Again I really must chastise myself for not being a better blogger. Last night I had a meeting with someone right near Piata Unirii here in Cluj just a few dozen meters from where the anti-ACTA protests were going on (the person I met with had just come from there). I can tell you for sure that I saw at least 1,000 people and they were very well organized. I saw dozens of home-made signs and several extremely large banners that required two or more people to wave. I also saw lots and lots of people wearing those “anonymous” masks, which was cool because I’d never actually seen those in real life before, only in videos from other cities and places.
According to this article it looks like the protests in Cluj were as big as or bigger than anywhere else in the country. A few people noted (online) the same thing I had been observing earlier – most of the anti-government protests (in the recent past – on Friday they were non-existent) involved mostly middle aged or older people while this anti-ACTA protest was clearly dominated by young adults.
Sadly, of course the circular firing squad of Romanian public discourse has begun, with everyone criticizing everyone else, saying things like “oh this anti-ACTA stuff is just because people want to steal” or “protesting the government is useless” or “it’s better just to stay home and make some soup”. Yeah I got it. Clearly on some levels all of those criticisms (and many more – just open a newspaper or turn on the TV) are all true.
Nonetheless, bodies in the street are a real thing, people who have left the comfort of their homes and braved the incredibly savage cold and got up and did something. That counts for something, whether it’s one person or 2,000 people or more. It’s relatively easy to sit in front of the computer (which after all, is what I’m doing) and say this or that or click on this or click on that or write a comment and have that be considered “enough”. Certainly taking the time to do things online counts for something but actually banging on drums (my favorite part of any protest, so glad to see it yesterday in Cluj) and waving signs and just being present counts for even more. So my hat is off (jos palarie) to all of the people all over Romania and especially here in Unicorn City who went out there and did something.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m in an odd position. On paper I’m certainly still an American citizen and technically one airplane flight away from leaving Romania and all of its problems forever. Furthermore I’ve got a steady income and a nice place to live here so due to natural inertia the easiest thing for me to do would be do my (paid) work, play with my cats, cook some nice food and let everyone else sort this thing out, whether it’s ACTA, the IMF or what the politicians down in Bucharest are doing. After all, I can’t even vote! So what in the world am I doing stressing out or even caring about all of these things?
Well, I live here. I’ve been living here for years now. For better or for worse, this is my home. So yes, I do care, whether you think I should or not or whether you think I have the right to care or not. That’s why I’ve been writing my blog for years now. It’s not for money! I didn’t travel all over this country just to take a few photos to fill up a scrapbook, I did it because I absolutely love talking to people and hearing their stories and interacting with them. And likewise with the interacting that I do online, whether here on the blog or via email or Twitter or Facebook or all the other ways, I do it because I love it.
Recently someone told me an old adage that I’ve heard before but always is worth repeating, “If you do what you love, you never work a day in your life.” Well at the moment I work like a rented mule, doing the things I do for money. But all of the Romania stuff, whether discussing grammar of the Romanian language or deconstructing manele (yep) or interviewing people on film or writing books or blog posts, that’s all from pure love. I never consider it work. Whether it’s Hungarians or children or gypsies or tourists or old people or city folks or shepherds in the country or mayors or homeless people, I love talking to all of them. Even when they are quarrelsome, cynical, negative, bitterly frustrated people, I thrive on interacting with people here in this country. It’s just who I am.
So… you know I’ve been working on a new project. Last night, as I said, I met with yet another person concerning this. I’ve already spoken about how it’s time to take this to the next level. Give me about two more weeks and it should be ready to be made public. I always know when I’m on the right track when I begin to feel this excited, somewhat nervous tension in my chest, when it feels scary and thrilling at the same time and that’s exactly what I’m feeling now. The person I met last night warning me of government backlash only increased that tension, let me tell you but fuck it, this is my home and I will not stand idly by.
I will add one more thing and then conclude. About a week or so ago, when it was snowing heavily, I ran into a (Romanian) woman I’ve known for more than 10 years. She had seen me on ProTV and was congratulating me on that. And then we began talking about her father, a man who has now passed away but whom I had the great honor of knowing and a man who taught be quite a lot about this country. And his daughter, as we stood there in the swirling snow, reminded me of a promise that I had made to him.
And yes I often enjoy what I do and yes sometimes the attention (fame) is gratifying and yes the exposure is satisfying and yes by my nature I like to volunteer for things and be involved with things but beyond all of that, everything I do is in the furtherance of fulfilling that promise that I made to an old man years ago, an ordinary, common individual who is no longer with us but hopefully now in a better place. And I am sure some people may mock me and some people may laugh but that man made a courageous choice in 1942 and initiated something that I promised him I would complete.