Vocation, A Decisive Factor In The Culture Of Nations

Chapter VIII – The vocation of Romanians1. Expressions through which a people demonstrates its calling2. Misguidance in the study of Romanian vocation3. Characteristics of Romanian culture in the past4. Romanian reality as opposing Europeanization5. Emphasizing individual vocation represents the real Europeanization of Romanians The vocation of Romanians has never been the object of study in the scientific world. Still, people have talked about it pretty often. Poets wrote about it in their beautiful poems, historians searched for it, politicians took advantage of it. What still remains to be done is to study it. This is a difficult study because of two reasons. The Romanian people is a nation which is still developing its cultural status, which hasn't yet been explored enough by ethnography, demography and statistics like other European peoples. As an object of study the vocation of Romanians completely lacks preparatory investigations. To these difficulties of method, add some other difficulties of a subjective nature, especially when a Romanian is conducting the research. A Romanian who tries to determine the vocation of his nation is almost always misunderstood. "No one is a prophet in his own country" goes the saying, and vocation is in itself some kind of prophecy. All this hardship hasn't developed today. Difficulties will still be here tomorrow and for a long time ahead. A start to studying Romanian vocation must be definitely undertaken. As a consequence of the pages listed above on the messianism of people, we take this study upon us as a sacred duty. Of course we mean to find a modest solution to ease the path of those who will later on try to study this matter more thoroughly. At the beginning of this research one question rises, and that is: What are the manifestations which indicate the vocation of a nation? Are there all these manifestations signs of vocation? There is no relation of dependent reciprocity between the nature of individuality and the nature of vocation, so there's no way anyone can recognize the nature of one from the other. Characteristic similarities can be noticed in the nations' souls due to resemblance in their geography, still these similarities don't imply resemblance in their vocation. In the same way there are many similitudes between nations of the same cultural age, their soul is alike but their vocation is different. Spiritual individuality and vocation occupy different levels. Individuality occupies the psychological level and vocation the level of cultural production. Artistic creations are obviously the product of spiritual functions, but functions of a certain type. They are not born just like that the way spiritual individuality is. They're not just representative, they are the product of hard work. A people without propensity to hard work may be rich in representative types but it cannot be rich in types of vocation. Vocation cannot be recognized from the work performed by a nation. One knows the vocation of a nation through its contribution to the eternal field of cultural creation. The soul of the Romanian people in its psychological manifestations is one thing, and a completely different one in the accomplishment of its vocation. The vocation of Romanians begins where their psychology ends. If we raise our eyes to the level of cultural creation and look from this height to the past life of the Romanian people, one thing captures our attention immediately. Romanians have contributed greatly to the heritage of universal culture, mainly through the anonymous toil of the crowds and in a lesser degree through the individual work of the aristocracy. Not very often can you find a people so poor in individual geniuses and still so rich in commonsensical wisdom as the Romanian one. Centuries on end it doesn't express itself through individual masterpieces which can draw the attention of the world. Historians almost lose its trace down the long path of the Middle Ages. Year after year, all the nations of Western Europe are boiling and they show sparks of individual genius, when a political genius, a great religious reformer, a scientific genius or an artist changes their spiritual profile by giving them new forces to work. In Western Europe, exquisite thoughts and masterpieces are connected to the name of each person of genius, and these great works are taken as such or imitated by the entire society. What is called in the West the progress of culture is the well-defined work of individual genius. They make up the vocational virtues of western peoples. With Romanians, the progress of culture is in fact the small influence of the anonymous workers. We can't find in them exquisite thoughts or great masterpieces, made exclusively by the genius of the few and then adopted by crowds; still, we find the crowd improving by means of tradition what the particular individuals had just sketched. Romanians as individuals – of course there are some exceptions – don't make detailed masterpieces as we can easily notice happening in the West with the French, the English, the Germans and the Italians, etc. There are very rare cases when Romanians dedicate their entire life to a single thought or just to one artistic creation and even fewer cases when original people make the supreme sacrifice of jeopardizing their life just to protect a personal creed. In the case of Romanians, vocational virtues appear almost exclusively through collective collaboration or through an exemplary expressiveness, just like religious vocation. A person, even if he sacrifices himself, does it for a national or Christian idea, not for an original personal one. Romanians owe their common language, their popular art for which they are admired by the entire world, their instrumental labor technique which had lasted for thousands of years and which is richer than all those of the western nations, their customs regarding their judicial organization, customs which are sacredly preserved and practiced, to the collective collaboration of the people. Collective collaboration is also responsible for the Romanian Church and for the united state in spite of all the animosities that opposed the forming of this state. In Western Europe, individual genius carves deep marks, which can be recognized even after many centuries. There's only one Racine, Corneille is something else and the style of Victor Hugo is a completely different one. As long as the French literary language exists there will exist traces of these personal styles. In the West "le style c'est l'homme individuel." It's a totally different thing with Romanians. Personal creation has left no trace in the treasure that is the Romanian literary language. In Romania "le style c'est le peuple". The anonymous people of the crowds created Romanian literary language. And the same thing happened with all the other spiritual values on which the Romanians based their demand for a place in the civilized world at the beginning of the 19th century. This was the past. What will the future bring us? Can we expect a change in the vocational orientation of Romanians? A complete and utter change can't be expected all of a sudden, because this would mean a total breaking off with the past and future, and such a change is very unlikely. Even if we assume that because of the hardships of their historical past Romanians couldn't accomplish their spiritual profile, even if we blame on their cultural age the prevalence of the collective over the individual, this doesn't allow us to expect that in the future Romanians will choose for themselves a new orientation. Still we expect this new orientation with confidence. Only pessimists are reluctant to change. These pessimists say that if Romanians accomplished their vocations in the past the reason must be searched within their souls and not in their historical background. They support the idea that there is something in the soul of Romanians, which prevents them from making themselves noticed through the originality of individuals and on the contrary it forces them to assert themselves in groups. What could this particularity consist in? Is it the blood that feeds the Romanian soul? Is it the feminine soul overwhelming the male one? Is it the endocrine peculiarity that stimulates the depths of the soul, as we are urged to believe by a well-known contemporary anthropological school? For now, we don't have a clear-cut answer from them. Leaving aside the research contribution on the depths of the Romanian soul – a contribution which we hope will be useful and arrive as fast as possible – we should try to decipher the future of Romanians to the extent of the orientation of their vocation, as it can be well inferred from their latest cultural creations. It has been more than a hundred years since the Romanian spirituality came under the influence of the Western way of thinking and especially under the influence of the French one. A hundred years since Western individualism has been knocking at the gates of our Romanian soul. Our old laws, better said our old customs, have been replaced by the Napoleonic code, the quintessence of judicial individualism. Our national economy has been forced to give up on its primitive technique of rural husbandry in order to borrow the technique of capitalist enterprise. Romanian mentality especially was subject to revolutionary changes. Romanians were forced to judge and to value things according to Western logic. They had to imitate through their scientific and artistic productions the French, English or German mentality. Romanian thinkers should base their intellectual processes on original intuition. Romanian artists should not sink in the anonymity of popular art. In a word, for about a hundred years Romanians have found themselves at a crossroad between tradition and Europeanization. What is the direction of their spiritual production in these last hundred years? A slightly safe direction while these hundred years is coming to an end. At first, our orientation seemed a certain thing. In 1848, the Romanian soul was enthusiastic about the idea of Europeanization. To have entered into the European concert was then the supreme aspiration of a Romanian leader. During the reign of the wise King Carol I the enthusiasm of Europeanization decreased a little, while the European school progressed. World War I found Romania a country with an apparent western culture. This appearance of culture could be interpreted as a promise for the future. But after the war, this interpretation is no longer justifiable. Romania of 1931 was further from the West just as it was in 1848. Lacking enthusiasm, criticism appeared in our country. In the last few years, this criticism has become really passionate. The advantages of Europeanization have again become topics of discussion. And again Romanian reality is opposing this idea of Europeanization. The reality of each people is the thing that permanently connects the life of that nation to the life of the entire humanity. It's the strengthening of the originality of the people in the domain of spirituality and of culture. As a conclusion, Romanians are connected to the eternal spirituality of culture through their anonymous collective work. Thanks to this collective work and also judging by their way of living, they now have a literary language, an exquisite popular art, and a powerful political organization. The history of mankind has chosen this specific corner of Europe to accomplish its major purpose, an area different from Western European countries. In Western Europe this process of personalizing the energies of the land, manifested through a noticeable increase in the level of culture, was performed by means of individuals – in Romania it was performed by the collective soul of the crowd. Is this kind of specific Romanian activity forever connected to Romanian reality, or is it just a phase of this complex reality, which we may call childhood? The issue of Romanian vocation is solved at the same time with this question. The main cause for the decrease in Europeanization enthusiasm is the poor results this process has brought about since 1848. European individualism, imitated by Romanians, produced second-rate works of art, instead of masterpieces as in the West. We have to admit this no matter how bad it sounds and even if it pleases pessimists. In the field of the economy western individualism aroused desires for plundering the public wealth, instead of bringing the spirit of enterprise capitalism. Nowhere except in Romania has individualism created so many greedy people and so few individual vocations. Thoroughness, perseverance, good appreciation of time – all these qualities that we appreciate in western people of vocation, are in no way a part of Romanian character. Europeanization brought along in our country a parasitical industry, a rotten banking system, and an agriculture which avoids at all costs the tilling of the land and sustains itself from expedient laws. It manufactured Romanian individuals full of unfair desires and appetites and unexpected fantasies whom you can meet everywhere; they have become so numerous that they prevent the normal course of things. Still it produced a few industrious and steadfast individuals, people who could assume the responsibility of a well-done, durable job. After the Europeanization process, begun in 1848, all the institutions of the country were transformed into new prototypes but without receiving new conscience. These institutions haven't been taken seriously. Every person tried to make out of them instruments of dominance whenever he had the chance. Western politics was transformed into Romanian petty politics. This is the real cause of the decrease of enthusiasm about Europeanization. The results of this Europeanization were more than mediocre. The Romanian people were disappointed. Their leaders – formed in the tradition of western individualism – failed in their mission. They couldn't achieve something really lasting. They are more like lawmakers than organizers. It's easy to make laws. Laws are made by translation. Making something, organizing is difficult because it demands knowledge of the place you want to organize. What is the conclusion? Another orientation? Why not a return to the old Romanian reality? Here we are in front of a great puzzle: the vocation of Romanians. An enigma for scientists, just as difficult if not even more difficult than that of Romanian existence in the Middle Ages. Should the Europeanization continue as it did until now? This is not a solution. This kind of Europeanization that has taken place until now is becoming dangerous to the future of Romanians.And this happens not because Europeanization as such is dangerous, but because this process of Europeanization in Romania wasn't a real one. The individualist western spirit, which the Romanians tried to borrow, is able to produce long lasting works of art and also brings with it the vocational aspirations of individuals, when they live in a world with a sincere and healthy institutional life. The individualist western spirit is not the same as the individual whim. The pioneers of capitalism, science inventors or artists; prophets of political and religious freedom, all initiators of reforms, which utterly changed the face of Western Europe, weren't driven forward in their quest by mere whim – whim couldn't have harmonized their separate strivings. They were convinced to go on by the vocational aspirations, aspirations that were guiding the energies of several healthy institutions. These initiators lived in an atmosphere of respect for public affairs. In such an atmosphere immorality, personal interests couldn't have flourished. The reason why Romanians didn't succeed is that they took only the façade of western individualism, without even considering the institutional base. They wrongly took the anarchy of personal interests for individualism. While in Western Europe the initiative of each individual was under the control of moral conscience, in Romania, after 1848, the individual initiative was given up to people's disposition. "Do you know who I am?" With this slogan characteristic of Romanian temperament, it was only normal that we come up to the disappointment of 1931. Not the selfishness of people but their vocation is the basis of western culture. Our Europeanization should have begun with making the most of individual vocation. In fact, it had started with individual vocation. The first Romanians to have been contact with the West were influenced by vocation. Coming back to the native country, they proved their productive energies. Their traces can still be noticed today in the institutions they created after the pattern of western ones. But it didn't last too long. Those who had no idea of such thing overwhelmed those who felt the calling. An inverted selection was planned: those able to produce were removed so that those who can't produce have enough space; loans from the West were used to increase personal profits instead of the country's cultural productivity. Was it the fault of the permanence of the Romanian soul, as the pessimists like to sustain, or only the circumstances in which this depth of the soul was brought to life in the European psyche? Those who blame exclusively the depths of our soul are condemning the Romanian people to everlasting decadence. A nation is already defeated in the battle against other nations if its soul is reluctant to individual vocation. There's no nation that will be spared from fighting in the future, especially the Romanian one. We believe that our nation had a culture, which lacked individual spirit not necessarily because the Romanian soul rejected individual vocation, but because Romanians, due to unfortunate circumstances, were forced to repress their inner vitality to hide better their existence in the past. That is also said about certain plants which due to unfavorable climate conditions live under ground through their roots, with no branches and no leaves; but once the climate allows them they rise above ground as proud as can be. Romanian culture begins to follow its normal course. From now on, the factor of individual vocation is beginning to be decisive for Romanians. It's time for Romanian personality to be ruled by a strong hand so as to become an energetic personality, even if for about a hundred years it was directed by an anarchic disposition. Once individual vocation will be emphasized, we'll be able to speak about the vocation of Romanians as a nation, that is Romanian messianism. Are these vocations going to produce works of art of universal value, which would enrich human spirituality; or are these vocations going to harden that national unity of the collective manifestation observed in the past? Are the Romanians going to use their vocation to contribute to the achievement of universal ideals, or are they going to contribute to the ideals of their own national culture? This is the secret only the future will disclose. There's an anticipatory proof for the first possibility, which can be observed in the religiousness of the old inhabitants of Dacia as well as in the Roman tradition. For the second possibility, we have the nearest historical past. The vocations of the Romanian youth will have to decide between these two possibilities in the years to come. 1932

by Constantin Rădulescu-Motru (1868-1957)