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The Hypocrisy of the Solidarity Myth

Hypocrisy is a privileged vice, which closes the mouth of everyone, and enjoys in peace a sovereign impunity, says Moliere in “The Imaginary Invalid.” Hypocrisy has virtually grown into the functional model of political correctness, and has implicitly proved that the humanist desire for politics without hypocrisy was, in itself, hypocritical. This is why, every once in a while, we should talk about the hypocrisies behind politics, and shudder at the fact that this very talk can only be hypocritical, if only because any talk about politics and political acts is, to some extent, subjective.

I would begin with the hypocrisy of the word “solidarity,” one of the most ideology-laden words of these (and other) times. Solidarity is chanted, claimed, desired, shared, in short it is imposed by party and state structures, by television channels and eventually, by President Băsescu himself. Prime Minister Boc talks to us, live in prime time, about the required solidarity of pensioners with public workers, of employees with employers, of the village with the city, of the chicken with the knife. We are lured with the prospects of a superb solidarity of all Romanians, who endure everything to overcome the crisis and secretly rejoice at the thought that in 2030 salaries and pensions will go up and Romania will be just like Sweden (in terms of climate). And we are horrified to find that not all Romanians feel like that, that there are some who, in such difficult times, fail to grasp that feeling. They will not join the great circle of solidarity; they want more money now, not in 2030. I don’t believe President Băsescu is well-meant as regards democracy, that Prime Minister Boc and his Cabinet know how we can overcome the crisis, and that the Liberal-Democratic Party (PDL) is an honest party. These people—true enough, they are just a minority of 49.76% of the citizens of Romania—simply want solidarity against solidarity or even reject the notion of solidarity altogether. And why wouldn’t they?

What does “solidarity” mean? Strangely enough, the dictionary definition seems ambiguous: “Being sympathetic (with somebody or something); a feeling that makes people provide mutual help”, from the French ‘solidarite’.” In this view, solidarity is not objective; it is a feeling—that may be experienced or not—and a feeling is not based on reason. Hence the ideological hypocrisy of Power, which tells us we should embrace an irrational attitude in a voluntary, i.e. rational, manner. More clearly and bluntly put, the Power in Romania—although the term is widely used by leading Opposition figures as well—tells you to play the fool if you’re not a fool, and if you are, to stay a fool. Solidarity means suffering on one’s own or together with one’s family, in a crowd where other people suffer on their own or with their families, and hoping that the common suffering will be ended by someone else, who is exclusively in charge with that.

This is what we understand from the statement that the Government plans to lay off 141,000 public sector employees, in order to prove solidarity with the thousands made redundant in the private sector. This (rather stupid and yet to prove itself) corporate model, according to which the private economy is more competitive than state-owned companies, seems to shape this ideological quest for solidarity.

But if the Government was truly seeking the support (and therefore solidarity) of the society for the tough measures it had to take, it should have left behind the PDL cronies, instead of desperately trying to politicise public offices for them.

I would mention an example in the spirit of the rational choice theory. Imagine a Rolls Royce driver gets stuck in the mud—which is quite possible in rural Romania. There are three scenarios: he asks for the help of the people around, and they agree to support him without conditions; in the end, all of them go home.

The second scenario is for their support to be conditional on the driver’s paying for it in money or in kind.

And the third scenario is that nobody helps and the car remains stuck in the mud indefinitely.

This example shows us true solidarity at work in the first scenario alone. And we think the same happened with the Romanian society. In the first years after the Revolution the society agreed to a sacrifice, hoping that the political Power will include it in its development plan. It was not the case, and ever larger groups in the society started to make their political support conditional on direct economic guarantees—in other words, the measures taken by the Power only benefited part of the society, although all citizens paid to see the country move on. And when the group of beneficiaries narrowed and became highly visible, no one was interested any longer in contributing to a collective effort, and left it all to the Rolls Royce drivers. As long as the car worked, the beneficiaries looked out through the window at an increasingly dispersed and civically and politically inactive society. But when the car got stuck, the call for solidarity became the new political-ideological slogan.

Each and every party has been the beneficiary of power, and all have hypocritically accused the others of plotting to be the sole beneficiary of power. Today, PDL has the keys to a car stuck in the mud, and calls for solidarity, although it probably feels that people are no longer willing to give credit to any political power based on narrow group interests. And since it doesn’t know how to fool people into pushing the car again, it accuses former drivers of having ruined it. Indeed, President Traian Băsescu, who constantly criticises everybody, is a mere exponent of power and of those who benefit from it, without giving any chance to a true change of social relations in Romania.

And Traian Băsescu’s hypocrisy is unbelievable, even with respect to PDL. Criticising an incompetent government obviously wins him support, but in Traian Băsescu’s case the criticism is utterly hypocritical and malicious. Who worked to campaign for him? Who organised his pointless referendum? Who didn’t make any reforms for a year, so as not to annoy the voters? Who broke the most elementary rules of democracy to keep HIM satisfied?

Obviously, in his turn Traian Băsescu violated the Constitution to keep Emil Boc in Victoria Palace and pushed the party forward, but the party went to huge lengths to serve him, backing some unbelievably stupid statements only because they had been made by Băsescu. Without doubt, PDL and Băsescu are virtually interchangeable: President Băsescu is the product of PDL, and today’s PDL is Traian Băsescu’s making. The ugly populism, the rudeness mistaken for civilisation, the incompetence of PDL as a ruling party is generated by Traian Băsescu’s model. How can he criticise a party for giving public posts to its cronies, after he sent his own daughter into the European Parliament thanks to the efforts of this party? This is hypocrisy by any other name.

So we see that Power structures themselves no longer boast perfect solidarity; on the contrary, the dialectic principles of power increasingly force players to a collision course. Because by annihilating the other political parties, their room for manoeuvre has narrowed significantly, and the “burden of the past” is entirely theirs. Hence the 10%-electoral-threshold diversion.

Relying on the simple divide-et-impera principle, Traian Băsescu tried to check how parties—other than PDL—respond to his jokes. And he noticed that, fortunately, nothing has changed. The old saying that “one fool can ask what ten wise men cannot answer” is entirely true in the Romanian politics. It only took a flowery speech about a 10% electoral threshold and two parties in the political arena, for the Opposition and some in Power to run amok. Hardly had Băsescu crowed three times—once, actually—that the Social Democratic Party (PSD), just like Peter, denied the National Liberal Party (PNL), PNL denied the Opposition and peeped at Power, UDMR shivered at the thought of its possible death, and the so-called independent MPs probably thought twice about making their own party or crossing over to PDL.

But this tale proves the hypocrisy of the party system in Romania: in fact, all parties are haunted by the ghost of PNŢ-CD just like Hamlet by his own father. We don’t have clean parties, bold politicians and upright activists—they all want to get in power so as to feather their own nests, and for that they are willing to destroy the very democratic principles that their power and fortune were apparently built on. Moreover, we don’t have democratic parties—even the UDMR—but a collection of totalitarian parties (a sort of Communist Party multiplied by personal or ethnic idiosyncrasies) which target an authoritarian rule over a disintegrating Romanian society. Hence the superlative hypocrisy of parties, which accuse each others of corruption, although PSD, PDL or PNL are interchangeable as manners of governing and corrupting the public administration, while UDMR always remains constant, as a ruling party for an ethnic enclave in two and a half counties.

We would be hypocritical to say that the political class alone destroyed the myth of solidarity, although it does carry most of the blame. Trade unions and a large portion of the media and civil society were no strangers to political hypocrisy, and colluded with the beneficiaries of the system, out of personal or group interests.

In Romania, the communist-era ideology of survival and the boycotting of the concept of revolution have generated a culture of cynicism and massive distrust in authorities. And the authorities’ performance in society, their acceptance and promotion of corruption and cronyism, have pushed to new heights this culture of cynicism, based on mottos like sink or swim, or on a theory of Romanian exceptionalism. And while a cynical culture can foster incredible collective responsibility dodging skills, it never fosters solidarity.

Perhaps few people remember today that during the 1997 financial crisis in South Korea, citizens proved their outstanding national solidarity by lending their own gold artefacts to the state, so as to keep the currency strong and thus keep their country from going bankrupt. They understood that even an almost libertarian state like South Korea will protect all its citizens from the crisis, by indirectly supporting the companies that kept the Korean economy moving. And in spite of high-level corruption cases—all of which ended in notable trials and even the resignation of suicide of presidents and prime ministers, e.g. Ro Tae Woo—they once again proved that they trust their state.

Would the citizens of Romania be confident that their state is trustworthy? Would they believe that their voluntary donations will not be hijacked by some vested interests, and that they will not be once again asked to prove their solidarity? I would be a hypocrite to answer, “Yes.”


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