Are we the authors of our own misfortune?
One of the hot topics of the last month has been the TV show featuring a group of French comedians, broadcast by a major TV station in the Hexagon, mocking Romanians whom it describes as dirty beggars
As Romanians, we are upset, of course, but the real question is why we are the subject of such programs? Is it better in such cases to put our heads down – as the Romanian foreign minister suggests – and not dignify such public slurs with a response?
In another slight on the country, we also saw the case of some young people who, besides the “misfortune” of being Romanians in France, had the incredible bad luck to own smart phones similar to one that had just been stolen from someone in the area.
Our compatriots tried to demonstrate – in the easiest way possible – that the phones were theirs by showing the personal data on their gadgets.
But it seems that they were too smart for the French policemen on the case who did not accept the common-sense proof of innocence. And one policeman gave his reasoning: “Shut your mouth! I can’t stand Romanians!” Perhaps we shouldn’t blame him, as he was just speaking his mind. But why should he feel that way?
There are more examples. Another unfortunate incident involved a young Romanian, who, despite being innocent of any crime, spent several months in a French prison. The French authorities had not done their job and threw him in jail because he was Romanian. Nor was he helped by his compatriots: it’s common knowledge that we Romanians are our own worst critics and lack solidarity.
It is clear that many foreigners do not like us – and curiously, especially Latinos, people who think and behave like us. So who is to blame for the way foreigners feel about us – them or us? The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.
It may be a coincidence, but Romanians do the most damage to their country’s image where the local authorities aren’t doing their job with much aplomb. How come in Austria or Germany one seldom hears of such issues involving Romanians? But it is not entirely the xenophobes’ fault. If we had maintained certain cultural standards as a nation, perhaps we would not have so many “incidents” abroad.
Unfortunately, in recent years our foreign affairs presence has been insignificant. In Europe, one must stand out to count. And with what have we stood out as a country? With 0.5 percent economic growth? How we accepted US missile defenses in our country when the Poles didn’t want them? When we said ‘yes’ to the positioning of the US defense shield in our country when the Czechs didn’t want it?
The impression is that instead of distinguishing ourselves among European countries by uprightness, morals and image, we stand out for negative things.
As to our foreign minister’s statement that we should ignore the French comics, I’d say yes, he is right, but he has to admit that such attacks are a direct consequence of the insipid image our country has in Europe.
Why do French journalists not fill their papers and websites with reports on the horrors the Hungarians, Czechs or Poles are committing abroad? Maybe because the Poles are among the only ones to have avoided the effects of the crisis in Europe, or because the Hungarians have perfectly integrated with European civilization or because the Czechs have found the winning formula to profit by highlighting their history.
But we have done something. We have a country brand! A leaf. It is true that it’s normal to have such a brand, but our frail little leaf in the wind is nowhere near enough...