and hang up garlic for good luck and dance around and shake tambourines and dig up the undead and cast spells and all the rest? Yeehaw.

Romania, how can I say this? The rest of the world laughs at you and considers you like that poor bear they keep leashed on a chain outside of Peles, fun to take photographs of and show your friends. The more savage you act, the more the tourists like it.

Now (hopefully) you understand why my summer video project of shooting and creating an actual “TV show” is of such importance. Millions of fat westerners were chuckling over their cornflakes, reading that witch article, snickering at the far away savage, primitive Romanians and their goofy ways. Then tomorrow they’ll read some article about the poor gypsies and the starving orphans.

It’s the narrative that needs changing. And let’s face it, people don’t really read that much anymore. My book could be #1 in all categories in the entire English-speaking world and be featured in the Oprah Book Club and still most people wouldn’t know anything about it.

People respond to video, that’s the sad but fun but true fact. So it’s time to pull a judo move on all these views of Romania, flipping them on their head, where Romania is an awesome and cool place and gypsies, bears, witches and all the rest are part of it. There won’t be any sad faces involved, it’s just going to be some pure, old-fashioned fun and absolutely no one has to be ridiculed, belittled or laughed at (except for maybe me cuz hey, I can barely speak English these days! :P).

So there you go – now I talked about the flipping witch tax!

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