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New Europe College Yearbook 1996-1997

New Europe College Yearbook 1996-1997

ªTEFAN BORBÉLY MIRCEA CÃRTÃRESCU CRISTINA CODARCEA FELICIA DUMAS IOAN ICÃ, JR. ION MANOLESCU CÃTÃLIN PARTENIE CRISTIAN PREDA MIHAI SORIN RÃDULESCU VALENTINA SANDU-DEDIU

Tipãrirea acestui volum a fost finanþatã de Published with the financial support of

Tipãrirea acestui volum a fost finanþatã de Published with the financial support of Copyright © 2000

Copyright © 2000 - New Europe College ISBN 973 – 98624 – 4 – 6

NEW EUROPE COLLEGE Str. Plantelor 21 70309 Bucharest Romania Tel. (+40-1) 327.00.35, Fax (+40-1) 327.07.74 E-mail: nec@nec.ro

CONTENTS

ANDREI PLEªU

ELITEN - OST UND WEST

7

ªTEFAN BORBÉLY

A PSYCHOHISTORICAL INSIGHT INTO PAST AND PRESENT ROMANIA

23

MIRCEA CÃRTÃRESCU

POSTMODERNITY AS A ‘WEAK’ ONTOLOGICAL,

EPISTEMOLOGICAL AND HISTORICAL EXPERIENCE

93

CRISTINA CODARCEA

RAPPORTS DE POUVOIR ET STRATÉGIE DE GOUVERNEMENT

DANS LA VALACHIE DU XVII e SIÈCLE

129

FELICIA DUMAS

LE GESTUEL LITURGIQUE ORTHODOXE - DIMENSIONS SÉMANTIQUES

ET PRAGMATIQUES

151

IOAN ICÃ, JR.

POLITICAL EUROPE, SPIRITUAL EUROPE

191

ION MANOLESCU

VISUAL TECHNIQUES IN POSTMODERN LITERATURE. TOWARDS AN

INTERDISCIPLINARY APPROACH OF FICTIONAL PERSPECTIVE

239

CÃTÃLIN PARTENIE

PLATONIC IMMORTALITY

REVISITED

277

CRISTIAN PREDA

NOUS, LES MODERNES

301

MIHAI SORIN RÃDULESCU

SUR L’ARISTOCRATIE ROUMAINE DE L’ENTRE-DEUX-GUERRES

337

VALENTINA SANDU-DEDIU

COMMON SUBJECTS IN MUSICAL RHETORIC AND STYLISTICS.

ASPECTS AND PROPOSALS

367

COLEGIUL „NOUA EUROPÔ

411

NEW EUROPE COLLEGE

415

NEW EUROPE COLLEGE

419

ELITEN - OST UND WEST

ANDREI PLEªU

Hoffentlich verstoße ich nicht allzu sehr gegen den Geist der Reuter-Konferenzen, wenn ich Ihnen an Stelle eines Vortrags etwas bieten werde, das eher einer Erzählung nahe kommt. Mit anderen Worten, ich ziehe es vor episch zu sein, und nicht analytisch, und das aus zwei Gründen. Zum einen komme ich aus einem ehemals kommunistischen Land, in dem das Thema Eliten längst als Lebenserfahrung existierte, bevor es zum Thema von Reflexionen, Forschung und akademischer Debatte wurde. Die Eliten waren bei uns der Grundstoff für einen Krieg. Die Frage, die unser Leben nach 1945 prägte, war nicht „Was sind Eliten und welches ist ihre Rolle im sozialen Leben?“, sondern „Wie können die Eliten liquidiert werden, wie kann man die Welt von ihrer verhängnis- und unheilvollen Präsenz befreien?“ Es wurde nicht nach einem Konzept gesucht, sondern nach einer Strategie. Niemand verlor Zeit mit Definitionen, und seltsamerweise - obwohl eine gründliche Definition fehlte – wußte jedermann sehr wohl, um was es ging… Der zweite Grund, weshalb ich mich für die epische Variante entschied, hat mit der Art und Weise zu tun, wie ich in diesem Moment die optimale Entwicklung eines Ost-West-Dialogs verstehe. Meiner Ansicht nach ist Osteuropa nach 1989 viel zu schnell zu einem Studienobjekt für Westeuropa geworden. Die theoretische Konstruktion kam zustande, bevor die Tatsachen gründlich verdaut waren. Wir wurden systematisiert, bevor wir gehört wurden, bevor uns bis zu Ende zugehört wurde. Damit möchte ich keineswegs sagen, es gäbe kein umfassendes Inventar der osteuropäischen „Wirklichkeiten”, und ich möchte auch nicht die Pose des unverstandenen Opfers einnehmen, beziehungsweise noch unterstreichen. Ich behaupte nur, dass noch viel zu akkumulieren ist auf der Ebene der offenbarenden kleinen Geschichte, der unermerklichen alltäglichen Promiskuität. Gebraucht wird ein naiver, klatschender und tratschender Diogenes Laertius des Osten, der das „Fleisch“ der totalitaristischen Erfahrung wieder ins rechte Licht rückt, das von politischen Analytikern, von Soziologen, Historikern und Wirtschaftsexperten von überall zu früh seziert und obduziert worden ist.

7

N.E.C. Yearbook 1996-1997

Kurz gesagt, Osteuropa hat seine Geschichte noch nicht zu Ende erzählt. Deswegen erscheint mir jede epische Episode willkommen.

Ich beginne jedoch mit einer Geschichte aus Westeuropa. Es war in 1992, und ich befand mich in diesem Saal als Gast des Rektors. Ich hielt einen Vortrag über Engel, mein damaliges Thema, exotisch genug, um gleichzeitig Neugier und Mißtrauen zu erwecken. Zwangsläufig kam ich auf die himmlischen Hierarchien zu sprechen, mit den neun Stufen, die Pseudo-Dionysios Aeropagita aufzählt: von der niedrigsten Stufe der einfachen Engel, die gleich über dem Menschen angesiedelt sind, bis zur höchsten Stufe der Serafim, in unmittelbarer Nähe Gottes. Bei den Diskussionen, die auf meinen Vortrag folgten, bemerkte ein bewanderter Kollege aus Chicago – später wurden wir dann gute Freunde – halb im Spaß, halb ernst, dass die Hierarchien von Dionysios eine elitär-diskri- minatorische Auffassung verraten. Schon der Terminus „Hierarchie“ signalisiert – durch seinen Rigorismus – eine Sklerose der Werte, ihr Verharren in einer ungerechten Schichtung.

Ich brauche wohl nicht zu erwähnen, dass ich überrumpelt war. Bis dahin hatte ich niemals daran gedacht, die hierarchische Aufstellung der Engelscharen als Ausdruck der Ungleichheit, als mangelhaften demokratischen Geist zu analysieren und zu deuten. Mir schien, dass unter dem göttlichen Auge alle, die ihren Zweck erfüllen, gleich sind. Es gibt zugegebenermaßen in der erschaffenen Welt eine Art „Arbeitsteilung“, die jedem eine besondere Rolle zuteilt, auf der einen oder anderen kosmischen Stufe. Diese Rollenverteilung führt jedoch nicht zwangsläufig zu ungerechten Verhältnissen der Unterordnung. Der Mensch, beispielsweise, befindet sich unter den Engeln angesiedelt, ist ihnen aber nicht unbedingt unterlegen – im Gegenteil, er kann „eine Überengelheit“ sein, wie Angelus Silesius sagt, und folglich in der Rolle des Zentrums des Universums verteilt werden. Keine despotisch aufgezwungene Ungleichheit sah ich im Konzept der „Hierarchie“, sondern eine freiwillig eingegangene, lebendige und funktionelle Ordnung.

Die Bemerkung des amerikanischen Kollegen ließ mich eine – für mich neue – Empfindlichkeit gegenüber dem Eliten-Problem entdecken. Ich war in einem Umfeld aufgewachsen, in dem der Terminus „Elite“ keinerlei negativen Beigeschmack zuließ. Ich glaubte mit einer nahezu schülerhaften Unschuld, dass dieser Terminus ausschließlich etwas Gutes bezeichnet, etwas Schönes, Edles, Wünschenswertes. Nur die Aktivisten der Kommunistischen Partei reagierten allergisch, wenn er beschworen wurde; für sie gab es nur eine einzige akzeptable Elite: die Gegen-Elite. Und

8

ANDREI PLEªU

siehe, hier im Westen angelangt, wurde mir – ganz unerwartet und aus einem völlig anderen Blickwinkel – eingeredet, dass mit den Eliten etwas nicht stimme. Dass die Legitimität der Eliten keine „Selbstverständlichkeit“ sei. Ich begann meine Unschuld zu verlieren ...

Doch das war weder das erste, noch das letzte Mal, dass sich meine unter dem Kommunismus angesammelte Lebenserfahrung als unverwendbar in der „freien Welt“ erwies. Selbst wenn wir scheinbar dasselbe sagen, denken wir häufig an unterschiedliche Wirklichkeiten. Oftmals können wir gar nicht dasselbe sagen. Zwischen den beiden Welten hat sich eine komplizierte Sammlung von Dyssymmetrien angehäuft, die eine Wiedervereinigung mindestens in demselben Maße verhindert wie die ökonomischen Dysfunktionen. Erlauben Sie mir einige Beispiele anzuführen. Nach 1989 galten für die ehemals kommunistischen Länder zwei Ziele als dringend und prioritär: die Gründung eines politischen Mehrparteiensystems und der Übergang zur Marktwirtschaft - Demokratie und Kapitalismus. Zumindest theoretisch waren unsere Bestrebungen frei von jedwelcher Zweideutigkeit. Wir mußten nur die Ärmel hochkrempeln – unter dem Expertenblick des Westens und mit dessen großzügiger Hilfe. Nur war der Westen nicht mehr an jenem Punkt, an dem wir gewohnt waren, ihn zu suchen. Solch eine Entdeckung konnte für uns nicht ohne bedeutende taktische und strategische Folgen bleiben. Richard von Weizsäcker, der damalige Bundespräsident, hatte gerade an die Politiker seines Landes eine mutige Botschaft über den übertriebenen Anteil des Parteikampfes im öffentlichen Leben gerichtet. Das öffentliche Interesse laufe Gefahr vom Wahlkampf verraten zu werden. Der Mechanismus der politischen Dispute zwischen den verschiedenen Parteiformationen entwickele sich zum einzigen realen Inhalt der Demokratie, was letztendlich einer Preisgabe der grundlegenden Prinzipien der Demokratie gleichkomme. Möglicherweise sollten wir unsere Vorstellungskraft einsetzten, um neue Funktionsformen des politischen Lebens anzupeilen und auszuloten, in denen die Parteien nicht mehr die überlegene Prägnanz von heute haben.

In den rumänischen Medien sorgte dieserart Argumentation für Verblüffung. Die demokratischen Geister waren verschnupft, die Krypto-Kommunisten jubilierten. Denn das hieße, wir hätten auf ein Auslaufmodel gesetzt. Wir wollten ein System übernehmen, das sich seine Erfinder vorbereiteten aufzugeben. Herr von Weizsäcker bezog sich aber eindeutig nicht auf die Transitions-Länder, und es wäre zumindest unangebracht eine Idee in Rumänien anwenden zu wollen, die nur in

9

N.E.C. Yearbook 1996-1997

einem stabilen demokratischen Kontext Sinn machte. Psychologisch gesehen ist es jedoch zumindest unangenehm sich für ein Ziel stark zu machen, dessen Risse und Sprünge so leicht vorhersehbar sind. Man steht kurz vor der Hochzeit, und da wird einem die Scheidung angekündigt. Nüchternheit ist kaum eine gute Prämisse für den reformierenden Enthusiasmus. Das ist auch der Grund, weshalb ich lange Zeit sauer auf André Glücksmann war, der im Dezember 1989 nach Bukarest kam und unsere revolutionäre Euphorie zerstörte, indem er sagte: „Maintenant, c’est le bordel qui commence!“ Er hatte Recht. Doch mit seinem Recht konnten wir nichts anfangen.

Ähnliche Probleme tauchten auch im Zusammenhang mit der Marktwirtschaft und im allgemeinen mit dem kapitalistischen Modell auf. Wir waren daran gewöhnt, in der Schule, in den Stunden „Politische Erziehung“, auf den offiziellen Konferenzen oder von den Massenmedien über die Unzulänglichkeiten des Kapitalismus aus marxistisch- leninistischer Sicht informiert zu werden. Nach 1989 haben wir es nicht mehr mit einer sozialistischen Kritik, sondern mit einer kapitalistischen Kritik des Kapitalismus zu tun. Selbst George Soros hat zahlreiche Bedenken im Zusammenhang mit dem zeitgenössischen Funktionieren der Finanzmärkte und der internationalen Finanzorganisationen (siehe u.a. seinen Artikel „The Capitalist Threat“, erschienen im „The Atlantic Monthly“ im Februar 1997). Manche hyperentwickelte Länder, wie beispielsweise Japan, zögern nicht, eine zentralistische Kontrolle über Produktion und Handel auszuüben, es kommen geschickte Theoretiker auf, von Galbraith bis hin zu Adolph Lowe, und beweisen, dass der Mißerfolg der Planwirtschaft nicht durch eine abgöttische Verherrlichung des Marktes korrigiert werden kann. Man spricht von einem schuldhaften „Fundamentalismus“ des Liberalismus (John Gray), während die These des dritten Wegs auf das Binom Kommunismus (beziehungsweise Sozialdemokratie) - Kapitalismus (beziehungsweise Liberalismus) verzichtet und, seit Anthony Giddens, immer mehr Gehör findet.

Keinen Augenblick stelle ich Berechtigung, Subtilität und Aktualität dieser umfangreichen Debatte in Frage. Alles was ich sagen möchte ist, dass wir, im Osten, nicht darauf vorbereitet sind, an ihr teilzunehmen und sie uns anzueignen. Mehr noch, es wäre zu diesem Zeitpunkt riskant, auf diese Debatte einzugehen und den Entschluß prompt zu handeln mit Betrachtungen über eine Problematik zu ersetzen, die keinerlei Deckung in unserer alltäglichen Erfahrung hat. Beispiele gibt es noch und noch: So haben wir zum Beispiel jetzt das Gefühl, dass wir uns endlich wieder in

10

ANDREI PLEªU

den natürlichen Metabolismus der Geschichte einfügen können – für unseren jetzigen Zustand ist Fukuyama unpassend und irritierend. Wir haben das Gefühl, daß wir nach Jahrzehnten des mehr oder minder stark proletarisch geprägten „Internationalismus“ nun unsere Identität wiederfinden müssen – der Wirbelwind der Globalisierung setzt für uns

zu früh ein. Möglicherweise kommt alles zu früh, was in Form von Ansprüchen vom Westen auf uns zukommt, nachdem wir jahrzehntelang mit dem Gedanken lebten, der Bruch mit dem Kommunismus komme

möglicherweise zu spät

Wir sind auf gefährlicher Weise in dieser

... drastischen Dialektik eines „Zu-früh – Zu-spät“ gefangen, was unter

Umständen lähmende Auswirkungen haben kann.

Und jetzt kommen wir auf die Eliten zu sprechen. Wahrscheinlich ist meine These durchaus vorhersehbar nach alledem, was ich bereits gesagt habe. Ich behaupte, dass das charakteristischste Programm des Kommunismus und dessen dauerhafteste Auswirkung die Beseitigung der Eliten war. Ich behaupte ferner, dass die Schwierigkeiten, mit denen Osteuropa in der postkommunistischen Periode zu kämpfen hat, in großem Maße von den zahlenmäßig und qualitativ nicht ausreichenden Eliten bedingt sind, und dass folglich die „Neuerfindung“ der Eliten lebenswichtig ist. Der globale Kontext aber, und die zu diesem Zeitpunkt dominante Ideologie, neigen eher zur Relativierung der Eliten. Wir befinden uns demnach in der Situation, ein Projekt zur Rekonstruktion der Eliten auf dem Hintergrund einer anti-elitaristischen Rhetorik vorzuschlagen. Eine weitere Asymmetrie also, zusätzlich zu denjenigen, die ich erst vorhin erwähnt habe. Allerdings mit dem Unterschied, dass ich diesmal eine Nuancierung hinzufügen muß, die mir wesentlich erscheint: Ich glaube, dass unsere Verspätung in diesem Falle nicht verhängnisvoll ist. Ich glaube, es ist vorteilhafter, vor sich die Aussicht auf eine Rekonstruktion der Eliten zu haben, als jene ihrer Nivellierung. Ich glaube, was zu früh für uns ist, ist diesmal auch für den Rest der Welt zu früh. Und mehr noch, ich glaube, dass die derzeitige Modetendenz, Ansehen und Autorität der Eliten zu beschneiden, unproduktiv ist und auch niemals willkommen sein wird.

I. Einer der am häufigsten im modernen politischen Kommentar anzutreffenden Gemeinplatz ist derjenige, der den Nazismus als Doktrin des Rassenhasses im Unterschied zum Kommunismus definiert, der eine Doktrin des Klassen hasses sei. Im Grunde genommen übt der Kommunismus seine Ressentiments nicht nach Klassenkriterien aus. Alle sozialen Klassen sind potentielle Feinde, einschließlich der Klasse der

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N.E.C. Yearbook 1996-1997

Proletarier. Worauf der Kommunismus wirklich abzielt sind die Eliten - die bürgerlichen Eliten, aber auch die Eliten der Arbeiterschaft, der Großgrundbesitzer, ebenso die Eliten des Bauerntums. Selbst die von der Partei nach vorne, in Spitzenfunktionen, geschobene künstliche Elite, wird ohne Vorurteile oder Bedenken liquidiert, sobald sie sich als eine Elite mit Unabhängigkeitstendenzen erweist.

Der Kommunismus ist eine Theorie des Klassenkampfes, aber eine Praxis der Zerstörung der Eliten. Dass die Dinge so stehen, beweist die Bevölkerung der kommunistischen Gefängnisse, in denen Politiker, Universitätsprofessoren und Großgrundbesitzer mit des Lesen und Schreibens unkundigen Bauern, oder mit Arbeitern, Priestern, Gendarmen und Studenten zusammen leben und leiden. Die Welt der kommunistischen Konzentrationslager ist nicht der Ausdruck eines Klassenmartyriums; es ist ein perfektes Resümee der Welt. Die 100.000.000 Toten – dies scheint die provisorische Bilanz des Weltkommunismus zu sein – sind nicht 100.000.000 Bürgerliche. Der Titel, den Nicolas Werth für das erste Kapitel des „Schwarzen Buches des Kommunismus“, das Kapitel über die Sowjetunion, gewählt hat, ist äußerst treffend: „Ein Staat gegen sein Volk“. Nicht gegen eine Klasse oder eine Idee – gegen ein ganzes Volk. Die Rhetorik der Repression sprach selbstverständlich von den Arbeitern und Bauern als die Initiatoren und Nutznießer der „Revolution“, in Wirklichkeit aber zählten sie auch oft zu den Opfern.

Die Bolschewiken-Kommissare starteten umfassende und blutige Kampagnen zur „Befriedung der Dörfer“, die sich der Kollektivisierung widersetzen. Eine Statistik des Volkskommissariats für Arbeit stellte fest – um nur ein Beispiel anzuführen –, dass im Jahre 1920 rund 77 Prozent der großen und mittelständischen Unternehmen Rußlands von Protestbewegungen und Streiks erfaßt waren. Ein „engagierter“ Journalist der Prawda kommentierte kategorisch: „Der beste Platz für einen Streikenden, diese gelbe und schädliche Mücke, ist das Konzentra- tionslager.“ „Der reiche und habsüchtige Bauer“, „der Wucherer“, „der blutsaugende Kulak“ sind in der Parteisprache die Ziele der revolutionären Justiz, ebenso wie die intellektuellen „Schmarotzer“ und die „Banditen“ von Großgrundbesitzer. Ein subalterner Beamter schlug Lenin einen anderen Namen für das „Volkskommissariat für Justiz“ vor: „Volks- kommissariat für Soziale Extermination“. „Exzellente Idee“, antwortete Lenin. „Auch ich sehe die Dinge genau so. Unglücklicherweise können wir es aber so nicht nennen.“ Letztendlich aber war der Name nicht wichtig. Wichtig war das Prinzip selbst, die Extermination des Feindes,

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ANDREI PLEªU

und der Feind konnte – auch wenn er als Klassenfeind bezeichnet wurde – überall angesiedelt werden.

In Rumänien wurden allein in den Jahren 1951 und 1952 etwa 35.000 Bauern verhaftet, von denen rund 29.000 wohlhabende Bauern waren. Nach welchen Kriterien aber wurde der „Feind“ identifiziert und weshalb behaupten wir, dass seine Zugehörigkeit zu einer bestimmten Elite sein distinktives Merkmal war? Ich möchte da Metaphysik oder Psychologie nicht überstrapazieren und der unmenschlichen nazistischen Arroganz die trivialen kommunistischen Ressentiments gegenüberstellen. Eindeutig aber erscheint mir, dass der kommunistische Ideologe mit einer beeindruckenden und beängstigenden Unterscheidungsfähigkeit die „hohen“ Register einer jeden sozialen Klasse lokalisierte und sich dann mobilisierte, um sie zu zerstören, denn er wußte, dass eben diese Register das Hindernis für sein großes Projekt darstellten. Man wollte den „neuen Menschen“ schaffen, einen Menschen mit anderen Kriterien und Optionen als der traditionelle Mensch. Das Schlüsselwort bei der Umsetzung dieses Projektes war „Umerziehung“: andere Modelle, andere Erinnerungen, andere Sitten. Und wer ist, auf einen ersten Blick, immun gegenüber der „Umerziehung“? (Ich sage >auf einen ersten Blick<, denn Immunität gegenüber auferzwungener Umerziehung gibt es nicht.) Die Antwort finden wir bei Gorki, in einem Brief an Romain Rolland: als erstes die „Intelligenzija“ mit ihren stabilen Wertvorstellungen und Optionen, die zu bewahren sie neigt, und dann der „reiche Bauer“ mit seinem Sinn für Eigentum und Besitz. Gegen diese, sagt Gorki, müsse ein unbarmherziger Bürgerkrieg geführt werden. „Und im Krieg wird getötet.“

Alles, was für das menschliche Individuum einen identitätsverleihenden

Wert darstellt, alles, was ihm Ansehen und Autorität innerhalb seiner Klasse verleiht, mußte abgeschafft werden. Denn schließlich sind Identität und

Autorität Eigenschaften des alten Menschen

...

Ein Tscheka-Offizier sagte

1918 zu seinen Untergeordneten: „Sucht während der Ermittlungen nicht

nach Unterlagen und Beweisen für die Taten des Angeklagten (

...

).

Die

erste Frage, die ihr ihm stellen müßt, ist (

),

welches sind seine Herkunft,

... Erziehung, Ausbildung, Beruf.“ Das Ergebnis muß Entwurzelung sein, etwas was in der Alchemie nigredo heißt, die Rückführung der Welt in den

Zustand der „materia prima“. Die Bauern-Elite muß zerstört werden, weil sie zu stark an Grund und Boden, an Bräuche, an die Vergangenheit gebunden ist. Die Arbeiter-Elite muß liquidiert werden, weil sie zu stark dem nicht ideologisierbaren Kult des Handwerks verbunden ist und nicht nur das Bewußtsein ihrer Rechte, sondern auch die Kraft hat, diese

13

N.E.C. Yearbook 1996-1997

durchzusetzen. Die Intellektuellen müssen liquidiert werden, weil sie einen übermäßig kritischen Geist haben und mit riskanten Konzepten wie „Wahrheit“, „Kultur“, „Ideen“, usw. operierten. Die Religion muß kompromittiert, die Familie politisiert, die Schule umstrukturiert werden. Eine neue Geschichtstheorie wird ausgearbeitet, dergemäß Persönlichkeiten einfach nur Auswüchse der Massen sind, aus den Lehrbüchern für Geschichte werden die nonkonformistischen Helden verbannt und aus jenen für Literatur die Autoren, die nach marxistisch-leninistischem Kanon nicht systematisiert werden können. Fein geregelt wird auch die Wellenlänge der Bewunderung, letztendlich eine gefährliche Gemütsbewegung, wird sie nicht – mit ideologischer Wachsamkeit – richtig ausgerichtet. Die Geschichte wird passend umgeschrieben, bis sie Fiktion ist, während der Fiktion so lange angedroht wird „realistisch“ zu werden, bis sie letztendlich Propaganda ist. Reichen werden zu Bettlern, der soziale und menschliche Abschaum macht Karriere.

Der Sinn für Hierarchien wird vergewaltigt, bagatellisiert, mit Schuldgefühlen behaftet. Das Innenleben wird wie eine Subversion behandelt. Hochgespielt und hochbewertet werden hingegen geschwätzige Äußerlichkeit und oberflächlicher Dynamismus. Auf dem Weg zum „neuen Menschen“ entstehen die Zwischenspezies des Aktivisten und dessen romantische Variante – der Agitator . Der Kommunismus setzt sich auf fast allen Gebieten als Weltmeister der Planimetrie durch. Sein Universum ist ein Art Eislaufplatz ohne Anhaltspunkte, ein Wahnsinn der Gleichmacherei. Untergründigkeiten werden in der Regel als suspekt entlarvt, die Höhe als einfache Suprastrukturen entmythisiert. Die Tiefgründigkeit der Geschichte wird auf das „Schaubild“ des Klassenkampfes reduziert. Die Seelentiefe ist irgendein unwichtiger Reflex der sozialen Epidermis.

Was aber ist denn schließlich, unter all diesen Umständen, mit den Eliten geschehen? Einige sind ganz einfach verschwunden. In den Gefängnissen oder in der anonymen Misere einer peripheren Existenz. Andere haben diskret überlebt, am Rande, wie der verarmte Adel, zwar noch fähig den Schein zu wahren, in Wirklichkeit aber entmannt: eine Elite an ihrem Lebensabend, eine Untergrund-Elite, es ist gerade noch soviel übrig, um die Erinnerung an die Normalität zu wahren. Man konnte einen alten Schriftsteller in einer altmodischen Wohnung besuchen, oder einen von den Behörden geduldeten Philosophen in einem Bergdorf. Man entdeckte auf diese Weise eine zarte und schmächtige Kontinuität zu einem

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ANDREI PLEªU

anderen Zeitalter, das nach „Hörensagen“ angedeutet wurde, Gegenstand einer diffusen, schuldhaften und ängstlichen Nostalgie. Und schließlich gab es eine dritte Kategorie, die ich als die „Glashaus-Elite“ bezeichnen will. Es handelt sich um die enge Gemeinschaft der Schriftsteller und Künstler, die in „Schaffensverbänden“ organisiert waren – eine Art gut überwachter Reservationen, in denen ein akzeptables Überleben im Gegenzug zu der Heraushaltung aus dem Jetzt, oder aber zu einem triumphalistischen Mitmachen, angeboten wurde. Den Ideologen der „engagierten Kunst“ gelang auf diese Weise eine perfekte Isolierung der Künstler-Elite von dem realen Metabolismus der Gesellschaft. Die kulturelle Elite war zum Exotismus verdammt.

Und was die anderen Eliten betrifft - diese werden entwurzelt, durch die perfide Förderung eines krankhaften Wettbewerbsgeistes, der zu schweren Mißbildungen führte. Die Bauernschaft wird ermutigt den Arbeiter-Status, folglich städtischen Status, anzustreben, man spricht über die „Abschaffung der Unterschiede zwischen Land und Stadt“. Die Arbeiterschaft wird ihrerseits aufgefordert, in Richtung Intelektuellen-Status zu migrieren. Es werden Parteischulen gegründet, die über Nacht Hochschultitel an Vertreter des Proletariats verleihen, ausgewählt nach Kriterien der dürftigen sozialen Herkunft und der politischen Treue. Leute ohne Gymnasialabschluss erhalten Doktor- und akademische Titel. Auf diese Weise wird schnellstens eine widerrechtliche Aneignung jeder Kompetenz und die Diskreditierung jedwelcher echten Leistung erzielt. Großangelegte Veranstaltungen für Laienkünstler werden veranstaltet, um damit unter Beweis zu stellen, dass Kreativität nicht alleiniges Recht der Berufskünstler und Talent eine demokratische Tugend ist, „la mieux partagée du monde“. Nivellierung, Umsturz, Entwurzelung, Destabilisie- rung – das sind die alltäglichen Winkelzüge des Regimes. Das Verhältnis zwischen Zentrum und Peripherie, zwischen Überlegenheit und Unterlegenheit wird umgestülpt. Wer über echte Autorität verfügt hat keine Macht, und wer die Macht besitzt hat keine Autorität.

II. Das ist im großen Ganzen der Hintergrund, auf dem sich die revolutionären Änderungen vom Dezember 1989 abzeichneten. Und es entbehrt nicht einer gewissen symbolischen Relevanz, dass diese Änderungen von einer Straßenbewegung hervorgerufen wurden, deren Helden, statistisch gesehen, keine Vertreter irgendeiner Elite waren. Eliten produzieren eher „samtene Revolutionen“; blutige Revolutionen brauchen die anonyme Vehemenz der Masse. Nach einem radikalen Umsturz der

15

N.E.C. Yearbook 1996-1997

alten Institutionen ergibt sich als Hauptproblem die Frage, wer übernimmt die Zügel, wer definiert und wer verwaltet das plötzlich möglich gewordene Neue ? Aller Augen richten sich folglich auf den leer gebliebenen Platz, auf den luftleeren Raum im Zentrum des Wirbelsturms und suchen die eventuellen neuen Verwalter der Macht. Allein, nach 45 Jahren totalitären Abdriftens, ist das Angebot konfus, wenn es nicht gar null ist. Zuerst suchen die Blicke in der unmittelbaren Nachbarschaft der ehemaligen Führer. Die Euphorie nach der Beseitigung des Diktators schwächt die Fehler seiner ehemaligen Mitarbeiter ab. Die Namen mancher seiner einstigen Ministerpräsidenten ertönen, und diese erklären sich durchaus bereit, sofort mit der Reform zu beginnen. Dann wird unter den vom launenhaften Führer politisch verfolgten Aktivisten gesucht, unter den Helden der Straße und unter den wenigen im öffentlichen Bewußtsein bewahrten Dissidenten. Es ist offensichtlich – es gibt keine Reserve an „Ersatz-Eliten“. Das postkommunistische Rumänien muß folglich eine Elite erfinden - aus dem Nichts oder aus den hinfälligen und gebrechlichen Überresten der alten. Die ehemalige Nomenklatura erweist sich zwangsläufig als eine Kader-„Nachwuchsschule“, auf die zurückgegriffen werden kann. Daneben tauchen von unbegründetem Ehrgeiz getriebene Personen auf, Schlitzohren und nebulöse Romantiker, die aus Interesse oder einfach blauäugig-treuherzig bereit sind, Verantwortung in diesem Durcheinander des Augenblicks zu übernehmen. Das Spielfeld betritt auch jene von mir vorher erwähnte „Glashaus-Elite“, die ihren Status neudefinieren und durch einen endlich mutigen – und zudem lukrativen – Aktivismus die schuldige Passivität von vor 1989 kompensieren muß. Ein Teil der Intellektuellen spürt, dass die neuen Zeiten eine andere Art von „Stars“ durchsetzen werden, und, aufgrund der Kriterien der Aktualität, nehmen sie eine Umorientierung an ihrer Karriere vor: Sie werden Journalisten, Politiker und – seltener – Geschäftsleute. Insgesamt kann von einer spektakulären Umverteilung der Berufe gesprochen werden. Recht häufig anzutreffen ist die Umwandlung von Ärzten, Ingenieuren, Schriftstellern und Juristen in politische Analytiker (ein inflationärer Beruf), in Diplomaten, Parteistreiter oder Herausgeber. Manche – j’en sais quelque chose - werden Minister, Parlamentarier, Unternehmer. Nahezu alle drängen sich unter den hochfeinen Reihen der „Zivilgesellschaft“, die dazu neigt, in Zeiten des Umbruchs zum Homonym der „Elite“ zu werden. Die berufliche Restrukturierung kommt leider – zumindest vorläufig – einer allgemeinen Ent-Professionalisierung gleich. Alle Welt – vom Staatspräsi- denten und Minister bis hin zum einfachen Straßenbudenbesitzer – befindet

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ANDREI PLEªU

sich im Zustand des Debütanten, der das Fehlen einer entsprechenden Ausbildung und Erfahrung durch Talent, konjunkturelle Geschicklichkeit, Glück oder Unverfrorenheit zu kompensieren versucht. Der allgemeine Eindruck ist, dass „wir keine Leute haben“, dass wir für keinen einzigen Bereich einen überzeugenden Katalog von Experten aufstellen können. Die jetzige Koalition kündigte im Wahlkampf 1996 an, sie werde 15.000 Spezialisten ans Ruder bringen. Sehr bald erwies sich, dass diese Versprechung sich völlig an die Regeln eines jeden Wahlkampfes hielt:

Sie hatte keinerlei Deckung. Die 15.000 Spezialisten, genauer gesagt, ihr Nichtvorhandensein, ist heute Anlaß für öffentlichen Spott und Hohn ...

Charakteristisch ist die Tatsache, dass Bauernschaft und Arbeiterschaft, also die eigentliche Masse der Bevölkerung, sich nur minimal an den Belangen des Landes beteiligt. Ihrer elitären Dimension beraubt, haben sie keinerlei klare Interessen mehr jenseits der alltäglichen Überlebens- Ansprüche, sie haben keine Kriterien mehr, keine Überzeugungen, keine Initiative. Sie sind leicht zu manipulieren und explodieren dann und wann, getrieben von einem unbestimmten Herdentrieb, oder angestiftet von geschickten und unlauteren Anführern. Auf die 1992 einigen Frauen vom Lande gestellte Frage: „Welchen der beiden Kandidaten für das Präsidialamt werden Sie wählen?“ kamen Antworten der Art: „Solange dieser da Staatspräsident ist, werde ich ihn wählen, wenn der andere ans Ruder kommt, wähle ich den!“, oder aber: „Ich wähle beide, Gott soll entscheiden, welcher der bessere ist.“ Das Aufgeben der Entscheidungs- treffung, die Delegierung des Optionsrechts beweisen eine akute Identitätskrise. Und mit einer Wählerschaft, die sich in tiefer Identitätskrise befindet, können demokratische Wahlen eine angemessene politische Elite kaum korrekt destillieren.

Denn eine Führungs-Elite durch Wahlen zu erzielen setzt die politische Kompetenz der Masse, mehr noch, eine gewisse Sensibilität der Masse gegenüber der Tugenden der Elite, voraus. Echte Eliten sind keine sich selbst genügende Minderheiten, kein einsamer Klub, der ein abstrakter Superlativ verkörpert. Sie sind Ausdruck des Bedürfnisses des sozialen Körpers nach Eliten, sie sind die Projektion eines gemeinschaftlichen Affekts. Um zu entstehen, benötigen die Eliten selbstverständlich menschliche „Qualität“, erlesene und gründlich gepflegte Eigenschaften, aber sie brauchen auch eine gewisse Investition an Respekt seitens der anderen, ein „Mandat“ des kollektiven Vertrauens. Die Eliten sind das Korrelat einer Gemeinschaft, die eine Intuition der Eliten-Leistung hat und sie bewundert. Mit anderen Worten, eine „Aristokratie“ der Kompetenz

17

N.E.C. Yearbook 1996-1997

kann es ohne die Aristophilie des sozialen Körpers nicht geben. Der dramatischste Prozess aber, der in den ehemaligen kommunistischen Ländern – außer der Zerstörung der Eliten – ablief, war die strategische Untergrabung des Respekts gegenüber Eliten.

Die Folgen werden erst jetzt sichtbar, wenn wir merken, dass ein Grund für das Fehlen der Eliten auch die Tatsache ist, dass wir kein „Organ“ mehr für Eliten haben. Die „Umerziehung“, der wir unterzogen wurden, ist gelungen: Uns gefallen die Superlative nicht mehr - und Größe vertragen wir auch nicht mehr. Nach Jahrzehnten des verstümmelnden und verunstaltenden Gehorsams sind wir Zeugen der kompensierenden Explosion eines zerstörerischen kritischen Geistes – niemand ist mehr sicher vor der verallgemeinerten Wollust der Diskreditierung. Statt beansprucht, genutzt und stimuliert zu werden, sind die Eliten eher Gegenstand entfesselter Beschuldigungen. Die Qualifizierung zur Elite ist verwässert und durch Atomisierung auf alle übertragen. Jeder Bürger fühlt sich berechtigt, jedwelche Form von Herausragendem und Außergewöhn- lichem anzufechten und in Frage zu stellen. Eine definitorische Funktion der Eliten und zwar jene, als koagulierender Anhaltspunkt im magnetischen Zentrum der Gesellschaft zu stehen, wird somit außer Kraft gesetzt.

Es scheint, wir haben es mit einem für post-revolutionäre Geschichtsabläufe typischem Drehbuch zu tun, mit dem chaotischen Drehbuch der „Transition“. Nach seiner Rückkehr aus Amerika beschreibt Toqueville eine ähnliche Stimmung in Frankreich 1835: „Wo befinden wir uns wohl? Gläubige Menschen bekämpfen die Freiheit, und Freunde

der Freiheit greifen die Religionen an; edle und großzügige Geister loben das Sklaventum, und die niedrigen und senilen Gemüter empfehlen die Unabhängigkeit; ehrliche und erleuchtete Bürger wehren sich gegen jedwelchen Fortschritt, während Menschen, denen Patriotismus und Moral

abgehen, zu Aposteln der Zivilisation und des Lichtes werden! (

...

)

Eine Welt, in der nichts mehr zueinander passt, in der die Tugend kein

Genie mehr hat, und das Genie keine Ehre mehr, in der Ordnungsliebe mit Vorliebe für Tyrannen und der heilige Kult der Freiheit mit der Verachtung gegenüber dem Gesetz verwechselt werden; eine Welt, in der das Gewissen ein nur sehr undeutliches Licht auf die menschlichen Aktionen wirft, in der nichts mehr verboten scheint, nichts mehr erlaubt, nichts mehr ehrlich, noch schandhaft, noch wahr, noch falsch ist.“ Toqueville allerdings konnte auf ein Ende der Krise hoffen, denn er hatte das Modell einer Lösung: die amerikanische Demokratie. Wir, in Osteuropa, haben die Krise auch identifiziert. Wir wissen wie die ersten

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ANDREI PLEªU

therapeutischen Manöver auszusehen haben. Wir sind desgleichen bereit, ein nützliches Modell zu übernehmen, sei es westeuropäisch oder amerikanisch. Doch das „Modell“ kämpft gegen andere Krankheiten als wir. Genauer gesagt, was wir als Krankheit empfinden – die Zergliederung der Eliten –, scheint auf der Ebene des Modells als ein Symptom der Norma- lität empfunden zu werden. Wir wollen das wieder aufbauen, was sich das Modell vornimmt, abzubauen. Wiederaufbau mit „Déconstruction“…

III. Selbst die Definition des Terminus „Elite“ hat sich eindeutig in Richtung Relativierung entwickelt. Zur Zeit von Vilfredo Pareto und Gaetano Mosca hatte die „Elite“ noch eine Spur von Pracht, im Sinne der alten Tradition der griechischen aber vor allem römischen Rhetorik. Ich spreche von „Pracht“, im Sinne dass sich die Idee der menschlichen Qualität (Tugend, Erkenntnis, Edelmut) mit der Idee der Größe, mit dem monumentalen Ansehen verband. Im V. Buch der „Gesetze“ (730c – 731a) verleiht Plato beispielsweise dem höheren Menschen die Attribute „mégas kaì téleios“ – „groß und vollendet“. „Große“ Menschen sind auch die Helden der „Vitae parallelae“ von Plutarch, sowie einige Gestalten der griechischen Tragödie und die Aristokraten von Pindar. Doch die rhetorische Emphase des „großen“ Menschen scheint in der westlichen Zivilisation eher ein Erbe Ciceros zu sein (vergl. für diese Problematik Hans Joachim Mette, „Der große Mensch“, in „Hermes. Zeitschrift für klassische Philologie“, 89. Band, 1961, S. 332-334).

Doch gerade die Konnotation von Pracht, auf die ich mich beziehe, hatte zur Folge, dass das Gerechtigkeitsempfinden einer gewissen „political correctness“ irritierte. Aus Angst vor ungerechten, beleidigenden Ausrutschern, vor unverdienten Hierarchisierungen, die zu Arroganz führen, wurde der Kult der „Größe“ aufgegeben, und mit ihm gleichzeitig auch der Kult der außergewöhnlichen menschlichen Qualität. Aus Angst vor Elitarismus ging man zur Minimalisierung der Elite über. Zuerst wurde ihre Einzigartigkeit (die Minderheit „der Besten“ – aristoi – Vertreter einer Gemeinschaft) durch eine Mehrzahl ersetzt, die auf Berufe, Institutionen und Funktionen gegliedert ist. Bereits 1936 sah Harold Lasswell in den Eliten die Summe derjenigen, die effizienten Einfluß in unterschiedlichsten sozialen Tätigkeitsbereichen besaßen: Politik, Geschäftswelt, Religion, Armee, usw. Folglich Eliten – nicht Elite. Dann folgte eine funktionelle Einschränkung des Terminus: Heute arbeiten die Sozialwissenschaften mit einem Elitekonzept, das praktisch nur noch die elementare Mechanik der Macht umfaßt. Eliten sind in jedem öffentlichen Bereich diejenige,

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N.E.C. Yearbook 1996-1997

die leiten, die führen - Entscheidungsträger also. Das Substantiv ist sozusagen zu einem einfachen Attribut geworden. Eliten bezeichnen nicht länger eine beständige Eigenschaft, sondern eine vorübergehende Position. Persönlichkeiten, Berühmtheiten, mit einem Wort, die „Stars“ (oder „die Prominenten“ oder die VIPs) kommen und gehen, und Qualifikation ist letztendlich eine Frage des „image“, ein Ergebnis der „publicity“.

Äußerst bedeutungsvoll ist die Mutation, die auf genau jenem Gebiet stattfand, das normalerweise für die Formung der Eliten zuständig ist:

Erziehung und Bildung. John R. Searle macht in einer im Herbst 1993 in „Daedalus“ veröffentlichten Studie auf die Spannung aufmerksam, die bereits zu jenem Zeitpunkt herrschte – vor allem in der amerikanischen akademischen Welt – zwischen der mehr oder minder traditionellen Pädagogik, die den Prinzipien des abendländischen Rationalismus treu blieb, und der „Neuen Welle“ der „postmodernen“ Pädagogik, die sich unter dem Einfluß von Autoren wie Thomas Kuhn, Jacques Derrida, Richard Rorty und in geringerem Maße Michel Foucault herausgebildet hatte. Eine „links“-gefärbte Neulesung von Nietzsche stellt Konzepte mit einer glorreichen und stabilen Herkunft in Frage: Es existiert keine Objektivität, die Wahrheit wird eher fabriziert denn entdeckt, selbst der Begriff Wissenschaft wird als „repressiv“ eingestuft. Der kulturelle Kanon, den die Universitäten pflegen und fördern, ist ein politisches Konstrukt, ein willkürlicher Werteblock, der erfunden wurde, um Außenstehende manipulieren zu können. Auf den riesigen politischen „Mißbrauch“ der traditionellen Universitäts-Eliten muß ebenfalls politisch reagiert werden. „Böse“ Manipulation wird durch „gute“ Manipulation ersetzt. Und deshalb werden auch die Rekrutierungsregeln für neue Professoren geändert. Neudefiniert wird selbst das Konzept „intellektuelle Qualität“. Die Pflichttugenden sind eher in der Richtung korrekte politische Einstellung, Intensität des „Engagements“, oder Hingebung zur „Sache“ zu suchen, als bei der tatsächlichen wissenschaftlichen Leistung. Wir erleben eine radikale Restrukturierung der bestehenden Hierarchien und damit eigentlich die prinzipielle Aufhebung jedwelcher Hierarchie. Es ist zum Beispiel ungerecht, unbegründet und „elitär“ zu behaupten, dass manche Bücher besser als andere, manche Theorien wahr und andere falsch sind, oder aber dass ein beweiskräftiger Unterschied gemacht werden kann zwischen der Bildungskultur und der Volkskultur.

Es ist nicht mein Ziel, auf dieser Konferenz die von Searle umrissene „Revolution“ auf irgendeiner Art und Weise zu kommentieren oder zu beurteilen. Ich frage mich aber, wie eine Versöhnung möglich wäre

20

ANDREI PLEªU

zwischen den Krisen, die der europäische Osten nach langen Jahrzehnten kommunistischer Herrschaft nun erlebt, und dem reformatorischen Furor der postmodernen Ideologien. Wie kann ein vernüftiger Sprung aus der Vor-Moderne in die Post-Moderne gemacht werden, angenommen dieser Sprung ist Pflicht?

Für mich ist dieses Problem nicht theoretischer Natur. Es handelt sich nicht um eine abstrakte Debatte über die Philosophie der Bildung. Es handelt sich um dringliche praktische Folgen. Als ich mir das Verständnis und die Unterstützung des Kollegs, in dem wir uns heute befinden, zu Nutze machte und 1994 in Bukarest ein kleines Institut für Fortgeschrittene Studien gründete, war mein Projekt sehr klar: die Organisierung eines Ambiente, eines Umfelds, in dem elitäre Begabung identifiziert, wiederhergestellt, angeregt, stimuliert und ihr geholfen wird sich zu verwirklichen. Die Stipendiaten sollten das bekommen, was ihnen weder zur Zeit der Diktatur, noch jetzt in der Transition geboten wurde – einen dezenten Lebensunterhalt, völlige Denk- und Ausdrucksfreiheit, modernes Arbeitsinstrumentarium, Kontakte zur internationalen wissenschaftlichen Elite. Von ihnen wurde erwartet, dass sie wöchentlich an einem freundschaftlichen Kolloquium teilnahmen, auf dem der Reihe nach die Projekte eines jeden besprochen werden. Das Ziel dabei ist unter anderem die Wiedererlangung von intellektuellen Fertigkeiten, die dabei waren zu verkümmern und zu verschwinden, infolge der durch den alten Lebensstil aufgenötigten Marginalisierung (manchmals Verheimlichung), Isolation und Mißtrauen. Ich hatte das Glück, Menschen und Institutionen zu finden, deren subtiles und promptes Verständnis von Großzügigkeit begleitet wurde. Doch sie, wie auch ich, mußten die Zeitzeichen bewältigen ... Dann und wann wird um unsere Institution herum das Rumoren von „modehaften“ Befürchtungen laut: Ist dies nicht womöglich eine elitäre Institution? Finanzieren wir nicht möglicherweise ein Glasperlenspiel? Wie profitiert die „Gesellschaft“ von solch einer Aktivität? Der Subtext dieser Befürchtungen besteht aus der Summe von Annahmen und Vorurteilen, die - in guter Absicht - dazu neigen, mit Prinzipien in den Rekonstruktions- prozess im Osten einzugreifen, die im historischen, sozialen und intellektuellen Umfeld des Westens geboren wurden. Man versucht die Heilung einer Krankheit mit Hilfe einer Medikation, die für die Heilung einer anderen gedacht ist. Man versucht Mangel und Elend mit einer Philosophie der Überproduktion zu behandeln.

Die Länder des europäischen Ostens stehen zurzeit vor einer Inventurliste mit Dringlichkeiten, auf der keine prioritäre Ordnung

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N.E.C. Yearbook 1996-1997

festgelegt werden kann. Alles ist prioritär, und das ist das größte Hindernis in der Wiedererlangung der Normalität. Die Rehabilitierung der Lebensqualität ist nicht dringender als die Remodellierung der Mentalitäten, und das aus dem einzigen Grund, dass ohne eine neue Mentalität in Sachen Arbeit, Profit, Freiheit und Justiz keine Verbesserung des Lebensstands stattfinden kann. Die Reform der Industrie ist nicht dringender als die Reform der Schule; die Rückgabe der Liegenschaften nicht dringender als die Institutionalisierung der zivilen Kontrolle über das Militär, der Inflationsabbau nicht dringender als die Konsolidierung der Zivilgesellschaft. Desgleichen ist die Verbesserung des öffentlichen Unterrichtswesens nicht dringender als die Wiederherstellung der Eliten. Ein gewisser bürokratischer Geiz versucht uns davon zu überzeugen, dass die Bedürfnisse des Menschen sich nicht in einer organischen Gleichzeitigkeit, sondern in buchhälterischer Folge abspielen. „Primum vivere, deinde philosophari“, ein berühmter wie trivialer Sinnspruch, eine Methode, das Minimale in einen primordialen Wert zu konvertieren. In Wirklichkeit braucht ein ganzer Mensch - und eine gesunde Gesellschaft - den Segen des gesicherten Lebensunterhalts und jenen der Reflexion gleichzeitig, er braucht Socken und Träume, er braucht das alltägliche Brot und Utopien. Im Osten fehlen uns vorläufig sowohl das eine wie auch das andere. Aber wir können nicht akzeptieren, dass auf die jetzige Generation nur das „vivere“ entfällt, während die Philosophie später finanziert werden soll ...

Was mich betrifft, so habe ich ein ideales Bild des „Kultur“-Sponsors vor Augen, dem ich, so meine ich, einige Male bereits begegnet bin: Es ist jemand, der – nachdem er nutzbringend in großangelegte Projekte für Hochschulausbildung, in Forschungen über die Kunst des Regierens, in Gesetzgebung, Liberalismus, Umweltschutz und Minderheiten investiert hat, und ebenso in Programme zum wirtschaftlichen und institutionellen Aufschwung - jetzt das Bedürfnis verspürt, aus dem Umstandsbedingten, aus dem unmittelbar Vernünftigen auszusteigen, um in ein Glasperlenspiel zu investieren. Die Finanzierung von Newtons Standort unter dem Apfel oder der utopischen Schifffahrt von Kolumbus hat sich durchaus gelohnt und als rentabel erwiesen. Die Menschen werden sicher nicht ärmer, wenn sie dann und wann bereit sind, die Serafim zu ernähren ...

22

ªTEFAN BORBÉLY Born in 1953, in Fagaraº Ph.D., “Babeº-Bolyai” University of Cluj-Napoca, 1999 Dissertation: Heroes and

ªTEFAN BORBÉLY

Born in 1953, in Fagaraº Ph.D., “Babeº-Bolyai” University of Cluj-Napoca, 1999 Dissertation: Heroes and Anti-Heroes as a Cultural Paradigm Associate Professor in Comparative Literature and Mythology at the Faculty of Letters, “Babeº-Bolyai” University of Cluj-Napoca Associate Professor in Mythology at the “Avram Iancu” University of Cluj-Napoca Director of the Echinox cultural journal Editor of the “Discobolul” series of the Dacia Publishing House, Cluj-Napoca Founding member of ASPRO (Professional Writers’ Association of Romania), member of the Writers’ Union of Romania, member of the International Psychohistorical Association (IPA) and Head of its Romanian chapter, co-founder of the Echinox and Apostrof Cultural Foundations, member of the American Historical Association and of the Modern Language Association (MLA). Visiting Scholar, FEIE Scholarship, English Centre of PEN, London, 1990 Fulbright Scholar, Indiana University, Bloomington, 1992 Visiting Scholar, Columbia University, New York, 1997 Visiting Scholar, Institute for Psychohistory, New York, 1999 Visiting East European Scholar, St. John’s College, Oxford, 1999

Several national and international prizes and awards, among which the Debut Prize of the Cluj Book Fair, 1995, the Debut Prize of the Writers’ Union of Romania, 1995, the Certificate of Scholarly Achievement in Psychohistory, New York, 1997

Books:

The Garden of Magister Thomas. Bucharest: Ed. Didacticã ºi Pedagogicã, 1995 Xenograms. Oradea: Ed. Cogito, 1997 The Dream of Steppenwolf. Cluj-Napoca: Dacia, 1999 Contributions to collective volumes of literary theory and history, over 300 essays and articles. Editor and translator.

A PSYCHOHISTORICAL INSIGHT INTO PAST AND PRESENT ROMANIA

A PSYCHOHISTORICAL INSIGHT INTO PAST AND PRESENT ROMANIA Theoretical Background Since this text represents the very

Theoretical Background

Since this text represents the very first extensive psychohistorical approach to Romanian realities 1 , linking together the past with the present in order to suggest a psychogenic continuity of motifs and collective obsessions, a theoretical outline of the method proves to be necessary.

As Lloyd deMause puts it 2 , “psychohistory has become a new science of patterns of historical motivations, less a division of history or psychology

than a replacement for sociology

...

”.

According to Paul Monaco 3 , a sharp

contributor to the same debate, “psychohistory is an approach, not a discipline. That it is the most compelling of approaches to history is a

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N.E.C. Yearbook 1996-1997

conviction, not a dogma. To claim to be formalizing psychohistory’s task of creating a >>complete history of the human psyche<< is gratuitous.”

The above quotations delineate the two main trends psychohistorians have acknowledged so far: Lloyd deMause, by far the most creative psychohistorian ever, will always insist that psychohistory is a >>science<< bearing clear marks of scholarly independence, while more cautious historians will say it is a mere alternative >>approach<< to historical realities.

“Psychohistory as a science - replies Lloyd deMause to Paul Monaco’s position 4 - will always be problem-centred, while history will always remain period-centred. They are simply two different tasks.” As such, psychohistory will not deal with the narrative history, that is a history captured by facts and determined by singular events, such as wars, battles or deeds of kings and politicians, but with the deep psychic motivations of historical individuals and groups. “Understanding history through motives and motives through history: this is psychohistory. Psyche causing history, making it intelligible.” 5

In order to achieve this, one has to discover the “general laws in history” 6 , how they function as a subliminal psychic motivation of individuals or groups, and the way they create psychogenic corridors throughout centuries and decades, transforming history into a “system” 7 . The linkage between psychohistory and the French “nouvelle histoire”, a concept launched by Fernand Braudel and the school of Annales ESC, is still a task to be completed, and this paper has no intention of going further into details; however, it seems necessary to mention the fact that both are built on the understanding of the “long run”, and on the methodological rejection of the pre-eminence of the “event” in judging historical development. Back in 1906, discussing Edouard Meyer’s ideas concerning historical understanding, Max Weber 8 sharply formulated that “one must consider as meaningless for history, and as such alien to the rigors of a scientific exposition: a. what is accidental; b. the >>free<< decision of particular personalities and c. the influence of the ideas upon the activity of people.” It is fairly interesting to note what Max Weber considered to be essential for the real historical understanding: “a. the manifestations of the masses as opposed to individual activity; b. what is typical as opposed to what is unique; c. the evolution of communities and of social classes and nations in particular, as opposed to the political activity of the individuals.”

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ªTEFAN BORBÉLY

It goes without saying that Max Weber did not advocate the use of psychoanalysis in order to reveal the collective depths of history. His ideas probably bear the influence of naturalism and Zola, and for him history is still a rational being, functioning however differently. The key word here seems to be “evolution”, understood as “progress”. History “progresses” with each experience left behind: it is an organism looking straight forward, well-trained in the cult of the future so as not to repeat the gloomy mistakes of the past. In this light, the past is considered to be an imperfect present, and the present an imperfect future. What results is that progress proves to be the endless history of self-deprecation and of resentment. It is easy to understand now why it became the main religion of the proletarians.

Quite on the contrary, for psychohistorians the key word in understanding history is “regression”. The term comes from Freud (Die Traumdeutung,1900 9 ), and denotes the capacity of the psyche to shift back in time in order to find a response to an external, traumatical stimulus. Regression is always present in Lloyd deMause’s works, he was interested in showing that the reaction of an individual or a group to a specific historical event is ambivalent, the “internal development” 10 based on the regression to the informal material of the deep psyche being more relevant than the particular, rational response of consciousness. The psyche and consciousness act simply differently: as such, historical motivations appear to be the “truth” of the psyche, and only on a secondary level the approval of the rational mind.

This pattern of historical understanding is strictly evolutionary, and it is based, methodologically speaking, on the capacity of regression of the historian himself. The morphology of psychohistory supposes - and it is interesting to note this detail - the openness to regression of historiography itself. “Like all sciences - Lloyd deMause says -, psychohistory stands or falls on the clarity and testability of its concepts, the breadth and parsimony of its theories, the extent of its empirical evidence, and so on. What Psychohistory does have and is distinguishes it, is a certain methodology of discovery, a methodology which attempts to solve problems of historical motivation with a unique blend of historical documentation, clinical experience and the use of the researcher’s own emotions as the crucial research tool for discovery.” 11

As a consequence, historical motivations will be detected by psychohistorians on a pre-verbal level, which implies, in a strict Freudian lineage, focusing onto the material aspect of history. Materiality is the “womb” of Psychohistory, and in this respect every interpretation will be

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seen as a “re-birth” of the interpreter himself. The regression to the pre-formal stage of the psyche drops psychohistory into myth and ritual:

history will be perceived as a re-enactment of previous complexes by individuals and groups, and most of all as the subconscious repressions and actualizations of an eternally present, always evolving psychic energy in turmoil.

The term “re-enactment” defines the spontaneous, deep reaction of the psyche to an external stimulus. To perform a re-enactment, the psyche of an individual or of a group relies primarily on its own inner history, which is by all means different from the “real”, external history, event-centred and based on documents. Alice Miller for instance 12 dissociates “regular” and “re-enactment” type responses in the life of children. Regular answers to an external stimulus are the conventional ones, approved by the adults and by society, and corresponding to the Freudian paradigm of the reality principle. Re-enactments involve the free associations of the deep psyche, structuring a “second”, personal history for each individual and group. When meeting an external stimulus, the individual or the group usually reaches back to this personal, backstage history, through the spontaneous mechanism of abreaction 13 . Establishing its personal code, this response usually violates the existing social norms, thus undermining official history, which is by definition a normative one. “To a greater or lesser degree - Daniel Dervin states -, history exists as a record of the violation of or adherence to lawfulness in its totality. And since law signifies prior repression, the power of enacting presumes a potential for anti-social acting out ” ...

14

To give some examples: wars are interpreted by Lloyd deMause as

re-birth and re-sacralization complexes 15 ; for Robert S. McCully 16 , symbols are structured by a continuous re-shaping of a universal

“archetypal energy” (“

...

personality

dynamics alone do not fully account

for symbol formation; archetypal energy must be activated to re-structure images”); for Henry Ebel 17 , Star Trek and Star Wars theology are based on the central image of an irrational hostile force spread all over the universe, a force which is “indifferent” to the needs of the humans, that is, it cannot be personalized. The motif of the pre-formal energy explains the exquisite interest of the psychohistorians in “group-fantasies”, collective obsessions, in filth and dirt, interpreted as primary, ever existing, birth-giving materials, opposed to the “clean” aspects of individuation. In Lloyd deMause’s Fetal Origins of History 18 , the pre-birth, foetal drama, dominated by two placentas, the Nurturant one and the Poisonous one,

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ªTEFAN BORBÉLY

provides “the basis for historical group-fantasies” 19 , and it is interpreted as being “imprinted” as a “matrix” in the psychogenic soil of history.

“Although the form that this endlessly repeated death-and-rebirth foetal drama takes in later life is determined by the kind of childrearing which is experienced - Lloyd deMause writes 20 -, the basic >>imprinted<< foetal drama can nevertheless always be discovered behind all the other overlays, pre-oedipal or oedipal.” The middle part of the quotation stresses the other great obsession of psychohistory: childrearing, Lloyd deMause being the editor and first contributor of a famous History of Childhood 21 . I do believe childrearing topics are overemphasized in contemporary Psychohistory, excessively formalizing the discipline, and lessening its impact on the academics or professionals belonging to other intellectual fields 22 . That is why I consider it necessary to restore the original meaning of childrearing, as it appears in Lloyd deMause’s writings 23 , where it denotes above all the practical, empirical forms that foetal energy has taken throughout the centuries. Since history is interpreted as a succession of re-birth re-enactments, the evolution of childhood shows an endlessly re-staged primal experience of birth or death, of liberty or suffocation. Each generation regresses several times in its existence to the pre-formal level of experiencing that something around it is “nurturant” or “poisonous”. Historical crises activate the “poisonous” level of the collective subconscious, while the sacrifice offered in response opens the “gates” of the “nurturant” blood, relieving the “patients” from social anorexia.

Setting this perspective in contrast with the methodology of psychoanalysis and applied psychology makes obvious the anti-individuation complex of psychohistory. Regression to the informal expresses in the very first instance a subconscious reluctance to accept the burdens of individuation; the psyche feels protected by the informal, just like a foetus feels protected in the mother’s womb. Facing an external stimulus, every individual or group experiences the threat of individuation, as an obligation to pour the reaction to the stimulus into a specific form, to limit it.

Traditional history is the diachrony of successive limitations, while psychohistory offers the joys of the unlimited regression to the informal. Quite opposite to the progress-centred history outlined above, history, as psychohistorians understand it, is a living organism composed of different psychic strata, each of them potentially active in the fascinating Oriental carpet embroidery of the present. This means that history is not lived as a continuous separation of the present from the past, but as a dynamics of

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present and past interchanges: the present can activate, as a response to an external stimulus, whichever elements it wants from the past, and the past can be interpreted in the focus of a psychodrama that the present is always likely to perform. The model is subtly illustrated by Georges Devereux 24 , who insists in the first theoretical half of his paper on the importance of selective regression for the understanding of history, seen as a living body of energy and virtualities used by individuals and groups in order to assimilate the experience of the present.

My paper will therefore deal with regressive shifts detectable in Romanian history. Politicians as children, exonerated from their possible sins by virtue of lack of responsibility, politicians as players or garbage cleaners, not to mention the extensive myth of the politicians seen as a distant “family”, parasiting on the “pure” soul and body of the sacred motherland are all examples of regression. Significantly, this regression appears whenever Romanians face a new historical experience. For instance, in the very period I concluded my research for accomplishing this paper (that is mid July 1997), the imagery of child sacrifice suddenly burst out again in the Romanian media, after a long “amnesia” imposed by the electoral victory in November 1996 of the Democratic Convention 25 . I must confess that as a trained psychohistorian I was pretty sure that this outburst would appear, expressing the ambivalent public fantasy of shame for Romania being rejected from admission into NATO and the European Union (“we are a bad nation, killing our children; it is not at all surprising that they disposed us”) and of the fear of being abandoned again, as a helpless child of the unfair political sandbox. In the same period, Bill Clinton’s strange visit to Bucharest, following USA’s option to recommend the omission of Romania from the list of the former communist countries invited to join NATO, got in the Romanian media the connotation of a joyful carnival, performed by cheerful children who gathered in the University Square as in the “womb” of the December 1989 revolution to admire a strange being - an American president using athletic metaphors to boost Romania’s morale - and enjoy some benefits of the great American civilization (Coca Cola, Pepsi Max) free of charge. As if to test psychohistorical perceptions, a Romanian teenager was presented as taking Bill Clinton’s seat while the American president was speaking, childishly suggesting a familiarity coming from a nation magnanimously ready to forgive its oppressors (as - textbooks teach us - it has always done during its history …).

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ªTEFAN BORBÉLY

The following research will insist (not only as a tribute to Lloyd deMause’s extraordinary work) on some aspects of childrearing in Romanian history. I do believe that childrearing procedures haven’t changed too much from the 19th century to the second half of the 20th century, that is during the decades of modern Romanian history. Swaddling is still dominant in the rural areas 26 , but civilization has erased the habit of using children as poison containers, enabling them with the projection of demonic spirits. On the contrary, childrearing in Romania is rather loose, taking up the forms of the Abandonment Mode described by Lloyd deMause in The Evolution of Childhood 27 . The literature and mass media imagery of modern Romania are full of lost children, children who cannot find their way back home, and children wandering on the roads alone. Their parents are so “unattentive” that they do not even realize that the children are missing, and when they do, they do not rush to find them. A child, the subliminal message says, can always find its way back home, because the centre of the house, dominated by the fireplace, is magical and is provided with a magnetic power. The mythology of the fireplace (“vatra”) is extremely persistent in the Romanian public fantasy, defining a person from the point of view of the distance which separates him/her from the centre. The centre, the “womb” is maternal, feminine, and it is defined as being safe. On the other hand, leaving the “womb” is always dangerous and treacherous. Being on the road is perceived as malevolent in the Romanian subconscious. As a result, a complementary structure emerges: the fireplace (the “vatra”) is assimilated with timelessness, defined as a magical circle which one can leave only at the price of being exposed to various dangers. As a consequence, history as an expression of Time is full of bad projections in the Romanian public fantasy.

As they represent continuity - signifying the trespassing of the magic circle of the family’s self-sufficiency and strife to build up an immemorial fireplace protected from the intrusion of the invaders -, children are perceived as threats in the Romanian public fantasy. Per definitionem, they have always belonged to history. Traditional Romanian housebuilding confirms the spiritual structure. In the village areas, each house has mainly two parts: the front room, which is perfectly clean, not inhabited by anyone and open to guests only, and the rest of the building, crowded by a family of usually numerous, successive generations. Guests or people coming from the outside do not penetrate this area. In case of extensions, more rooms are added to the back, intimate structure, leaving the front part of the building magically untouched.

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Ready to sacrifice

Romania is an ideal place to test psychohistorical patterns. After the December 1989 revolution - or popular coup d’etat, as recent analysts have suggested - the country experienced a rebirth complex through a very strong “lost child syndrome” 28 . Mass media and international TV channels intensely reflected the misery of the Romanian orphanages, the roaming gangs of homeless children sniffing bags of aurolac (a fermented glue) on the streets of Bucharest, and the “deadly” unhygienic conditions in the Romanian schools of all grades - deprived of running water or soap and using filthy backyard lavatories. The tragedy of the gypsies - who are as a rule structured in socially marginalized families with numerous children, living in tents, cottages or even the local garbage fields -, the frightening March 1990 street fights between Romanians and Hungarians in Tîrgu Mureº - a town lying in the mid part of Transylvania -, and the June 15-16 1990 punitive expedition of the miners to Bucharest sharpened the media image. Romania was seen as a third-world country which had gradually lost its immense popularity - acquired with the December 1989 mass uprising - and had implacably sunk to a sort of formless, “pre-civilised” creature (sucking a “poisonous placenta 29 ”), pregnant with hatred, social turmoils and nationalistic prejudices.

The two terms of Ion Iliescu’s presidency (1990-1992; 1992-1996) generated a suffocation syndrome due to a weak, practically impotent government run over by deep and almost generalized corruption, by a complete lack of public authority or control and by the desperate effort of the President to maintain power through political cleansing and pressure (e.g., his attempt to coerce the bank leaders and major managers of the country to become members of the main ruling party, The Socialist Democratic Party of Romania /PDSR/). The functional weakness of the leading party was compensated for by dragging into a so-called “governing arch” two extremely active nationalist parties - the Romanians’ National Unity Party (PUNR), and The Great Romania Party (PRM) - which brought along an overt anti-European discourse, nationalistic megalomania and the Messianic ideology of the “pure”, “ancient”, “organic” inner values. President Iliescu’s quest for a third, anti-constitutional term was overturned by the November 1996 vote, the very first in the whole history of the country when a president was unseated through legal elections.

Having no specific ideology or political program, former President Iliescu’s re-election campaign insisted in vain on nationalistic issues, built

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on the stereotypes of the menaced tribe surrounded by bloodthirsty neighbours and undermined from the interior by a villainous, double-faced enemy (the Opposition, including Hungarians) ready to deliver the country to a voracious monster: Europe. On the other hand, the Opposition, led by Emil Constantinescu, former Rector of the Bucharest University and from November 1996, President, developed the anti-syndrome of the voracious monster, that is the monster you have to avoid by accepting the gentle embrace of Europe. The name of this monster is Russia, a country which has always been perceived as malignant through Romania’s history. Communism was imposed in Romania by the Red Army and by the discretionary will of the Kremlin, and left deep scars in the people’s memory; the anti-Communist rage became the principal informal ideology of post-revolutionary Romania. A former student obediently completing his studies in Moscow and later a member of the red nomenclature, President Iliescu formally contributed as a hate target to the extension of the anti-Soviet feelings in a period when every mistake made in the process of European integration was publicly interpreted as a drawback dictated by Moscow.

Summing up, former President Iliescu’s elections staff insisted on ethnic values, while the Constantinescu group - including many leading intellectuals, such as Gabriel Liiceanu, Andrei Pleºu, Octavian Paler or the poet Ana Blandiana, nor to forget the intellectual front of Romanian exiles, very active especially in Paris (Monica Lovinescu, Virgil Ierunca, Sanda Stolojan, Paul Goma, etc.) or in the USA (Matei Cãlinescu, Virgil Nemoianu, Vladimir Tismãneanu, I.P.Culianu) - stressed ethical values, which revealed the common European heritage Romanian culture and civilization have shared for more than a century. Nevertheless, it is an illusion to believe that chauvinistic, nationalistic beliefs suddenly dried out in Romania with the November 1996 elections. Resorting by analogy to a pattern outlined by Peter Brown in The Cult of the Saints: Its Rise and Function in Latin Christianity 30 , Romania could be seen as a “two-level” society: intellectuals, newly born managers and newly emerged “yuppies” have a cosmopolitan, pro-European and pro-American orientation, while the older generations (which still provide informal leaders of opinion particularly in public places and factories), the peasantry and its offspring (as a mentality representing more than 65% of the whole society, some of them having lived for decades in towns, unassimilated and looking for rural motivations or social links) cherish organicist, traditional, self-sufficient and nationalistic values. Psychoclass conflicts play a huge

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role in nowadays Romania, the ideological split between traditionalists and modernists on the political panel expressing actually a deep schizoid social identity. As a consequence, after the ’96 elections the main group fantasy in

Romania was the “brotherhood complex” of “joining the fellow states of Europe”, which could be understood as a fatal loss of national identity (that is, death). I shall analyze later on Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea’s formal acceptance speech (December 1996), which can be shortened through a psychohistorical subliminal Fantasy Analysis to a message that

sounds as follows: “We

...

as Romanians

...

are

...

nothing.” The verdict

was involuntarily confirmed in March 1997 by the Minister of Finance, Mircea Ciumara, who shocked the whole country by publicly stating that the strict and almost unbearable steps taken by the new government to enforce the revival of the Romanian economy would “probably cause the death of a thousand people” 31 , but it was better to do it this way than to cause the collapse of some millions later.

This paper intends to analyze the three psycho-social syndromes outlined so far: the “rebirth complex” experienced after the revolution of December 1989; the “suffocation syndrome” of President Iliescu’s two terms; the “death and loss of national identity” complex, which emerged with the victory of the democratic and pro-European forces in November

1996.

Since they re-enact recurrent group fantasies also detectable in the history of Romania, some back glimpses prove to be necessary in order to understand the shift from a traditional, self-sufficient and Messianist patriarchal society to a modern “brotherhood type” society seeking integration with NATO (a major desire and immediate new goal of the new government) and with Europe. In this rebirth process, Romanians are now ready - as newspapers and statistics put it - for sacrifices. The long list of potential victims includes old traditions, customs and the almost sacred habit of “boycotting” (as philosopher Lucian Blaga remarked 32 ) history. In other words: they are ready to sacrifice their parents.

A history of child neglect

The modern history of Romania starts in 1859 when the two principalities, Moldavia and Muntenia elected - ignoring the recommendation of the Turks, who exercised suzerainty over them - one

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and the same Prince: Alexandru Ioan Cuza. Belonging to the Free-Masonry, Cuza established a brotherhood-like society which lasted only seven years. When in 1866 Cuza was unseated, the country looked for a father-figure, it eventually found in the person of Carol I, who belonged to the royal house of the Hohenzollerns. The quest for a father outside the country is highly significant, showing the complex of a lack of paternity, which may seem rather surprising if one takes into the consideration the fact that the great families of the “boyars” were still active, pulling strings, influencing politics and marriages. The hypothesis of an option for a “European father” instead of a domestic one should also be taken into consideration 33 , given its significance of a radical separation from the historical tradition, fostered by a modernist generation interested in speeding up the process of reaching European standards.

A careful perusal of the texts of the “classical” period in Romanian literature, contemporary to the start of the dynasty, will lead to the immediate realization of two major complexes. Firstly: the fathers are absent from these texts. Secondly: the children are mostly nasty, bad, annoyingly loud and clothed like adults. The literature of the period clearly expresses the main public fantasy of a loose parentage and of an unrestrained, inexact, capricious and improper behaviour. The pattern of confusion doubles each impact of the Romanian immemorial soul with history: less than three decades later, the traditionalist ideology of two rural inspired social movements ( sãmãnãtorism, poporanism ) will emphatically sanction this “errant” behaviour.

For instance, in I.L.Caragiale’s (1852 - 1912) Visit the protagonist, dressed up like a cavalier, wearing shiny brass buttons and carrying a sword terrorizes his mother as well as her kind and shy visitor, and in the end bestows him with a jar of jam poured into his uppershoes. The father is absent. In Mr.Goe (both are compulsory pieces for school textbooks), the spoiled offspring of a bourgeois family is taken to Bucharest by train as a “reward” for his - so far - school failures: the child wears a sailor’s costume, shocks the passengers and the train crew with his behaviour, locks himself up in the lavatory, brings his mother to hysteria and takes an excited step down to Bucharest, hoping to see the king on the “avanyou” (that is >>avenue<<, the form >>avanyou<< being an equivalent of the original French distortion in the text). No male accompanies the child, the quest for a surrogate father being obvious.

Ioan Slavici’s (1848 - 1925) classical novel Mara depicts a possessive, Mutter Courage-like mother, living alone as a bridgekeeper with her two

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children - a son and a daughter. Titu Maiorescu (1840 - 1917), the leading figure of those years’ literature emerges directly as an adult, like Athens from Zeus’ chest. At the age of 24 he is already Rector of Iaºi University:

his Daily Notes, published later, show a child without childhood, attentive to “mature chat”, eager to climb the steep steps of the social hierarchy and ready to pull up the unbreakable walls of the Conservative Party. Ion Creangã’s (1839 - 1889) Remembrances From My Childhood apparently built up the myth of a happy childhood in Romanian literature. In fact - as Corina Ciocârlie has already noticed 34 - the text depicts a child you wouldn’t keep happily in your house: he is selfish; avoids tasks; destroys the harvest; terrorizes the villagers and his relatives; abuses animals. His supervisors are females; the males - when they show up - are always distant and necessarily punitive.

The list can be continued with Mihai Eminescu (1850 - 1889), the “national poet” of Romanian literature. His brilliant career starts with the rejection of his father’s name, and the adoption of a surrogate father: the literary critic Iosif Vulcan publishes his first verses by changing the poet’s name from Eminovici to Eminescu, without previously asking the consent of the new star. Eminescu doesn’t care about such an intrusion: his work as a whole suggests a strong mother-complex, the only father which appears in his poems (in Luceafãrul, as “Father of the Universe”) being cold, distant and repulsive. Eminescu is also the “inventor” of the concept of serene childhood in Romanian literature, due to a decisively Romantic influence. There is no “true” childhood in his poems, but an artificial one, built up on cultural stereotypes and linked with dreams and memories, which reveals the fact that it is a mere aspiration, not a reality.

The subliminal rejection of the father in a period when Romania consolidates its political structures and its monarchy seems quite odd and, at a first glance, incomprehensible. It is, therefore, legitimate to ask: where are the fathers in this world? Why are they so carefully rejected? The answer is rather surprising: the fathers are in politics. They sit in distant lodges, play the endless and childish game of politics (see Illustrations 1-4), “tie and untie” the country, and leave everyday life and struggle to females.

In Illustration 1 (from 1869), liberal leader Ion Brãtianu juggles with three difficult “stones” of the epoch: the Bulgarian threat; the Jewish question; the Austro-Hungarian conspiracy. The other leader, C.A.Rosetti, is dancing on the rope while balancing the Jews and their influence on the major challenge of the period: the extension of the railroad network. In Illustration 2 (1869), the French emperor Napoleon III (in front of the

36

Illustration 1

Illustration 1

Illustration 2

Illustration 2

Illustration 3

Illustration 3

Illustration 4

Illustration 4

ªTEFAN BORBÉLY

horse) theatrically expresses his disappointment because of liberal leader Ion Brãtianu’s inability to move forward, his wooden horse being held back by the Russians and the Prussians. In Illustration 3 (1859), Ion Brãtianu and C.A. Rosetti help young prince Dimitrie Ghica to “keep the right pace”, while in Illustration 4 (1869), the already mentioned couple, Brãtianu and Rosetti, enjoy - represented as Janus bifrons - the excitement of a train voyage, the wheels impassively treading on the body of the country lying down across the rails.

Since the males are exiled in politics - the group fantasy says - they are necessarily in filth because politics is dirty. Females keep things going, males spoil them, according to this thinking. Males - the period says - are like nasty, uncontrollable children: they have their own game; are reluctant to see the sufferings of the people; live far “above the earth”; must be incessantly supervised not to do too much harm to “real life”.

This Manichean perception explains a lot of things that are essential to Romanian history. To start with, kings (meaning the period starting with Carol I) were bad “fathers” in Romanian history and perceived as such because they didn’t belong to the sacred and ancient roots of the tribe:

they were “foreigners”.

On the other hand, no politician has become a “good father” figure in Romanian history, in spite of the multiple attempts made to promote such a lineage. The last such attempt - and probably the most intrusive one - was made by Nicolae Ceauºescu (leader from 1965 to December 1989, shot at Tîrgoviºte) using the whole strategy of the communist propaganda:

endless marches of children dressed alternatively in red, yellow and blue (the colours of the national flag); cheerful pioneers bringing thousands of bunches of flowers; collective political baptizing rituals. Neither his successor (Ion Iliescu) nor Emil Constantinescu tried to copy these efforts, through the group fantasy of a good, protective father image being still active in the backstage of today’s Romanian public life, as a shadow anti-crisis figure, constructed by nostalgic communists, some people from the army and the Security forces and by the resentful nationalists.

The “exile” of the fathers to the filthy dens of politics has had another impact on the historical group fantasy of the Romanian people. Due to this conviction, what is “authentic”, innately and purely “Romanian” belongs to the mothers, a perspective which satanizes politics as such. Nobody loves politics in Romania at present and nobody loved it before - you can respect politics, enjoy the fruits of a tree anchored with its roots in filth and mud, but not love it. That is why politics is ugly, dirty and by

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all means “alien”, “foreign” or, to put it differently, it is not part of “the clean soul of the Romanian people” 35 . As a consequence, sodomizing foreigners has always been a public show in Romanian history, and a projective stereotype, always at hand when the “pure soul of the people” was to be exonerated from sins or failures. “The other” - come it from abroad or be it an ethnic minority (Hungarians, Germans, Gypsies) - becomes a projective hate target in Romania’s public fantasy, playing the classical role of the cleansing poison container.

Anti-Hungarianism and anti-Semitism are part of this attentively directed public hysteria. The most important social and political movement of the thirties (Archangel Michael’s Legion = the Iron Guard), including prestigious intellectuals like Nae Ionescu, Mircea Eliade, Constantin Noica, Emil Cioran and thousands of others, was Messianic and had a decidedly anti-Semite accent. Stepping forward in time, it is significant to mention that a still active group fantasy, risen in Romania after the 1989 coup, explicitly suggests that in 1947 communism was imposed on Romanians by Jews and Hungarians (zealous executives of the Kremlin), the message being that this historical “shame” was “alien” to the pure soul of the inmates. The fantasy of cleansing was extremely strong in 1990, when tabloids shouted that the executed dictator, Nicolae Ceauºescu, was actually not

a Romanian but a

...

gypsy!

Romania “invented” its idealistic childhood ideology as an appendix to the nationalistic pride promoted with the annexation of Transylvania (1918). This led to the formation of the “round” country as we have it today, by reuniting three main historical regions: a conservative Moldavia, built on old family values; a rather nervous Muntenia, where the centrifugal forces of individuals have always been more powerful than centripetal ones; a cosmopolitan Transylvania, having strong Hungarian and German urban communities. It is therefore worthwhile to note that the ideology of the serene childhood emerged in the Romanian public unconscious from two main drains: the traditionalism of Moldavia on the one hand, and the pride of the new historical birth stressed by Transylvanian intellectuals and political leaders on the other. Both spread down to Bucharest, and united in a sort of official public fantasy, fashioned by the idea that Romania is an underprivileged “child of Europe”, neglected by nasty parents, one who has to thrive on its own to be accepted in the “great family” of nations. Thus, the Romanian “underprivileged child fantasy” is based on frustration and compensates through self-sufficiency. According to this complex, the father of the child might be lost, but his mother never. The mother is the nation itself.

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Indeed, in the first three decades of the 20th century the children portrayed in the books of literature are always threatened, almost lost in the dark corners of the universe, and found again by adults seemingly not too surprised by not having them around for such a long period. The anxiety of being alone, not protected by the family characterizes the child projections of Mihail Sadoveanu (1880 - 1961), whose very first writings include The Graveyard of a Child (1906). Another heroine of his, Lizuca, ventures in the black and frightening forest, and finds her way back without the interference of her parents. Her return is not accompanied with an outburst of relief and joy: it seems that the adults haven’t even noticed her absence. The “absent male” motif is the main frame of Sadoveanu’s novel Baltagul (The Hatchet,1930), built on the mythical pattern of the Isis-Osiris quest: worried by the absence of her husband, a woman leaves her home to find him and discovers that he has been murdered by greedy shepherds. The structure of the novel interferes with the main frame of the popular ballad Miorita (The Little Sheep), considered to be the archaic root of the Romanian way of life and psychology. “Home” is equivalent here with protective motherhood: distress and death (of the males, generally speaking) come when you leave home and are confronted with aliens or with foreign places. Intra muros means the protective womb of the nation and ethnicity; extra muros comprises the villains, “the others”, anybody who is not a member of the ethnic club.

Lucian Blaga’s (1895 - 1961) Hronicul ºi cîntecul vîrstelor (The Chronicle and the Song of the Ages, 1965, written a long time before its first publication, as Blaga died in 1961) starts with a speculation of the motive of the rejected world: the child doesn’t speak for four years, delaying the contact with a hostile world, in which he has to struggle alone, as his parents are not of great help. To come back to Bucharest, Ioan Alexandru Brãtescu-Voinesti’s (1868 - 1946) short stories are full of abandoned, lonely children. The happy family seems to be absent from Romanian public fantasy, being replaced by the complex of the protective surrogate family, that is the nation. This leads to the utter rejection of the foreigners (Germans, Hungarians, Jews), even if they live next door. If asked, Romanians say today that Hungarians or Jews are hostile per se because they are well organized and structured in impenetrable family units, a stereotype which explains a recurrent dimension of the historical public fantasy in Romania:

that of the attraction represented by fraternity.

Fraternity is here a substitute for maternity, namely the integration in a bigger “family”, the great family of individuals sharing the same blood.

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To attain this level, you have to surpass heredity and interpret fraternity as a spiritual linkage, more efficient than the strict flesh and blood dependence. Blood becomes here spiritualized, and the wound of somebody is the wound of everybody, the whole nation functioning as a big organism having the same blood vessels and sharing the same heart.

In Psihologia poporului român (The Romanian People’s Psychology) 36 Constantin Rãdulescu-Motru interprets national psychology as an “ability to create a national culture”. The development of a population is determined - Motru says - by three main factors, the biological or hereditarian fund, the geographical conditions and the institutions, some people experiment history forever from a “pre-historic” stage, being unable to rise to the higher level of “spirituality”. “In the case of populations with unconsolidated spiritual institutions the influences of heredity and of the geographic climate are overwhelming.” 37 On the contrary, “spirituality is not - Rãdulescu-Motru maintains - a produce of time” 38 , which means that by spirituality a population surpasses its condition of being a historical victim, reaching a dignity which is beyond time and its vicissitudes.

The Romanian people, though not entirely articulated - Rãdulescu-Motru concludes - is determined by “spirituality” rather than by biology or landscape, which means that the pre-condition of a person who creates values is to surpass its biological linkages. Family means time, brotherhood means eternity.

One would expect Rãdulescu-Motru to assimilate fraternity with challenge and openness, with the adventure of taking chances by meeting somebody distant. The surprise of the text is, on the contrary, the equivalence between “spirituality” and self-sufficiency. “Spirituality - Rãdulescu-Motru says - is like an isolating armour”, the myth of self-sufficiency and historical isolation sneaking back in the room at the very moment you thought it had been forever thrown over the threshold. 39 But the ideal of the artificial (Rãdulescu-Motru calls it “bourgeois”) fraternity is formulated again by the distinction between the “subjective” and the “institutional” individualism, the aim being to transform the biological, subjective person into a strong, self-dependent, “institutional” character.

This ideal of spiritual fraternity was promoted in Romanian culture and public life by a major generation of philosophers and writers who emerged in the thirties and concentrated around the fascinating figure of Nae Ionescu, a philosopher, journalist, politician and professor at Bucharest University. His disciples included a select list of names like Mircea Eliade, Emil Cioran and Constantin Noica, living in the deep shadows of a rightist

44

ªTEFAN BORBÉLY

and extremist ideology, characterized by national Messianism, the irrational cult of a Saviour (the leader was Constantin Zelea-Codreanu, “The Captain”), by the excited pathos of the fantasy of spiritual collective cleansing through action, violence or culture and by sharp accents of xenophobia and anti-Semitism.

This paper does not intend to get into the details of this ideology 40 , but it would be impossible to step further without mentioning the sharp fraternity characteristics of the Iron Guard, built on male initiation rites and separation from the biologic family. The spiritual movement led by Zelea-Codreanu represented the climactic rejection of the mothers in the modern history of Romania, this tendency being doubled by the emergence of a new motif in Romanian art and literature: that of the sensuous, strange, magnetic female 41 , a fascinating target to be conquered by energetic males who earned their energy by leaving boring homes, wives and mothers behind in order to experience the self-destructive combustions and strains of the “real life”. The key words of the new epoch are “solidarity” (of independent spiritual “brothers” 42 ) and “experimentalism” of life through interpersonal links. 43

The rejection of the parents is obvious. The discussions hosted by the leading newspapers and literary magazines of the period (for instance:

Vremea, Christmas 1932) insist on the necessity of such a “sacrifice”, by saying that the new generation is the first one in Romanian history to conquer a place without spilling blood. Blood is, by the way, everywhere in the public subconscious: at first, as shame (the previous generations died for the independence of the country in 1877, then in World War I, which led to the integration of Transylvania), then as urge and necessity. As outer targets aren’t available any more, history being rather calm at that time, public fantasy turns towards the inner “sins” of the poisoned national body, due to some traditional enemies: first of all the foreigners, then the politicians and in the end the forefathers who kept the country in the sinful contemplation of a village-centred community.

*

To take a glimpse into the mid/late 20th century: Romania experienced two further public fantasies. The first of them was the fantasy of the powerful father, that is the father-centred society introduced by the Russians’ arrival in August 1944, consolidated by the communist regime until December 1989 and discretely promoted by Ion Iliescu’s regime until November 1996. The second one is the strategy of the fraternal society, promoted by

45

N.E.C. Yearbook 1996-1997

President Emil Constantinescu’s election campaign team during the fierce media fights which announced the November 1996 change of power. It is interesting to note that President Constantinescu was raised to power by a brotherhood type political coalition, and not by a single party or democratic force, the “fraternal” quarrel for positions and privileges being the main show of Romania’s post-election period. The government formed at that time is still a conglomerate of self-interested individuals, belonging to a loose family of slightly different ideologies.

Nicolae Ceauºescu’s regime (1965-1989) brought about at least two public fantasies which prove to be essential to understanding the evolution of Romanian society after the coup d’etat of December 1989. First of all, it promoted a strong father figure, especially after 1971, when Ceauºescu returned from China and North Korea and tried to implement in Romania - successfully, one must say - the cult of personality admired there, with huge mass rituals of children wearing uniforms from the age of 3, and frantic gatherings of people meant to pay tribute to the nurturing powers of the leader. This mass hysteria was associated with a carefully projected father-image, centred around the family of the dictator.

The second public fantasy was the result of a rather tricky strategy, and I must confess that I cannot determine how much of an official, though never recognized, persuasive image-building strategy was in it, and to what extent it was the result of a spontaneous public reaction. I am referring to the public image of Elena Ceauºescu, the dictator’s wife. On the one hand, she was officially worshipped as a nurturant mother and world-wide recognized scientist, although she had some difficulties in building up a simple and coherent sentence. On the other hand, public opinion satanized her and this “poison container” syndrome was used by informal propaganda to cleanse the dictator, attributing everything that went wrong in the country to the mad influence of his wife.

As a consequence, female satanization became a common practice in Romania during the eighties and has never stopped since. The party found atrocious 180-pound de-feminized monsters (Suzana Gâdea, Alexandrina Gãinuºe, Lina Ciobanu), and promoted them to leading positions. You can hardly find a delicate lady in the literature of the period. After 1989 the satanization went on: there have been no females in public positions or in the leadership of the parties, as if they didn’t exist at all, although statistics say that Romania has always had more females than males in its demographic composition.

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Former President Ion Iliescu quickly understood the situation and never promoted his wife Nina, while former Chamber of Deputies President Adrian Nãstase unsuccessfully tried to ignore the pressure of the public, his elegant wife being violently rejected by the crowd when she led

gymnasts Nadia Comãneci and Bart Conner to the altar. In the twilight of Iliescu’s regime (Spring 1996), a female minister emerged (Daniela Bartoº)

  • - significantly - in the Health Department, replacing the former holder of

the position (Iulian Mincu), who had the notorious reputation of a butcher.

Subsequently, in the very first months of 1990, famous female dissidents like Doina Cornea or Ana Blandiana were sent to the backstage of political life and possible leaders (like Smaranda Enache) were set aside without reasonable explanations. At the moment, male domination is fully accomplished in Romanian society, although female figures (Alina Mungiu-Pippidi, Gilda Lazãr, Iolanda Stãniloiu) appear on TV screens every now and then, having the precise role of serving their male counterparts. Recently (end of June-early July 1997), the Government sacrificed Gilda Lazãr, spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as a response to a scandal revolving around her alleged abuse of power to get a distorted negative image of Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea’s visit to Washington from the media.

Pollution through sacrificial killing: a paradox?

Romania killed her “father” on Christmas Eve 1989, at Tîrgoviºte, after a short and hasty trial. The execution was carried out by misinformed “children” against a father they unjustly hated - said Elena Ceausescu, while taking her last steps to the wall where she was a moment later literally riddled with shots. The patricide was - public opinion considered afterwards - a sinful decision, which polluted the initial purity of the mass uprising. Accordingly, the Romanian revolution entered from the very beginning in an ambivalent mode, the main tendency of the public fantasy striving to pollute and not to cleanse the initial steps of the revolt.

The reasons for such a behaviour are easy to understand. The revolution had been started five days earlier in Timiºoara by a Hungarian Protestant priest, László Tökés, an “intrusive” act from a member of a minority which somehow overshadowed the theatrical self-esteem of the natives. The Orthodox Church experienced the deepest sorrow: already a target of suspicion because of its collaboration with the “ancien régime” and its

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N.E.C. Yearbook 1996-1997

secret police, it felt the privilege of the sacred and collective recognition slipping away from its hands. Consequently, there appeared the necessity of a new start and the elaboration of a new myth with an appropriate dosage of sparkling lights and dark shadows, good guys and bad guys, terrorists and occasional heroes. The strategy had something essential: it simply didn’t have to be logical.

In the first weeks of 1990, the country experienced a popular rebirth fantasy. People spontaneously cut out the arms of the Socialist Republic of Romania from the national flag, the hole becoming the symbol of an escape from the uterus and of the delivery 44 . A ghost-faced spiritual father, the politologist Silviu Brucan evasively explained to the “children” of the new era the further steps of the democratic alphabetization, learned by him in Moscow during the fifties and accomplished later through random research in Washington D.C. Lorries loaded with goods frantically crossed the borders, regressing each Romanian to the stage of a child happy to go home with both hands full of gifts: bananas; second-hand clothing; outworn typewriters; pens of all sorts; shiny computers, which they had just started to learn to handle - in order to play exciting electronic games.

Democracy seemed to be a ludicrous socializing form, played by politicians who were not entirely responsible for their decisions. As already stated in this paper, politics has always been assimilated in Romania with play. In the first years of the post-Ceauºescu era, the public fantasy of assimilating the politicians with children had three main reasons.

Firstly, it exempted politicians from the sins of errors, alluding to the real sense of the new leadership: the aspiration to take power in a single, firm hand. A childish politician is allowed to make errors, but he is never guilty. It is interesting to note that in the media imagery of the period (see Illustrations 5 and 6) President Iliescu is always represented as a protective parent, the nasty child being in both cases Prime Minister Nicolae Vãcãroiu 45 . Another similarity: in each of the cases, the child is disciplined by being dragged in front of an institution (the school). The stereotype is transferred in the July 6, 1995 issue of the same newspaper onto Minister Mircea Coºea, responsible for the major “play” of the period: the privatization of the former socialist industry.

Secondly, this strategy pervades the fantasy of a strong, almost sacred leader, the holy father of the nation. Illustrations 7-8-9-10 suggest President Iliescu’s omnipotent power: with an aura around his head (Illustration 7 46 ); as an icon, worshipped by an orthodox priest (Illustration 8 47 ); as a saint (Illustration 9 48 ); or as a hospodar, sitting on a throne (Illustration 10 49 ).

48

Illustration 5

Illustration 5

Illustration 6

Illustration 6

Illustration 7

Illustration 7

Illustration 8

Illustration 8

Illustration 9

Illustration 9

Illustration 10

Illustration 10

Illustration 11

Illustration 11

Illustration 12

Illustration 12

Illustration 13

Illustration 13

N.E.C. Yearbook 1996-1997

N.E.C. Yearbook 1996-1997 Picture 14 It is worthwhile noting that all these illustrations have been deliberately

Picture 14

It is worthwhile noting that all these illustrations have been deliberately selected from the leading newspaper of the Opposition, which is by definition not favourable to the President. The tricky thing is that the persuasive fantasy of the illustrations published by this paper unwillingly undermines the explicit message of the texts which surround them 50 .

The third aspect concerns the relation between the individual, or the common man, and the power. In the Romanian exercise of power, the common man has always been a victim of the institutions of power and not a beneficiary of their services (although he has always been a good and humble taxpayer). The media imagery of the period (Illustrations 11-12-13) insists on showing the common person as a little man (or child), delivered to the omnipotent discretion of the Police, embodied by giants 51 . Picture 14 52 completes the message featuring a man who kisses the hand of a policeman.

Pollution was the main public fantasy during former president Ion Iliescu’s two mandates (1990-1996). Romania experienced the three forms of the “upheaval” stage, delineated by Lloyd deMause in The Foetal Origins of History 53 , though simultaneously and not alternately. The Christmas 1989 “regicidal” killing promoted the former leader, Nicolae Ceauºescu,

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as an enemy; however, his assassination, formally approved by the majority of the population, didn’t serve to purify the atmosphere by a sacrificial death, but - rather paradoxically - to pollute it.

There were several reasons for such an outcome. First of all, the impurity of Christmas and the pollution of the new political structures with former communist leaders - Ion Iliescu was just one of them - created a fantasy of impotence and fatalism, which can be very easily transformed into a political manipulation in Romania, a country where fatalism has always been a public ingredient to all sorts of historical failures. The enigma of the “terrorists”, who acted in the streets of Bucharest after Ceauºescu had been executed, the moral crisis of the army - which at first shot into the crowd and then fraternized with them - and the reluctance of the new leaders to promote transparency and public control over the decisions which continued to be taken behind tightly closed doors led to a fantasy of impurity. This was reinforced by the “shame” induced by the Western mass media, which started to talk about the filthy conditions of the Romanian orphanages, about abandoned children sniffing fermented glue (“aurolac”), and about the exaggerated figures concerning the victims of December 1989. In Paris in March 1990, huge placards hanging outside the headquarters of several leading media agencies asked one and the same question: “Who lied in Romania?” 54

The child was born, but it was dirty. In these circumstances, the new Romanian power resorted to the “Martial solution” by inventing an internal enemy, the Hungarians of Transylvania, over whom the rage of the polluted people could exercise power. The street fights between Hungarians and Romanians in Tîrgu-Mures in March 1990 inaugurated several political and strategic plans, which had been “in the cards” a long time before December 1989. The first step was the reactivation of the Secret Police, of the Securitate. Then, the clashes legitimatized a nationalistic outburst, having as flagpoles two hysterically extremist parties, the PUNR and the PRM 55 . But the most important outcome was the public fantasy of the threatened nation (a stereotype of Romanian history), funnelled into the conviction that history is again hostile to the country but general and unfair animosity can be overcome if everybody reacts as a pure and sincere Romanian.

Thus, ethnicity became a cleansing device again, used to sanction centrifugal forces and keep the people together. Law and reason ended at the gates of the pride of being a Romanian This energetic Messianism covered the deepest corruption one can imagine. Hundreds of thousands of people came to Cluj to participate - and lose their savings - in an

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enormous pyramidal game (an economic swindle, like the one whose collapse caused the 1997 riots in Albania), but when it was stopped,

nobody uttered more than a few sighs of confusion. Romania is not

Albania

The childish desire to get rich without working transformed

... Cluj into a mass hysteria and the pyramidal game owner Ioan Stoica into the Epiphany of Jesus. “Suicidal individuals - Lloyd deMause says treating the third upheaval form, the <<Suicidal Solution>> 56 - often resolve internal ambivalence through a fantasy of a <<Hidden Executioner>> who helps them in their suicidal effort in killing the bad, polluted part of themselves so that the good purified part can be loved again.” Romania’s leaders experienced this solution in June 1990 by asking the miners from Petroºani to come to Bucharest in order to drain the “pollution” represented by the street protests in the University Square. The “Hidden Executioner” fantasy has been used several times since, the miners coming to Bucharest each time “the young and the restless” part of the society (i. e. the students) advocated real democracy and openness. In September 1993, the new “father” (President Iliescu) sacrificed his own “son” (Prime Minister Petre Roman); however, public opinion didn’t receive the message as a purifying solution but as a new confirmation of the general pollution of the society.

Death, leisure and happy family values

Starting with Spring 1996, the imagery of the Romanian press suggested the decline of Iliescu’s power through reiterated symbols of death and decomposition (Illustrations 15-16-17-18-19). Two of them (no 16 and 18 57 ) suggest mass sacrifice as a price paid for the privatization of the industry requested by the cunning Western capitalist world, represented in the June 24 1995 issue of the same publication by a US dollar mousetrap (Illustration 20). Other images of general collapse introduced Prime Minister Nicolae Vãcãroiu (Illustrations 21 and 22 58 ), known for his passion for drinking.

The difference from the previous period lies in the new habit of representing the President as a childish, irresponsible fellow (Illustrations 23-24-25-26). The subliminal message suggests the regression to a family “womb”, where politicians wash their laundry and boil the ingredients of politics without knowing properly what is going on outside the walls of their reclusion. Illustrations 23 and 25 show the happy family formed by governing leaders Ion Iliescu, Adrian Nãstase and Oliviu Gherman (the President of the Senate at the time 59 ), while the children in Illustrations

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24 and 26 60 are the interpreters of the national ideological “score” promoted by the power, party leaders Corneliu Vadim Tudor and Gheorghe Funar. In Corneliu Vadim Tudor’s case, the message of opportunistic sacrifice is obvious, because the text says: “Do we clean him, or do we conceive another one?”

The popular image of politics as a self-sufficient game, played by deaf-to-reality individuals has always been a stereotype of the Romanian perception of the state affairs, having its roots in the ontological understanding of ethnicity as a thing to itself, an a priori type “essence” (“Romanianism”) incorporated in a worldly structure, namely the state as a historical phenomenon. This rather simple theory, shared by the majority of Romanians, has as a turning point the belief that historical vicissitudes may alter the worldly identity of the state, but cannot harm its deep, good-for-ever “substance”. Since 1990, the interpretation of communism in Romania as an imported plague, which corrupted some millions between 1947 and 1989 but didn’t harm the ethnic substance of the natives, has been a recurrent stereotype of public debates in Romania. To challenge it is sacrilegious. A similar mental stereotype is associated with King Michael I, living now in Switzerland, whose role in arresting former head of state Marshall Ion Antonescu on August 23, 1944 and in turning Romania against Germany at the end of World War II is still a topic of debate amongst historians.

The conclusion would be that politicians belong to the historical forms of the state, and not to its timeless “substance”. As such they are the nasty children of a restless family, scratching only the crust of the universe, but never reaching down to its core. This perception explains the great frequency of the imagery of play and leisure involving politicians in the Romanian mass media (Illustrations 27-28-29-30 61 ) during a period dominated by the fantasy of rebirth into a world which must be destroyed entirely in order to gain purity (Illustration 31 62 ).

It should be noted that pollution, dirt or filth are ambivalent as symbols. They do not have only a negative connotation, but, isomorphically, a positive one too. In this respect, dirt is associated with debris, that is with the warm and secure ecstasy of the lair, of the den. Lair means here regression to the formless, the certainty of the womb. Starting from the treatment of the debris, there are, one may believe, two kinds of societies: disposal societies and thrifty ones. Disposal societies are, so to say, detergent trained societies. I mean by that the continuous exercise of leaving behind unnecessary things, or - to put it differently - the exercise of making one’s way in life by always leaving the past behind. On the other hand, thrifty societies cope with the

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present and with the new stimuli by crouching in the lair, that is by protecting themselves with the debris of their past.

Romania is a thrifty society. If you pass through villages, or enter houses, the first thing that strikes you is the absence of evacuation symptoms:

“memories” of past years, old tools, broken cutlery, outworn cloths and bags pile up topsy-turvy into room corners, backyard lumber boxes or barns. If asked about the reason for keeping all these things, the owners generally have one and the same answer: one never knows when you need one thing or another.

The real, psychic reason is the desire to lessen the impact of the present by having at hand, as a protection, a certainty of the past. I’d call it, stretching a Jungian term a little, social abreaction. That is why historical analogies have always been present in Romania’s way of life, where the only true step is the step legitimatized by tradition. “The population of the Romanian villages - Constantin Rãdulescu-Motru concludes - stays under the tradition of collective work. Every peasant will act as he believes everybody will act. He doesn’t feel the incentive to start work but at the time everybody starts it. To step aside the line is, for the Romanian peasant, not merely a risk, but sheer madness.” 63 As things have gone on this way for centuries, Romania’s “shame culture” 64 wasn’t distressed too much by the media images of the dirty children roaming in flocks in the streets of Bucharest or by the similar illustrations of the roms. Filth is the metaphysical substance of the past: why bother if you find it on your threshold?

Politicians as garbage cleaners

A suffocation syndrome characterized Ion Iliescu’s final months of presidency (Spring - Summer 1996). Clear symptoms of the “collapse” phase turned into a media imagery which embodied the shared fantasies of abandonment and suffocation. Though Romania is not part of an evacuation trained civilization and it is by no means sure that the press illustrations contributed to the drop Iliescu’s popularity in the polls, media representations insisted on the fantasy of a country led by politicians surrounded by dirt and garbage, as symbolic equivalents for social disintegration, corruption and crisis. For instance, in Illustration 32 65 , President Iliescu is featured sinking into water, while in the October 14th issue of România Liberã (Illustration 33) the disastrous state of the health care is represented by a sleeping child, seemingly abandoned in a sort of

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floating basket, like Moses or - nearer to us - the mythical ancestors Romulus and Remus. In Illustrations 34 66 and 35 67 President Iliescu appears as a garbage man, in the second picture sharing the joy of the disposal with Adrian Nãstase, his major henchman and former president of the Chamber of Deputies. In Illustration 36 68 (an extremely acid and unusual one for the Romanian media) President Iliescu enjoys the pains of defecation, using the Constitution as toilet paper.

The titles of articles published at that time clearly expressed a suffocation crisis. Here is a sample of them: Trash. The Ecologist Organizations Require that Salubrity Should Be Paid by PDSR 69 (România Liberã, Nov.1996); Timiºoara: The Opera Square Again in Turmoil (Ibid.); A Plague Called Rãducãnoiu; Mudava: Our People’s Head Is Rotten (Academia Caþavencu, no 41/1996); From Topliþa to Borsec: Poisoned Water for Everybody (România Liberã, Oct.26,1996); When Food Becomes Poison (România Liberã, Dec.16,1996); The American Ambassador Is Blind (România Liberã, Sept.14,1996); Sclerosis of Our Roads (România Liberã, Oct.9, 1996); Ion Cristoiu: “Iliescu drags the sacred values of Romanianism into the mire.” Not at all surprisingly, the September 16, 1996 issue of România Liberã puts an article on its front page saying that in the previous six months of the year Romania registered the sharpest deficit of population in her whole history. Romania sacrifices children.

It is then obvious that when times change, media imagery insists on representing the newly elected leaders as poison drainers or detoxifiers, like Illustration 37 70 , which shows Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea killing corruption virus holders with a bug tox pump.

“We

...

as Romanians

...

are nothing”

Nationalism kept being a major issue in Romania’s Autumn 1996 elections, which brought to power a “political fraternity” (the Democratic Convention, built up as a coalition of numerous parties) and a new President, Professor Emil Constantinescu, former Rector of Bucharest University. Ion Iliescu’s PDSR was, paradoxically, a party without a personal ideology. To compensate for such a deficiency, the leaders of the party stressed an opportunistic and very poignant nationalism, a popular persuasion which was exacerbated during the first and the second ballots, when President Iliescu realized that things were going really wrong. The

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victory of the Democratic Convention was therefore presented as a farewell to the sacred and ancient values, and as a fatal loss of national identity.

Romania is sharing now the public fantasy of frustration because of the cautious hugs of a rejective surrogate mother (Europe) and a similarly repulsive surrogate father (NATO). The lack of parentage is very obvious in recent public fantasies: the government is accused of being non-protective, insensitive to the needs of its “offspring”. Actually, Romania experiences a completely new leadership system at the moment, based on the premeditated diffusion of the Centre, the responsibility being taken up by a loose fraternity of equals.

The crisis is illustrated by the public fantasy of travelling, of being on the road (that is nowhere), the most controversial minister of the new Government being Traian Bãsescu, the head of the Department of Transportation. Articles about deadly unsafe belts of communication and about absurd road taxes to be paid by car-owners blasted Romanian media until mid July 1997, associating the officially induced enthusiasm to join Europe and NATO with the subliminal public fantasy of threat and expulsion because of a cut umbilical cord.

A Fantasy Analysis of Prime Minister Victor Ciorbea’s discourse at the presentation of the Governing Program and of the members of the Government to the Parliament 71 shows, contrary to its explicit, primeval message, a subliminal fear of losing identity when joining Europe and NATO. Words suggesting a catastrophe start from the very beginning of

the text, circling around the fantasy that “we

Romanians

are nothing

Here is a sample of the analysis of the discourse:

“We, Romanians

are not

not capable

we, Romanians

do not

we mustn’t have complexes

 

must change destiny

 

not a miracle ...

mustn’t fear

bad

for everybody

winter

sacrifices

total war ...

fight against

crisis program

the picture of the

 

dangerous loss

our life expectancy is

the lowest in Europe, infant mortality the highest

the biological being

of the Romanian people

affected

Romania

still a risky country ...

painful evaluation of the situation

children infected

with AIDS

malnutrition

fear

not transform

not

notice

Romanians were not told

unsafe Christmas

waste the

initiatives and everyday strife.”

64

Illustration 15

Illustration 15

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Illustration 20

Illustration 20

Illustration 21

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Illustration 25

Illustration 25

Illustration 26

Illustration 26

Illustration 27

Illustration 27

Illustration 28

Illustration 28

Illustration 29

Illustration 29

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Illustration 30

Illustration 31

Illustration 31

Illustration 32

Illustration 32

Illustration 33
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Illustration 35

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N.E.C. Yearbook 1996-1997

In its last passages the discourse reiterates the ambivalence of the “terrible moments” of history (understood as the empirical cover of ethnicity) and the deepest imperative of “surviving as a nation”, thus shifting politicians from the generally accepted level of the surface to the deepest level of the essence for the first time in a Romanian political discourse. It is also interesting to note that the cooperation with ethnic groups as well as the understanding of the minorities are exiled to the abstract reef of “the common platform of the religious morals” 72 . The whole speech claims the exigence of “making history together”, in order “to leave anonymity and modesty” as national marks of self-appreciation and identity behind. The fantasy analysis of the discourse suggests a dangerous state of peril, poisoning, helplessness and hopelessness. As quoted above (see note 25), in less than eight months from the date of the discourse, tabloids announced that only Albania kills more children than Romania in Europe.

NOTES

  • 1. Previous approaches include: Stefan Borbély: Romania and the Myth of the Lost Child, Romania literara, no. 48, November 1992 and the whole issue of Echinox, Cluj, XXVII, no. 3-4-5, which includes the Romanian versions of texts by David R. Beisel, William L. Langer, Henry Lawton, Bruce Mazlish, Alenka Puhar, Juhani Ihanus, Paul H. Elovitz, Howard F. Stein, Stefan Borbély.

  • 2. Psychohistorians Discuss Psychohistory, in: History of Childhood Quarterly: The Journal of Psychohistory, vol. 3, no. 1, Summer 1975, p. 124

  • 3. Psychohistory: Independence or Integration, ibid.

  • 4. The Independence of Psychohistory. In: History of Childhood Quarterly: The Journal of Psychohistory, vol. 3, no. 2, Fall 1975

  • 5. Rudolf Binion, in the debate The Joys and Terrors of Psychohistory, in: History of Childhood Quarterly: The Journal of Psychohistory, vol. 5, no. 3, Winter
    1978

  • 6. Carl Hempel: The Function of General Laws in History, in: Readings in Philosophical Analysis , ed. by Herbert Feigel and Wilfred Sellars, Appleton-Century-Crofts, New York, 1949

  • 7. Ortega y Gasset: History as a System and Other Essays toward a Philosophy of History. With an Afterword by John William Miller. The Norton Library, W. W. Norton & Company Inc. New York, 1962

  • 8. Apud: Hervé Coutau-Begarie: Le phenomène >>Nouvelle histoire<<. Stratégie et idéologie des nouveaux historiens, Economica, Paris, 1983, pp. 18-19

  • 9. See Jean Laplanche & J.-B.Pontalis: Vocabulaire de la psychanalyse, PUF, Paris, 1967

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  • 10. Lloyd deMause: The Independence of Psychohistory, in: Foundations of Psychohistory, Creative Roots, Inc., New York, 1982, p. 89

  • 11. Op. cit., p. 90. The italics belong to the author, but the marks underlining the final part of the quotation belong to me, in order to stress the acceptance of personal involvement, of “transference” by Psychohistory.

  • 12. Thou Shalt Not Be Aware. Society’s Betrayal of the Child. Translated by Hildegarde and Hunter Hannum. A Meridian Book, 1990, pp. 19-20

  • 13. The abreaction is defined by classical psychoanalysis as the dramatic reenactment of a previous traumatic experience by the deep psyche (See: Andrew Samuels, Bani Shorter, Fred Plaut: A Critical Dictionary of Jungian Analysis, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London-New York, 1986. Abreaction)

14.Daniel Dervin: Enactments. American Modes and Psychohistorical Models. Madison-Teaneck. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. London: Associated University Press, 1996, pp. 35-36

  • 15. Historical Group-Fantasies, in: Foundations

...

, ed. cit., pp. 172-243

  • 16. Archetypal Psychology as a Key for Understanding Prehistoric Art Forms, in: History of Childhood Quarterly: The Journal of Psychohistory, vol. 3, no. 4, Spring 1976

  • 17. The New Theology: Star Trek, Star Wars, Close Encounters and the Crisis of Pseudo-rationality , in: History of Childhood Quarterly: The Journal of Psychohistory, vol. 5, no. 4, Spring 1978

  • 18. The Journal of Psychohistory, vol. 9, no. 1, Summer 1981, reprinted in the Foundations of Psychohistory, op. cit., pp. 244-332

  • 19. Op. cit., p. 261

  • 20. Op. cit., p. 260

  • 21. The History of Childhood. Lloyd deMause, editor. The Psychohistory Press, New York, 1974; The English edition: A Condor Book. Souvenir Press (E&A) Ltd., 1976

  • 22. See in this respect Dan Dervin’s Critical Reflections on Key Aspects of Lloyd deMause’s Seminal Psychohistory, and Lloyd deMause’s Reply to Dan Dervin, both in The Journal of Psychohistory, vol. 24, no. 2, Fall 1996

  • 23. Especially in The Evolution of Childhood, printed both in The History of Childhood (op. cit.) and in the Foundations

...

(op. cit.)

  • 24. La psychanalyse et l’histoire: une application à l’histoire de Sparte, Annales ESC (20) 1965, reprinted in Alain Besancon’s L’Histoire psychanalytique. Mouton-Paris-La Haye, 1974

  • 25. Aproape 100.000 de copii abandonaþi în instituþii de ocrotire/Almost 100,000 children abandoned in foster homes/, România liberã, July 19, 1997; Societatea româneascã nu-ºi mai poate permite sã piardã copii în instituþii de tip lagãr/ Romanian society can no longer afford to lose children in concentration camp type institutions/, ibid.; Cei mai mulþi copii se îmbolnãvesc din cauza sãrãciei/ Most of the children get sick because of poverty/, România liberã, July 21, 1997; Doar în Albania mor mai mulþi copii decât în Romania/Only in Albania do more children die than in Romania/, România liberã, July 22, 1997

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26.

An excellent model of childrearing for the Balkans can be found in Alenka Puhar’s Childhood Origins of the War in Yugoslavia, I-II, The Journal of Psychohistory, vol. 20, no. 4 Spring 1993 and vol. 21, no. 2 Fall 1993

27.

The History of Childhood (op. cit.), p. 51

28.

See my text in România literarã, November 1992

29.

Lloyd deMause’s terminology from The Fetal Origins of History, see supra

30.

The University of Chicago Press, 1981

31.

TV and media reports, May 1997

32.

Spaþiul mioritic, Bucharest, 1936

33.

I am grateful to Prof. Jerry Atlas from Long Island University, Brooklyn, New York for this suggestion (St.B.)

34.

Pragmatica personajului /The Pragmatics of the Hero/, Minerva Publishing House, Bucharest, 1992; Fals tratat de disperare /False Treatise of Despair/, Hestia Publishing House, Timiºoara, 1995

35.

The expression is a commonly widespread public stereotype in formal debates and informal arguments in Romania (St.B.)

36.

Short version in: Enciclopedia României, Bucureºti, 1938, pp. 161-168

37.

Op. cit., p. 161

38.

Ibid., p. 161

39.

It’s necessary to say that Constantin Rãdulescu-Motru’s theory opposes Lucian Blaga’s famous thesis concerning “the boycotting of history” expressed in

Spaþiul mioritic (The Mioritical Space, 1936). As Blaga puts it, the psychology of the Romanian people is based on the reluctance to face history (that is, by the desire to “boycott it”), its actions being performed in a “pre-historical” time (“eternity”). On the contrary, according to Rãdulescu-Motru, “spirituality” rises a nation beyond time and contingencies, in the “pure” space of creative values.

40.

See Norman Manea, Felix Culpa, in: On Clowns. The Dictator and the Artist. Grove Weidenfeld Press, New York, 1992; D. A. Doeing, A Biography of Mircea Eliade’s Spiritual and Intellectual Development. Thesis presented to the Faculty of Arts of the University of Ottawa as a partial fulfillment of the requirement for the degree of PhD, Ottawa, 1975; I. P. Culianu, Mircea Eliade, Cittadella Editrice, Assisi, 1978 (Romanian version in 1995, by Nemira Publishing House); Man Linscott Ricketts, Mircea Eliade. The Romanian Roots 1907-1945, Boulder Co., East European Monographs, 1988; Z.Ornea: Anii treizeci. Extrema dreaptã româneascã /The Thirties. The Romanian Extremist Right/, Editura Fundaþiei Culturale Române, Bucureºti, 1995

41.

Camil Petrescu, Ultima noapte de dragoste, întîia noapte de rãzboi, I (1930);

  • G. Ibrãileanu, Adela (1933); M. Sebastian, Femei(1933); Gib I. Mihãescu,

Rusoaica (1933); M.Eliade, Maitreyi(1933), Domniºoara Christina(1936);

G.Cãlinescu, Enigma Otiliei (1938)

42.

  • M. Eliade, Cuvântul, VIII, no. 2502/ July 11, 1932

43.

P. Comarnescu, Azi, no. 1/ 1932. The term “experientalism” is a forced creation

of the author

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  • 44. The significance of rebirth from a malignant womb theatrically reemerged on July 11, 1997, when President Bill Clinton visited Bucharest after blocking Romania’s access to NATO. When finishing his speech, Petre Roman, Iliescu’s former Prime Minister and the actual President of the Senate unexpectedly offered the American President a flag having a hole in its middle. By doing this, Roman tried to persuade the guest to legitimatize Romania’s new political leadership by raising the unfolded flag of the December 1989 revolution in front of the enthusiastic crowd. Clinton either misunderstood the claim, or was reluctant to honour it. (St.B.)

  • 45. România Liberã, 1995, May 9 and June 9 respectively

  • 46. România Liberã, July 1, 1995 (It is worth mentioning that the beneficiary of a similar consecration was President Carter, represented with an aura around his head in Lloyd deMause’s Reagan’s America, Creative Roots, 1984, p. 18)

  • 47. Ibid., July 1 1995

  • 48. Ibid., May 6 1995

  • 49. Ibid., April 18 1995

  • 50. For further details see my text Psihoistoria în imagini /Psychohistory in Illustrations/, Echinox, XXVII, no. 3-4-5/ 1995, pp. 3 & 20

  • 51. România Liberã, 1995: February 6, June 15 and March 20 respectively

  • 52. Ibid., June 3 1995

  • 53. Creative Roots, Inc., New York, 1982, pp. 246-247

  • 54. Personal observation (St.B.)

  • 55. PUNR: Partidul Unitãþii Naþionale Române /The Romanian National Unity Party; leader: Gheorghe Funar, until end of March 1996; after losing the elections, Funar was unseated, and the party elected a new president, Valeriu Tabãrã/; PRM: Partidul România Mare /The Greater Romania Party; leader: the anti-Semite poet Corneliu Vadim Tudor/

  • 56. Lloyd deMause, op. cit., p. 246

  • 57. România liberã, February 1 and March 30 respectively

  • 58. România liberã, March 1 1996 and February 7 1996 respectively

  • 59. România liberã, February 16 and 9 1996 respectively

  • 60. Ibid., April 22 and July 15 1996 respectively

  • 61. Ibid., February 15, April 3, January 24, January 10 1996 respectively

  • 62. Ibid., June 9 1995

  • 63. C. Rãdulescu-Motru, Psihologia poporului român (op. cit), p. 161

  • 64. The term belongs to E. R. Dodds: The Greek and the Irrational, The Regents of the University of California Press, 1951 /Romanian version translated by Catrinel Pleºu: Dialectica spiritului grec, Meridiane, 1983/

  • 65. Academia Caþavencu, October 16-22 1996

  • 66. România Liberã, October 14 1996

  • 67. România Liberã, September 26 1996

  • 68. România Liberã, September 28 1996

  • 69. PDSR = Partidul Democraþiei Sociale din România, the leading party until the 1996 general elections

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70. România Liberã, December 16 1996 71. Discursul Primului Ministru desemnat, Victor Ciorbea, cu ocazia prezentãrii programului de guvernare ºi a Guvernului în faþa Parlamentului, in: Dreptatea, nr. 121, December 18-24 1996, pp. 15-16 72. It is worthwhile noting that in the Romanian Constitution (1991), the President is the only point where the mundane meets the sacred ...

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MIRCEA CÃRTÃRESCU Born in 1956, in Bucharest Ph.D., University of Bucharest, 1999 Dissertation: Romanian Postmodernism Associate

MIRCEA CÃRTÃRESCU

Born in 1956, in Bucharest Ph.D., University of Bucharest, 1999 Dissertation: Romanian Postmodernism Associate Professor at the Faculty of Letters, University of Bucharest Visiting Professor at the University of Amsterdam, 1994-1995 Member of ASPRO (Professional Writers’ Association of Romania), member of the Writers’ Union of Romania Fellow of The International Writers’ Program, Iowa City, 1990

Numerous prizes and awards, among which the Prize of the Writers’ Union of Romania in 1980, 1990 and 1994, the Prize of the Romanian Academy, 1989, the ASPRO Prize in 1994 and 1996;

short-listed in 1992 for Le Prix Médicis, Le Prix de l’Union Latine and Le Prix pour le meilleur livre étranger.

Participation in international seminars, conferences; readings from his works in Germany, Hungary, Holland, France, etc.

His works were translated into French, Spanish, Dutch, English, Hungarian, German, Norwegian, Italian, and Swedish.

Books:

Headlights, Shop Windows, Photographs. Bucharest: Cartea Româneascã, 1980 Love Poems. Bucharest: Cartea Româneascã, 1983

Everything. Bucharest: Cartea Româneascã, 1985 The Dream. Bucharest: Cartea Româneascã, 1989 Levant. Bucharest: Cartea Româneascã, 1990 The Chimeric Dream. Bucharest: Litera, 1991 Nostalgia. Bucharest: Humanitas, 1993 Love. Poems 1984-1987. Bucharest: Humanitas, 1994 Travesty. Bucharest: Humanitas, 1995 Blinding. The Left Wing. Bucharest: Humanitas, 1996 Double CD. Bucharest: Humanitas, 1998 Romanian Postmodernism. Bucharest: Humanitas, 1999

POSTMODERNITY AS A ‘WEAK’ ONTOLOGICAL, EPISTEMOLOGICAL AND HISTORICAL EXPERIENCE

1. Postmodernism and postmodernity

The concept of “modernism”, defining an attitude and an artistic practice which emerged towards the end of the last century, cannot be probed into without discussing the philosophical, historical and socio-cultural background of modernity, a much wider notion, yet one which is closely interrelated to the artistic and literary phenomena in question . Likewise postmodernism, one of the most widespread concepts in contemporary theories of art (and elsewhere) simply cannot be understood — or is even prone to gross misinterpretation — without an

understanding of the world that has engendered it : ‘il convient de faire une distinction entre “postmodernite” comme type de condition humaine (existentielle, mais aussi sociale) et “postmodernisme” en tant que courant

litteraire (ou culturel, si vous voulez)1 . Moreover emphasising the bond between postmodernism and postmodernity is of greater significance than relating modernism to modernity. If modernists, despite their claim to be artists of their time, keeping abreast with the progress of the modern world, promoted an extreme form of aesthetic autonomy and, like classicists, regarded the creative act as pure and impersonal, postmodern artists have shifted their focus towards the insertion of their works in everyday life and have become engaged in contemporary ethical, political and religious dilemmas. Consequently the aesthetic criterion, which was looked upon as all-powerful by modernity, proves insufficient to pass a right judgement and to estimate the genuine value of any work of art. From this point of view, postmodernism draws a full circle in European culture, since it represents a return to the environmental, utilitarian, ornamental and essentially “democratic” perception of art which preceded the Romantic revolution.

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I am going to seek the conceptual roots of postmodernity in three fundamental fields of knowledge, while emphasising the common purpose of their three respective endeavours: defining the contemporary human being. For each of these cognitive areas I have chosen the theory of one illustrious analyst of post-modernity as a guiding light. While faithfully following the paths opened by their theories, I will nevertheless consider contradictory viewpoints so that, by the end of this paper, I hope to have achieved a clearer insight into what postmodernity is, not only in its day-to-day tangible occurrences, but in the intricate paradoxical network of its underlying theory. A discussion of postmodern ontology will comprise Gianni Vattimo’s reflections on his “forerunners” Nietzsche and Heidegger, as well as Gadamer’s, Jauss’s and Rorty’s contemporary hermeneutics. I have regarded Jean-Francois Lyotard’s work as representative for the formulation of essential issues pertaining to epistemology and for the legitimisation of new patterns of cognition. The concept of the “end of history”, dealt with by all postmodern theorists as one of the basic aspects of the postmodern age, has been audaciously, if not always persuasively enough, discussed by Francis Fukuyama, the author of the noteworthy book “The End of History and the Last Man”. I will enlarge upon his point of view in the third section, although the American historian does not declare himself a disciple of postmodernism. Although divergent as to methodology and detail of investigation, the three theories have in common the sense that modernity, as an age in the history of humankind, has reached its end .The world is taking a new turn, and fundamental concepts like reality, history, value, thought and art are undergoing radical changes, as, alongside them, is the human being.

2. Postmodern ontology

In his book, The End of Modernity, Gianni Vattimo’s main endeavour is to find points of correspondence between the various contemporary discussions of the concepts of modernity and postmodernity and the theories of Nietzsche and Heidegger, both late modern philosophers, fully aware of the dissolution of modernity and of the obsolescence of its initial design. As an inheritor of the 18th century rationalist Enlightenment, modernity carried forward the mainstream of European thought, at the core of which was an idealism centred around humanism and progress, the acme of which was reached by 19th century Romanticism : ‘Modernity

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can indeed be characterised as being dominated by a view of the history

of thought as progressive enlightenment, which develops by means of an ever deeper appropriation and reappropriation of fundamentals, often considered as origins, so that the theoretical and practical revolutions in Western history are often viewed and justifiably labelled as recoveries, revivals, returns.’ 2 This utopian teleological view has been castigated by various thinkers who have revealed the role played by chaos, hazard, and the subconscious in the making of history, the so-called “negative categories”, which, did not only enable prosperity and progress to govern certain ages, but also generated blind alleys, decadence and dissolution, and brought about the death of entire cultures and civilisations. Following in the footsteps of Copernicus’s revolution, which demoted the human being from the centre of the universe, the ruthless Kulturkritik went so far as to shatter traditional humanism into pieces. Fr. Nietzsche is, indisputably, “the great shatterer”, whose philosophy has made its imprint upon the century following him, and whose impact is now more powerful than ever. His act of discrediting and, ultimately, of annihilating those values European culture regarded as the most stable and secure, started with the very concept of “founding”, of “base”, of establishing that ontological or cognitive “foundation” without which there could be no metaphysics. Both Nietzsche, and, less radically, Heidegger, bring into discussion the notion of metaphysical foundation, but, unlike other critics of European culture, they do not propose any other kind of grounding. With these two philosophers, being is no longer a fixed, immutable plane to which real world phenomena relate; it is a fluctuating, contextual, aleatory entity. Neither concepts nor values pertain to the eternal and the unchangeable, they become relative and dependent on local conditions. Consequently, in their view, modernity (which relies wholly upon the illusions bred by metaphysics) can neither be prolonged nor surpassed: the only acceptable solution is a separation from modernity. The following chapter will demonstrate how the meaning of the prefix “post-, a morpheme in words such as postmodernism and postmodernity has aroused many controversies because the this separation has been misunderstood.

“The shattering of ontology”, “the weakening of being” and “nihilism” were among the scathing expressions by which humanist philosophers attempted to isolate and discredit Nietzsche’s influence. All these categories have nevertheless been espoused by those to whom the modern age appears mistrustful of absolute values, seeing them as the storehouse of human prejudices and the source of discriminatory and totalitarian

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practices. We acknowledge, these rejecters of absolute values say, that

we live in a nihilist age, but, taking nihilism to its conclusion is our only

chance, since nihilism has come to mean our ability to endlessly create

truth and value — albeit short-lived like everything else — instead of

false, once-and-for-all norms and dogmas. The “weak” value, created

among people for people who live a precise moment in their history is the

only kind of value postmodernity enables us to create, since all the other

values have proved to be false idols. The dissolution of metaphysics by

the revelation of the “weak” nature of being and thinking, the end of

history as the never-ending headway of the human being in search of

selfhood (for the subject itself, as a substratum — subjectum —, has not

been able to resist criticism) and the reformulation of truth, a notion which

grows similar to an aesthetic concept, are all “nihilistic” ideas. They are

equally the premises required by the only optimistic, positive, approach

to the contemporary world: the postmodern critique. It is worthwhile

expanding upon this last idea. In Vattimo’s opinion, postmodernity no

longer regards truth as a gnoseological concept, since it is no longer

grounded in a stable metaphysical reality. Like the subject, truth goes on

“a slimming diet”, it becomes an instrumental concept of communication

and interrelation, very much like aesthetic concepts. Consequently,

postmodernism sustains ‘a non-metaphysical conception of truth, which

should be interpreted starting not so much from the positivist model of

scientific knowledge as from (

...

)

the experience of art and the model of

rhetoric.’ 3 From now on, the aesthetic experience, which is essentially

“weak” will be the model for any type of knowledge. This step is needed

for the “aestheticization” of life in the post-modern world, the unexpected

consequence of which is a dramatic change in the way culture and art are

assessed in the new society. I shall try to show how difficult it is for “high”,

elitist culture to adjust to this astheticisation of the entire life of society.

With Nietzsche, the concept of human being is obviously marginalized,

since nihilism is ‘the condition in which man rolls from the centre

x-wards.4 . ‘The devaluation of the supreme value’ is expressed by the

concomitant “Death of God” and that of man (as an ideal, sublime,

atemporal being, as pure judgement). Genuine freedom only emerges

once our illusions about man have come to an end. Surprisingly enough,

on the wasteland which Nietzsche created by demolishing rationalist

humanism, radically opposite ideologies could be formulated. The idea

that, after God’s death “everything is permitted” and that morality itself

disintegrates, while the only law left is the right of the stronger, has enabled

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the establishing of a morality of the “masters” or of the “superior race”; in

other words it has led to fascism. Paradoxically and ironically, history has

testified to the validity not of the masters’ morality, that of the Ubermensch,

but of that of the “slaves” whom nihilism liberated from the idols of the

tribe, a morality which took the form of the new democratic ethics based

on human rights. The Ideal Man had to die in order for human beings to

arise, in all their complexity and diversity, as they are in real life. Absolute

value had to dissolve in order for individual values and group values to

have their say, values created between people, not once-and-for-all, but

for a limited period, and only contextually valid. As already mentioned,

the unavoidable consequence of Nietzsche’s perspective is a certain

de-realisation of the world. Unbound from the metaphysical chains which

had kept it in bondage during the classical age, the post-Nietzschean

world is depleted of reality, a phenomenon which finds its most faithful

expression in The Twilight of the Gods : ‘the real world has become a

fairy-tale.5 In the same way, for Heidegger being is annihilated to the

extent that it is completely converted into value, which is in its turn

fluctuating and convertible. This effect of unreality, so salient in today’s

world, has led to various trends of thought joining against the nihilism of

our age. Starting with the first decades of our century, a strong philosophical

front has stood up in defence of humanist values. Reunited under the

shared motto of “the pathos of authenticity”, early existentialists,

phenomenologists, Marxists, and more recently, representatives of

contemporary hermeneutics such as Habermas have made great

endeavours to defend the great values theoretically. Vattimo points out

that all these endeavours have failed. Despite the charges brought against

it — “dehumanisation”, “confusion”, “alienation”, “generalised

prostitution” — total nihilism has proved much less harmful and more

fruitful than all the ideologies which have led to wars and dictatorships.

The failure of humanism is perceptible everywhere in our century, in which

not only has communism caused unparalleled disasters, but respectable

philosophical and artistic trends (existentialism, surrealism, futurism and

avant-garde movements) have become compromised by supporting all

kinds of dictatorships, from Stalinism to fascism, from Maoism to

international terrorism. Vattimo points out that, in striking contrast with

these trends, ‘unerring nihilism calls for an experience of reality, which

has become fabulous, and which is our only way to achieve freedom.6

Wherever a society has undergone de-ideologisation and the abolition of

absolute creeds (as is the case of contemporary Western, and especially

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American society), that society has enhanced its complexity, prosperity

and freedom, despite the psychological already referred to.

Together with Niezsche’s assertion that ‘God is dead’, in the practical

sphere modern technology, which was originally regarded as a source of

opening the gate towards totalitarian practices, has contributed to the

dissolution of all absolute values and has brought about an unprecedented

crisis of humanism, a concept that Heidegger considered equivalent to

the possibility for metaphysics itself to exist. Between around 1900 and

the period after the Second World War, human values underwent a painful

crisis, which was mirrored in all philosophical trends. One attempt to

provide a cordon sanitaire for these values was the use of dichotomies of

the type humanities versus natural sciences or culture (humanist) versus

civilisation (dehumanising). These dichotomies — in which the first terms

defined the fortress of everlasting humanism, a sort of Goethean Castalia

wholly isolated from the present day world of decay — proved groundless,

partly because humanist values did not appear essentially different from

other values, and partly because modern technology, far from emerging

as a deadly menace, turned on the contrary into a positive reality. If

Spengler or Husserl deplore the loss of the “human core”, of the “subject”

in the new technological civilisation, Heidegger regards the “surpassing”

(Verwindung) of humanism as the only path leading to the Ge-Stell, to the

world of technology as the best instantiation of metaphysics, and,

consequently, as the first mark of Ereignis, of re-discovery of the self. The

subject, as it is conceived by humanists, is not worth defending, as it is

identified with reason and conscience, which are defined as correlatives

of the object, sharing in the immutable stable character of the object. The

subject is a substratum ( sub-jectum ) and, as such, paradoxically

relinquishes its very subjectivity, its historicity (Dasein). As a conclusion,

Heidegger reinforces the necessity to abandon metaphysics, not by

transgression as such, but by Verwindung, which rather means recovery

or convalescence. There is a need for the subject to take up a “slimming

diet”, since it can no longer claim to be the absolute spirit. As a result of

this “slimming”, the subject acquires historicity and location, becoming

contextual and ephemeral, an entity ‘which dissolves its presence-absence

into the networks of a society which increasingly turns into a sensitive

body of communication.’ 7 The cycle referred to above is thus completed,

since postmodern philosophy and practice prove to be solidary and

complementary.

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Art is the first area to benefit from the consequences of this. The decay

of metaphysics provides fertile ground for a general aestheticisation of

life. The problem of the “death of art”, which might be seen as the central

topic of modernity, acquires a quite different meaning in postmodernity.

From the avant-garde breakthrough of the 20s, which denied any

confinement of art, to the new avant-garde, with its ubiquitous art, which

steps beyond the traditional, isolated and protected spaces (theatres,

museums, exhibition and concert halls), the classical view on art has been

violently challenged throughout our century. Never has the concept of art

reached such relativisation as in the age of media supremacy, since the

communication media have become nowadays a kind of perverse (still

not totally distorted) embodiment of the Hegelian concept of the absolute

spirit. Art does not fade away with postmodernity, but it loses its isolation

from the social body (that famous autonomy of the aesthetic proclaimed

against all kinds of populisms and dictatorships) into which it finally

dissolves. The survival of art implies the renunciation of the “absolute”,

so that what was not habitually regarded as art becomes art. The work of

art’s questioning of its own status becomes a criterion of value. It can be

seen that postmodernity witnesses a triumph of avant-garde concepts, on

condition that they be “tamed”. When the avant-garde becomes routine

and fits into the “norm”, when what used to be shocking no longer shocks

anyone, while that which formerly did not shock has vanished from the

picture, we may say that we have entered the postmodern world.

Undeniably, any postmodern work includes its own denial, in the form of

critical distance, irony, parody, (self) pastiche, which means that the death

of art is literally implied in any artistic product, which indeed somehow

feeds on this implication. Turning the disappearance of art into the very

source of art’s vitality and survival is the optimistic solution the postmodern

thinker provides to a problem which the modernist failed to resolve, since

the death of art could only be followed by nothingness.

It is not by chance that this has only been achieved in the present age.

The impact of technology opens a gap between the historical and

postmodern avant-gardes, since technology favours the endless

reproduction and the ubiquitous nature of all works of art and thus destroys

one of the essential criteria employed by the elitist estimation of the work

of art: its uniqueness. The mass reproduction effect mentioned by Benjamin

in his famous work ‘ The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical

Reproduction8 leads to a curious “living death” of art. Although art

pervades all possible spaces and permeates all possible forms, it loses the

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immense prestige it used to have when it was considered (admittedly by

the restricted elite to whom it was accessible) the repository of all human

values and wisdom. Nowadays, the mass media place little stress on “high”,

“authentic” art; on the other hand, they widely disseminate information,

culture and entertainment according to a unique , essentially aesthetic

criterion: pleasure. Mass communication alone can achieve social

consensus nowadays, a consensus which is neither political, nor

ideological, but ‘a resignedly aesthetic function.’ 9 That is why the death

of art should be understood in two ways : its strong meaning points to the

end of “high” art as the moulder of humankind, as an occult, initiatory

world, the preserver of transcendental revelation (we may clearly recognise

the “elation-inducing” perspective of modernism); its weak meaning

concernes the mutation, which traditional thinking would have regarded

as unacceptable, even apocalyptic, leading to the dissolution of art into

social life through the mass media. The “myth of art” crumbles and art

undergoes a boundless democratisation. The “weak” viewpoint does not

come after the “strong” one; they are simultaneously displayed and strongly

interrelated. Modernism is not dead when postmodernism appears; rather

modernism survives by means of postmodernism, due to the specifically

postmodern simultaneity of all aesthetic attitudes, ideologies and styles in

an ahistorical world, where, according to Al. Philippide, ‘old and new

ages in motley merge; all as one swiftly surge. “High” art still survives,

despite the dwindling of its audience and prestige. It dwells in its tiny

secluded room, ‘where, within a complex system of connections, the three

aspects of the death of art: utopia, kitsch and silence, play and interact

together.’ 10 The next chapter will enlarge upon the concept of silence

and demonstrate, following Ihab Hassan’s line of thought, that both trends

typical of modernity, intellectualism and violent avant-garde, end up in

silence — the one in intense meditation over the blank page, and the

other in the white noise of pandemonium. On the contrary, postmodernity

starts from silence in order to build up parallel worlds that will someday

compete with the World itself. With postmodernity, while art loses its

“life” in the traditional sense of the word (namely its value, significance

and mystery), it equally loses its death, entrapped in the limbo of paradox,

like the hunter Gracchus in Kafka’s tale. Its condition might be called the

“twilight” or the “agony” of art. The art of the present day can only be

defined by oxymoron: dead life, sweet agony, “merry apocalypse”, which

only draws it closer to the aesthetic trend it so strikingly resembles:

mannerism.

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Together with art, traditional aesthetics is also prone to decay. The

“exemplary” character of the work of art lacks support. If it technologically

reproducible (consider, for instance, the playing of Vivaldi’s music in a

washing-powder advert or the glimpsing of the Gioconda’s smile on a

match-box), the work of art can only induce a “sideways”, “marginal”,

“casual” perception, as an object glanced at “out of the corner of one’s

eye”. Devoid of any stable substantiation of values, the aesthetic approach

becomes “weak”. Temporary and perishable, the work of art becomes a

mere “password” for Heidegger, a token of its belonging to the world,

depleted of its own meaning. This draws it closer to ornamental practices,

since they are both embellishing and peripheral. In The Origin of the

Work of Art, Heidegger describes art as a “background happening”,

describable only by means of a “weak” ontology. Casting art back into

the role it used to play before Romanticism “ennobled” it and widening

the concept until it covers the entire social body are processes which

perform the conditions necessary in order for the whole world to become

a work of art, as was foreseen by Nietzsche as far back as the previous

century, when he wrote: ‘The world is a work of art in the process of

self-making.’ 11 To conclude the discussion on the death of art in the

contemporary world, one might say that, like the seed in Christ’s parable,

art remains alone unless it dies, but if it dies it may bear much fruit.

In proposing ‘an essentially humanistic philosophy of history12 , the

most important representatives of contemporary hermeneutics, Gadamer,

Apel and Jauss stray away from the Heideggerian spirit they would wish

to share and turn into opponents of the postmodernity foreshadowed by

Heidegger. The great philosopher supplies a nihilist definition for the

relationship between being and language: Dasein means

“being-into-death”. Being lacks “foundation”, it is mere “utterance”,

adjusted to the rhythm of discourse. While progressively turning into

language, being “weakens”, and the history of metaphysics becomes the

history of the progressive oblivion of being. Among contemporary theorists

of hermeneutics, Richard Rorty is closest to a postmodern standpoint

(without being a postmodern theorist himself). In his main book, Philosophy

in the Mirror of Nature, Rorty lays emphasis on “empathy”, on the intuitive

nature of hermeneutic knowledge. In Rorty’s view, once the attempt to

build up an epistemology has been relinquished, hermeneutics dissolves

into anthropology and becomes ‘a form of the dissolution of being.’ 13

Split between homologising and difference , between a Western

“ecumenical” ideal and a secular marginality, the contemporary world

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looks like ‘a huge building site of survivals.14 The same definition could

apply to contemporary art, which displays a wide variety of trends —

from the historicising to the marginalising —, simultaneously unified and

pluralised by the great media discourse.

3. Knowledge in postmodernity

As far as postmodern epistemology is concerned, the most clear-sighted

analysis is Jean-Francois Lyotard’s 15 . Having studied various types of

legitimising discourses, Lyotard has evinced the increasing substitution of

new legitimising procedures for the “modern” legitimisation of power,

science, knowledge, etc. Dealing with the beginning of postmodern

thinking, Lyotard, like Vattimo, mentions the works of Nietzsche and

Heidegger. He regards other influences, such as Freud’s psychoanalysis,

Max Weber’s demonstration of the connection between the Protestant

spirit and capitalism, and the philosophy promoted by the Frankfurt School,

as equally decisive. Neither are Marxist and Neo-Kantian thought

neglected, since they inspire postmodernism with major topics. The two

postmodern theorists equally agree as to certain common points shared

by these theories, and as to overlapping areas in the views of Foucault,

Derrida, Deleuze, etc. One major area would be the scathing criticism of

the European Enlightenment, of its faith in reason and its grandiose coherent

teleological scripts, which always set man in the centre of being and of

history and on the ascendant line of unbounded progress. The

Enlightenment provided “scripts” or “grand narratives” which were to play

a legitimising and comforting role in European thought for almost three

centuries. These scripts generated the illusions bred by humanist thinking

about human “predestination” and encouraged far-fetched attempts to

fully and coherently justify man’s worldly destiny. The rationalist and

idealist-Romantic heritage urged modernity to believe in the “objective

truth” of various explanatory scripts. Modern man, although deeply

fissured, continues to embody an abstract ideal. On the other hand,

postmodernity utterly mistrusts meta-narratives and, once it has acquired

the skill of deconstructing them, it unveils all the ideological and

self-mystifying presumptions underlying any seemingly “objective”

discourse. In Lyotard’s view, this mistrust, this scepticism towards

objectivity, coherence and completeness is the main symptom of

postmodern thinking. ‘When this meta-discourse [i.e. philosophy] explicitly

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resorts to one grand narrative or another, such as the dialectics of spirit,

the hermeneutics of meaning, the emancipation of the national or working

subject, the development of wealth, I have decided to designate as modern

the science to which they relate in order to get legitimised.16 Surprisingly

enough, doctrines and ideologies so profoundly divergent such as

Hegelianism, nationalism, Marxism, hermeneutics and market liberalism

appear as various facets of a “totalitarian” modernity, in the sense that

each of them proclaims itself the only legitimate and thorough

interpretation of Man and the only way to influence and shape Man

according to certain abstract principles. Lyotard supports the idea of a

trenchant opposition between modernity and postmodernity; however,

as already suggested, postmodernism does not simply “replace” modernism

at a precise historical moment, since there are complex relationships of

coexistence and interdependence between the two. Lyotard’s relative

manichaeism has been exposed by other theorists, such as Matei Calinescu,

who, in the introductory chapter of the postmodern anthology he edited

together with Douwe Fokkema 17 , explicitly asserts the following: ‘Actually,

Lyotard’s opposition between modernity and postmodernity, seen within

the corpus of his philosophical work, is just another way of personifying

the eternal conflict between Ahriman (domination, capital, the acquisitive

drive, the will to infinity, mastery, control, richness) and Ormazd (the

desire for opacity, paralogy, non-communication, autonomy, the figural

and deconstructivesearch for incommensurability. Modernity would

then be a synonym for Lyotard’s strangely timeless notion of capitalism,

while postmodernism would be a personification of an equally timeless

desire for freedom and justice.18 If the notion of a strange “ageless”

capitalism (or rather, an “industrial age”, perceived either as a background

or as a metaphor) may fit into the notion of modernity as defined by Lyotard,

Matei Calinescu’s statement that postmodernism is an “opaque”

“non-communicative” world sounds questionable. To counter Calinescu’s

opinion, both Lyotard and Vattimo (the author of a book specifically dealing

with this topic 19 ) perceive transparency and communication — which

are, after all, one and the same thing — as the core of the new postmodern

liberalism. Lyotard emphasises the fact that within this transparent (or at

least translucent) world, only those more conservative institutions that

obviously preserve residues from the past will withstand this tendency for

a while: ‘The state will start to look like a factor of opacity and noise

undermining an ideology of communicationaltransparency, which is

accompanied by a commercialisation of knowledge.20

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With Lyotard, knowledge no longer plays a formative role. In his view,

postmodernity wholly rejects the idea of man’s ceaseless “completion”,

of knowledge enriching the human mind, an idea still supported by modern

humanism. In the new post-industrial world, knowledge is valued

differently: any value becomes an exchange value, which, like any

commodity, fluctuates according to the “exchange rate”: ‘Knowledge has

been and will be produced to be sold, has been and will be consumed to

be put to use in a new production.’ 21 Redefined as such, value differs

both from the “production force” — in positivist terms —, and from the

moulding force — in hermeneutic terms —, which is meaningful only in

a world of absolute values and purposes. Knowledge has become an issue

that goes far beyond the production of commodities. The real place where

knowledge proves decisive is the realm of decision: ‘ In the age of

informatics knowledge as an issue has become more than ever an issue of

governing.’ 22 , Lyotard writes, then adds that the question “Who should

make the decisions?” lies at the heart of this matter. Instead of the grand

narratives, it is the logical and linguistic criteria, devoid of ideology but

still supporting an endlessly expandable network, that could be able to

describe the informational clouds of the present society. Among these

criteria, Lyotard shows a particular interest in “language games”, as

understood by Ludwig Wittgenstein. The following demonstration relies

on this specific criterion. Under the conditions provided by the new society,

ruling is no longer identified with political decision: ‘The former poles of

attraction consisting in nation-states, parties, professions, institutions and

historical traditions have ceased to arouse interest’ and have been replaced

by ‘a composite blanket made up of managers, officials, leaders of large

professional , trade union, political, and religious bodies, etc.’ 23 . This

group takes decisions which impact upon the entire “social fabric” within

a complex game, which is in its turn constituted by numberless other

language games. In order to be noticed, the social bond need to encompass

a “language change” in the context of such a game. Consequently a general

agonistics takes shape, as a new “power” mechanism in the postmodern

world, in which ‘to speak means to fight in the sense of to play.’ 24 On the

one hand, Lyotard’s analysis includes those contrastive aspects which are

specific to linguistic structuralism; on the other hand, it lays considerable

emphasis on the ludic aspect of decision, which is the truly novel element

in the new social relations of postmodernity. However the issue of decision

is merely described and far from being solved by depicting the new society

as an informational cloud governed by a general agonistics. For a decision

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to be made possible and to be able subsequently to structure the social

fabric, it has to be perceived as legitimate. Legitimisation is a key concept

with Lyotard. Having experienced world-wide conflicts, holocaust and

communist totalitarian regimes, the post-war world can no longer be

governed according to the grand legitimising narratives, be they nationalist

or Marxist. The erosion of man has entailed demolishing all the ideals and

utopias in the name of which countless crimes have been committed. To

Lyotard, the main issue which postmodernity faces is the following: how

can legitimisation occur otherwise, so that it may preserve its credibility

and prove its validity? Combining epistemology with game theory, Lyotard

tries to answer this question by disclosing the way in which ‘the atomisation

of the social in flexible language game networks 25 takes place.

Legitimisation will be determined by the very nature of these language

games.

From the beginning of his study, Lyotard distinguishes two major ways

of acquiring knowledge. One is “narrative” knowledge, of folk origin, in

which narrative form prevails over content or discursive aims (recollecting

the past). The need for fiction, in the form of classical or modern myths,

thus becomes synonymous to the need for oblivion, or for the fabrication

of a fake memory, more suitable for collective desires and cravings. With

this type of knowledge, there is no need for legitimisation, since the

narrative provides self-legitimisation. Scientific knowledge is in striking

contrast to narrative knowledge. The pragmatics of the two forms of

knowledge are two equally valid, yet mutually exclusive, language games.

Narrative knowledge is the form specific to traditional societies,

resuscitated by Romanticism and extended into modernity. What Lyotard

deals with further on is scientific knowledge, which is highly specific of

postmodernity.

In its turn, scientific knowledge can be split into two basic branches

(or games): research and education. Research features the following

presuppositions (or game rules): 1. The addressee and the addresser are

equally competent; 2. The referent should be appropriate to reality; 3.

The addresser is assumed to be telling the truth; 4. There is a double

suitability rule: dialectical and metaphysical; 5. Research achieves its

purpose once consensus as to its validity has been reached. In its turn,

education is underlain by several presuppositions: 1. The addressee does

not share the same amount of knowledge as the addresser; 2. The addressee

may become an expert; 3. There are “unquestionable” utterances which

are conveyed as truths. Lyotard combines the features of the two games

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pertaining to scientific knowledge and reveals the following characteristics

of this type of knowledge : 1. Scientific knowledge only allows for a

denotative language game; an utterance is accepted according to its truth

value; 2. Scientific knowledge is indirectly acquired knowledge, isolated

from the other aspects of social bonds; 3. Competence is compulsory

only for the addresser; 4. The scientific utterance does not get validated

by its own formulation. 5 Science is a cumulative process which, because

of its diachronic character, involves memory and design.

Between narrative knowledge and scientific knowledge there is an

asymmetrical compatibility. If narrative knowledge tolerates a scientific

mentality to a certain extent, scientific knowledge proves altogether

intolerant of a narrative mentality. This is exactly what opponents of

postmodernism as being a loss of meaning, a loss of the human value of

knowledge. There can be detected in their attitude a nostalgia for the

humanist modernity of the past, when knowledge was indeed

predominantly narrative.

Once the religious-metaphysical legitimisation have collapsed,

knowledge of the European type reaches an impasse. Various types of

legitimisation have been devised, in a general endeavour to avoid

“nihilism”, or in other words legitimisation by consensus. Thus

Romanticism brought legitimisation from the people by means of debate

and consensus. This view invests the people with the status of “universal

expert”, whose representatives demolish traditional narrative structures

only to replace them by modern, equally narrative, structures. The notion

of progress flourished during this period, seen as the acquisition of

competence over generations. The golden age, which ancient philosophers

identified with a mythical past, was re-located by modern thinkers in the

future: it was to be possible owing to the general progress of humanity’s.

This type of legitimisation still dominates the political life of nations. It

turns the issue of state into an issue of scientific knowledge. As a universal

expert, the people becomes concerned with the legitimisation of political,

economic and scientific power by means of meta-narratives. This interest

generates the great “scripts” or legitimising narratives in their two versions:

political and philosophical. In the great political script of European

modernity, humanity as a whole is represented as a hero of liberty. This

view assigns the state with the mission of moulding the people as a nation

and of guiding it on the pathway to progress. A classical example is the

Prussian state in Hegel’s time, regarded by the philosopher as the ideal,

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unsurpassable form of state, the emergence of which marked the end of

history as the unimpeded development of the absolute spirit.

The philosophical version of the legitimising narratives centres around

metaphysics as the exquisite all-comprehensive synthesis of all sciences.

In their turn, these sciences are but moments in the development of the

spirit, meant to achieve a meta-history of the spirit. It is easy to recognise

the Hegelian design in the philosophical version, since they both rely on

knowledge of the narrative type. This knowledge engenders that of

hermeneutics, which is so suitable for modernity, but altogether

incompatible with postmodernity. All great ideologies rooted in the

Enlightenment and Romantic idealism have been legitimised either by

the political version of the grand narratives, or by the philosophical version,

and in most cases by both.

If legitimisation has been an obsession of European modernity for at

least two centuries, postmodernity witnesses a process of ideological

de-legitimisation as the great scripts have lost their credibility. This process

shifts the focus from aims (teleology, progress, utopia) to means. Agreeing

with Gianni Vattimo and other postmodern theorists, J.-F. Lyotard points

out that the decay of the great legitimising scripts is not the result solely of

humanity’s having entered its post-industrial age, but primarily of certain

processes regarding the theoretical aspects of knowledge. The seeds of

de-legitimisation and of nihilism should be first sought in the erosion of

the speculative (philosophical) discourse generated, as Nietzsche

remarked, by the sciences being subordinated to and validated by

philosophy. If philosophy was predominantly narrative, sciences would

become ideological tools in the service of power, losing their truth value

and, implicitly, their credibility. Likewise, the emancipatory (political)

discourse becomes eroded since there are two types of discourse generated

by the people: one descriptive and the other prescriptive. The two types

of discourse do not overlap and are generated according to different rules.

A fatal gap opens between the scientific and the forensic.

The above considerations might account for the wave of pessimism at

the end of the past century and during the first decades of the present

century. Irrespective of their proclivities, thinkers were forced to face a

huge proliferation of languages which had emerged without any traditional

legitimisation. Lyotard points out that the age of pessimism came to an

end once new forms of legitimisation had emerged, forms specific to this

very proliferation of languages, arising from linguistic practices and

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interactive communication. Lyotard goes on to analyse these practices in

more detail.

In the postmodern view, the first branch of scientific knowledge,

research, is legitimised by performativity (from the very start a pragmatic,

not a metaphysical criterion). Unlike a few decades ago, the pragmatics

of research is influenced nowadays by two changes: the enriching of

argumentation and the complication of the administration of evidence.

While discussing the richer argumentative strategies, Lyotard shows that

argumentative languages are regulated by logical meta-language, which

implies consistency, completeness, decidability and interdependence of

axioms. Formal logic has lately become considerably enriched: Godel’s

famous demonstration proves that all systems have limitations, which

appear whenever the systems are translated into a natural, inconsistent

and paradox-generating language. This leads to the impossibility of

exhausting a system by demonstration, somenthing which traditional

thought used to consider unacceptable, but which postmodern thinkers

consider inevitable, even stimulating. By accepting the haphazard, the

incomplete and the contradictory, the very notion of reason undergoes

fundamental change:

The principle of a universal meta-language is replaced by that of a

plurality of formal and axiomatic systems capable of argument in favour

of denotative utterances; these systems belong to a universal, however

inconsistent meta-language.’ 26 There is a salient discrepancy between

postmodernity and all previous ages as to scientific knowledge: while

classical and modern science rejected paradox, postmodernity draws its

argumentative force from it.

The other recent change undergone by pragmatics is the complication

of the administration of tests The central paradox of this issue is that the

test itself needs testing. To apply a test means to find out a fact by means

of certain recording procedures, obeying the principle of performativity.

The procedure implies the use of complex and costly hardware, which is

not available to any scientist. The triad that regulates the administration of

tests is wealth - efficiency - truth, where causality sets the order of the

terms. In the new “empire of performance”, the scientific idealism, which

used to enliven classical science and urge the dedicated scholars into

getting committed to the sheer quest of truth for their own benefit and

pleasure, has become not only a naive goal, but also an unattainable

target. Science has stopped being a guarantee of humanity’s unlimited

progress, and has simply become an instance of the circulation of capital:

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It is the desire to get rich, rather than the desire to acquire knowledge,

which imposes the imperative of better performance and higher quality

products upon technology.’ 27 Research starts being scheduled according

to enterprise management and capitalism grants credits either by financing

various departments with practical “applications” or by creating specialised

foundations. Consequently, the administration of tests ‘is controlled by a

different language game, where not truth, but performativity is at stake

(

...

)

The state and/or the enterprise abandon the idealistic or humanistic

legitimising narrative in order to justify power as the new asset at stake28 .

Out of the main language games: denotative (scientific), prescriptive (legal)

and technical (performative), power belongs only to the last mentioned.

Since reality provides proofs and since technology masters reality,

legitimisation is conferred by power, as power alone makes available that

technology which is meant to investigate reality. This is the only real

legitimising method acknowledged by the modern world.

Consequently, if in modernity technology was regarded as an appendix

of science, in the postmodern world it acquires priority over science. Taking

this reversal into account, sciences exist only in order for ever more

performative technologies to emerge. A cycle is thus established, in which

any increase in power can only be achieved by increasing the amount of

information. The postmodern world system is essentially informational.

The second component of knowledge, education, differs from research

by its functioning as a sub-system of the social system and not irrespective

of the social bond. Its purpose is to contribute to general optimisation. To

achieve this purpose, the new forms of education have discarded the

humanist ideal of character delineation and simply content themselves

with competence delineation. Competence is needed, on the one hand,

to take part in the world-wide competition between post-industrial states

(which requires the training of experts in languages and information), and,

on the other hand, to satisfy internal social needs (doctors, teachers,

engineers, or in other words ‘actors able to conveniently play their parts

in the pragmatic positions institutions need them for.’ 29 Within this

framework, Lyotard highlights the meaninglessness of academic autonomy,

an issue so much debated in the 70s, since educational institutions are

necessarily subordinated to that power which allows them to function.

Their role basically consists of the uninterrupted training of individuals. In

the new type of society, education has come to replace the question “is it

true?” by “is it saleable?”, which finally entails a profound change in the

notion of reality itself, and thus represents the most puzzling and shattering

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challenge of postmodernity. Contrary to all expectations, it is not the idealist

and humanist education, the preserver of values and of the sense of reality,

which has proved to foster the development of knowledge, but the

pragmatic education, based on sheer performativity. ‘The perspective of

a huge market for operational competence opens up. The holders of this

type of knowledge have been and will be the object of demand and even

the target of seductive practices. From this point of view, what is heralded

is not the end of knowledge, but quite the contrary. Tomorrow’s

encyclopaedias will be databases. They exceed any user’s capacity. To

the postmodern citizen they are nature.30 The idea that the scientist no

longer explores nature directly, but searches the databases on nature, in

other words explores a secondary reality, created by humans, into which

the human being gets integrated from now on, comfortably dwelling in

un-reality, may be the absolute hallmark of postmodernity. When Lyotard’s

book was published, in 1979, PCs had not yet invaded the market; only

later on their did their rapid spread confirm the cynical, yet insightful

predictions of the French thinker. PCs have introduced virtual reality, the

illusory core of posmodernity, into the life of ordinary people by means of

incorporated databases, person-to-person facilities, multimedia and

internet connections.

At the same time, Lyotard favours the idea that there is a certain