30 years of democracy, a documentary about the burden of being free

I was born in 1988. So I’m 31 going 32 next year and pretty much all my conscious life I’ve been part of the “new-found” democracy. I’ve seen my parents live, suffer, adapt through the changes in economy, even caught a glimpse of the inflation and how money was loosing value as each day passed by.

One typical journalism organization in Romania, called Recorder, recently published a 3-hour documentary on the 30 years of democracy and the burden that we’ve been through, as a nation, to sustain that idea. It’s well worth your time and I won’t spoil it here giving away the plot and history that it shows.

My background (although a day-to-day programmer to make a living) is in Philosophy and Political Sciences. I loved to learn about the history of “the state” and the various forms of government. In fact, the most important lesson I took from the university is that (1) democracy is, by all measures, the most inefficient, unstable and equity unfair way of society to organize itself as, but somehow in spite of all this, it’s mimics (or mirrors) society in form and as such it coerces into a stable state whenever the forces that try to take it apart seem close to doing that.

The second lesson that I remember from the university is (2) that of the society, which should not condemn its political leaders because the political leaders are in fact the mirror image of the society. Of course, everybody that abuses power should answer to the law (and go to jail) but the society itself is indirectly responsible for putting the leader in the position of power and as such is also responsible for removing the corrupted leader whenever he’s no more a fit. There need to be organisations or watchers that carefully scrutinize the abuses of the state, no matter in which form the state and its powers manifest (Parliament, President, Government and I would say also the Justice power which if not free can be abused by either of the above 3 main powers).

In accord with this education about democracy and about the way the principles of “the state” should apply, after following through the documentary, I will make some remarks about it, both good or bad, but mostly good:

  • there’s an inherent psychological story that crayons the Romanian civil society as if passed through the decades. The documentary makes excellent work to portray the old and new image of the understanding of the people about liberties back in the 1990 and how they adapted to liberty in the post-2000. It’s indeed that liberty was a burden back in the 1990 when we were hit hard by the lack of competitiveness on the free market, a consequence of the communism regime but as years have gone by, most left the country to find good, honest work in western countries which lacked workers for the low respect jobs (due to their better economical status);
  • the documentary makes great service of showing the political leaders in their good and bad parts and to show how power had corrupted them either from within or through outside influence. It’s sad that half-way through this transition period, the society still could not find a good choice other than “2 communists” as Basescu would put it;
  • which in short, portrays just how long the long-reaching hand of the socialist/communist party has been in Romania after the fall of Nicolae Ceausescu, even if we don’t admit it and we try to portray Iliescu as a democrat (which he is not, I’m sorry). This stagnation as presented in the documentary delayed any kind of progress in Romania for a couple of more years, yet however, society found a way to do “business” (or “bisnita“) away from the state’s control. Indeed, when the mechanisms of the state fall and the state which owned the majority of enterprises in the company is not able to provide you work, you are doomed/forced to find a way to do a living, even if that meant buying from abroad (Turkey) and selling it back home;
  • overall a well-done and well-rounded short history of the past 30 years of democracy (I would say 10, at most 15) as the society from my point of view started to change only after 2000 (or 2005) when it was clear we had to adapt to the competitive market outside (and with most youth learning a new language, aiming for an IT job or leaving the country to find work elsewhere something that was unacceptable in the years before the fall of communism);
  • what could have been said more or what I would’ve liked is to invite a neutral political analyst (from the universities and if possible from outside the country) to draw an educated conclusion about the past 30 years explicitly telling the society what was learned, what we lost, what we have gained and what should we try to mimic or import from more mature democracies as I felt the commentaries of the invitees were not forming a conclusion but rather they were scattered viewpoints from the different scenarios in which these people have witnessed democracy unfold. The feeling of “chatarsis” is there, waiting for the end of the documentary to be set free, but it never does or doesn’t feel to do so;

I hope the guys from Recorder will stitch also an English subtitle to the video to make it easy for the international community to also follow through the history as it’s a pity not to be aware of the last standing form of disguised communism that lasted well before the USSR fell, in ways that were so masked and devious you’d write an entire library of books about.

To this day and in the instability of Europe, there are forces that still attract towards a return to the old ways, but I’m pretty sure with the clear vote we have for another liberal president (Iohannis) that the political class has understood we aim for an European integration and towards a western mindset and values and that the old barons will reform themselves and in order to survive a changing society also adapt to the (harder but cleaner and fairer) western ways of creating and adding value (not the old corrupted ways of passing special laws or tax exemptions which got them rich in the first place).

My sincere congrats to all the people behind Recorder and this fantastic documentary which dwarfs in quality, length and message any other previous attempt at documenting these past decades of post-communism, transition and I would say, finally, democracy in the last decade or so (yes, call me crazy, but society has changed its mentality only in the last 10 years or a little bit more).