If it weren’t for bad luck…


The other day I wrote about how I was depressed over the state of affairs in Romania and I got roundly chided for having been overly optimistic in the first place. Well I’d say my disappointment has passed and now I’ve entered into a state of regret.

The other day the Unsleeping Eye fetched me this article, the key paragraphs of which being translated by me go as follows:

The president of the PNL [party], Crin “Crazy Eyes” Antonescu, said that Prime Minister Victor Ponta had no way of knowing, in reference to Ioan Mang’s case, “that 10 years ago there was an article published in a magazine in Craiova which would be discussed and suspected of being plagiarized.”

He [Antonescu] said that Victor Ponta just had “bad luck” concerning the people he’s nominated for the portfolio of Minister of Education.

Again, as I stated last week, this wasn’t “bad luck” at all because it was no kind of luck whatsoever. There was no vetting of these people beforehand. They were chosen based on how much they had kicked back to the respective parties (PSD and PNL) similar to how the mafia awards “capo” titles to their respective underlings based on family connections and how much money they produce.

As I also wrote, Ponta had nominated several people with huge foreseeable problems, including a man who was prohibited by law at the time from even holding office. Again, luck isn’t involved because no research or preparation was done ahead of time.

But what makes it even worse is that Mang didn’t just plagiarize an article once “10 long years ago” in some magazine in Craiova but had been doing it for years, including in 2011 where he copied not only the text in question but also the related diagrams. Concerning the advanced level of the topics under discussion (cryptography and binary linear codes respectively) it’s obvious that Mr. Mang has been way out of his depth and unable to write about these topics himself because they’re too difficult for him. Naturally it’s easy to find someone who is smarter and copy their paper and pass off their work as your own.

I guess what gets me is not that plagiarism goes on (hell even Daddy Mark’s best buddy US Vice President Joe Biden is a plagiarist) but the attitude that it’s never anyone’s fault. Last week Olguta Vasilescu was saying that the scandal was the fault of “some guys” and not Mang, the “some guys” being at fault because apparently they’ve been scrutinizing him too much. And now we’ve got “Crazy Eyes” saying it was just “bad luck”.

How about this? How about “I’m sorry. I made a mistake. I won’t let it happen again.” Why is this never heard? In fact, why do I almost never hear it from ordinary Romanians concerning issues of far less importance?

I’ve written a hundred times (as well as in my book) about how Romanians believe magical forces play a big part in their daily lives. Luck is the same way, with both ghinion (bad luck) and noroc being these unknowable, mystical entities which touch people and there’s little you can do about it. Even the Romanian classic cine are noroc are is “s/he who has the luck, has it” rather than the more American attitude which would be “s/he who makes their luck is the one who gets lucky”.

Yeah, yeah, spare me the historical recap of Romania. I truly do get it that for centuries there was no benefit in ever accepting responsibility and activities that advanced your interests at the detriment of anyone else were always the way to go here. If you have the money to bribe a teacher to get your kid into a good school, 99% of Romanians are perfectly happy to pay the money and never once think about what this might be doing to someone else. The thought pattern is only “what’s going to happen to me and mine”, whether “good” (your kid gets the spot in the school) or “bad” (you get in trouble for the bribery) but never once how will this affect someone else? The fact that an honest and smarter kid gets screwed never enters into the equation.

I realize there are both pros and cons to both ways of thinking. Americans take responsibility for their luck in life, sometimes good because it means they accept responsibility for their mistakes but sometimes bad because they blame themselves for failure in some circumstances where it was entirely unpreventable. Romanians on the other hand have zero concept of responsibility. When something goes right it’s always “God blessed me with good luck” (or some variant thereof) and when things go wrong it’s “my enemies and bad luck are to blame”.

The other day I was reading yet one more article in Romanian about all the problems this country has, yadda, yadda, yadda, all true and all accurate but it doesn’t matter whether it’s discussing politics or barons or corruption or pollution or lack of city parks or anything else. The one question you never want to ask a Romanian is, “Well what are you going to do about it?” because again, that would mean accepting responsibility.

If the European Union (with all of its money and all of its rules and Wise Old Elves) and the United States and Daddy Mark and Pig Man Franks of the IMF and all the rest were to fly off into space and disappear and Romania were left on its own, without foreign intervention or influence of any kind, what would this country be like? Without dangling carrots like Schengen zone inclusion or visa waivers to the US or money from the EU for improvements, without stern words and lectures and indirect control of government policy from the IMF (et al) what would be going on in Romania?

In other words, if Romania were neither trying to flatter other countries nor forced to adhere to laws, regulations and rules imposed from outside, what do you suppose the result would be? I can take a wild guess. I have a feeling that there would be sheer and utter chaos because Romania is already a case study of the tragedy of the commons, wherein individuals acting for their own short-term interest ultimately damage the long-term interest of everyone (including themselves).

For example, trees are being cut down at a fantastic rate in Romania. Last week Greenpeace put out a press release saying that 3 hectares per hour are being cut down. Now I don’t know if these figures are true but I’ve seen lots of trees being cut down in clearly illegal operations with my own eyes and I know it’s got to be going on elsewhere. Quite frankly it’s horrific and the only benefit to anyone doing this is a short-term cash profit.

Besides everything else (the health of the ecosystem, etc) Romania’s natural wildness is one of its greatest tourist attractions and in its pristine state would actually generate more cash than would selling off the trees as unprocessed lumber. And yet time and time again you see politicians and tourism chiefs promoting five-star hotels, amusement parks and other claptrap as the way to lure in more visitors instead of using the shining jewel of natural beauty that Romania already possesses.

I think if Romania could escape the intervention and influence of outside countries and governing bodies, every single thing would be exploited to its maximum, every tree cut down, every centimeter of land paved over and every river polluted as all the natural resources were extracted for a quick bit of money. Corruption and bribery would be legalized and every organ of government from politicians to judges to education would be inundated under a tidal wave of influence buying and nepotism. It would be some wild, wild times here for sure and the more I think about it, the more I think it would resemble dear old Transnistria, where one company and one clan have scrambled to the top and whatever they say, goes. The fact that this company/clan is called “Sheriff” only makes it more poetic, don’t you think?

Well there’s no “Sheriff” in Romania because all these outsiders keep getting in the way, effectively preventing one band of criminals from consolidating power. And I’m starting to wonder, just as Plato did, whether a (hopefully benevolent) Sheriff is better than numerous squads of criminals, all of which are hamstrung by outside influences from wiping out the competition. So what’s always happening in Romania is one group of criminals is clawing for power, doing anything it can (up to and including plagiarizing essays), and then outside forces intervene, temporarily weakening that group (and temporarily bolstering a competing group). And since this struggle never gets resolved, all this fighting does is destroy everything in this country from faith in the integrity of the law to even ordinary people’s optimism that it can ever be better.

But when all the apples in the barrel are rotten, is there a solution? Is there a way out of this without finding a new Sheriff, whether that be a dictator, king or Vlad Tepes style leader? Actually I think there is, specifically the case of Eliot Ness, who took on some of the most well-connected and wealthy gangsters in American history. A lot of you may know his small group of team members were known as the “Untouchables” because they were the only men he trusted to not be bribed, not be influenced and not be corrupted. And after a hell of a lot of hard work, they ended up succeeding not just in disbanding criminal gangs but in eradicating the endemic corruption in both local law enforcement and the judiciary.

Could a team of “Untouchables” do similar work here in Romania? I think so. And I think their secret weapon is that people would support them once they had faith that they truly were doing honest work and not being corrupted or taking bribes or engaged in all the other stupid shit that everyone else is doing. But I don’t think it’s Daddy Mark who is going to do it (even as he stumps for Laura Kovesi, herself now embroiled in a plagiarism scandal) nor his team of unpaid volunteers (who are most likely being put to work polishing his wife’s spoons). Nope. I think there’s only one honest man Romanians would trust and that’s Klaus Johannis.

He speaks English, German and Romanian. He’s been a teacher of physics (his degree being earned, not copy pasted) and he’s been the mayor of Sibiu since 2000. He and his merry band of Germans of the FDGR seem to be the last hope of getting native honest folks to do something about all these problems on a national level. Basescu’s term is up in 2014 and I really do wonder if Klaus is this country’s last chance because if anyone could form a team of “Untouchables”, I think he is the one.

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9 Comments Add yours

  1. jos_cenzura says:

    I thought ending the alcohol Prohibition had a lot more to do with weakening the mafia clans in the US than Eliot Ness or any other well-meaning guys. In Romania, the solution would be much less government involvement in citizens’ lives (there would still be some left to steal by the political class, but not as much or as far-reaching) – but that involves a shift in the mentality of the population in Romania and in Europe, but it will take a while to end the legacy of fascism and communism (where the state is all-powerful and it provides everything to everyone and denotes the currency to be used, which it also benevolently provides, and so on; and the individual is nothing but a servant of this all-powerful state).

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  2. eu says:

    i mean who s gonna take responsability in other western power countries to fix that damn internet speed? it really is a joke for countries like us ,uk france…. (they are 20 times slower no joke)
    wow romania has the fastest internet in all of europe? and we were out of it just 20 years ago when the rest was using it already? how is it possible? lol. Western leaddrrs take responsability now and fix that sluggish joke u have called internet. No more mocking.. you could include this in your 1000 things to live here.http://www.howtogeek.com/95659/internet-speed-by-country-infographic/

    enjoy this ultra fast blazing bonus while ure here cause if u leave back to the west ull pay 3 times more and it will be 20times slower.

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  3. Mircea says:

    Sam, my man, you’re clearly starting to see things here how they really are. I wonder how much you have until you decide that enough is enough.

    The politicians will do everything in their power to keep Klaus and guys like him out of power exactly because he’s too “untouchable”.

    Imagine what it would mean if this guy comes to executive power and starts to bust their schemes – who would support him? If no-one then how are people going to keep him in power without the “democratic political system” that functions so well in Romania?

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  4. eu says:

    better listen to mihai sam cause he nailed it. i like you but ure starting to act like a spoiled cat with ur new mac:))

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  5. Mihai C. says:

    Well, Sam, although your arguments may seem logical at first, looking at the bigger picture your post seems quite the opposite. To quote a famous phrase “you do not see the forrest because of the trees”.
    I do not intend to make up excuses for politicians because they are like they are and it’s true, they should act differently most of the time. But I would like however to make 3 quick observations.
    1) The politicians in the west are not much different, Í could give you examples from virtually every important western state but let’s concentrate on USA, shall we? You say that in Romania they act like a clan or mafia members but is it some other way in your native country? If it is, how is it that members of the same families have given major politicians even presidents for generations? How come Dick Cheney’s company (Hulliburton – I hope I spelled it correctly) has won all the contracts for Irak? How come the previous US ambassador in Romania was a man who had no idea of diplomacy whatsoever and – as he publicly declared LOL – he was granted this position because of the important help he has given to the republican party during the elections.
    2) Americans (meaning US citizen) are not that eager to admit resposibility as you claim. In fact, no one on the face of the Earth does, the human nature just doesn’t work like this. I can quote major American thinkers and writers to that end, but let’s be less poetic and remember that when the US president said that Irak has weapons of mass distruction and was proved wrong no member of his government came out to say “I’m sorry, we were wrong”. What was said it was “It’s true, there were no such weapons, but he was a terrible person and the world is better off without him anyway.”.
    3) You seem to have a very bleak image of what would happen to Romania if it was left to its own devices. You seem to forget that Romania as a state – good or bad as it is – was not a gift of God. We had to fight for its creation and protection for a period much much longer than the entire existence of USA. And in spite of all we succeded. Proof of that? We’re here. And the country is called Romania not something else. And is a nice place to be – but you seem to agree on that point.
    Come to think of it, throughout the time our main problem was not that the people who came here didn’t like it and wanted to leave, but too many of them wanted to stay. Just like YOU did.
    So If you like Romania you are welcome to stay and even criticize what needs to be criticized; but if you have such a low opinion on Romanians then – by all means – leave. And if we will destroy ourselves that will not be your problem.
    Otherwise staying and saying how miserable of a job we do but what a great country we have is… well, illogical.

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  6. Suzana says:

    Daca ar veni doamna Merkel si echipa ei de untouchables sa ne guverneze ar fi si mai bine iar sansele ar fi si mai mari.

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  7. kixxtm says:

    Kinda off-topic, but there’s also a saying that goes: “Norocul si-l face omul cu mana lui”.

    As for “Untouchables” project/idea, I’d have more trust in some outside force (like the EU monitoring programs) than in any politician, esp. one who has been in politics for some time.

    Back in 2004, Base also *seemed* determined and able to sweep Nastase’s corruption aside. That he did, to some degree, but only to bring in his own cronies. IMO, anyone who is in politics must have some vested interests to protect or else he won’t get very far.

    I’d say that the problem here is that there aren’t enough checks and restrictions in place to curb the corruption.

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  8. Marian says:

    I would hesitate to put all my hopes on one man. He may turn out to be a terrible disappointment despite his good intentions and then it would be really hard to try and do some good again.

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  9. Gary says:

    Sometimes it just takes one honest man!

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