Psychology Of The Romanian People, 1937

excerpts II In the following paragraphs, we intend to outline a few data regarding the spiritual traits of the Romanian people, from the point of view of its social and economic life. Most of these data are obtained by comparing habitual spiritual manifestations of Romanians with those found in civilized Western peoples. This comparison could have very well been made with spiritual manifestations belonging to neighboring peoples, and maybe this would have been the recommended thing to do; we nevertheless preferred the other one, since it can be accomplished on the basis of more precise and more easily verifiable material. Besides, considering the fact that there was a tendency to imitate Western institutions in Romanian social and economic life, especially in the past, the comparison we have chosen has the advantage of illustrating precisely some of the most characteristic dispositions of the Romanian soul, from the perspective of the above-mentioned tendency to imitate. Our data are, therefore, mostly obtained by using the comparative method. We begin with those which are obvious at first glance. These include: the individualism of the Romanian spirit as opposed to the individualism of civilized Western peoples. We have often talked about Romanian individualism. Some turned it into the main characteristic feature of Romanians. Romanians don't like partnership. They want to be on their own. Absolute masters in their homes. It doesn't matter how small the piece of property may be, as long as it is their own. This is why Romanians have a slight tendency towards anarchy. Yet this Romanian individualism does not imply having an initiative spirit in economic life and it involves too little independence in political and social life, two features that characterize the individualism of civilized Western peoples and which constitute the bourgeois spirit. Most of the population living in Romanian villages bears no resemblance to the bourgeois soul. There are no venturesome individuals coming out of it who will risk their peace and fortune in order to become even richer by using untried means and methods. On the contrary, the population of Romanian villages lives by the tradition of collective work. Each villager does what he thinks everyone else will do. He does not have the courage to begin something unless it is the proper time to do it, as established by custom. For the Romanian villager, to be out of line represents not only a risk, but also madness. That's how we might explain the poor results recorded in primary schools in Romanian rural areas. At school, the villager's child studies how to take initiative, because our schools are made according to the pattern of Western bourgeois schools, but despite all the advice received there, the child submits himself to collective tradition as soon as he finishes school: he works just like the other villagers do, and just like their ancestors did. This collective work tradition once helped our village populations in times of disaster. Romanian villages managed to survive by means of this collective work tradition. When disaster struck, they did not disperse, but moved, as one, from the plains to the mountains, from one end of the country to the other. In the West, in the countries inhabited especially by Anglo-Saxons, colonization was carried out by scattering individuals; in countries inhabited by Romanians, it was carried out by scattering the rural communities. Romanian individualism is, therefore, of a different nature than that of Western Europe. In Western Europe, individualism manifests itself in the social and economic life, it creates institutions, whereas Romanian individualism is nothing but a subjective reaction, an egocentrism, under the influence of the hereditary biological factor. Whether, in time, this Romanian individualism can be educated and transformed into a creator of institutions is yet another problem. The education and transformation process can only be made under the influence of the spiritual factor. First of all we must acquire a unitary will of the Romanian soul, which should turn the bourgeois soul into its aim, under the guidance of which the education and transformation of the subjective individualism into an institutional one should be made. No one can foresee whether this wish will be achieved in the near future or, even more, if it will ever be achieved. For it is not only a postulate of Romanian history that all peoples of the earth should reach a bourgeois commercial individualism. There can be other ideals as well. VI We are of the opinion that, as we begin the research to find a solution to the problem raised by the psychology of the Romanian people, it must not be complicated by philosophical debates on the definition of culture in general and on the classification of different types of culture. The type of culture the soul of our people yearned for is standing before us, well-defined. It is the Western European type of culture. The spirituality which inspires this type is quite well-known, too. The aim of this spirituality, which in the political, economic and social life is called a bourgeois spirit, is especially well-known. For the time being, let us limit our research to examining the spiritual manifestations of our people according to the criterion imposed by the bourgeois spirit. Let's ask ourselves, therefore, not to what type of culture we, Romanians, belong, a question which is difficult to answer using the scientific means available today, but let's pose more modest questions, such as: is there an agreement between the spiritual characteristics of the Romanian people, as far as we know them, and the bourgeois spirit? As far as our experience goes, can we say that the bourgeois spirit offers the Romanian people (in its majority, of course) some favorable conditions to ensure its future? Let's answer these questions first, and leave the others, the more demanding ones, to future generations. To make the finding of an agreement, or of a disagreement, between the Romanian spirit and the bourgeois spirit easier, let's briefly sum up the tendencies of the latter. What the bourgeois spirit brings to political life is the feeling of submission to the opinion of the majority and, above all, the respect for freely-contracted obligations. There is no trade, and trade is of prime importance for the bourgeois, where there are no commitments to be kept. In the economic life, the bourgeois spirit turns free competition into the supreme judge when benefits are distributed. Whoever succeeds in the competition is entitled to benefits. Whoever is defeated in the competition has no right to invoke his family or ethnic origins. The fight is between individuals with equal rights. In the social life, the bourgeois spirit makes individual initiative the supreme virtue of progress. To maintain the cult of this virtue, it turns individual property into a fundamental of society. To put it briefly: submission to the opinion of the majority and respect for contracted obligations; free competition among equal individuals; a cult for individual initiative by ensuring individual property. Let's see how much this bourgeois spirit agrees with our people's soul. In terms of political life, the agreement is very vague. It is a well-known fact that in our case there is no respect for the laws, which represent obligations contracted by representatives of the majority of citizens. There is no respect from those who make them, or from those for whom they are made. In general, we might say that disrespect for the laws, where it is found, is due to incomplete civic education. This is not the case. In our case, disrespect for the laws is a direct manifestation of subjective individualism. Romanians consider that disrespecting the laws comes as a title of greatness and power. In terms of economic life, the agreement is even vaguer. Free competition is not in the least a part of our customs as a people. Romanians ask for benefits just for being Romanians. No other country pays so much respect to expressions such as: "son of the people", "son of the country"… I am a son of the country, therefore I am entitled to certain benefits. The old descendant of the free-holders, as one who carries in his blood the millennial organization of the village according to degrees of relatives, claims the right he deserves from the inheritance. As for the adaptation of the Romanian spirit to free competition, we should not have illusions about the future either. The characteristic subjectivity of this spirit will always fight against it. In terms of social life, which is where the most significant manifestations of the bourgeois spirit are produced in the Western countries, there is a complete lack of agreement. The gesture of individual initiative, with the purpose of supporting social progress by risky ventures and inventions, is the most fragile scion of the Romanian soul. No matter how much it tried, for over a century, education could not strengthen it. Romanian education, organized according to the Western bourgeois school model, wanted to form citizens with initiative, who will create a national trade and industry by means of sustained work. But this education turned into exactly the opposite. The soul of our young scholastic people of nowadays (1937) finds itself in a complete lack of agreement with the bourgeois spirit in this area. Instead of aiming towards individual work, with initiative as its starting point and according to the Western bourgeoisie, our scholastic youth's ideal is heading in a totally opposite direction. Our youth does not run away from work, but it wants to work in "special" conditions; it wants a type of work which does not involve free competition and which would be paid not according to its product, but according to the worker's intentions. Contrary to the bourgeois spirit which considers man as an anonymous employed force, our young people want to transform the worker into a member of the great Romanian nationalist Orthodox family, destined by God to work to the end of days the land it lives on. That is why our youth's program of reforms does not include claims which are achievable by means of ordinary legislative measures, but claims which ask for radical transformations, over an indefinite period of time. Our young people want a new Romania. As long as this new Romania does not yet exist, the young consider themselves as deprived of a legitimate patrimony and, therefore, they consider themselves wronged. Similar attitudes to that of the Romanian scholastic youth are to be found in the case of other peoples as well. We find them in Russia, for example, in the 19th century, and in Germany, several times. Yet they do not have the same significance. What is significant in the case of Romanians is the very circumstance in which the young people's attitude is due to the teaching staff working in the schools where the young generation was taught, public schools organized according to the bourgeois spirit by the state itself. That is to say, the Romanian government imposed the bourgeois spirit by means of curricula distributed to all public schools, but this spirit was betrayed by the teaching staff themselves. Under the cover of nationalism, members of the teaching staff slipped anti-bourgeois tendencies into the hearts of the young people. In order to do this, some used direct propaganda, others used passive tolerance. The mentality of our youth is not a romantic incident, but a hereditary fatality.

by Constantin Rădulescu-Motru (1868-1957)