Don't Know: 40%

A few days or so ago, the Romanian press offered us, its obedient and flabbergasted beneficiaries, another opportunity to please and sharpen our minds. A new Gallup poll. And what is Gallup? Gallup is some sort of a modern, computerized Pythia. Claiming scientific positivism and absolute science, some kind of an oracle formulating its forecasts not according to stars or cards, but based on statistics, which are much more seductive and inspiring. At the beginning of each year, Gallup polls tell us approximately what will happen to us in the next 12 months. Do you want to know, for example, whether there will be a new world war this year? You look at a Gallup poll and find this: 42% of the French say no, 18% say yes, 38% of the Poles say no, 17% of the Bulgarians say yes, while 27% of Austrians believe there is no danger, and 21% of Italians are afraid of war. If you calculate an average and take a closer look at figures (which I guess the great intelligence services of the great powers do, as they are the main beneficiaries of the true Gallup polls), you find that 47% of the population don't worry about war, about 31% don't panic but they don't find it easy to sleep either, while 12% are worried sick about war. 47 plus 31 is 78, 78 plus 12 is 90. 100 minus 90 is 10. Well, what about this 10%? They are the nicest. They don't have a clue! And Gallup includes them under the shameful heading "don't know," the category of the unaware, the category of those who don't care, don't understand, and don't get involved. I love them the most, because I think they are the nicest guys in the world. And I have another reason to adore those who answer "don't know" to Gallup polls, namely that most of them are Romanians. At least this is what the 1995 Gallup poll says. If you take a closer look at percentages, you will see Romania gets most of the "don't knows" – I mean this country of ours, with its wonderful people. Regardless of whether the question refers to a war breaking out, or the tranquility of our continent, or the mushroom production in Guatemala, we, the Romanians, have the highest number of "don't knows." The French have three, the Austrians have five, the Poles have 12, and the Swedes have seven, to say nothing of the Hungarians, but we have 40 percent "I don't know," which, at first sight, makes us look shitty in Europe's hawk eyes, namely that we are dumb and don't get involved. However, I will be a nationalist and a patriot, and I will say this is totally false. More, I am ready to swear this is a proof of our clear, mature minds. The lower the percentage a nation has under "don't know" in Gallup polls, the worse. To answer those imbecile Gallup questions in any other way except "I don't know" is in my view an acute imbecility crisis. This is why I experienced moments of intense patriotism when I saw the poll results for this year, and I thought once again that stupidity with Romanians is a very complex issue, even more so than we realize. I used to have a neighbor, poor uncle Calistrat, God bless his soul, he is dead now, and he used to spend all day in the beer joint and drink beer. Under the dictatorship, we would sit down around a table, all of us in that joint, and we had opinions: today they'll sell chicken claws at the butcher's, one would say, another, no, they'll sell organs. "How'bout you, uncle Calistrat, what do you think?" we'd ask. "I don't know!" he'd say. In the revolution, when they caught the dictator, some guy said they'd hang him, another that they'd make him wait in a line for chicken claws, still another that they'd try him. "How'bout you, uncle Calistrat, what do you think?" we'd ask. "I don't know!" he'd say. Then the revolution was over, and we entered capitalism. One said it would be better, another on the contrary, that it would be worse. "How'bout you, uncle Calistrat, what do you think?" we'd ask. "I don't know!" he'd say.

by Cătălin Ţîrlea (b. 1964)