This afternoon I had a brief exchange with a friend about the long-term effects of the Romanian revolution, probably the most bad-ass revolution of all the 1989 revolutions.
As you can see from the following excerpt, I was much more positive in my assessment, stressing the progress that has been made in Romania. But I do quite frequently hear dissatisfaction, particularly with the lack of criminal convictions of those responsible for the killing of protesters during the revolution as well as for the Ceaușescu dictatorship in general, but also with the political system, the media and the way parties work.
I think this level of criticism and skepticism is healthy and useful, although, as I point out in the conversation above, I find it natural that a revolution runs out of steam once the primary objectives have been achieved. It’s much harder to explain why people should take to the street about changing the law of admitting new parties than it is to motivate people to rise up against a regime that leaves them hungry, cold and destitute.
Coincidentally, later today I was reading Ryszard Kapuściński’s Shah of Shahs, a most insightful book about the revolution in Iran in 1979 (yes, that’s the kind of book I read for fun), and came across the following passage:
“When thinking about the fall of any dictatorship, one should have no illusions that the whole system comes to an end like a bad dream with that fall. The physical existence of the system does indeed cease. But its psychological and social results live on for years, and even survive in the form of subconsciously continued behavior. A dictatorship that destroys the intelligentsia and culture leaves behind itself an empty, sour field on which the tree of thought won’t grow quickly. It is not always the best people who emerge from hiding, from the corners and cracks of that farmed-out field, but often those who have proven themselves strongest, not always those who will create new values but rather those whose thick skin and internal resilience have ensured their survival. In such circumstances history begins to turn in a tragic, vicious circle from which it can sometimes take a whole epoch to break free.”
I am curious to hear from my Romanian readers, particularly those who remember the time of the revolution, what you think about this.