Friday, May 23, 2008

Romanian Culture

As more and more fellow Romanians from our glorious capital have begun shouting, please allow me an attempt to answer the mind-boggling question "Why are Romanians unable to be Western?"

I do believe the question has an answer as simple as it is mostly foregone by the mathematical brains of my generation: culture. You see, whenever reaching this peak of wisdom, ordinary Ioan proceeds to either give up on the discussion in favor of Palinca (or Jack in some urban establishments) or commit the ultimate fallacy and bravely pointing a finger while screaming at the top of his lungs "You damn Pussy!".

Such an answer as 'culture' is for the weak, you see, for the unable. It is no match for the Romanian's brave spirit, capable of change, so vividly portrayed in expensive cars and crowded malls in overcrowded Bucharest. What a wearer of the typical D&G king-sized silver belt is not aware of however, is culture's tricky part. You may be fooled into believing that culture is that which we can observe, i.e. crappy communist apartments blessed with huge screen TV's and a Porche and a life-time of mortgage payments. But oh, perhaps you might think culture is that which can be seen as an honest farmer's (well rather a peasant's) torn conscience between the drinking spot and the church, as a basic order of life. But maybe also culture is in fact our Moldavian easter eggs, our Transylvanian spring ritual, our Southern... apparent economic prosperity. You may honestly agree that these are all cultural elements of Romanians.

If you do, then you will agree that culture in itself is nothing more than a collection of fun objects, delightful stories and non-western mind frames. Is this what is to keep Romanians from being Normal? From being Civilized? From being The Way That People Should Be? (well except for the very poor countries that we fiddle with on a regular basis. we still need to exploit them to keep capitalism going. shhh. shhh.)

My dear friends, as my experience and study has brought me here, this is my honest answer:

Culture may be seen as a collection of elements which may blend so nicely together, but one must not mistake the visible effects of a cultural mind frame with the essence. Yes, culture is fluid. Anyone past 30 can tell you that nowadays. But culture is not the expensive and traditional easter eggs on a table in a luxurious suite. In this case, culture was that mind frame which was reflected centuries ago in the patterns and shapes of the geometry on that egg. Culture is one's longing to be traditional in this superficial way.
As a conclusion to all of this, culture is more logically and productively seen as that what is beneath the effects.

Alright, nothing new here you may assume. Romanians - lazy, shallow and inconsistent. And something else. ... not paying attention.

Westerners may be modest and civilized. But these in themselves are not essence, they are effects. Historically, they were just as barbaric in their habits as the rest of the world, even more so than the Chinese and the Indian people throughout centuries. Many scholars bluntly state that Western-Europeans' and consequently North-Americans' 'civilized' ways were nothing more than a catch-up with the Orient's ways at first and then a means of distancing themselves from the 'barbaric' ways of the conquered. Furthermore, westerners splurged. They indulged themselves in all luxuries possible, they were beyond immoral in their colonialism and, to this day, racist. But indeed, they were something Romanians never were: aggressive, as a natural consequence of greed.

We have heard so many times that "Romania is lagging behind. 50 years, 100 years, 200 cultural years". This only implies that there is one Right way for culture to evolve. But culture in itself is nothing more than an accumulation of events, over time, many of them caused by circumstances.

So then, why are Westerners different now? Considering the cause-effect mind frame that is innate to all of us, we can only answer that in historical terms for as far as we can trace it. Westerners had their day of aggressiveness, accompanied by extremely favorable circumstances (gun powder, disease, immorality); they had their chance to splurge away and create a deeply-rooted euro-centric view of the world and now, for varied reasons, only a small fraction of which are WW2 and the 'Protestant Ethic' (Weber so as not to plagiarize even here), they have resorted to accumulating money as a means of social validity. Just as the Italians and Romanians show their social standing by displaying expensive cars, the 'true' Westerners that Romanians unknowingly idolize (Dutch, Belgian, English, Scandinavian) display relative modesty. That again is a consequence of Calvinism being imprinted into culture.

If we were to truly answer why one culture is different than another, we would have to go back to Africa and the separation of the first tribe. Then see how the environment and the events influenced their way of thinking. How exactly it is that the first tribe led to the nations we now observe is by no means pointless, but intrinsically unattainable.

My answer: attempt to understand one's own culture to the furthest degree possible. Go beyond communism, go beyond just one science, go beyond Romania in comparisons and leave no preconception untouched. Even if it seems impossible or pointless, even if you are to arrive at roughly your starting point, it is a journey worthwhile. In its absence, the guilt and self-loathing of not being Western will do everything but help.

Si pana la urma noi suntem fraierii care isi autoimpun euro-centrismul.


Anonymous said...

westerners this westerners that...but how do you explain the italians, they're as loud as the romanians, they're as unorganised as the romanians, as narrow-minded, as rasist, they're not even cleaner than the romanians...but they have the most important culture in the world (over 70% of the most important cultural sites)...

i think culture has to little to do with's all about education...and education can be loaned from better examples...i mean look at the swiss, when it comes to them i can't think of any important cultural habbits or sites, but they're one of the most civilised people in the world.

Te astept acasa sa bem vin si sa mai discutam dastea

Julesie said...

That's just it, by culture I do not mean cultural artifacts or fine arts. I mean it in an anthropological sense, as in mind frame. The 'cultural objects' are mere reflections of that mind frame, which itself is a result of circumstances (direct or indirect). Which brings me to the conclusion: culture can't be quantified, let alone be deemed good or bad. The only thing that you can do is attempt to understand as much as you can, so as to not use words like 'civilized' so freely. The whole concept of 'civilized' implies a right and wrong way to do things, in absolute terms - something no one in their right minds would agree exists.

Anonymous said...

atunci notiunea ta de cultura tine de stereotipuri, gen ala cu taranul alcoolist si tot e gresit...mind frame-ul la care te referi va conduce la prejudecati tocmai pentru ca transformi cultura unei tari in acea matrita a felului de a gandi (care are caracter generalizator dar se rezuma la ce sa nu spui de taranul care si-a renovat casa si are ditai via si gradina in curte?)

si da, un popor poate fi civilzat atunci cand generatii bune primesc o educatie buna si sanatoasa care se transmite mai departe

Julesie said...

Orice afirmatie conduce la prejudecati, din simplul motiv ca poate fi interpretata in multe feluri. Normal ca exista stereotipuri deoarece oameni care impart o cultura (fie si in sensul limitat de colectie de obiceiuri, dar mai ales in sensul de gandire - mind frame) se aseamana. Orice societate se contruieste pe baza unor asteptari comune tuturor membrilor, motivul pentru care exista societati si nu indivizi independenti din punct de vedere moral. In mod evident, acesti indivizi vor fi similari, iar per ansamblu diferiti de o alta societate. Acel ansamblu de similitudini reprezinta un stereotip. Stereotipurile au o conotatie negativa fiindca in general sunt formate de catre oameni care trag concluzii pripite, alde 'italienii sunt romantici' dupa o saptamana in Venetia si 'olandezii-s praf' dupa 3 zile in Amsterdam. Pot fi periculoase cand sunt absolute, cand nu se accepta exceptie sau cand conduc spre discriminare. Dar a nega existenta similitudinilor din gandire intre indivizi ai aceleiasi tari nu e tocmai rezonabil.

Also, un popor poate fi 'civilizat'. Ceea ce se observa poate fi modificat, iar efectele unei mentalitati pot fi controlate. Olandezii sunt aparent cea mai toleranta tara din lume, dar dincolo de politete, interes economic si pragmatism legislativ, cultura lor nu este una deloc toleranta. As a last note, my point was that 'civilized' is a western conception meant for distinguishing between the West and the rest. By using it upon ourselves in a blind manner(!) we far from helping ourselves. Ceea ce critic e superficialitatea cu care multi adreseaza problema Romania-Vest.

essay writing service said...

This blog is all about the Romanian culture. By reading these kind of blogs we came to know about the different countries and their cultures. Informative one

Send fresh flowers to islamabad, said...

Its nice to see a blog about the romaninas and their culture. Romans are famous around the world because of their ancient culture and i don't think its bad. I seriously don't think they need to follow the west.