Mailbag


Well looks like I finally did get those angry emails after all :)

As per my usual privacy policy, no names will be mentioned. Again, there is some editing in terms of formatting but no words have been deleted/inserted.

From a reader:

Hey!
Next time you want to write something about Romanian history be sure you know anything and also you understand it because we all know that you Americans rarely understand other cultures. (no wonder you had so many wars… because you people have no idea what’s around you… and if you have any idea you can’t understand it).

You, the Americans like to believe that you have any idea about what you’re talking about but you don’t know shit! (and all the stats prove it… you guys have one of the worst math skills but when you’re stupid kids are asked about it they believe they are the best in the World (there’s a study about math skills in OECD countries)). I read a study on Romania made by your Government before the WW I… damn… you didn’t understand anything.

No wonder you believe you have good Romanian while most people barely understand you. Maybe you understand a little bit of the language but you can’t speak it… and you’ve been here for how long??? F-ING AMERICAN!

The Romanian people are great… but with other Romanians because we love eachother and we’re tired of f-ing foreigners coming from shitty countries telling us what to do and how to be (again!!!). Please go back to your 3rd World shithole and please leave us alone having a good life here… the more people like you come here the worst it gets!

So… next time you wanna write something about Romania do it when at least you’re able to SPEAK the language!

I’ve been shot, stabbed, electrocuted, poisoned, drowned and run over by a car so you can go ahead and type out the cuss words. I promise I can handle it ;)

As I said in my last post, I’ll get to writing a full article on the events leading up the December 1, 1918 declaration in Alba Iulia as well as the Treaty of Trianon. I’ve certainly already stated that I made a brief summary of facts and didn’t get into the history in detail. I have a feeling that the line about “the study on Romania before the WW1”, grammar issues aside, is referring to a report by Christopher Thompson. This and many other things will get examined here shortly so have patience.

As for my ability to speak Romanian (or not), as we say in America, your mileage may vary. Some days I barely speak English and that’s only half a joke. Some days my mind is very fluent and verbal and other days it feels stiff and rusty. What can I say? I learned Romanian as an adult, not as a child. Of course it’s never going to be “perfect”.

That being said, some people do think I speak Romanian. When Alex Dima was here filming me in November, he had to intervene several times and tell people I was indeed not Romanian. Some people hear me speak and say I sound good and others hear it and think I sound like a Hungarian. Whatever.

What I can tell you though is that I’ve met thousands of Romanians who “speak” English, including some who teach English to other Romanians, and literally only one of them (to my ears) sounds like a fluent speaker. That may sound a little harsh but none of them could walk into a bar in America and “pass muster” for five minutes without being pegged as a foreigner whereas I pass unnoticed all the time here.

This isn’t because I am so gifted and Romanians are not but because English is such a complicated language. On top of all the weird pronunciations and odd verb tenses and euphemisms and slang, there is also the fact that native English speakers (with the exception of perhaps the Queen of England) intentionally use incorrect English to self-identify with peer groups. In other words, we (native English speakers) consciously or unconsciously use incorrect English to identify who we are as a sub group (see my posts such as this one for a lot more on this).

I can tell in a moment of hearing an American man speak if he says the word “route” rhyming with clout or rhyming with “root” who he wants people to think he is. Likewise how some other words are pronounced from “suite” (soot or sweet) to “wrestling” (ressaling or rassling) to usage of the word “ain’t” and so on. Likewise with British native speakers, you know if they say “looking glass” versus “mirror” or “lavatory” instead of “toilets”, they are self-identifying themselves as a certain kind of sociological class. And so on with verbs as well, including the world-famous “ain’t” which “ain’t a word” because it “ain’t in the dictionary” ;)

Anyway, you take my point. English is a global language spoken in hundreds of different forms with lots of regionalisms and dialects and variations on pronunciation and rhythms. A Jamaican can say “Why you look at I?” and not be incorrect where he’s from but you’d get a failing note if you wrote that in a university paper in America or England. Romanian, being spoken by far fewer people, and with less variances, is by necessity simpler and due to its more rigid grammar (inherited largely from Latin), is less prone to manipulation and abuse. On a good day I succeed in speaking it well enough to be understood. On a bad day, I do not :)

From another reader:

By writing that article you not only showed that you’re more Romanian than we are but you’re also more American than we are too! :-) It seems to me that you wrote about yourself and not about the great people that Romanians are!

With that article you prove to us that you’re immature, ignorant and clueless! (like all the Americans) How could you say that communism was milk and honey? Probably you learned about it from some propaganda machines? Romanians had a lot of meat???? You have to be kidding me… the meat was the hardest thing to find during the communist years… there were some good times in the beginning but then it turned into hell (especially in the last 20 years of it).

Oh… and the apartments were NOT FREE! Were affordable but not free! The government provided affordable financing that helped a lot of people to have an apartment but those were not for free (my father had to pay for 15 years for ours). Apartments in Romania were very affordable ’till 2004 so it has nothing to do with communism!

You say that Romanians brag about everything all they but that’s exactly what you do… You came here to live a better life bragging about the US instead of changing things there! Now you started to criticize us too?? Who the hell you think you are? If you have anything to say go say it in your shitty country and please leave us alone… we don’t need you and we don’t have the 1st amendment to let idiots like you talk freely!

It is true that I never visited Romania during the Communist era. I was however in Croatia during those times and at least saw a little bit of what life was like in the region. And yes, before you become apoplectic, I am quite aware that Croatia is not and never was exactly like Romania.

My comments on that era (in Romania) however come not from my own personal experiences but from hearing about it from older Romanians. My own landlord told me that “if Communism like we used to have could come back, they’d get my vote”. Nor is he the only one who has ever talked like that about the “good old days”.

If we could build a time machine, we could see a kind of objective view of what things were like. But what I was speaking to more was that there is now a strong sense (among some people) that those days were in fact good days. Society might have had a lot of restrictions but it was, at least, stable. There was a rule and an order about things. There might have been restrictions on speech and rationing of food but it was a more or less stable system. And whenever life seems too chaotic, I think it’s natural to miss that stability.

As well, the comment that the “meat was better” came from a Romanian I know who grew up in the Communist era. It’s certainly not my comment as I don’t eat meat here now and certainly didn’t eat it in those days ;)

As for me “bragging about the US” well I believe in my original post I called America a land of illiterate retards, so no idea where this is coming from. And yes there is no “First Amendment” here in Romania in the exact same sense as in America but Romania is part of the United Nations Convention on Human Rights as well as numerous other treaties that do actually protect free speech. I don’t have time to dig into the Romanian constitution but I rather imagine there are protections for free speech in there as well.

Why anyone would think that free speech is a bad thing is quite frankly beyond my capability to understand. After all, I am giving you a chance to speak freely in opposition to what I’ve said. I value all speech, including by those people who hold differing viewpoints. And technically speaking this blog is hosted somewhere in the United States so I guess the First Amendment does apply LOL

From another reader:

Hello Sam,

I know that for Americans manufacturing is not important but those factories built during the communist years were not useless at all!

If communist did anything good was transforming Romania in an industrialized country! (during communism (actually before the 80s) Romania had the developing economy status… now… after 20 years of capitalism (which is great BTW) we’re just a frontier economy (soon to become a developing economy).

Those factories built exceptional products sometimes and helped us be almost self sufficient! The grandfather of a good friend of mine was a salesman for Tractorul UTB (the biggest factory of them all) and let he sold thousands and thousands of tractors and machines in the US and Canada. In many ways those factories were inefficient (most of them employed way more people than they were needed) but some of them built great products.

Now I work for a German company (as an Engineer) and when I was in college I learned with communist materials and machines … and let me tell you… we had some good stuff! Our CUGIR machines were almost as good if not better than the Glason-Pfauter machines today.

Also those factories were good because people from the countryside were brought to the city and learned a trade (helped them to be something more than helpless peasants… in manufacturing you need to use your brain not just wait for the grain to grow then work like an animal)

Oh and I didn’t heard of overproduction when those factories were in their glory days… if it happened there were easily found clients for the products. The problems came after ’89 when the system fell apart because it was neglected and because the neo-communists that took the power in the early capitalist days of Romania didn’t want to sell the factories to foreign investors (maybe you heard of the saying “Nu ne vindem tara!”)

Unlike your beloved Hungary, Romania had no debt in ’89. Ceausescu paid it all before he died (at the expense of Romanian people)

I believe that that article was a mistake and next time you will read something and ask some smart people before you start to spill your range about things you have no idea!

Probably the attitude in Romania is not as you want it (which BTW… no one cares what a foreigner wants because with your ideas you destroyed your countries in the West) because the Romanians saw some great factories sold for nothing or left to deteriorate or closed down because the westerners didn’t want competition!

ROMANIA 4 EVER! FUCK AMERICA! DIE YOU FUCKING IMPERIALIST SCUM!

I’m not quite sure if I am the “imperialist scum” so referenced or just America the nation. If you’re referring to American state policies, I think you’d find we are largely in agreement. If you are referring to me as an individual, I think you’re sadly mistaken and don’t quite understand who I am. I’ve never done anything to enforce or support the “imperialist” (or otherwise) aims of the American government in Romania. In fact I once got in a shouting match with the local consulate here in Cluj (years ago) and was asked politely to leave the building :)

I have written extensively about Romania’s Communist era debt and all those factories so it’s apparent you have not read my material on the subject. We can debate the benefits and downsides of industrialization if you like but by and large most of those factories were obsolete by 1990. I too know many, many Romanians who had good paying jobs in those factories and miss the steady wages. Nonetheless, the fact remains that western investors largely sold Ceausescu worthless technology and once there were no trade restrictions, those factories were closed down for logical reasons – they simply made inferior products at an inflated cost.

If you want to speak further on trade policies and modernization and industrialization and trade policies and treaties, I think you might find I am not quite as capitalist as you are. A couple of years ago, Nokia built a huge factory here in Judetul Cluj and I know some people who worked there. Now they just closed it down because they got a sweeter deal somewhere else. All this “free trade” might be benefiting Nokia (and other companies) but on a global scale, as well as right here where I live, it makes things very hard for people. Political considerations during the Cold War both insulated Romania and gave Ceausescu certain advantages which are no longer in existence.

I am however supportive of your patriotism in the sense you do not wish to “sell” your country. Nonetheless, every country I know (including England and America) is busy selling itself to others. Unless you have a closed market (such as in perhaps North Korea), that’s just how it goes. The nature of capitalism and free trade is such that money has no borders. I agree with you that it’s unpleasant but I think you are sadly mistaken as to where my sympathies lie (hint: it isn’t with the bankers).

I have no idea where the line “your beloved Hungary” comes from. I have traveled to Hungary a handful of times as a tourist, almost exclusively to Budapest. I don’t speak the language and I mostly found myself lost and bewildered when I was there. I have good Hungarian friends here in Romania but likewise I have good German friends and good French friends and good Arab friends and Italians, Russians, Ukrainians, British, American and Pakistani friends who are all either legal permanent residents or citizens here. People are people. I have no affinity for the nation of Hungary because I’ve only visited a couple of times and I don’t speak the language and I certainly have no understanding of their politics to even be able to advocate for them.

Quite frankly this nationalistic jingoism sounds more like the nonsense I hear outside my window every time there’s a football match. It feels good to be rowdy and proud but in the long run it’s not much more than a lot of noise. Try having a civil conversation with people and I think you’ll ultimately find you get more accomplished.

KEEP THOSE LETTERS COMING!