Of Romania

This post is about a facet of the Romanian society so if that doesn't interest you, feel free to ignore it or just skip to the conclusions.

Something in the air

There is a strange attitude I'm noticing in my day to day interactions with some institutions and the State. The relationship between authority and individual seems entirely broken.

Perhaps I should start with some examples and then I'll let this cristalize a bit.

Avoid the rules

First, imagine you live in a building of flats and you want to fix the roof. Well, since it's a historical building, you need some approval from the City Hall and some Culture departments.

And this is where the red tape gets to you: besides the whole paperwork you need a formal architectural plan of your change. Although you technically aren't changing anything and you're just investing $300, you need to go to a 3rd party architect to pay him draw you some plans.

So, what did a City Hall official say when I tried to explain this is crazy, because I'm wasting more time and money on the formalities than I am actually investing in fixing the roof itself? Her answer was: try to do this over a weekend and be done with it.

The rules are so convoluted and stupid that the officials are recommending you to skip them.

Be fearful

I went the other day to buy a parking subscription as it's cheaper to pay for a full month instead of paying each day. There was an employee there that started doing small talk and then he said: you know, they apparently mounted traffic cameras outside the city -- make sure to also pay the road tax.

From the outside this looks like an advice from a caring person. But actually the context and tonality was another: he was trying to justify why am I paying for parking inside the city (his company is basically a parasite, they don't actually build parking places) by making me fear the fines. And of course, there are other things I should pay, such as the road tax.

Because you see, people that are decent and pay their share are just the kind of people that need some fear mongering to pay for everything else too. The rest of the people will slip though the cracks somehow.

The parking company isn't selling you a service. It's selling you a protection racket so you don't get fined.

At the beginning of the year the "economical crisis" was just in full swing so there was the idea that people won't pay their property tax. What did the politicians do? They started spreading rumors that they'll double the tax and people rushed to pay the lower amount. Funny thing -- by the end of the year the increased the property tax anyhow for a subset of the population.

I know you avoided the rules

I called the guys providing our building natural gas because there was a smell of gas next to the building entrance and that's usually not a good sign. As expected, some pipe wasn't sealed properly and they fixed it.

But the discussion I had with one of the two employees that came was, again, interesting. We discussed about the cause and the fact that natural gaz doesn't actually have odor so they add something to it (which is common knowledge).

Then he started saying that there seems to be something wrong with some of our pipes, specifically the exhaust pipes for the heating devices people use.

Because, you see, you are always breaking some rules (imaginary or not) so you shouldn't bother anyone in a power position as they will find something to bother you with.

You know you avoided the rules

Historical buildings are property tax-exempt but I've had my neighbors say they don't actually want to do the paperwork for use this right: they fear the City Hall will starting paying close attention to them and find something else to tax or fine them.


What results is Romania: a system so broken you have to ignore the rules to get something done.

Since authority assumes that you broke some rules -- you better keep your head low. People assume they either broke some rules or there are rules that may be interpreted easily to frame them so they do keep their head low as not to anger someone higher-up.

Taxes are mostly extracted through fear, there is no concept of honest person or the civilized attitude that you might want to pay your share just like everyone else.

People in power don't care about anything as they make the rules.

Normal people are like an exotic creature that they don't know how to classify.

Silver lining

This blog was a bit too grim but I wanted to describe this for quite some time since it's something that looks fundamentally broken and unsustainable. It's also bothering me a lot!

The silver lining might be that people are free and a big chunk of them are visiting or working in European countries: it gives them a reference point, a system that works. I believe that at some point we'll converge to a more sane society as everybody will have an idea about how things are abroad.

Of course, there are also a lot of genuine nice Romanian people, but this blog wasn't about the young generation or the rest of the nice folks.

It's about the people that seem to have any form of power onto others and how they distort everything. It might just be that power corrupts in it's smallest quantities and these small doses of poison alter nations.