Icons, old and new - (pages 17 - 18)
We are provided with everything as abroad. So what other effort could we make, but put on our overcoat brought from Vienna and our boots imported from Paris? Why should we think further about the economic elements involved? We have the same behavior when it comes to knowledge: we simply take information from foreign books, we write it down on paper like some Double Dutch, in the same way as a merchant is not interested in where his goods come from, but in selling everything. When they start arguing, even our scholars keep on quoting foreign sources. For instance, Mr. X or Mr. Y is a significant authority abroad and he said this and that. That statement must be perfectly true and appropriate, since such wonderful brains conceived it!
God bless Mr. X and all those dear to him! However, his words cannot possibly fit every situation!
Regarding Romanian journalists, things are even easier, especially to Liberals. First, such a journalist will set his mind to work, counting how many ‘words’ cross his mind. Hearing this call, his brain’s dictionary opens for him. This inner book bears no page number and it has very few pages, indeed. Most entries are abstract words like "liberty, equality, brotherhood, legality, sovereignty" and more of this kind. Then he writes them down in a nice row; sometimes evoking great characters like Stefan cel Mare (Stephen the Great) or Mihai Viteazul (Michael the Brave), whom we can say everything we want about.
Poor Stephen! He really knew how to crush Turks, Tartars, Poles and Hungarians. He also knew some Palaeoslavonic. He had many wives. He used to get pretty drunk on Cotnari wine and sometimes he had the habit of chopping off a boyar’s head or a Tartar prince’s nose. Moreover, he set up towns along the rivers. He rewarded his men with good pastures for their herds of Moldavian horses, for their sheep and cattle. He built monasteries and churches. Afterwards he fought the Turks again. Then he came back, set up more towns and got married again. This had been his life till he passed away in Suceava fortress. They buried him in Putna monastery, paying him the greatest respect. What could he have thought about those trifles that our journalists like to pay attention to? What could he possibly have known about the poor minds we have today?
During Phanariot age we had no code, there was no sign that we could even think of new things. Everybody knew from their forefathers what was good and what was evil. Nobody pondered much. Our country was poor. The rulers were just a few. There also were only few taxes. Our great-grandfathers’ carts were provided with shafts at both ends, so to yoke their oxen at once, no matter what the weather was in the mountains, where people used to live. They had adobe huts with thatched roofs, easily to be set on fire when the invaders came. They also set the grass on fire and poisoned the wells, so their enemies could die for hunger and thirst. The village people fled into the mountains, leaving scorched fields behind. This was until the voivode set ambushes in valleys and woods, trapping his foes by horn sounds. Then the enemies were in a really dire strait!
Rumors were circulating that the Romanian voivode and his Moldavians were not accustomed to sitting crossed-legged like the Turks, but they were ready to start a war any time. They were talked about as not quite educated people, but really wise ones. They were not rich, but they were not poor, either.
It used to be like this till the Organic Regulations, the first legislation conceived and implemented in our country. Romanians have been shepherds for ages. If someone wants an anatomic proof of this, then all he has to do is watching a Romanian’s feet and hands. He has small feet and hands, while people belonging to other nations have broad hands and big feet, as a result of hard work.
This is why one can see many handsome Romanians in the areas where the natives have had no links with other nationalities. This is why Romanians are wise, as they have had a lot of time to think about themselves. This is why the Romanian language is so rich in words and meanings. This is the explanation of a Romanian’s deep feeling for the beauty of nature. This is the cause of his close relationship with the forest, with an exquisite stud or with his numerous herds. This is the source of Romanian fairy tales, songs and legends. In brief, this is the start for a very original and vigorous nation, shaped by an easy and delightful work. However, this is also the reason for Romanians’ indifference to civilization, which has never been too close to their souls and which never become a need of their heart.
The Greeks came over and ruled for a hundred years. When they went away, there was nothing left of their presence in the villages. It was as if somebody had passed a sponge over Byzantine influence of these cranks. Our people remained indifferent to Greek, Russian or French reforms. Even nowadays, Romanians are rather unwilling to goad their children into education, as they have a hunch about the low standards of the schools.
This awareness of a healthy and pure barbarism was also general in the past.
Voivode Radu the Great brought Patriarch St. Nifon to set the frame of our society in good order. Even the voivode was wondering about civilization and seemed quite curious to see what it looked like. However, on his arrival, the saint started to advise people on how to change laws and customs, how to formulate rules and so on. One day the voivode said to him: "Shut up, father, because you are going to wreck our cherished customs!" No matter how saintly he was, he would certainly have had an encounter with the Dark One, had he not left for his own country in a hurry!
This attitude is to be expected from any pure nation to which you suggest accepting alienated customs, while it is to be developed gradually and naturally. But this kind of a nation also imposes its ways on the neighbours. I wonder what our Liberals would say if we reminded them that in Eastern Russia they implement day by day new Romanian customs, as those Russians really like the Romanians’ nature.