Sustainable progress and politics

In Romania people hardly discuss about the future. They worry, of course, about their lives, families and jobs, but this is mostly day-to-day chores, not grand designs. The most striking feature of this ‘people-not-talking-about-their-future’ symptom is a general ignorance (or apathy?!) versus what ‘progress’ means. Well, citizens may not be interested, but politicians don’t like to talk about progress, I mean real progress, either. Understandably, I say, because this type of discourse would not fit with their public image. In our society they are associated with destruction and decay rather than with betterment, improvement, positive creativity.

One good example would be in order: the only progress registered in the field of environmental sustainability in the last 20 years or so has been achieved merely as a side-effect to the de-industrialization process. And this process, they say, had its origins in a glaring lack of adaptation of the government, central and local alike, to the fundamentals of market economy. In other words, politicians, old and new, were so blatantly incompetent, that they were readily willing to abandon internal or external market shares, assets and workers altogether to the grabbing fingers of the then-called triumphant ‘American capitalism’. Incompetence and sleaze too, let’s not forget the new opportunities to get rich in the process!      

Well, under these conditions, which unfortunately still apply today, does it make any sense at all to talk about ‘progress’, even more so about ‘sustainable progress‘? My answer is that IT DOES MATTER a lot. If you look at what local politicians (of all colours) in the Alba county are preparing to do to accommodate the interests of a giant corporation you will understand what I mean. Thomas Meyer, a German political scientist, described the pervasive disenchantment of the post-communist electorates with the inability of their political class to steer society towards progress as “nachhaltige Enttäuschung“, an expression which could be translated as “sustainable disapointment”. Sustainability, as opposed to durability, has this meaning of ‘capacity to endure through renewal, maintenance, and sustenance’ (see Wikipedia). Bearing that in mind, ‘sustainable disapointment’ could be seen as an outright perversion. And the local referendum over Rosia Montana’s future is proving that in the best possible way. Definitely not ‘sustainable development’, but ‘sustainable disapointment‘!

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