Romania, the country I was born in and I dearly love, is in a mess.
The US, a country for which I feel a profound gratitude, is deeply divided across numerous fault lines.
Ukrainians have such a low opinion on Russia, their former big brother, that Moscow has to resort to bribing in order to lure Kiev out of joining the EU.
How did we get here?
Romanians have elected Traian Basescu – an ex sea captain – as President, not so much because of his promise: ‘You should live better!’ but mostly because they were fed up with the arrogance displayed by his opponent. 9 years later, fed up with the way Basescu has maneuvered his pet prime minister into wrecking the economy, Romanians have brought to power a new prime minister who has promised to keep Basescu on a short leash. What was the first thing this new prime minister has done? A formal ‘non-aggression’ pact with the president, as if the constitution wasn’t a good enough to frame relations between the presidency and the government. Now the pact is already broken and for the last month or so the two are accusing each other of corruption while the EU is trying to asses if Romania is mature enough to join the Schengen group of selected countries who trust one another so much as to give up border controls altogether.
The Americans elected Obama, a charismatic leader, hoping he will lead them out of the cul-de-sac where the lackluster but rather rigid G.W. Bush has left them. Do you remember ‘Yes, we can!’? I must confess I was thrilled at the time but I was also weary: ‘What if he will not be able to fulfill all the hope his people has put on his shoulders?’ Now, six years later, Obama’s main promise – an affordable health care system to cover everybody – is in shambles and he has shifted his priorities to a ‘war on poverty’, a move seen by the conservatives as another trick intended to widen the scope of the already ‘too powerful central government’.
The Russians, disillusioned with the chaotic ways of Boris Eltsin – on whose reign the country was left to the mercy of a few oligarchs (pun intended) – brought to power an ex KGB operative. Now, 13 years later, his grip on power is almost as comprehensive as it was that enjoyed by the communist leaders while the country still depends on exporting vast amounts of energy from fast dwindling reserves. Meanwhile its neighbors see Russia as a less scary but no less spiteful version of the old USSR.
What is to be done?
A couple of days ago I took a cab, in Bucharest. The driver, fed up with the constant bickering between the Romanian political leaders, ejaculated: ‘What we need is a dictatorship. A honest guy, preferable from the military, that will clean up this mess!’. While not very common this belief – that current problems could be solved by a ‘honest and benevolent’ dictator, a “Tatuca” (Father in Romanian) – is spreading again. In fact this is exactly how Putin acceded to power in Russia.
Last night I happened to ‘stumble’ on Donald Trump speaking to CNN’s Piers Morgan. ‘What we need is more leadership. We need someone to take the bull by the horns!’ (Unfortunately the clip posted by CNN on the Youtube starts exactly after Trump had finished speaking about ‘leadership’ but you can still read the caption about the ‘bull’s horns’. Still, it is worth watching, you’ll find out about how popular Donald Trump is among the restaurant owners).
It seems that finally the Russians, the Americans and the Romanians have reached common ground.
But would this be a wise thing to do?
To me it seems obvious that while the empires/dictatorships fell/failed rather sooner than later a more stable form of running things is true democracy. After all history provides plenty examples of how peoples who organized themselves based on mutual respect fared a lot better than those who let themselves to be bullied around. One caveat though, modern democracy seems less and less based on respect and honest efforts to find the common ground and more on tricks performed with the intent to manipulate the masses.
So what will you have, authoritarianism, demagoguery or mutual respect?
I asked the cabbie ‘OK, but how to you find the right guy for the job?’
I left him scratching his head in search for an answer.