Felix Rambles

Another step to taking back control

Activists and their double standards

04 November 2018 — Felix Pleşoianu

Opinions swung back and forth over the years, but nowadays if you try suggesting that voting may not be quite as effective as people claim, you'll promptly get an earful on participation numbers, and how it's your civic duty anyway, yadda yadda.

Meanwhile, try suggesting to the same people that billions of car owners the world over driving their cars less would have an impact on climate. You'll promptly get yet another earful, this time on how individual action can't possibly matter since a double handful of corporations account for the vast majority of CO2 emissions.

Oh, really? Who's been enriching the likes of Shell or Gazprom? Who's been buying and burning all that gas? It's not corporations that own and drive billions of cars.

The notion that individual action doesn't matter is the latest deflection tactic from people who want to feel completely comfortable both morally and in their day-to-day life. In other words, to have their cake and eat it too. And maybe I'd buy it if they weren't telling me in the same breath how slapping a rubber stamp on a piece of paper is somehow more effective than picking up a piece of litter from the ground.

Voting is safe, you see. Anonymous. Quick. A flick the wrist, and you can feel all smug about yourself for the next four years. Regardless of who wins the election.

Giving up even a sliver of your personal comforts is a whole other story. Shit just got real. It aches. Itches. You can't forget.

That strange new feeling is called responsibility. Get used to it.

Tags: politics, philosophy

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The emperor is still naked

31 October 2018 — Felix Pleşoianu

I still remember when we learned about crises of overproduction in history class, all the way back in middle school. The very notion of dumping entire shiploads of oranges into the sea rather than giving them away made no sense to me: what was the real point after all, making a profit or feeding the hungry? But my teachers didn't see a problem with it. Even though it went against Communist principles. Go figure.

Another lesson I distinctly remember was about the boom-and-bust cycle that defines the world's economy, and how the oscillations keep amplifying. Even to my young mind, it seemed obvious that sooner or later those oscillations would grow bigger than the economy could handle, leading to global collapse. But my teachers seemed to assume the economy would just keep growing enough to absorb every new shock. Well, guess what.

Mine is the generation of that kid from the fairy tale who shouts that the emperor is naked. Years have passed; we're now adults, the emperor is still naked, and we can't unsee it. Yet the adults from back then, who are now old, still pretend nothing is amiss, even as the world crumbles around their ears. After all, theirs is the generation that would literally rather die than lose face. Nor will they stop clinging to power, even as their incompetence is increasingly obvious.

By now, the pretense has become so normalized that the naked emperor can afford to drop it for the most part and make rude gestures at everyone with impunity: people will simply refuse to show any reaction. Even though it's increasingly in-their-face.

At which point does cowardice stop making any sort of sense and slide all the way into lunacy?

Tags: politics, society

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Communism and religion in Romania

06 October 2018 — Felix Pleşoianu

It's generally accepted knowledge that religion was persecuted in Communist Romania with all the cruelty our nightmare of a totalitarian regime was capable of.

Oh, really. That's why the Orthodox Church remained a state institution, financed from the national budget, even during the darkest years of said regime. Funny that.

It's generally accepted knowledge that countless churches were torn down in the same Communist Romania. Hardly anyone remembers the many more churches that were rescued through engineering miracles worthy of steampunk novels: moved wholesale on rails, with locomotives, to be hidden behind modern buildings where the regime didn't mind them. Out of sight, out of mind. On whose money? Why, the state's, of course. Nobody else could finance public works of such size at the time.

(For that matter, hardly anyone remembers the Uranus neighborhood, a unique place of enormous cultural value, that was torn down to make room for Casa Poporului. Or the island of Ada-Kaleh on the Danube, another invaluable piece of living history, that was sunk in the process of building the Iron Gates powerplant. Perhaps because those were largely Jewish and Muslim, respectively.)

Sure, the Communists paid lip service to atheism. A lot, even. But are you going to tell me that Ceauşescu, a semi-literate cobbler's apprentice, born and raised in a village between the two World Wars, was somehow an atheist? Not bloody likely.

Sure, the Communists imprisoned and tortured numerous members of the clergy. People who just so happened to be 1) famous 2) highly educated and 3) outspoken opponents of the regime. You know, just like many academics who had the same fate, and hardly anyone decries their systematic persecution. Academics we never really trusted in the first place. They have a bad habit of challenging faith, you see.

In all this time, nobody touched our numerous Orthodox monasteries throughout the country. They were national treasures, featured in movies and protected with the full force of the law. As kids, we were taken to visit them more than once. By the school. The state school. There was no other kind before 1989.

We have a saying in this country: do as the priest says, not as the priest does. Well, let me turn it on its head: watch what the regime does, not what the regime says. Then you'll see who's really persecuted. Hint: it's probably not whoever yells "persecution" the loudest.

Developed countries, take note. Because these days you're going to where we only just came from.

Tags: politics, history

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Church and state in Romania

06 October 2018 — Felix Pleşoianu

My parents were never married in church. They were of different Christian denominations, you see. No priest from either side would perform the ceremony.

And you know what? It didn't matter in the least.

It wasn't the church that made them eligible for cheap housing.

It wasn't the church that protected me during their divorce, a few years later.

It wasn't the church that helped mom raise me alone after the event.

It was the state. Because, you see, they were legally married. And that's what matters in a modern country.

This weekend, Romania is holding a referendum on whether to make same-sex marriage constitutionally impossible. (Right now it's theoretically allowed, just not in applied law.) In other words, whether to head back towards a dark age we'd barely left 14 years ago. I have no doubts as to the result. Suffice to say, never in my lifetime were the polling stations open for two days in a row. Not once. It's simply not done here.

Except, it seems, to support religion-fueled bigotry.

But then, what can you expect from a country where the Orthodox Church is a state institution, financed from the national budget. In the European Union. In 2018.

I have no mouth, and I must puke.

Tags: society, politics

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