January 13, 2014
In 1902, a Romanian MP with 30 years of political carrier behind him, named Titu Maiorescu published an article called “Oratori, retori si limbuti” [roughly translated as Orators, rhetors and babblers]. He described the 3 categories as follows:
” [Oratorul vorbeste pentru] precizarea unei situaţii publice, afirmarea sau combaterea unei idei, convingerea unui auditoriu; mobilul retorului este dorinţa de a trece de orator sau îngâmfarea erudiţiei sau încântarea de sonoritatea propriilor cuvinte; pornirea limbutului este de a se amesteca şi el în vorbă oriunde şi oricum. Pe orator îl stăpâneşte scopul, pe retor deşertăciunea, pe guraliv, mâncărimea de limbă. De aceea oratorul poate avea o valoare permanentă, retorul numai una trecătoare, limbutul, nici-una”
‘ [the Orator speaks in order to] clarify or present a matter of public interest, to defend or combat an idea, to convince an audience; the rhetor is driven by a desire to surpass the orator or the cockiness of erudition or the joy of listening to one’s illustrious words; the babbler’s intent is to be part of any debate, any place and any time, by any means. The Orator is defined by purpose, the rhetor by vaingloriousness, and the babbler by his wagging tongue. That is why the Orator has a permanent value, the rhetor only a fleeting one, and the babbler none.‘
Both at the time, and increasingly so in the past years this has come to be associated with politics. The three types of speakers are a close resemblance to three types of actors in the political field – Statesmen, politicians, and petty politicians. Looking at it from this point of view grants us a necessary tool to separate what is important from noise. And in this day and age, with information flowing presumably freely on the web, with ever increasing visibility for any individual bent on having his voice heard, it is useful to have such a tool.
I came to write this because of two separate events – first off there was the statement by Viviane Reding regarding the need for a political union, and the transition towards a “Unites States of Europe” [ more info here] and second off there was an official position adopted by a non-parliamentary Romanian party, called Noua Republica [New Republic] which called in a rather authoritarian fashion for all Romanian political factions to declare their allegiance either to the prospect of a Federal Europe or the protection of the sovereignty of the Romanian people [ more info here, unfortunately the page is in Romanian only, although the party is affiliated to a European political family, AECR, and as such one would expect a version of the text in another European language]. [UPDATE – after the publication of this post, the text has been translated to English, available at the same address]
It is impressive to see how in this day and age, the nationalistic discourse is reinvented. But it has been happening all across Europe since the economic crisis has become a day-to-day reality. Most likely, in a country like Romania, right now, things are going to go in a very predictable way, in what regards these two points: Viviane Reding’s statement will be ignored and reignited only as a campaign tool later on, and Noua Republica’s position will be ignored by major political factions. And while the first is a bad thing, because it denies the debate, the second is befitting.
I was an enthusiast regarding Noua Republica when the idea first emerged. It was an interesting bottom-up initiative, where people with expertise, that were previously not involved politically, had a chance to contribute to a doctrine and a political program. That however changed in time, and it became irrelevant with the rise of the current party leader, Mr. Mihail Neamtu. To hold things true, he played an important part in the establishing of the online community that led to the party today. What I, and many others, held in high regard about the online community, the idea that experts in various fields could use their experience for a constructive new initiative soon dissipated, and became a mirror image of the values held by the party leader. That is when, with the publication of the final construct of the doctrine, our ways parted.
It then got much worse with the rise of a certain nationalistic discourse, mirroring somewhat a political movement that saw it’s rise and fall in the 30’s and 40’s, a political movement with a strong nationalistic and orthodox (religious) backbone, that was allied to Nazi Germany during WWII. A political movement that was very much used by the communist regime, after 1945, as a scapegoat of sorts and as a very good reason to jail, torture and murder political opponents (not exclusively). There are those who also see valor and worthiness in those beliefs, who seem to forget the wrongs perpetrated by that extreme right wing movement. More information here.
And here we are today – a point well debated over the past 4 years, an idea that has been a reality of the European Construct for almost it’s entire life, brought to the highest level of political discourse by Mr. Barroso last year in his “state of the union” address, or by the PPE in their new political manifesto voted at the Bucharest summit last year, and much talked about all around Europe, less in Romania is now allowing a small and unproven political faction to claim themselves as protectors of the people sovereignty. It’s hilarious and sad at the same time. But it is a reality.
And that reality has something to do with how the EU communicates to the people, regular folk. More has to be done. There are elections for the EP in less than 5 months. And unless the EU finds a way to communicate with the people, going beyond the political structures established in member states, results to these elections are not hard to predict. Why? Let’s return to the beginning of this article – Statesmen, politicians and petty politicians.
The establishment of the EU was a matter of statesmen. It was statesmen that made it happen, and successive generations of statesmen have made it grow. Politicians have been along for the ride, creating, as it best suited their interest at various points in time, the context and building a body for this union. Petty politicians have also been there, making noise and crying as always over issues of national pride and sovereignty. And then this crisis came, at a time when there is an obvious need to go forward. And statesmen, all across Europe, found themselves suddenly alone, as politicians and petty politicians saw in this their chance to rise. And so it has been.
As such it is high time for the statesmen/orators to come forth and defend this idea. It’s time for them to convince this audience of 500 million. The time of noise and nonsense is coming to an end.
Whether they will rise to the challenge or not it is for them to decide. History will grant them statesmen recognition if they do, or just politician status if they don’t. I pray they will not be recorded as petty.
In closing, I’m going to return to the words of one of the most esteemed Romanian statesmen of all time, Iuliu Maniu, who died defending his ideas in a communist prison:
“Lumea de maine va fi aceea a marilor uniuni de state, federatii si confederatii’
‘The world of tomorrow will be one of great unions of states, federations and confederations”
Note: All translations by the author of this article.Horatiu Ferchiu