sâmbătă, 30 august 2014

Too Far

Robbie, a small boy of six-seven years moves to Alaska with his family. There he discovers a world of great and incommensurable meaning. Shapero describes this transformation by following his main character through the journey of growing up and letting go of small boys mystical fantasies. Robbie learns to explore the surrounding forest, befriends Fristeen and together they form a bond that helps them both overlook the dramas unfolding in the adult world. Robbie’s parents are emotionally crippled by relationship issues: his father is enmeshed in his studies and his mother is battling depression. Fighting often, they neglect Robbie and this constant bickering pushes their son in to the arms of an imaginary world, ruled by the Dream Man and Shawn, under constant threat of being captured by Shivers.

Fristeen’s world is even less structured than Robbie’s. Without knowing her father and with no involvement from her mother, a drug addict, she is often left to herself, and sometimes the only food that she gets is Robbie’s sandwiches. Together the children set forward in an adventure through the woods and try to make sense of the world around them. They are very careful when exploring, and also are under constant threat by the imminence of Shivers power. (Apparently living in Alaska means that one must always be prepared to face a sudden freeze.)

Throughout the brief Alaskan summer the drama in their houses unfolds, to the point that at the start of the autumn Robbie’s parents decide to separate and Fristeen’s mom decide to get back with an abusive partner. The children decide to run in the forest and hide, thinking they will manage to survive independent, but a sudden freeze, Shivers, puts them in grave danger. The rescue team finds them in time. This last adventure concludes their initiation into a different stage of existence, marked by an absence of magic and fantastical beings.

Too Far is an enjoyable book, one that emphasizes the human power to search for meaning in the surroundings and also pinpoints to the mental characteristics that led early humans to construct gods endorsed with magical powers.  

duminică, 24 august 2014

“De ce este Romania altfel?” (Why is Romania different?)

Lucian Boia’s historical account on the causes and political context that influenced current day Romania is insightful and well-written. Browsing through topics, this essay is definitely a piece of history that especially Romanians must be aware. 

It starts with the Dacians - an ancient tribe that was attested here before the Roman Empire expansion in the first and second century, continues with the Great Migration of the Huns and the political and economic reign of the Otoman Empire. Throughout his discourse one can feel that the great things that make up the Romanians: adaptability, cunning determination to stick to their land, and industrious spirit were exactly the key pieces which together kept Romanians on a different route than its neighbouring countries. Boia refutes the claims that only the Communist Regime had a detrimental effect on the modernization of Romania, or that the socialist administration is solely to blame for a lack of political reorganization following the 1989 Revolution. One stringent need that was never prioritized by any Administration, ancient or current, is Education. This is precisely the reason why so many good ideas felt short of achieving success due to a chronic deficit in middle and long term vision of development. Without a vision for a country or without a healthy class a country can never escape some ancient frustration or achieve to stand at the same table with other European countries. Even though Romania joined the European Union in 2007, only this year were the bans of free access to labour market lifted. This is in striking contrast with other countries that have previously joined EU, namely Hungary and Poland. What makes Romania’s case different?

In Lucian Boia’s opinion a key element rises to prominence: the lack of intellectual elite that could question tyrannical decision and set an example for the lower working classes. But where and how could Romania forge an intellectual class when across all time only the powerful minorities (Hungarians, Germans, Jews, and Italians) had access to schools? It is paradoxical to think that under the Socialist Regime there were more Schools and Universities built than previously and yet after the Regime fell they valued little to the majority of people. What is even more baffling is the fact that nowadays there is an inflation of university degrees on the job markets in Romania, yet the Education is not valued. We have come to be a nation of poorly educated university degree holders. Most of the talented young people, bright individuals, choose to study abroad and never come back, as to come back and work in a university lab resembles sometimes the titanic work done by the scientist in medieval times. This is a powerful example of wasted potential and a condemnation to an export of intellectual power. Moreover the curse of Romania’s wasted potential doesn’t stop with the small percentage of the elite. On the contrary, the majority of those that lack education are deemed to work as unskilled workers and migrate to countries with better minimum wage (Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Great Britain, just to name a few), leaving in the country those that could not go (children and elders) or those that chose to stay for various other reasons.

The picture is grim: a country lacking long-term political/ administrative vision, which is readily opened to emulate the Western Societies, but deemed to be seen as an exploitable country for both its people and resources. Until Romanian Government prioritizes Education, Health and Agricultural Economy things are only bound to become worse.

In the eve of a new electoral mandate I am left with a century old question: “And me, whom shall I cast my vote?!?” (Paraphrasing I.L. Caragiale, 1884).