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￭ The Angel in the Window
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2014-03-15 | |
“When you go towards an uncertain direction,
There is no need to hurry”
“What is not worth doing, is not worth doing well”
I don’t believe that there is any activity field in the Romania of the last decades before 1989 that cannot fit into the above-mentioned title. Everything was done according to a thinking that does not suggest in any way that anyone had ever wondered: “What is going to be after it?”, though more and more people had begun to ask that question, but with no chance of getting an answer. And this is because, on the highest level, that question was part of the category of the “taboo expressions”, as if somebody had stopped the time within the Carpathian-Danubian-Pontic area, and there was no place for the word “after”, anymore.
For us to use a technical terminology, the phenomena developed according to the law of the automatic open loop systems, where all the entry disturbances are directly transmitted to the system output. This operational mode of the society is not a surprise, since the role of counter-reaction which the press, public opinion, professional associations etc. have in a society, had been completely subordinated politically.
Thus, they got to very many exaggerations, at a huge cost, of which there is one worth mentioning - for its funny side, at least: namely the building of a steam power plant on the top of a hill “in order to reduce the height of the chimneys”, despite the fact that all the construction materials - during the first stage - and all that was necessary for the plant operation - in the operational stage - had to be taken up on the top of the hill.
Once, a professor of the Polytechnic Institute, an energy specialist, told me that in the eighties - after the documents of one of the communist congresses, or of a national conference had been published, which documents contained the energy consumption values and indicators – he had compared those documents to the most recent yearbooks, and an energy deficit resulted, which exceeded a few times the energy production of Romania at that time. As the professor was an honest man by his education and as he had nothing to risk - as all the values were taken from published official documents – he submitted a letter to the Planning State Committee, an organism that was in charge with the elaboration of such strategies, where one of his former university colleagues had a very high position. Anyway, he got an answer, but that answer was only due to the respect his former colleague had for him, which respect could not be seen in the answer content, nevertheless: “That was a command that had come from the top level and the party commands are not subject to comment. How dared the professor do it?!”
At present, very many times, the same people who were not able to stop some errors then, have to try and fix them, which, most of the time, takes more than starting from scratch.
“The Captain is the science and
the soldiers are the practice”
Leonardo da Vinci
It is very hard to talk about an act of creation and, particularly, about those who accomplish it, as you may always be haunted by the fear that you have either said too little, or too much.
It is hard to classify which activities represent creation and which do not, where creation ends and where routine starts, in a chain that contains both of them. And, if you decide to go on even deeper, and to reach the “springs” of creation – which are the people – and to try to make light where light is generated, you will find out that the maze gets so complicated that you have all the chances to get lost.
Without pretending that my definition of creation is the only one possible, the best or the most complete, I am going to try and make it support what was mentioned above.
It is generally defined as creation any activity by means of which something that had not existed until that moment is instituted into a physical or mental existence form. Then, all that follows it - by simply developing or multiplying what was once the fruit of creation - is defined as reproduction.
Irrespective of other definitions that might be given to creation, it is certain that scientific research is one of the human activities that are part of the creation area.
Creation gives a particular aura to all those who accomplish it, regardless of the creation field, while reproduction is more related to the material side of the problem, most of the time satisfying some material needs of those who accomplish it.
Creators have always been a class of people who have been cut off practice, without an application in the material side of the things, though they are people, too. That is why their migration to the reproducer class has been nevertheless unlikely or, anyway, it has been likely, but only to a small extent. In exchange, there has been a permanent pressure from the reproducer class towards the creation area, either from some real creators - who have become aware of some late talents, in different fields, and history is full of such examples - or from some impostors - who consider the act of creation as an appendix of reproduction of which they would like to benefit from, too, being attracted by the particular above-mentioned aura.
Throughout history, the human community has tried to somehow solve those problems, reaching, finally, the present form where - throughout the developed world - there are copyright and invention laws, destined to enable creators (who - no matter how great their aura may be - are still human and need to solve the material problems of their everyday life) to live out of the results of their activity.
We can quantify the result of those laws by roughly comparing the number of the rich people - coming from the area of creators of all sorts - with the total number of the rich people throughout the world. I do not believe that there has been somebody to have had the original idea of making the comparison, but my common sense is telling me that the result is not in favour of the creators at all.
Nowadays, these issues are getting a great importance, taking into account that “globalization” – that is the solving, on the world scale, of the problems in different fields, which is quickly extending at present – seems to influence the creation fields more quickly than the reproduction ones. While for globalization the reproductive side would require high expenses for development, changes of infrastructure, the finding of new raw material sources, the creative side has a much better position - the telecommunications systems, the worldwide computer networks have already developed to such a great extent that they can serve the whole available international creation power. Very many countries have already noticed the danger represented by these means for their economic interests, so that for the first time we witness conflicts of interest with the great telecommunication and software companies, but the latter come with the argument of “man’s right to information”. Yet, it is also for the first time that an international pressure regarding the adherence of all countries to the international legislation on inventions and copyright appeared, and to that effect, the dispute between the U. S. A. and China is well-known, which dispute didn’t end until the Chinese had recognized those regulations.
How are things in Romania? For a better understanding, we should make an incursion back in the past. After such a long time, when everything belonged to everybody and to nobody, at the same time, when the people’s incomes were very strictly controlled - depending more on their experience than on their merits – the “creative” activities happened more for that side which - according to the legislation into force at the time – enabled extra incomes be obtained. Those extra incomes were rather low, as they depended more on the number of inventions than on their value. That reality caused the appearance – apart from the real creators who, regardless of the award value, would have still had inventions, for the satisfaction of their own exigencies – of a numerous class of reward hunters which, though initially small, became consistent as their number grew. For such reasons, a lot of books, press articles, patents were published having five or ten, even seventeen authors. If a team work had stayed behind that work, it would have been meritorious, as in the case of the direction the great research centres are practising nowadays; unfortunately, that was only a way to “cheat” a legislation that seemed to invite to this, as all the communist hierarchy were mentioned as authors beside the “poor” co-author who was the only one that had the merit of having accomplished the paper.
Beside the above-mentioned general world, with its creators and reproducers, another class had been born, namely that of the “directors” - those involved in the management of activities which included the creation activities, too. Since at that time everything was possible – from the top down, on a scale of values that was made up according to the political and administrative criteria - a lot of such people became great creators, just overnight. Thus, until 1980, just as in the artistic creation area people had to fight the censorship, in the scientific creation area they had to fight the imposture.
After 1989, both of the above-mentioned classes switched to the economic problems, in a reproductive economy which, generally, appeals little to the creative side of the society. Thus, the most appreciated Romanian prime minister after 1989 – in my opinion – Mr. Teodor Stolojan, stated in a meeting held in the Romanian Academy amphitheatre that “as for the scientific research, the optimum solution for Romania would be that it be closed, as there are several countries in the whole world where such activities are not financially supported by their government”. Unfortunately, though they did not state it so honestly, his government colleagues had about the same position.
Culture and scientific research have always been regarded as less important activities, which must go on for the promotion of a positive image, and be financed to an extent which should not make them either live or die. This approach results from a fight of contradictory ideas as, on the one hand, there is the proletarian mentality of the former upper class of the communist times – going in one direction – and on the other hand there is the pressure of the current circumstances, of an indisputable reality, which may be found in the countries which make part of those international communities that Romania has decided to enter, and she made of it one of the most important goals of her foreign policy – going towards the opposite direction.
Indeed, the economic side cannot be neglected, not even in the analysis of these creation activities, but to completely subject them to the economic criteria, by the analysis of their economic efficiency, like in any trade activity is a great mistake. In the sixties, during an annual balance meeting of a great research institute, the general accountant finished his report with the words: “…if there were no researchers everything would work much better in this institute, comrade manager, as they trouble everything, they are those whom I do not get on well with at all”. I do not believe that this would be the right direction to go.
It is easy to understand that, having a limited budget, it is hard to satisfy all the requirements of a people, but the government has other means to solve these difficult financial problems, which means are successfully used in other countries. The campaigns organized by the national radio and television stations, by the written press, supported by government for raising the funds necessary to the support of some social objectives are very popular. I witnessed such a campaign in Italy at the end of 1995, when it faced economic and political problems, for raising the funds needed to support a research programme in the field of muscular dystrophy and of some genetic diseases. The national television, RAI was broadcasting a non-stop programme, for thirty-six hours, at weekend, on its most viewed channel, RAIUNO, wholly dedicated to that purpose. Following that campaign, they raised a fund that was higher than the annual budget of all the Romanian medical research, with no influence on the Italian state budget. I think that we could use such practices in Romania, too, where there is already a rich walk of life and where, being well-motivated, the social conscience could influence the solution in such cases. When you really believe in something and the only impediment is the finding of the finance resources, there are ways!
As for the applied research field, we cannot say that funds were not allocated before 1989, especially after “tovaraşa” – the Romanian communist dictator’s wife – took over the management of the Science and Technology National Council. The results were, anyway, rather modest since, at the same time, there were more obstacles, like the fact that imports were almost completely stopped, the researchers’ mobility was abusively limited and an unusual secrecy about such results existed. All in all, the above-mentioned obstacles led to either the obtaining of some non-competitive results – as, very many times, the Romanian researchers were forced to re-invent the wheel, missing the necessary information, materials or certain parts – or, in case they got notable results, they could not be made internationally known and in due time and, as a consequence, they could not be recognized, and the important priorities were missed. During that time, the Romanian presence in the specialty literature dropped to such low levels they had never recorded before, though the results obtained by our specialists would have led to a better position of the Romanian scientists, if they had been made known abroad.
Besides, after 1989, due to that management, the field in question had to fight the prejudice of those who associated the scientific research with the communist dictatorship. Actually, that badly disadvantaged the real researchers, as the communist hierarchy used research to their interest, and worked in all the top positions and benefited from immediate advantages compared to those who really worked and saw their professional career opportunities severely limited – and that was one of negative issues, the direct one, only. But there was the indirect negative issue, too, the one that was related to the denigration of the respective field, as they contributed to the increase of the imposture extent.
During the first years after 1989 for the first time in the Romanian history, they succeeded in establishing a ministry to exclusively deal with specific problems - the Research and Technology Ministry - which meant a great step towards the institutionalization of the research issues, but not efficient enough, as most of the researchers would have expected. A high number of professional, ownership, union associations were organized, to support - like in all democratic societies - the field interests, regarded by everybody in their own ways, in order to persuade the Parliament to issue some legislation. In 1995, by the particular support of the Chamber of Deputies, that desideratum was nearly reached. Unfortunately, they didn’t make it, in the end.
We cannot say that politics stopped interfering in the research problems. Now, research has to cope with a cross fire, as the number of political parties is higher. While, before 1989, they had to re-invent the wheel very many times, for the satisfaction of a single political party, now they have been forced to re-invent the bricks, Adam’s ale, whatever, for the satisfaction of a large political array.
“Where one of the Mathematics cannot be applied
There is no confidence”
Leonardo da Vinci
“A society with no principles…,
It means that... such principles do not exist.”
Ioan Luca Caragiale – the greatest Romanian wit
“It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first”
Politics is said to be concentrated economy. In Romania, the more economies, the more politics. A rather negative attitude towards politics appeared, right after 1989, considering the contempt for the previous regime. At a certain moment, the general impression suggested was that, actually Romania was a “particular” state, where nobody had ever gone in for politics. There appeared the political activists, ministers and other classes who were well-engaged in the country leadership, who had never gone in for politics – they all were just “doers”.
We switched from the compulsory unique model, to a multitude of models, according to the trend, like in the clothes fashion. Saving that the Japanese model - applied in Japan – makes it win whether the USA dollar rises or drops, while its application in Romania makes it lose in both cases. The Chinese model – the Chinese declare they follow the communism direction – proves to be more liberal and more efficient than all models which are well adapted to the market economy that have been applied in Romania all this time. Anyway, it seems that there is a model which suits us better and that is the Italian one, but only when it comes to the political convulsion and instability, not to the economic stability - where a comparison cannot be accepted, at least, as Italy is one of the greatest European economic powers. An Italian specialist, who had spent a long time in the former U.S.S.R., for commissioning some equipment, told me a funny story that had happened to him. While living there, as he could not get informed on the events that happened either in the whole world or in Italy, in particular, since he could not speak Russian, every morning he used to ask one of the Russian collaborators who could speak English, about the latest news. Joking, though it was annoying for the Italian, the Russian used to announce him that the Italian government had fallen, suggesting thus how lucky the Russians were, as their government never fell. At a certain moment, sick of the Russian’s jokes, the Italian brushed the Russian up, suggesting that he was not interested in the government activity, but in the latest sport results, the greatest “lottery prizes, or other information of the kind. Regarding the government, as long as the economy was stable, it meant that the government – no matter which one – did a great job!
Regardless of the model, a sacred idea must stick into the Romanians’ minds, namely that work - accompanied by commitment to the company or to the country, which commitment is comparable to the religious rituals - is the way that leads to development. This is what has always been the base for development of Japan and of the southern Asian “little tigers”, and of any other country where the living standard is now much higher than in Romania.
What has happened in Romania? After all the private properties existing before the Second World War had been destroyed, the model of the big state companies was developed in all fields: industry, agriculture even culture and research. They didn’t have the intended efficiency, not because they were big, or because they were the state property, but because they used to operate based on some social protection instead of on efficiency principles. Unemployment - a concept which could not be admitted by the State that was being built – implied, from the very beginning, the elimination of competition in terms of manpower, which had major repercussions on its quality.
The industrial development, which attracted the young to the city, was not balanced to the same extent by the agriculture mechanization, which should have allowed those in villages to work the land, under efficient conditions. On the other hand, such an industrial development was not enough to support itself, which caused the exaggerated agricultural exports, for equilibrating the payment balance. Besides, by Ceauşescu’s ambition to pay all the foreign credits of the country in a record time, everything led to the events in December 1989, when a whole country was hungry, - though Romania was a great agricultural producer -, was suffering from cold - though Romania is one of the countries that had had the highest energetic potential in Europe - and could not protest in any way, as people were afraid of a militia system which was much oversized and completely politically subordinated.
After 1989, two elements were found responsible for that reality: the production unit dimension and ownership. New slogans appeared, of which the worst was the one that claimed that the government should not get involved in economy, at all. Under those circumstances, the same people, formerly firm protectors of the socialist principles – “Everything for the State, everything for the big companies!” – turned into supporters of the new slogans which, even though they generally contained consistent ideas, were primitively applied, thus destroying within few years what had been built in decades. It was as if the walls, roofs, fences, stables, cables, pipes and so on, had been personified and had become communist over night.
It is hard to understand how the same people can go so easily from an extreme to another, how insensitive they may be to the concept of general interest, thus being forced, every time, to start from scratch, to spend money again, in order to reach a material level that they have just voluntarily destroyed.
Moreover, a strange thing about this transition period is the fact that, though the privatisation idea has been accepted, it has been agreed as one of the directions without which the economic recovery is not possible, however, the existence of a rich class is not accepted, as if privatisation had been accomplished by means of the saints, not of the people and not for the people.
All these lead to the idea that education requires much investment, the realities must be considered starting from the existing situation and one should start from it and should apply, at least from now on, efficiency-based management principles.
Social care cannot exist without efficiency. Social care must be based on the surplus itself coming from an efficient activity. Privatisation, division, concentration are means, only, but not goals, in themselves.
An important issue on whose solution the speed of accomplishment of these changes will depend is the problem of the people who are to make those changes, namely the economic unit leaders. Within the few years that have elapsed since 1989, they have suffered from both directions. Firstly, from unions that, being independent now, not very few times have unfoundedly squeezed them - in an absolute discrepancy with any economic law – which made them unable to understand that in life will is not enough, you also have to be able to make things happen. Secondly, from the representatives of the Romanian State - still as a majority owner, in most units – who have imposed some general protests, apparently for the sake of democratic principles but actually motivated by political interests.
To submit to a vote an economic unit management is unacceptable, according to all the management principles. Actually, all austere, severe managers, but who had had good results were replaced. Such mistakes had not been made even in the socialism times, when populism was blooming.
Those mistakes caused a quick economic decline, as production dropped under half of that achieved in 1989. We were forced to go back and start again, a thing that other countries, which experienced a similar situation, didn’t do.
Although in declarations everyone agreed on the idea of relying upon people, but not upon structures, actually, this has not been achieved yet. People did not or would not understand, that there was no revolution in the world to instantly change the people’s inner structure, or to make smart from stupid and vice versa. People must be employed as they are, where they belong, the change of themselves or of their conscience, is a question requiring time; actually, very many times, it is quite impossible.
For a more rapid recovery of the economic situation, an important role is played by those who know the actual situation worldwide, by the country’s integration within the economic, cultural, human flows available on the world market.
In Romania, historic considerations make impossible the transit to the universally accepted relations between companies and government, between the State and the private capital.
The Romanian society, both during the communism and many years after 1989, generally relied on the social issue of employment but not on profitability - which is actually the main source of funds for development.
There are multinational companies which have annual sales volumes exceeding – even a dozen times – Romania’s gross domestic product. Those companies, according to their own development strategies, invest in high technology, funds that exceed all the Romanian investment, on the whole. How can a Romanian company compete with those? No matter how well-organized, how well managed a company may be, if the investment possibility is scarce, it cannot keep the pace with the world market demands! It is true that, regardless of the company’s size, we cannot compare a company to the government, as the latter has different management principles, objectives, strategies, or obligations.
By the countries’ accepting the cell model of the world community functioning, they represent the cells, and for being a living organism, means of inter-cell communication must be found. These communication means may be represented by the large number of international collaboration relations which - in the investment capital - have two main poles: the international bank system and the great multinational companies.
For investing, they need guarantees and local facilities, which can be offered only by the countries that host the respective investments.
After 1989, in Romania, in different aspects, the provision of guarantees and facilities that were necessary to a real assimilation of foreign capital was avoided, because at that time the great companies invested in Romania funds that a great football club in a western country would be offended if it were sponsored with!
It is true that any country, including Romania, has a number of responsibilities regarding health, education, defence etc. and the lack of funds makes it impossible to support certain economic fields, but because of this very context, facilitating the connection of the State to this circulation system of the international investment funds is becoming more and more important. International investments would lead to the increase of the State incomes, which, in turn, would create favourable prerequisites, including for the fields financed by the government budget.
Without finding efficient solutions in this field, the slogan “We do not want to sell our country” - very popular after 1989 - might be replaced by “We do not want to sell our country, we will kill her ourselves”.
In 1995, the SIEMENS Company invested in microelectronics DM 2,600 million. In Romania this field – research and development – was financed by DM 1.5 million, at the same time.
Is it worth keeping on like that, or should we try - at any cost – to unite our efforts with those who are more powerful than us?
“If you have no desire to do anything and, at the same time, you wish to enjoy the others’ respect, nowadays it is the most appropriate to pretend to be working on some important study…”
Leslie Stephen, 1865
Starting from the level of some person or institution up to the level of a country, any entity must be concerned about their image.
Image means that array of aspects which the respective entities wish be perceived by an external observer. There is always an original that the image corresponds to.
Certainly, there must be a close connection between image and reality; otherwise, on the first occasion when a difference between image and reality is noticed, the result will be opposite to the intended one. It may happen that the entity in question is not satisfied with its image. In that case, one must analyze whether responsible for this situation is the person in charge with image creation – and, therefore, the method must be changed - or the original is responsible for it and in this case the original must be changed.
In creating an entity’s image, one must aim at highlighting all the positive elements of the original, if such elements exist. It is the obligation of he who is responsible for image creation and for suggesting changes to be applied to the original, so that a more favourable image may be created; then, the original may accept them or not, depending on his ideas about how his image should look.
Litigations between photographers and different people who are dissatisfied with how they look in photographs are well-known. I remember that, during those times when wearing a watch was quite unusual, while being at the seaside, I met an old man who asked for my watch to be taken a picture while wearing it. I lent it to him, he put it on his wrist, but he was taken the photo with his arms folded behind his back. If later the old man didn’t like the photo, it was not the photographer who was responsible for that!
As for people, a first image element is the way they dress. They cannot keep up with the latest trend in fashion, but there are elements which can be obtained without too much expense, but with a minimum effort which some are willing to make, others do not consider it worth making it. A positive image is not always the result of some great financial resources!
There are quite frequent the cases when, beside the appearance regarding clothes, footwear etc. other different personality elements are those that matter. It is the case of those who run for candidacy in elections, who already hold a certain position and do not want to disappoint their electorate or, who want to impress the opposite or the same gender, since now, we are trying to become like the world around us, and accept attraction to the same gender. In such cases, the person in question must particularly make those things which should highlight that feature they wish to emphasize. You cannot claim that you love animals if you throw stones at the ones you meet, just as you cannot claim you are a great music-lover if you haven’t been at the opera since you were a pupil, when you were forced by the elementary teacher to go.
Image creation and maintenance is an issue requiring two poles, an emitter – the original – and a receiver, who receives the image, the image beneficiary. The existence of the second pole is extremely important as, without it, the image would make no sense, in most cases. There are cases when, once the receiver is lost, by losing a position, the partial or total decline of one’s image, as well as the giving up on the concern regarding the image may be encountered.
Very many times, for the people who are already well-known, the usual means of creation of the image have no effect, anymore, on the contrary, those elements which, as a rule, have a negative effect on common people, lead to positive results. The case of the famous physicist Einstein is well-known, who, during the last years of his life used to get dressed improperly, apologizing that he was not known in America, unlike in Germany, where everybody knew him. Nevertheless his image recorded no decline, on the contrary, it increased.
The excessive concern for image very many times generates suspicions, which leads to the interpretation that something fishy is being hidden or something is there meant to conceal the real facts – which proves true, in most cases - reality coming out through a crack of the image, in a moment of carelessness. Reality is always stronger!
In his short novel, “Bietul Ioanide” (The Poor Ioanide), George Călinescu, through his iterative “Jean is working on the cathedral construction”, brilliantly succeeds in synthesizing such a disaccord between image and reality in the case of a talentless architect who has no activity but who wants people know that he works on an important project.
More recently, such disaccords are quite frequent. Such a scene took place in 1994, in the Sinaia’s Casino auditorium. It was full of people who were involved in the research and culture activity, from Romania and abroad. They were to open the works of a meeting between researchers and intellectuals of Romanian origin from the diaspora and those living in the country. The meeting had been organized by the Romanian Cultural Foundation, which institution had been founded for the promotion abroad of the Romanian culture, and was led by the writer Augustin Buzura. The organizers had made great efforts to bring together so many famous Romanian people from other countries, one of them being the American Professor of Romanian origin George Emil Palade whose presence aroused a great interest. The Romanian officials showed all their respect to Professor Palade’s participation in that reunion and a number of personalities such as ministers, Members of Parliament were present for the opening. It was the first time the professor came in Romania after the professor’s birthday - November, 19 - had been declared the “Romanian Researcher’s Day” at the professional research associations’ suggestion – as a sign of respect for his great personality. Such an event, certainly, could not have been missed by the press. The Romanian National Television was to broadcast live the whole event, and the audience were waiting for it to start at any moment. In the presidium, there was Professor Palade, next to him there was the writer Augustin Buzura – as the main organizer of the meeting -, some ministers, representatives of the Parliament and a number of personalities of the diaspora. While Augustin Buzura was taking the floor, deputy Ion Raţiu - who had been late - came, found his way through the others, sat on the seat that was vacant at that moment - actually it was Buzura’s seat - right in the middle of the presidium, where he stayed until the meeting came to an end, infallibly smiling at the audience, next to Professor Palade. It is clear that Augustin Buzura had nothing else to do but find another seat, which happened to be a chair near the stairs leading to the presidium stage.
Regardless of the personal relations between Professor Palade and deputy Ion Raţiu, that incident - which some people noticed, but considered of little importance, others didn’t even notice - for me, as a participant, it made me lose confidence in a man whom I had trusted, even having voted for him during the first free presidential elections.
That incident may be interpreted on a larger scale, too, representing the basis of the relations between those living in Romania and those from the Romanian diaspora, brutally showing the innermost feelings that each side have in the bottom of their hearts and which – from the same reasons related to image – they do not allow to get out to the surface. Still, there is much artificiality between the two parts, the relations are still too schematized, according to the idea that all those who left the country are good and all those who stayed are bad, in the opinion of those living abroad, and vice versa, for those living in the country. The meeting from Sinaia could have been an invitation to talking about such problems, which hinder the collaboration between the Romanians living in the country and those living abroad, to their mutual disadvantage, whereas other countries have succeeded in solving such problems.
Actually, for efficiently asserting some images, the receiving pole has a great importance, too; it matters to whom you appeal, the cultural level, the education and personal psychology of the appealed – if there is a single person – or the social psychology – if you appeal to groups.
Almost all societies are educated so that they accept, as positive, an image prevalently based on your past experience, as they suppose that you can further make something positive. The questions like “What have you done during the past five years?” or “Have you ever had soya salami, as we have, during the communist times?” prove that people think the same in Romania, too. Actually, the modern thinkers consider that the correct attitude is the opposite one, namely to turn your back to history and face the future. The results of the presidential elections in the U.S.A., when George Bush lost in favour of Bill Clinton, though he had had a better image, that had been built on historical grounds, confirm the beginning of such thinking in a society having the American dimension and complexity.
For an institution - including both public institutions and trade companies – to create an image is mandatory; it is part of the management and marketing policy. It is usually carried out by special departments, or by certain companies working in that field. Usually, there is a close connection between an institution’s economic results and image.
One first detail on image is the institution’s name. If, in people’s case, the name is given according to some more particular considerations – very few people changing names for reasons of image - for institutions, their managers would better consider it when they choose the institution’s name, from the very moment of its foundation. The name must have a certain resonance, must sound good, and at the same time respect certain requirements, one of which is compulsory, namely taking into account the names of previously registered companies. In Romania, in most cases, the name came from the abbreviation of the institution’s activity, and the result was... left to God’s mercy. They have experienced very many stages up to that of institution creation; still, the name is approximately the same, since the same scarce imagination in finding new names can be noticed. Once established, the name must be registered, protected. A logo must be considered so that it should be as attractive and neat as possible, usually in several colours that are to become the symbol of the institution.
A second detail is about keeping the same name for as long as possible, since the older the institution, the higher the confidence. On anniversary days, the institution should celebrate and print different historic materials, where certain results which have brought success to the institution throughout the time should be highlighted, always mentioning those who have contributed to those results, or who have improved at the same time with the institution. Still, there is a reserve in acknowledging people, in creating their images in accordance with their achievements. That reserve comes from the communist times when - while on the top political level an unusual personality cult was very popular - those who actually did the facts which the leaders boasted with, were given a carefully controlled discretion. Thus, expressions like “the underground made by Ceauşescu”, “the power station made by Ceauşescu” became popular, and so on, while nobody knew the real makers. This issue must be a part of the institution patrimony.
The more valuable and recognized by the society the people working in an institution are, the more credible, more appreciated the institution will be and, consequently, it will acquire a better position on the market. This is the cumulative effect of the influence of the personal images of certain people on the image of the institution where they work.
An extremely important issue for an institution is how it makes its appearance in public. There are events where “if you do not show up, you do not exist”, like important exhibitions, scientific events, Who’s Who publications and so on, which must be thoroughly organized. The materials printed on such occasions must be - first of all - correct, up-to-date, must not contain out-of-date information and - secondly - must show professionalism, highlighting an idea to raise interest. Employees attending such an event must wear proper clothes, be able to speak foreign languages, so that they should be able to provide the foreign interlocutors with all the necessary information, must own business cards bearing the institution logo, for a decent presentation, and should never forget that they represent the institution but not themselves.
Due to some reasons, which I would not like to detail here, the Romanian institutions are rather poor at this issue. It is true that participation in such an event is usually a pleasure, which is why there are more requests than the respective institution can financially support. The most common mistake is for the institution to reward their employees by sending them to attend such events, thus people who have nothing to do with them participate, on behalf of the institution, which leads to compromising the whole idea, and even the institution, in the eyes of those whom they contact. In addition, money is uselessly spent.
It is good to know that such a badly organized action has an effect that is worse than non-participation.
Cleanliness is of extreme importance for an institution’s image. Beginning with the doorman’s room up to the manager’s office and to the bathrooms, we may find so many details by which a professional can have a definitive image on the whole institution, no matter what its representatives are trying to motivate.
The relationship with the press represents another activity to which the institution management must pay much attention and time. The press must not be regarded as a roller coming over you only when something is wrong. It must always be kept updated with the institution’s activity, so that it may have all the elements needed to make an image after having been very well informed. When reaching a higher level of complexity, size or social importance, it is recommended that the institution should appoint an employee in charge with the relationship with the press, to ensure the coherence of the information provided.
When talking about a country, the image issues are much more complicated than for an institution. They make the subject of some specialized state institutions and have the whole world as a receiver, and they should insist on the geographic zones where the State interests are prevalent. In the creation of a country’s image a whole array of historic, geographic, cultural, economic, sport and, last but not least, political aspects are contained. When Romania is often given the name of “Antonescu’s country”, “the country from the Danube’s mouths”, “Dracula’s country”, “Brâncuşi’s country”, “ Nadia Comăneci’s country” or “Ceauşescu’s country” it means that, for one reason or the other, well-meant or evil-minded, he who refers to our country reduces her image only to one of the above-mentioned subjects. While, once the State political leadership changes, the new leadership may declare they are going to take over all the commitments of the old leaders, and some re-negotiation of those commitments may be carried out, in exchange, its image takes over everything, without any chance of bargaining over it.
This is the hardest issue of a country image, – everything is piling up throughout the time, a negative thing cannot be deleted just like that, as they do in the trade industry, where a paid debt is regarded as if it had never existed. In the image issues only the time and the permanent positive issues have a beneficial role and can improve a prevalently negative image.
The image of a country and the images of the institutions and people from that country have a mutual influence over one another. The exceptional results of some institutions or people absolutely change the country’s image for the better, just as, most of the time, the representatives of some nation who benefit from a very good image may be favoured in a competition, regardless of the field in which the competition takes place.
The political issue, though it has a historical side, significantly influences a country’s image through its actuality, by the conformity or non-conformity of the respective state policy with the political trend of the world, at that moment. The political side has a more dynamic influence on image than all the other sides, as most of the time, it has a saltatory evolution, definitely imposing its prevalent role on the country’s image at a certain moment. The saltation may be up – positive, or down - negative. For Romania the events of 1989 meant a positive saltation, whose effects diminished in time, which is normal in such cases. After the disappearance of such saltation effects, it is necessary that “mutations” in all the social life should occur, in accordance with the new qualitative direction brought by that saltation, for the beginning, only in declarations. Otherwise, there is a risk for another saltation to occur –opposite to the initial one – following the population’s disappointment.
Considering that the saltatory evolution of a country’s image happens quite rarely, and sometimes with rather unpredictable effects, I for one believe that it is more practical to analyze the issues that influence continually, but surely, its image creation.
Romania is a country having a lot of positive elements, in almost all the aspects that contribute to the creation of a positive image. The creation of a false image is out of the question!
During the communist times, while Ceauşescu was ruling the country, Romania had a better image than reality, as it had been mainly created based on several foreign policy elements, and those who were in charge with image diplomatically avoided the inner political issues – which, actually, constituted the main background of what was to blame during those times. A lot must have been invested in the creation of that false image! That was an impediment for the whole Romanian people, as it made it hard for the foreign people to understand the real problems of the Romanians, which caused the long delay of certain changes that the neighbouring countries had implemented long ago. That image appeared, in exchange, to support the Romanian export promotion on the world market, even though, very many times, we exported products that were absolutely vital and which were almost completely absent from the domestic market.
In my opinion, as I am a Romanian who quite frequently travels abroad, I tend to believe that, at present, Romania’s image outside is worse than its reality. The reasons are many and diverse.
The first reason is the economic one, in my opinion. As we are going through an economic depression, when the available budget is rather limited, the image expenses decreased, too, perhaps to the same extent as the other budgetary expenses. Let’s hope that the situation will change for the better, in time.
The second reason is flexibility, the fact of getting used to the new conditions in which the Romanian society functions, according to the market economy requirements. Most institutions have become economic agents that operate according to the profitability principle, which, based on some criteria of an economy that has been understood wrongly, makes them neglect the necessary expenses for the image creation, which has severe consequences on the country’s image. The tough market laws will do away with those that cannot adapt to the market.
The third reason is a positive one, I would dare to say. This is owing to the active presence of the Romanian press of all kinds, like the written or oral press, which will not let a facile, false image be formed outside the country, thus the foreign media permanently have a current internal and quite diverse reference allowing them to cover all the social life domains. Actually, I consider this positive, as it provides the certainty that once this image improved, it will finally be in accordance with the reality. Thus, the task of those who must take care of Romania’s image abroad gets harder, but it establishes the premises of a well-done job. From this perspective, I believe that the Romanian representatives of the press - one of the most dynamic fields since 1989 – may be proud of having a great importance and responsibility, which role they must be aware of; and they will successfully carry out their role, getting over the temptations of some facile exaggerations, arisen further to certain pressures coming from the circumstances or from the political parties. The stake is too high for the phenomenon not to be treated in all earnest.
The fourth reason - which I consider positive as well – is the opening of the Romanian borders. The negative effect – which I hope is only temporary – of this action is that whereas most Romanians do not have the financial resources for travelling abroad, in exchange, most adventurers can afford it, and they want to make illegal money, which causes great problems to the host country and compromise, at the same time, the Romanians, abroad. This has led to such a restrictive attribution of the external visas for tourist purposes that they became harder to get than the famous “internal visa”, which consequently hindered an activity meant to lead towards normality a people who had been deprived of that right for so long.
Let us hope for a favourable future evolution, although things have gone so far that the western countries have already adopted some self-protection legislation following the unsocial facts committed by foreigners on their territory, some of these foreigners being Romanians, too.
It is not hard to notice such image elements of Romania abroad. In the bookshops, where the information is made available for the tourists, and where usually there are editorial issues like, for example, “Germany from A to Z”, containing a series of up-to-date information about the respective country, I never succeeded in finding anything about Romania, though there were such issues about Slovakia, Slovenia, which countries had just become independent. Once, I could see something that surprised me: I took a book in my hand, started to browse it thinking that even our brothers beyond the Prut River got ahead of us. But I was wrong, my desire to see something about my country made me be wrong – it was about the Republic of the Maldives but not about Moldova Republic. The only information made available about Romania and Romanians – except for some sport results - is about tragedies, air crashes, ship sinking, and more recently, about children suffering from AIDS and children trade.
Some of the problems related to Romania’s country image are economic; others have to do with the preparation standards for some events, while others are related to civilization and education, unfortunately.
The economic problems may be seen in the “amount” of the Romanian presence abroad, that is the rather low participation in the cultural and scientific events, the low number and the small size of our exhibition stands at the international exhibitions, the low, or almost zero presence in the international press, or the low presence of the Romanian press at the international events, which makes that information be scarce, or incorrectly reflected in the internal press, due to a limited documentation directly from the source itself.
The problems regarding the low-standard appearance of the participation to different international events may be seen in the poor quality graphic presentation of the exhibition stands, the scarcity of the advertising materials, the translation mistakes such materials contain, in the participants’ inability of speaking the necessary foreign languages and, sometimes, in the absence of translators.
But, the most unforgivable are those issues related to the absence of civilization, which, very many times, even at such events, can be seen, beside the fact that the Romanian exhibition stands are small and scanty. Many of the Romanian participants, organizers, visitors or others, consider that such events are the right place to make groups and loudly talk about politics, football and stuff, consequently repelling the potential customers, who may have the intention of getting informed about essential problems for which the respective event was organized.
All the above-mentioned are deficiencies which may explain the long absence of the Romanians abroad. They are problems that could be solved in time. The sooner, the better!
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