Democracy is hard to grow when you have poor people - I can see that. This clearly ties to financially impoverished people, but the scope is wider.
Romania is almost behind us.
Romania still seems caught between communism and capitalism. The era of Ceausescu has a presence that never seems to leave a conversation. Certainly it is hard to ignore him. The city has the monolith of the Ceausescu palace, now the parliament building. We were driving to it and turned the corner and it swept into view. More accurately, it blocked a view of anything else. This building is the biggest in Europe. In the world, it is only surpassed by the pentagon, in the USA. This was one of those moments when you wonder what happened to the sun.
But it simply took my breath away. Massive does not describe it. We drove around it - around the block. It would be a long walk by foot.
It seemed abandoned - it left the stark impression of the waste of a generation. But the building has about 70% occupancy - it is a busy location. Despite this, they still have difficulty maintaining the structure. The access road around the building was in serious disrepair. Garbage had been left on the steps. Honestly, it felt abandoned. A lost relic. It being Sunday when we visited, the lack of human beings added to the effect.
Jumping across the day and into the evening, we were shown a documentary by a collection of Romanian filmmakers that followed the lives of the people who thrived under, and after, Ceausecu. It was as a display of theft that seems impossible. A blatant exposure of intent to profit personally at all costs - a level of near braggarts, save they were so immersed in the deceit that it was simply their nature. Corruption that was so well entrenched that the general population seems to have surrendered any hope of change. During C's time, he paraded though neighbourhoods like a mafia don, having his hand kissed, people stroking his shirt as if they were touching a saint, people hoping he would turn his attention to them for a moment and take care of some small banality that, for them, was his purpose. People grateful that their master would come to their soil. That their lives were insignificant.
I remember physically recoiling from the scene.
I thought it was a remake of The Godfather. A sense of pure power that could be used to bequeath small favours to the masses while holding any and all real power for himself. And those who benefited from his regime, well, they saw it all as natural. Theft, corruption, greed - this was the matter of basic politic.
What a legacy for a country. What a starting position for democracy.
It reminded me of one of the more telling quotes of the day, with Constantin Damov, the vice president of the Green party.
"Democracy is hard to grow when you have poor people"
I can see that. This clearly ties to financially impoverished people, but the scope is wider. People who have nothing save the smallest possessions are poorly set to imagine that they are part of a greater wealth. Poor people have to learn to rely on themselves. That they have power and potential. That they can govern. But that is an incredible step when you are accustomed to life under a protectorate, a master who can make you feel grateful for his doing the least.
And here are the Greens. Relatively new, making their mark in this political realm.
These trips, especially to places like Romania, are far too short. You can learn nothing beyond the anecdotal with such a swing-through arrangement.
We detoured into agriculture and the potential for the state, the population.
"There is real food here with bread and meat," Damov said. One third of the farms are divided into small farms, survival farms. One third has large company farms from all over Europe. France, Germany, Denmark. Farms with 4,000 to 5,000 hectares. The final third has been abandoned. It all has the potential to feed four to five times our population.
"The one-third that is farmed [by locals] has no access to supermarkets. They are outside the food distribution network. We produce but we are not integrated.
"Agriculture needs a system and we have no state system. Everything here is jazz improvisation.
"Food security should be a future for the younger generation.
"We do not need more banks, or financiers, or money managers. We need food security."
Romania was a barrage of information, perspective, scope. It was a flood and something that will take repeated instruction for it to take root and structure. I left Romania curious about their future and how the Greens would develop their niche. It seems like learning how to swim in the open ocean. The basic principles must be the same, but you become consumed by the scope of water, power, potential, all around you. That, sometimes, the depth must be overwhelming.