Monday, 8 November 2010

Environments

There are some environmental changes in the EU that some in current Romanian so-called Government could pay a little attention to.

It was highly customary to do just about anything internally with any funds dropped on the doorstep, however the seemingly geographically specific declarations of Angela Merkel mark a new financial mood in the EU.

Although she spoke specifically about Spain, Portugal and of course Greece, she sternly pointed out that at least Germany had enough of bailing out financially collapsing countries. The changes would mean 'normal' bankruptcy once a country hits the rocks. And instead of just pouring tax payers' money into yet another major bail-out, the bond holders would be heavily impacted.

For example, in Greece the heavy austerity measures impact the citizens on unprecedented scale, but the actual result is not a relief from debt. As the Telegraph noted, it is purely a bail-out for investors... so we can cut all the false political BS.

Romania is also simply (well, actually, in typically self-contradicting ways that wasn't lost on the audience) running off to the IMF, switching on the tears and internally, hitting ordinary citizens with unprecedented (and illogical) austerity measures. But whilst it does this, and also ring fences the various upper circles' financial dealings, it is not addressing at all a structural problem.

It simply relies on the IMF money pouring in, to plug holes that (and this is the fundamental misperception, or delusion) seem temporary.

Let's not forget, for example, Romania's state pension scheme is at the very bottom of Standard & Poor's recent list about EU countries. It is the most unsustainable, because amongst many factors (and including the surreal levels of corruption hemorrhaging money in every direction), the recent measures are not at all tackling the underlying problems.

So if the complex underlying time bomb does go off in that country, too, then Angela Merkel's stance could have interesting implications. Of course, if she gets her way for an overall EU-wide scheme of orderly bankruptcy being introduced.

When ministers in the Romanian Government are too preoccupied with declaring 1.5 million Euros and hiding 7.7 million Euros from contracts made on public money (just one most recent example), it is hard to believe that anybody in Romanian Government is actually preoccupied with addressing structural underlying financial problems where the successive IMF loans are little plasters on a very large wound.

To add to this, those layers of politicians simply do not care about foreign investment even, at a real and proper scale. It reaches levels of embarrassment whereby, for example, debts to American companies have only been paid once the USA's ambassador in Bucharest had 'private and direct' chats with members of the Romanian Government. He amicably points out that if the country behaves like this, it will scare away private investors.

Unfortunately he is talking to a pretty deaf audience. Well, one with selective hearing... and I'm sure that also the reverberations of the true implications of Angela Merkel's statements are filtered out by that selective hearing so epidemic in Bucharest.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Evolutions

Some reverberations to the recently uncovered Popricani grave (first of an estimated series) were quite interesting in the Romanian press.

Cotidianul, one of the major daily papers, published the comments from readers. It was hard to stomach the predominantly racist comments, and the biggest irony was that some of these 'people' called the archaeological findings 'Jewish propaganda'. The other major daily paper, Evenimentul Zilei, in a debatable moment, decided to ban any comments to the article they published about same news.

The latter paper's decision can be understood, if one saw the reactions (again impossible to describe) to one of their recent articles stating that Antonescu can not be rehabilitated... After what followed, they saw it better to disable comments to this recent news about the mass grave.

The current figures are stuck at 16, the archaeologists state that this is the first 'layer' of the grave, as the digging so far has been superficial. The estimates for this particular grave are re-stated by both newspaper sources and the archaeologists working there, but it is truly inhuman(e) to go into numerology.

Some comments make astounding and casually dismissive analogies between these findings and for example, in the case of one angry commentator, the lives lost currently in the Middle East conflict. It is just breathtaking thought pattern.

One could write a very dark PhD thesis (and some have...) on the mental associations made by some, many of them are truly unimaginable until one sees the words in print or online... Homo sapiens will again characterise itself perfectly.
So the news are evolving, and as expected, multitude international news fori have taken up the story.

Unfortunately, a trend in even the BBC reports is that quantitative aspects overtake the essence of what this single finding means.

The media is, as always, fascinated by numbers - but there are more worrying disregards for the essence of the story. For example, the military prosecutors claim that this has nothing to do with what the archaeological and eyewitness evidence states...

So there are evolutions taking place in this direction, too... as suspected in previous blog posting, there will be a long battle between facts and ideologically motivated claims. It would truly be Utopian to assume 65 years of history whitewashing would suddenly grind to a halt and in this particular political regime the complex picture of the wartime ruler of Romania would suddenly be altered back to the root facts.

Personally, it would be a tragic evolution if the media will bury itself in quantitative rhetoric, because we are talking about a topic where it is inhuman(e) to dissect the numbers on what is expected to be an increasingly troubling finding.

But the hope is tied to the fact that whilst information may suffer remarkable changes in certain official sources, in the age of the internet the people with their hands on the key facts (it was interesting to see, for the first time, the scanned copies of previously 'buried' testimonies of military officers who were present when the acts of genocide were committed) will have a direct pipeline to the public.

In the end, one can be certain there will be myriad new conspiracy theories that will claim the entire saga dating back to that summer of 1941 (not to speak of all the other events during the Antonescu regime) are some new hoax. Element of this already surfaces in comment sections in the Cotidianul newspaper...

But this will again be a showdown between tangible facts and speculations, and ultimately, for those without direct feed to those tangible facts, a showdown between Occam's razor and politicised sanitisation attempts.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Rewrite

Romanian history has seen many rewriting rounds, changing, suppressing, denying countless facts. As a kid, I have seen how the history books changed and we were basically supposed to have selective amnesia in order not to spot huge discrepancies (and/or ask very dangerous questions about those).

One of the much debated aspects of recent Romanian history is the figure of the fascist wartime dictator Ion Antonescu. He was, in post-communist years, elevated to the status of a national hero, voting rounds for the Top 100 Great Romanians even ranked him No. 6 on the list.

The whitewashing of this convicted war criminal, responsible for ethnic cleansing, multitude of pogroms, an entire extermination policy, establishment of a criminal paramilitary organisation during WW2, well, was breathtaking. Already during Ceausescu's regime, facts about his life were totally rewritten and he was increasingly presented as a 'savior' of the country.

This whitewashing, exacerbated during the post-communist years, has now taken a major blow.

For the first time in 65 years, the crimes committed by the Romanian Army against (in this particular case) the Jews, are exposed in tragically tangible manner.

Near a village called Popricani, a mass grave has been unearthed - first of many located by archaeologists. The tens, possibly hundreds (the work is still ongoing) of bodies ended up in this particular mass grave during the summer of 1941, after mass executions committed by the Romanian Army. There are still eyewitnesses, and confessions dating back many years - however, these have been largely suppressed.

This is just the beginning - and possibly this time, some history books will be, finally, rewritten... to re-instate historic facts related to the much documented (but inside Romania, largely suppressed) aspects of the so-called Iasi Pogrom.

One can't have the delusion that the numerous individuals in key positions of Romanian administration, the Romanian Army, ideologically affected 'historians' who all orchestrated the vast farce that elevated Antonescu to the heights of a national hero will have some crisis of conscience.

Antonescu with all his genocides (and war crimes, as in current legal terms we have to make clear distinction between the two) maybe finally will be treated on a factual basis. Maybe his regime will be discussed properly in the newly written and re-written history books.

Problem is, as with many other aspects of re-written Romanian history, that after many decades of indoctrination, vast numbers of people believe the dogma rather than any new facts. Even in the era of the internet, all details being available to everybody from now on, there will be a strong undercurrent in Romania, still denying large and crucial parts of history.

Certain ideological rewriting of history always seems more appealing than difficult facts... To pull Eco into this, we do live in an evangelical world and to apply this 'faith in fakes' idea to Romania's still much indoctrinated masses, such new facts re-enforcing old suppressed historic facts will be less appealing than the fakes.

Still, Romania as a 'European' country, whilst looking into the horror of these freshly opened mass graves, should reflect just what does it want to say.

Will it continue to cover up, as just one of the most despicable historic cover-ups, the facts of its 'national hero'... or will be brave enough, for the first time, to step into the limelight of international opinion and state those facts?

Let's see... at least I can't have illusions on this front, but there is some hope... that at least for those that want to look and listen, the facts will be accessible in their full clarity...

Will there ever be in Romania something like the Truth and Reconciliation Committee? It would be a truly important gesture whilst we all trumpet our European values. And it would be unimaginably important as a national catharsis of some kind, just once in history, being able to face the facts of the past - even if very difficult.

Ray Bradbury stated, echoing somebody else in one of his short stories, that a nation without a past can not have a future. A fake past is always more damaging than a silenced or missing past...

Monday, 1 November 2010

Contexts...

The previous gathering of statistical facts and comparisons has also led to a recurring need of stating the context, in case it was not obvious from the entire blog...

Comparisons with the 3rd world may hold very well whilst reading some figures extensively summarised and published in Romanian press. However, whilst one may have a moment of 'ho-hum' and/or sympathy if one has read such comparable figures about certain corners of the globe, it is a radically different experience when same figures relate to an EU country.

EU rhetoric abounds in the discourses of Romanian leading political figures (alternating with begging towards the IMF for further funds, whilst introducing such desperate financial measures that they manage the absurd: completely ringfencing the Mafia circles running the country, but hitting the poorest the hardest...).

At the same time, the country is at the bottom of the tables when it comes to the usage (or as more technically put, absorbing) of EU development funds... simply because the key corrupt circles can't bring themselves to go through measly paperwork for measly grants, if they can perfectly operate perfectly outside the law at a governmental level even, and rake in vastly superior 'funds' ending up in their pockets...

So similarities with certain 3rd world autocratic regimes are very easy to make. But what makes it particularly annoying, is that the schizoid situation of a loudly propagandising EU country is having such easy comparisons made about its affairs.

The essence of the deplorable numerical facts is that this will continue for generations in the same pattern established in the last 20-odd years... Actual EU funds either go unused (as the elite can't be bothered frankly with such tedious routes to get their hands on some smaller funds) or the ones given for infrastructure development (as the core topic of previous posting goes) get diverted and/or 'disappear'... whilst the tangible realities those funds were supposed to deliver are hard to see...

Possibly some 10% of motorways from more than 50% of the used (vanished) budgets, built over ludicrous amount of time and for the highest cost per mile in the EU are the best examples... and one can meditate over such very post-communist 21st century typical schizoid reality whilst drives along the 40-odd miles of Transylvanian motorway...