An epic battle is taking place in Romania, of all places, between two 9-headed dragons trying to slay each other: us vs them. On their side, they have the corrupt government officials armed with absolute political power and paid internet trolls, a self-perpetuating system. On our side, we have the hipsters and the corporate lackeys, as they call us, armed with pins that read “resist”, signs that read “thieves”, flashlights and colorful pieces of paper.
On their side, they have the Parliament and the government, the former elected by the majority vote and the latter appointed by the former, eloquently exemplifying the tyranny of the majority. On our side, the judicial system, desperately trying to send the other side to jail. Them, passing laws that help themselves. Us, hundreds of thousands of people protesting in the streets for days on end.
This particular battle has been waged for 28 consecutive days at the time of publishing, although the war is years old, perhaps as old as time. Each evening protesters gather in front of the government building demanding the government’s resignation, denouncing the epidemic of corruption among public officials and expressing their support for the judicial system. While the judiciary is trying to send corrupt politicians to jail, they are trying to discredit, weaken or outright dismantle it.
Specifically, in the dead of night, on the 31st of January, the Government passed an emergency decree effectively watering down anti-corruption laws and keeping some of those in power safely in their seats and comfortably out of jail. It later emerged that several governmental advisory bodies had advised against this decree, citing insufficient evidence for the urgency of the move. In spite of this, it appears that they were strong-armed into destroying the original negative notice and providing a positive one with the same registration number. Yes, that is illegal.
While the protests were massive – the biggest since the fall of communism back in 1989 – the government had a rather slow reaction time, presumably because they were expecting the protests to die down. As instead of dying down, they merely expanded in number of participants and number of cities, the government decided to throw us a bone and rescind the decree, not without wallowing, complaining and maintaining that they were right all along. The official reason for the take-back was “maintaining peace”. That’s hardly a legitimate reason, as the protests were so peaceful that people comfortably brought their young children along. Even that was a source of discord: parents were denounced to the National Authority for the Protection of Children’s Rights for supposedly using their children to get political advantage, i.e. taking down the government.
The two dragons are relentless and creative. There is no doubt that ours is the smaller one with the broken wing and nostrils that don’t always blow out fire but rather hot, thin smoke. Nonetheless we are a large group of self-organizing people, using social media to find each other and volunteering our skills for the greater good: copywriters, graphic artists, lawyers, programmers, people from all walks of life and all demographics are coming together to fight the bigger, uglier, stronger dragon. Whether we win or not is irrelevant, because we woke up from our apathy, we reached out and we found each other.
Romanians are facing an uphill, long-term battle, but mine is a message of hope. In the face of adversity, injustice, disproportionate advantage, don’t panic. Organize!
Ioana Pavel, A Concerned Romanian
Pictures taken by Octav Drăgan