Brats, However …

Sam (an American living in Cluj) wrote an excellent post about Romanian people. Sam is a city dweller while we live in the village – so sometimes I feel that his take on all things Romania is a bit tainted by his perspective. This time I think Sam nailed it:

There are a few tough old bastards living in this country but by and large this is a nation of spoiled brats, who were given the gift of living in one of the most beautiful and abundant countries on the planet and yet they never appreciate it. Foreigners come here and immediately love it. Romanians are inevitably shocked by it when I tell them and ask me why. Open your eyes, dumb ass! It’s obvious why.

But when the little princes and princesses get their country handed to them, when they get all that territory and all that democratic freedom as a gift, when they get free tuition and free health care, when they get their cities beautified by free money, when they get their roads built by others, when they get their trendy clothes made by others, when they dance to music made by others, when they sip on drinks made by others, when they consider going to McDonald’s a cool thing to do on a date, when entire forests are logged to be sold abroad but all the toothpicks in the store are made in China, you get a nation of spoiled little brats.

When we moved out the village I was under the impression that I was going to live amongst “tough old bastards” … and though there are a few, for the most part, it seems that I am surrounded by spoiled lazy people. It can be hard to miss in the village because by western standards a lot of the people here live poor-lives and work all day in the field, so it can be hard to think of them as spoiled. However there is always excellent fresh food (plenty of land and water) on the table and their houses are warm in winter (fire-wood is pretty abundant here and mostly harvested greedily, illegally and unsustainably).

People are content doing boring and unchallenging work (sitting in the field watching cows graze and grass grow) and suckling on the tit of yearly EU funds (we recently learned that growing tobacco is highly rewarded by the EU!). They show no signs of motivation to improve their lives – unless it is handed to them on a silver platter.  There is a lot of superficial behavior of keeping appearances and very little appreciation of the natural abundance  inherent in the setting of their lives (I learned that I am better off going to the market in my work-clothes – while most of the people, ahum, villagers dress up in their “nice” clothes). As the winter sets in and most of the intensive work (harvesting and preparation for winter) is done, there is much more free time – a void largely filled with dumb staring at a TV, drinking and ensuing drunkenness (more amongst men though women too).

We don’t have TV or cable at home but on the 1st day of the new year we were with our neighbors and they do have a TV and while we were there, there was a rerun of one of the celebration programs that was broadcast live during the night. It was setup as some kind of game show with two teams of celebrities (I am assuming they are celebrities since neither Andreea nor I have any idea who they are or who are Romanian celebrities at large these days) with other pop-stars coming and going. It was a pathetic display of a culture of idiots – butch men and their bitch women … a very very sad expression of popular Romanian culture. It is a mish-mash of the most superficial and destructive expressions of fashion the western world has to offer. Very sad.

HOWEVER I am happy to say that this is NOT a complete image of Romania. Like all things good, the good stuff is shy, doing its thing quietly and peacefully and mostly content being away from the spotlights of the superficial mainstream public eye. Unlike Sam I only know a handful of Romanians each of which are human gems. This took me by surprise – not because I knew about or had an opinion about Romania and Romanians but because of my past experiences in life. I didn’t come to Romania thinking it’s a great country – it isn’t – but I think that the very idea of a country sucks – so Romania just happens to be another sucky country (I paved my own road, I don’t have any medical insurance and my children will not go anywhere near formal education systems).

I came here thinking I could simply fade into the background and live my life in peace – which IS possible and one of the great things about Romania. But instead I kept meeting beautiful people. People who have often traveled and lived outside of Romania, people who have questioned the core values of life they inherited, people who are spiritually endowed, people who have grown to appreciate, love and protect the natural wonders of this country. Some of these people are actively involved (via a large national volunteer-based youth operation) in inspiring new young generations of passionate, hard-working, open-minded and open-hearted Romanians who are and will continue to slowly but surely change the face of this place. But you won’t see it on ProTV … and that’s a good thing 🙂

9 Comments

  1. mitch
    Posted January 5, 2012 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    Sam has NFI.

    Look at any official study of just how fucking hard it is living in romania. Its tough!

    He comes form no position to judge, id liek to see him lining up for his food that is rationed in winter.

    If he grew up in romania I would listen to him but he is coming from 30 odd years in the USA. how different life is for him, he could never understand

    • iamronen
      Posted January 5, 2012 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

      Hello Mitch,

      First – I did you a favor and censored your comment so that I could publish it. The original version is not welcome here and even this one is borderline. Critical conversation is welcome … personal violent attack is not.

      I don't know what research you are reading but living here, as Sam does and as do I, gives a different picture. Life here is very different than other places in the world, certainly the USA (though if the USA stays true to its current course it may end in a more difficult position then Romania). Food is not rationed here in winter – there is an overflowing abundance of it. It used to be rationed here … as was everything when the place was ruled by a dictator … but that is history. As I said in the post … I think Sam nailed it on the head. By the way, so does my wife who is Romanian and spent most her life in Romania, including when that dictator was still calling the shots here. You may be surprised to hear that MANY Romanians look back at that era as "good times".

      Sometimes being an outsider gives you an "out of the box" perspective that others nearby of far off cannot see.

      Have you got something personal against Sam?

  2. Jackie
    Posted January 6, 2012 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    Romanians who are foreigners in other countries have actually made something of themselves.. All are hardworking, business driven individuals. Whether they built a cabinet company from the ground up, or started an adult care home (yes, wiping ass lets you indulge in luxuries)… – They are far from lazy- … They have beautiful homes, and top notch cars.. And yes expensive clothes and gadgets… No; they aren't stolen- they are earned through hard work. So to put every Romanian on the same platter is not fair. My parents left communist Romania 29 years ago, and growing up they shared many stories of their childhood. How they had to wait 8 hours in line for a loaf of bread, work 3 shifts at the Michelin tire factory, or share a bowl of food with 7 other siblings.-..- they were not lazy- . – if you want to talk lazy, throw the Americans on that platter. How many of them can even bake their own bread? Sew a button? Iron a shirt? Dust their furniture? Mop their floors? Raise a child? Shoot, most cant even hold a hammer properly yet alone a drill. — our Romanian families are self sufficient. And we can make a good living anywhere in the world. Give us some wood and nails, and we will build a home. – – – – this is me, just ranting 🙂

    • iamronen
      Posted January 6, 2012 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

      I stand corrected on the generalization Jackie … however I would also turn that mirror for you to look into. No not All Romanians are hard working individuals … some are, some aren't. My impression, from Romanians both in Romania and in Israel is that your statement is not true. They work as much as they have to, little more. They are not endowed with a sense of initiative and I think Sam did an excellent job of outlining how that came to be.

      Having said all that I also think that Romanians are MUCH better off then Americans because they do still know how to bake a loaf of bread, grow food and milk a cow. The problems I see for Romania is that the "city people" look down at this beautiful and sustainable lifestyle … and as a result it is a dying lifestyle and culture. What remains of it is mostly old people … who work their asses off doing things the hard way (they haven't heard of permaculture).

      Romania and Romanians do not seem to value what is truly precious in this country. Instead they seem to be gravitating to some imaginary western lifestyle which is in the shits.

      That to me is idiocy!

  3. mitch
    Posted January 6, 2012 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    I was referring to communist times, this may not happen anymore but the brats he is referring to stood in line if they are 25 or older. Its a far cry from what any westerner would imagine.

    Have you been over to the other side of the country recently?
    Although your girlfriend says its fine, there are plenty of studies showing the real challenges faced by Romania: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by

    I have met school teachers that cant afford to drive a car or move out of home. You know that a non first world country typically has high concentration of wealth to small percentage of individuals, so you will always find people that are living fantastic lives with all the opportunities in the world, what if these are the people you are surrounded by, giving you an biased opinion.

    So let me ask you a question, do you or Sam actually derive 100% of your income from the romanian economy?
    If you can say yes to that then ill retract my statement. If you cant say yes to that then you are not really living like the rest of us.

    I say 'us' because I am deriving all my income from Romania, I can go home at any time to my safe country and have everything handed to me on a platter and live a life considered luxury by most Romanian standards. This is why I wouldnt ever consider branding a whole nation of people 'Brats'. This is why Sam Cel Roman shouldn't do it either.

    • iamronen
      Posted January 6, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

      Thank you Mitch 🙂

      My wife is from the other side of Romania.

      I have met school teachers that couldn't afford to drive their car or move out of home in Israel … and I'm sure they exist in the USA too.

      We are here in Romania on the wings of finances from my past life. We now make a limited financial living and all of it comes from Romania.

      To me Romania is unique in how much you can for yourself IF you make an effort to do so. There was nothing I could have done back in Israel to make a life for myself … no amount of effort would have made a difference. Here, with land and water, all of my efforts make a difference and are directly invaluable to our life. But what is much more promising is the ability to make a life where much less finances are needed.

      We have opted to place our bets on a, we believe, doable sustainable life here in Romania rather then a life of slavery to an income.

      Andreea's contribution to this is that while she was a foreign worker in Israel her family was always curious about how much money she was making … and it was always a lot of money by Romanian standards. They never inquired or took into consideration that that some of money was not nearly enough to support yourself within a pleasant quality of life.

      Most of this country is still peasant country. That's a future we believe in and chose to partake in.

  4. Suzana
    Posted January 6, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    I don't think he has something against Sam, at the end of the day Sam was merely doing what he as an American was thought to do best: tell people how to live their lives (e.g. Korea, Vietnam, Iraq etc.) But the way Americans don't like to hear such "advice" I am pretty sure Romanians don't appreciate it either…

    • iamronen
      Posted January 6, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

      Hey Suzana … I feel that Sam makes too much of a positive effort in/for Romania to be dismissed so lightly.

      But I guess generalizations breed generalizations … so you are welcome to have your go at it 🙂

      Romania is a place of amazing untapped potential and a history of other countries cashing in on it while Romanians sit on the sidelines. Sam's message, as I understand it, as get of your ass, appreciate this miraculous country and do something with your life. I support that.

      • Kendo
        Posted January 7, 2012 at 9:23 am | Permalink

        As a Romanian I feel people here should get off their asses and start doing something, appreciate the beauty around them, not just wait for others to do it. You'd have to be a moron not to see how beautiful this country is. Yet, I feel like a stranger any time I see the tons of garbage everywhere, the indifference of the people. Yes, I know there are some who really try and I applaud them. But it's too damn little!

        No, I don't think Sam is telling us how to live (hell, I don't think Americans tell other people how to live and I don't even know any Americans I like – not that I met that many, but I do travel quite a lot) and I quite enjoy some of his writings.

One Trackback

Leave a Reply