“A general cleaning must be done! We must start at zero! A reset is required!”
As I walk on the road, the household of my great-grandmother appears on the right side. It is in ruin. A large portion of the fence has collapsed and one can easily see the inner yard while staying in the middle of the road. The house is also damaged. The windows are broken, the doors are no longer where they are supposed to be. Some parts of the furniture are missing, as strangers probably got inside and stole what they found of value. Everything is in complete disorder, chairs thrown upside-down over tables, beds full of clothes that have been taken out of the wardrobes, books spread on the floor, plaster falling from the walls. It is chaos.
While looking at the havoc reigning everywhere, I feel the desire to take with me something from the house, something deeply symbolic, something easy enough to carry with me, yet significant. I remember that, on the wall of the entrance room there are two framed pictures. The pictures are in fact the photos of two ancestors of the family – the grandparents of my grandmother – an old man with beard and an elegant top hat, and an old woman equally stylishly dressed. I navigate through the garbage piling up, feverishly looking for the pictures. I find an empty frame on the wall, with no photo inside it. I also find on the ground what must be one of the photos, rolled in the form of a scroll. I open it and… there is nothing inside; it is just a blank piece of paper.
I look estranged at the house. I know it’s the house of my ancestors but there is nothing there that connects me with the past. It’s just an ordinary house, with ordinary furniture and ordinary clothes and ordinary loads of stuff. There are no people inside. Only me. A painful fracture between what it was and what it is. Nothing familiar anymore.
I wake up.
When you live in East Europe, corruption and abuse are the norm. There are fundamental differences between Western Europe and Eastern Europe, and the project of the European Union cannot properly deal with these issues. I don’t want to be exhaustive, but one important aspect that comes to my mind is that the Western civilization is based on Competence while the Eastern civilization is based on Power. In the West, if you are competent and hard-working, you succeed. You can have a decent life. Corruption happens mainly at the top of society, in the economic and political realms, where a lot of money is managed. But the simple folk, if he/she is not mentally damaged or a psychopath, can flourish. On the contrary, in the East, power (the abuse of it) rules everything, even the simplest human interactions. Power is much more important, especially political power (influence) and financial power (bribery). Competence and diligence are not rewarded, and for this reason there are a lot of flaws in society and there is a lot of lying aiming to cover incompetence or the rampant theft of resources. This is why good people fled to the West; at some point you either become accomplice with the system (in various degrees, from remaining silent and pretending you don’t see what’s happening, to actively engaging yourself in criminal activity) or you risk being suffocated or crushed (and you emigrate). However, a less obvious difference between the West and the East is Continuity. East Europe was practically nowhere while in West Europe cathedrals were built. There is huge primitivism in the East and an imitation of the rule of law, while the West is a well-established society that has learned from hundreds of years of social experimenting. And this can be seen in the mentality of the people.
There is obviously a lot of frustration when things go wrong and nothing functions anymore. The first reaction of an East European is to burn everything to the ground, to punish with death those who are perceived as guilty, to clean everything and start from zero. I quoted my own mother above, as this is a frequent reaction in my part of the world: The society needs a reset!
Isn’t it better to judge those who are guilty instead of executing them?
Isn’t it better to educate the future generations about the mistakes made by their ancestors instead of erasing everything so that the past can be easily repeated again?
It is important not to forget when (and where) you were stupid in your history, be it your personal or national history. It is important to build history museums, war museums, and show to everybody what human nature can do in its evilest form. It is important to learn to recognize malevolence, including the wickedness in oneself. So that history does not repeat itself.
The dream above shows what happens when you touch the reset button. You lose continuity. It’s a deeply East European reflex (I don’t know, maybe it’s specific to other countries but I speak from my own experience). The house of my ancestors is abandoned and the photos of my ancestors can no longer be found. There is a gap over which no bridge can be thrown. People are missing. And symbols are missing.
The dream is not symbolic whatsoever. In fact, it might not be a dream at all. It is realistic. It could be real.
It is real.
It is the story of my family.
A typical Romanian family.
Several civilizations lived on these Eastern lands and we know nothing about them. The legends don’t tell too much or they are absolutely silent. We unearth ruins and we have no idea who has built them. We didn’t even expected to find ruins where a new highway or villa was built. We have a vague idea – often romanticized – about our ancestors, but the historians and archeologists say we – the people of today – are quite different, often radically different. We inhabit the same land but we live in a continuous present time. No past and obviously no future exists if one presses the reset button all the time, as a solution for every (often trivial) problem.
So, my mother is wrong. One cannot have deep roots if one restarts their life all the time. Yet, since I am my mother’s son, I have the same impulse, the same compulsion, to restart my life in different parts of the Western Europe, as an emigrant. I’ve already did that three times. It is part of my social or spiritual DNA, not to have a place of my own, not to feel connected with the past or even the present. It is in me, in myself. Being conscious of this proclivity might be the best thing I can do. And my hesitation to press the reset button anew is easily understandable.
But what’s the alternative? To live among ruins?