January 19, 2021
In Blog Letters To Finkelstein
At one point, in our short lived “identitarian left” Facebook group, an admin started to expel people one after another, for aberrant reasons. I intervened: “This group became a sort of “zece negri mititei” (“ten little blacks”) – people are being expelled one after another.” Terrible anger and indignant reactions followed my unfortunate remark. It took me a while to understand why. I had used a racist expression, so logically, I was a racist – therefore I was being treated as a certified black oppressor in exercise.
Note: I say “blacks” and not “niggers” as in the original expression, because that’s how Agatha Christie’s title was translated here. In Romanian, “negru/i” is “black/s”. We don’t have a depreciative denomination for black people – they weren’t a part of our reality. We don’t have a colonial past, and only had the occasion to see a black person in real life after communists took the power, and opened our universities to students from third world countries.
While in time, US or UK editions changed the book title to “Ten Little Indians”, “Ten Little Soldiers” or “And Then There Were None”, not to offend American or UK audiences, the Romanian (as well as many European countries) editions kept their original title. The expression rests for us the title of a well-known book, and its origin, a children’s counting rhyme. Transporting all its original weight into a neutral denomination with nothing insulting about it and no historically loaded meaning, and arriving to expel someone from a group for not paying close enough attention to said origin seems to me closer to void posturing and blindly following foreign trends, than to truly addressing racist ways of thinking.
Romanians are, doubtlessly, as racist as any other people. There’s plenty of abuse to address – real life abuses, directed towards people of different ethnicities that actually live here. But more often than not, the fights I witness on social media are fought to determine who detains the legitimacy to speak in a particular community’s name, rather than to address racist or other demeaning attitudes. Policing others’ speech according to the last Anglo-Saxon journal read is still about power struggles and posturing, and not about changing the social milieu for the better.
There’s also this propensity to adopt any last American campus trend and disfavour one’s cultural past and local traditions. Unfortunately, what feels enlightening for young people that lack a solid education or even the common sense brought by life experience, is sometimes a straight path to cultural illiteracy, uniformity and conformism. The communist regime was accused of engineering a social disaster by dismantling huge parts of population from rural areas, brought to cities in order to industrialise the country. Thus, an old way of life, the rural one, with all its traditions, religious faith and values, had to be forcefully abandoned, without creating a new valid, meaningful one. The reality is that said regime did but partially succeed in modernising the country and changing traditional ways of life. This process greatly accelerated after ’89, when consumerism gave it a fatal blow. These novel tendencies are even more harmful, as they aim at severing not only local traditions but the old “tradition” of cultural enlightenment, of learning old fashioned thing as literature and history and being able to understand a historical evolution, whether in politics, literature or societies’ development.
Obviously, from today’s point of view, past literature and philosophy contain a lot of offensive things. I’m all the way for analysing what chef d’oeuvres of the past may tell us about the society they were produced in, and about pointing to the differences between one epoch and another, along with assessing their literary value. Sometimes a novel can teach us more than a history book about a certain space and time, its development, its mores, etc. Taking such oeuvres of world literature out of the context of their times it’s a stupid thing to do – it simply won’t allow us to understand them any longer. While banning them, erasing or rewriting their content to be in tune with our contemporary norms of behaviour will only create a world of uneducated people, not of enlightened ones.
But it seems we Romanians have a predilection to take what’s worst in foreign trends.
I never thought I’ll be called, one day, a pedo apologist. Recently, that happened on another FB group (the first one dismantled, as they cancelled one another until no one was left). The reason? I dared to say that, with all his flaws, Gandhi is a figure worth learning from. Several persons were outraged by this strange idea. Apparently, Gandhi’s whole legacy is that he was… a paedophile. Someone even went as far as to declare that “pedo apologist lives don’t matter”. My live didn’t matter because I dared to express a positive view on… Gandhi. In a left-wing community.
A “moderate” admin intervened and said, “well, ok, he shouldn’t have said you should be killed, that’s a little bit strong”! However, for that “less moderate” person, this wasn’t strong enough – he resolved to write I’m a “racist, transphobic, and pedo apologist” to my professional connections (that contacted me back to ask what was this all about). The accusation of racism came from that “zece negri mititei” expression I wrote about; regarding the transphobia accusation, it was probably added to the mix to complete the picture – thanks God I have never ever happened to express any opinion in connection with trans people.
I can’t but be puzzled about this ebullient activism’s priorities, when I think that the only left-wing party we have is one that didn’t even succeed to gather enough signatures to candidate for Parliament seats. Must say I’m not surprised of their “success” with the masses, thinking of their 8 March statement, that began as such: “Demos wishes to all women, both cis, as well as trans, and to non-binary persons, a solidary, militant and transnational 8 March, in the spirit of feminist fights from the beginnings.”
This tiny left part of the young generation exhausts its energy in incessant fights to determine who’s the purest, the most progressive of them all. And to flaunt their exemplary image to Western audiences.
Clearly, revolution can wait, except, maybe, for a “newspeak” revolution, an absolute urgency in the country that has the lowest percentage of people with higher education in the EU. I’m sure that learning the correct gender suffix for sexual minorities is the priority for my countrymen, and not making ends meet.
First birth and first death of 2021 symbolically encompass the horizon many lives have, here. First 2021 birth – the mother i’s a 15 years old girl; first death – a woman killed with the knife by her husband right before the eyes of their children.