On Multiculturalism

South Pacific, December 1999 To be a Romanian writer (therefore in the minority) in New Zealand! Ibi patria, ubi – wife. In New Zealand, I think about the confluence of our lives. We come from so far apart, we meet unexpectedly, we link our lives, our fates together. You come into my fate, spontaneously, with these volcanic islands, with Polynesians and Saxons. I come into your fate peacefully, going from West to East, like all four waves of migrants that arrived here. I still wake up at four in the morning, I am on the Pacific shore, in the gulf of my Victoria. I am writing two pages of the essay The Revelation of Polynesia. I write with difficulty here. I still have not found my time zone, my breath, my Bucharest speed. Crucified by the Romanian language, it is difficult to express yourself in English. The second language, like the second marriage, is penance. In this "farthest paradise," God speaks English. Just some white, poly-ethnic angels speak other European languages; and some angles from Transylvania, Wallachia, of our Romanian community, speak Romanian. I write instead of jumping into some business, instead of making money, instead of gathering dollars by the shovel.You tell me: "You came here with your habits of a little Wallachian aristocrat! But you need to become a capitalist!" Who am I writing for? I do not know if my book will be added to the New Zealand literature, or whether I will remain that Romanian writer who, at end-century, happened to become a subject of the Queen of England, and who later began to deal in exotic themes, Romanian-New Zealand drama, thinking about our convergent lives. Because migrants, islanders dramatically feel the mystery of convergence; they are overwhelmed by the mystery of the Suza mountains, when kins were married.* I was born in Bukovina (the north of Romania) and I grew up in an a-typical village, Musenita, a multi-ethnic village, some kind of a summary of Europe and Asia. This, I think, shaped my life, with an ecumenical dominant, of accord among peoples. The Musenita commune has a Romanian free peasant village as a core, distinguished, proud, strong. They are the guardians of the Law. Attested since 500 years ago, they proudly preserve the Romanian customs and world here. Four little villages are connected to Musenita: one of Poles, another of Russians, another of Ukrainians, and another of Romanians. One village road was inhabited by Germans, settled here since the time Bukovina was an Austrian dukedom. Continuing the village, there is the Siret town, where many Jews, Germans, and Greeks used to live. And there was also an Asian enclave there: a colony of Koreans, settled by 1953, of Korean war orphans. I grew up with friends of various ethnic groups, I tried to speak their languages to some of them: this gave me a feeling of the "earth," that there are no linguistic barriers in this world. But my father only spoke Romanian. My mother learned some of the Austrian occupant's language; however, my father never learned that. Later, he did not learn the language of the Russian occupant, either. When I asked him why he did not learn their languages, he answered: "Let them learn Romanian!" And indeed, all those minority neighbors spoke Romanian to my father!* The soul of the place ("Genius loci") No matter how many ethnic groups are blended in the pot of a geographical place, in time a specific human type of that place emerges. The "genius loci" is stronger than race. Astral rays, specifically focused, blow into our face, unseen; conjugated (earthly, subtle) energies, provide a specific print to that unique vital pattern, coming from the depths of matter. So, in Romania, snow flakes are crystallized differently from Canada and from the Steward Island, New Zealand; and the ice crystals in our blood differ from those in the blood of the Japanese. Those who inhabit a space take a terrible test there: and we are welcomed. In 1979 I did statistics, starting out from the B blood type, which is usually Asian. And, in the Carpathians, there is still a road being drawn, a diagonal line to the Black Sea, with interrupted fragments, a road of migrations. It was not so much the weapons that decided the Latin victory in this country, over centuries. Nature has a way of sifting things: an invisible, compulsive, non-painful way. Fifteen generations later it is decided whether you are welcomed, whether you are fruitful, whether your trace will disappear.* Differences, Similitudes Anthropology looks for differences. Anthropology is the very science of differences. Religion, the contemplative experience, reveal similarities, religion is the practice of unifying. I was in a double position, of an anthropologist and of a religious man. I am under the sign of Saturn and Uranus – two planets warmly cuddling near the native Sun. Warmly and harmoniously. Uranus is an anthropologist, it is the divider. Saturn is religious, conservative. Now the anthropologist in me is writing about the specific Polynesian character, of the people in Bukovina. And the religious man in me feels their unity in spirit, since time immemorial, he feel the union.* Carpathian Body, Global Soul 1992, India. In the ashram (word meaning something between monastery and academy), we were 144 students from 22 countries. But we did not feel we were from 22 countries at all. There were no more tribes, kins, counties in this world. We were so much soul. In the tranquility of the Sahidar Mountains, strengthened by the knowledge of Advaita Vedanta, living together in spirit, we felt man is the same everywhere. Still, if any of us, going back to his childhood or to illusion, asked: "Where are you from?" the answer was: "My body is from America," or "My body is from India, from Romania." But could our body alone have a place of origin? My body alone is from Romania, I wonder? Did the soul not receive any prints and seals from this space and from the aura of the people, of the "spirit of the place?"* The Carpathian face was well expressed by painter George Baron Lovendal. Is he a minority member? This stranger who knows my ethnic secret, is he a stranger? Lovendal is a Bukovinan painter, born in St. Petersburg of Danish parents. He distinguished himself in Cernauti and only painted the Romanian way: peasants and monasteries. He painted 240 faces of peasants and 240 monasteries, sanctuaries. I do not even know if he is assimilated, or a returnee home, somebody called back to the mother-earth. Because, if you study his family tree, you find a Bessarabian branch. Some people will say Lovendal painted Romanian peasants with faces that are too vigorous, too Viking, projecting his own Viking heritage. But Bukovinan peasants really have a Viking trait! Except we did not use to call it that way, before him. This trait may come directly from God, or it comes from the time when the Danes and the Dacians were very close. Several important writers started out from the Cernauti of my parents. One of them is Paul Celan, a deep, tragic poet. Another is Gregor von Rezzori, burlesque and Caragiale-like. The literary glory of Gregor von Rezzori comes from a Balkan-Cernauti book, entitled Stories of Magrebinia (1958), written in German. Magrebinia is not exactly Romania, it is South-Eastern Europe as a whole; its capital city is Metropols, or the Way of Thieves; and the reigning family is called Kara-Criminalovic. It has been said that the Bukovinans have no sense of humor, that they are too dignified. But everywhere, the human mind has two halves and a humor regulator, one for laughing and one for weeping. And it also has smiling, which opens up to mysticism.* "A country is not of the place where it is, but of the target it is looking at." (Nicolae Iorga in the brochure What Is South-Eastern Europe?) What are we looking at now? Are we looking, or are we hiding our face? Are we looking inside of us, or outside? Is it the Gallic model, or the Chinese one? To Vlad the Impaler or to Nicodim of Tismana? To the pound sterling, or to Kunta Kinte? There is a target-crisis in the world, the target is broken into pieces, luck is broken into pieces. This is the generation that was weakened at home and not strengthened in the world.* How do members of minorities see us in their books? What do we learn through their speech and eye? Some can see well. But I do not even know where one stops being a member of the minority and where he starts being assimilated, where he gets melted, where he has relatives or a guarantor. H.H. Stahl is Romanian, like Iosif Veimann, like Dimitrie Gusti, like Paisie Velicikovski.* How declared ethnics see us. Writer Adolf Meschendoerfer, of the Brasov German-language community, is an ethnic Saxon, and he writes the novel The Crown (1931): "We live together, however, with even more Romanians. They make advances everywhere, slowly but surely, they eat corn pie with cheese, have children and do not worry about it, and, because their work force is cheap, they win the competition with Hungarians and Saxons, who want more. But for how long? Their Orthodox Church surrounds them like a defense wall, we have no idea what their priests think, we only know they are an overwhelming mass who wait for nothing but a spark."* Romania's Thracian Memory Ardian Christian Kuciuk is a writer of Albanian descent, who settled in Romania in 1990. He wrote 20 novels in Albanian, and, during the last 10 years, he published a few novels and stories in a perfectly assimilated Romanian language. In Albania, he is vaguely known; here, in Romania, not even that. But his books are a revelation. I will mention here his recently published novel A Dying, Glorious Tribe (1998). In culturally normal conditions, Kuciuk would be seen as an Eastern-European Marquez. But he is just considered an "artistic brain," transferred from Albania to Romania. And he has the weird status "between a professional cultural renegade and an old cosmopolitan," as he defines himself. I consider him a Romanian writer, in a space that used to be called Thracia a long time ago, from the Carpathians to his Illyria. Kuciuk is the wonder child of a Romania remembering she was once Thracia… and who is today stressed out because she cannot find any collapsing or perhaps redemption allies.* Does Mircea Eliade, when he writes about India, bring to Indians a new point of view about them? Does he have the sharp, critical, Orthodox eye of a minority member? Ms. Maitreyi was very angry at Eliade's libertine treatment of the Indian woman. As a retort, she wrote a novel herself, It Does Not Die (Calcutta 1976): a philosophical, avenging, intelligent, and unfair novel, another passionate bridge, I mean a strong one, between India and us. Amita Bhose, Maytreyi's friend, obtained permanent residence in Romania in 1979. Amita wrote in Romanian, on Carpathian and Bengali issues. Is she assimilated, or is she a minority member? Culturally, she is assimilated. But personally, she showed a striking caste spirit and an ethnic rigor that she made use of in order to stay in the minority. Or, perhaps, she was just a loner. * "But, if we think about this carefully, we may find that minorities are in fact the majority. Half of the Romanian population is treated like a minority: women" (Ioan Petru Culianu, 1990). * Is the Post-Ethnic Era Coming? Tradition views ethnicity as something like a "cultural gene," which you only get rid of through death. But, now at the millennium end, we see that so-called ethnic traits get dimmer, and we can read universal human traits with increased clarity. Cultural codes are being generalized world wide. This is not about an identity crisis, it is the redefining of identity, including heritage, genealogy, and specific myths, but also the revelation of the unique spirit, of common archetypes, of a common, trans-human paternity. This is how the "post-ethnic era" concept was born. We have several identities and letting ethnicity be a priority is only up to us, claimed David Hollinger in Post-Ethnic America. Beyond Multiculturalism (1995). The author refers to the United States, a multi-ethnic country. Also valid for Australia and New Zealand. I try to see whether New Zealand has a post-ethnic mentality. Unlike in neighboring Australia, in New Zealand there is no nationalistic suspicion, no different treatment. And all 79 constituent ethnic groups participate in the whole with their specific ethnic things, faithfully preserved.* A Stop in the Ecumenical Cemetery I return to my adoptive country, New Zealand. This is December 1999, and we stop in the cemetery on the outskirts of the capital, up from Karori. Its name is the Makara Cemetery, it is the first post-ethnic multi-denominational cemetery I know. Here sleep peacefully, like angels, bodies of Asians, Europeans, Polynesians, Micronesians. It is a vast cemetery, classified into plots, for people to find their way. Romanians are buried close to Greeks; not far from them, there are Italians, Russians, Germans, Malaysians, Indians. Still close, there are Jews, with two sub-plots: Orthodox Jews and modernized Jews. A little further there are Chinese, Libyans, Turks, Egyptians, South Africans. And other nations and denominations that I have never heard of before. And it is not only in the ecumenical cemetery that you will find this perfect eschatological project; the entire country is a model of living together without skin color tensions, without the suspicion that wanderers had to put up with in other parts of the world. Migrant or pilgrim? There is a difference. A migrant is looking for heaven on earth. A pilgrim is looking for heaven higher than the earth: he knows heaven is inside. It is a spiritual settlement. In this country of migrants, a pilgrim is a happy member of a minority. But I know they are all pilgrims who ignore each other, they are all guests, and they are all in passing on this earth.

by Vasile Andru (b. 1942)