The Script

The other day, in talking with The Woman’s parents, they began to lecture me on how things were in the Communist days. Out of respect, I listened attentively and said nothing in disagreement. But the truth is that I’ve heard every word before (sometimes almost identically) from many other people, many times before.

I’ve referred to this as the “narrative” before but in my own mind, I call it The Script, which simultaneously refers to this as well as this, the lines spoken aloud by actors in a play. Regardless of which definition you use, the results are the same – people repeat things they’ve heard from others a million times before.

The Romanian Script on Communist days: we had to wait in long lines, products were hard to get, food was rationed and to get X product you had to “know” people and/or go to extreme lengths to obtain it.

The Romanian Script on “Iarba Verde”: it’s a good thing to breathe fresh air and get out of the city once in a while.

The Romanian Script on the word “dor“: it’s a special word that has such a depth of meaning that it can never be translated properly into other languages.

And so on and so forth. Once you know The Script in any given situation, it’s ridiculously easy to parrot it back to someone and then they suddenly believe you’re a “good person” who believes the right thing.

The other day, two members of the 2010 champions of missionary tenacity rang my doorbell and started their pitch with, “Cu siguranta sunteti crestin…” (assuredly you are Christian), to which I replied, “De unde aveti sa sti?” (How in the world do you know that?).

I’m not picking on The Woman’s parents any more than I am the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who are simply repeating the same Script that everyone in this country learns. Nor is this phenomenon restricted to Romania. Just as I suspected, in the last 24 hours there has been an explosion in the use of a euphemism I particularly loathe in the American media.

Sometimes The Script is “correct”, in the sense that yes some fresh air is good for people and yes, people had to wait in lines during the Communist era. Just as I have repeatedly mentioned in the comments section, yes it’s true that the government imposed a tax on “witches” but what irked me was The Script – it’s more of the same old tired bullsh*t. The story was only repeated a million times because it titillated the superiority of “western” readers and not because it was in any way real “news”.

My point is not that the Script is right in certain situations or wrong in others but simply that I am surrounded by millions of people who read their lines on a daily basis like actors in a play.

Are those really your thoughts? Did you spend time thinking about this and come to your own conclusion? Did you spend even five seconds pausing to think about what your own inductive reasoning has informed you or are you just going “by instinct” and repeating The Script?

Again, not picking on anyone, but the other day I wrote about “pup” as a noun. I even linked to the DEX entry of the word. And yet I got half a dozen messages saying “hey that’s not a word!”

It’s in the dictionary. If I’m wrong then the DEX is also wrong. I certainly appreciate all the times when people correct my (many) mistakes in Romanian but in this case what happened was people said “hey I’ve never heard of the word, therefore it must not exist!” instead of just clicking on the link and seeing what the situation is.

Romanians are sorely lacking in the practice of inductive reasoning, where you (the individual!) looks at the information coming at you from the outside world and apply your own senses and brainpower and come to your own conclusions.

If I had 1 leu for every time a Romanian person has told me, “I saw X story on the news” and I replied, “And what’s your opinion of that?” and they look at me stunned, frozen like a deer in the headlights, well then I’d be sailing around the Black Sea in my own personal yacht by now ;)

I think one of the reasons my writings appeal to Romanians is precisely because I didn’t grow up with The Romanian Script. I walk around every day deciding my own opinion and take on things and am (thankfully) unhindered by family and friends constantly repeating things ad nauseum that they’ve heard a million times before and never once paused to think about for themselves.

If The Script was working well and people in this country were largely happy and satisfied with their lives then I wouldn’t dare to say a word, even if I disagreed with it. If Romanian parents want to pierce their baby girls’ ears (a practice I find abhorrent) but it makes them happy then I’m all for it.

The problem here, of course, is that Romanians aren’t happy. Just about every day I walk around this city and look at the faces of the people passing by me, either on foot or driving their cars. Very few of them look happy and most of them look either stressed and/or anguished. It’s quite dispiriting at times.

As I’ve stated, one of the motivations for me in writing my book and this site (and my future TV show) is precisely to Flip the Script, a euphemism I normally dislike but is nonetheless appropriate. I look at things with a different perspective and I know that other perspectives (other “Scripts” if you will) are ultimately more rewarding for all of us.

Literally tens of thousands of Romanians (and quite a few resident foreigners) participated in Let’s Do It and came away immensely satisfied and enthusiastic. It was a real, actual, physical, tangible thing that real, actual, physical people did and all the Zosos of the world sitting at home with their tired old Script were largely left behind.

A Romania, run by Romanians (no more Turks, Soviets or Hungarians to blame), including all those gypsies, orphans, bears, witches, priests and the rest, done in such a way that people enjoy living here and want to remain here (and not long for riches abroad) is a worthwhile goal. I think it is and that’s why I’ve staked my name and career on it.

If you’re Romanian and want to do something truly revolutionary today – try thinking for yourself. Take a moment and stop reacting and just pause to think.

Ask yourself what you personally think about something. Watch the news and decide for yourself if it’s sensational, or newsworthy, or even factually accurate. Listen to your friend tell you a “Ion si Maria” joke and then decide for yourself if the implicit misogyny is really all that funny after all.

It’s perfectly okay to agree with The Script – as long as you yourself have thought about it and come to that conclusion on your own. That’s why I never censor comments on here that disagree with me – I want to hear your own opinion, your thoughts, your perspective on things. All I’m asking is that it be your opinion and not the tired repetition of The Script.

As for me and my own personal Script?


12 thoughts on “The Script

  1. I loved this article! Helped me a lot in “putting to finger on the wound”, as we say in Romanian (en: identify the problem).
    I agree that we are stuck to the same script, a problem which I thought was due to the fact that Romania has an aging population, most of which has been educated (aka brainwashed) during the communist regime. I’m not saying this is an excuse, I’m more disappointed with people my own age (under 30) who behave in the same manner, when they should be the ones “flipping the switch”.
    My disappointment has grown lately as I’ve tried to express my thoughts about the so called high fuel price crisis as I’ve been assaulted by people who refused to read any of the links I’ve posted regarding the economic reasons behind the recent hike in gas prices and instead called me “not romanian”, “rich people lover”, etc. Let’s just say that in a world where not thinking for yourself is a virtue, people around me regard me as an anarchist for being a skeptic :(
    Reading some of the articles in your blog, especially this one, showed there is hope! I will continue to express my opinions as I know by doing this I’m actually kick-starting the script-flipping process!
    Thank you!


  2. There communist Script: kinder-garden, basic school, get a ‘diploma’, “repartie” to a useless job in a new town, the same “repartitie” to a hew house for free, marry, have children, let the system start the script again, be proud of your children getting a “job in the new town” help your children with your PCR: “pile, cunostinte, relatii”. Take care of your elder parents.

    There is a dark, insidious Romanian Script since even before the communist era:
    Love (more) only one of your children, usually the youngest, usually the other gender son. Help him more with money hidden from your spouse.
    Bother your brother he has no boy to bear the name.
    Expect help from your child when you are old (see above). Even if that means to not allow your child pursue his happiness abroad.
    Save as much as you can to give a house to your children _after_ you pass away. Don’t mind if the money are needed for your health or your children before.
    Invest a lot in the cult of death. In preparation of “pomana” swear the God.


  3. Well Sam, I like you very much and I hope you’ll be happy in Romania. That being said, unless you lived those days, you cannot possible imagine how it was. It would be cruel to call it a “script” as the people really suffered and for what? Just because some wealthy guy in 1800′ s Germany had this crazy thoughts about the uneducated workers ruling the world. Even so, Marx had his theory that has never been confirmed but it was Lenin who took a shortcut and imposed the nightmare that I’ve lived in. So please, talk lightly about those times, it really hurt us, Romanians, a lot. Again, you cannot possible understand it, no one can unless the lived it. We have been raped and abused and we need 100 years to heal.

    I do like your approach on Romanians thinking for themselves. I have to tell you that this is not a Romanian problem but a global one. Ordinary people, in Romania, USA, Canada and whatever, they all need to understand that they have to think for themselves. There is no government or corporation that will do that for them. I had this epiphany in Canada where I asked a supervisor about how to deal with a particular situation and he just thought about it for a few moment and gave me the answer. I stood there and realized “Well, I could’ve come with the same answer myself!” and since then it was all upwards for me. I may come back to Romania one day and work on getting us right there, along with all the great nations!


  4. Actually, your “pup” example is perhaps not the best choice to ilustrate this point (not to mention that it’s at least a wee bit presumptious to imagine people necessarily wouldn’t know what’s written in the bloody dictionary).

    Not that the overarching point isn’t an excellent ideea – it is, but you seem possesed of an uncanny ability to alienate people, and to judge from experience precisely those people that are enacting and will bear to fruit said change, with or without the zosos, sams and whatnots of the world.


  5. People did live the realities of communism, so I don’t see anything wrong with “stating the obvious”. Also, “the script” as you call it is given to the ones who did not live those times either because they were not in the country or they were not born yet. That’s it.

    People not smiling on the street: You don’t get the fact that Romanians simply don’t see the point in masking their feelings. You feel sad, you act sad. To see how different we are, from US for example: In the US when somebody is taking a picture everybody smiles like silly. Teeth showing an everything. Is everybody that happy?

    People acting like drones: If you feel like people are not acting like drones somewhere in the world, you don’t get how humans act. We’re all part of a system, and the acceptance from the system is given by the individual displaying a certain pattern of behavior. If you have the luxury to take a step back and look at the big picture, you will have big WTF’s moments. To give you an US example: Consider “reading the script”==”driving a car” or “reading the script”==”believing that your vote matters” . Now, make someone not drive a car in the US. Have him ride his bike everywhere or take the crappy public transit. Is what he’s doing right? Or better? Will people see him as a freak? Hell yeah.

    In the end I found it hilarious that you say we, Romanians, are not capable of critical thinking. :)


  6. Well, if I may give you a rather blunt thought, following your own words you should take 5 seconds to make an opinion of your own about the things you are being told and not just react to hearing them [yet again]. :)
    “people repeat things they’ve heard from others a million times before”. Did you ever think that people might have just _lived_ those things, just like million others? What convinced you that they only “heard” some stories, as opposed to having lived them? …at least a large bunch of those millions.
    I completely understand if you would say “ok, enough already, I got it a million stories ago, tell me something new!” but before tossing them to the garbage bin think that it may be worth getting the correct picture.
    Try with one simple example, from 2 perspectives:
    a) kindergarten kids, winter day (not particularly nice around 45 degrees latitude), waiting in line for buying milk starting at 5:00-5:30 AM; that because a person could only buy one bottle, and the next milk car would arrive after 2-3 days.
    b) parents getting their outrageously young children in such lines and having to helplessly see them there, of course for their own good; parents grinding their teeth every time because one could not curse the situation the great Party had created for the “welfare” of the people.
    It’s not that Romania was the only place with harsh life in the world, but when it is due to the sick mind of other _people_ it unfortunately creates a lot of hatred, anger, and what you see as lines in a play – scars. And it is not so much about what a person has endured on his own, but rather about what a person had seen happening to others around him, others that are dear to him.
    Being told the same thing all over again like a broken vinyl is of course too much. There are other nice things people can talk about. But if you ask about the communist times this is what you’ll hear mostly. And in my opinion it is not a very bad thing. Such events should definitely be remembered so that they never happen again. And by that I also refer to some nostalgic people who forget that they had no heat in their houses during winter or the electric power went out every couple of days because what was described as “savings”. I can probably add a few more such cliches but you’re tired of them already ( notice I’m being sarcastic here :) ).
    Seeing the life’s events through the eyes of a Romanian – of course acknowledge it as correct or incorrect, but closer to the original view – will always help being more Romanian ;)

    “Take a moment and stop reacting and just pause to think.” Very true and I only wish you had also started the article with it. :)

    All the best and keep on writing and getting more Romanian!


  7. Yes, I love the Ion and Maria jokes for their implicit misoginy. Thank God I left North America with their political corecteness.

    A gipsy is still a gipsy in Romania.

    A fat Egyptian is a fat Egyptian, even when he praises tolerance towards fat acceptance.

    A Pakistani who stinks is a Pakistani who stinks ( in the wonderful province of Ontario, it is illegal to somehow suggest that someone stinks…or to suggest he takes a bath…or to comment on the Paki-Bangla habit of not killing cockraches in their kitchens…it is just his culture. ) – Why don’t they kill the cockroaches, you say ? It’s a sign of wealth!!!


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