Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Well, It IS Transylvania, After All

And for the record, people here get really, really tired of casual references to Count You-Know-Who.  First off, the book was written by somebody who had never been here; second, the medieval warlord in question came from Wallachia, on the other side of the southern Carpathians (i.e., not Transylvania at all.  Another country); third, the guy was and remains a national hero for his resistance to the Turks.

And fourth, it makes them look sort of backward and superstititious.  Which is entirely unfair; this is a modern nation, with a cell-phone shop on every corner.  Even the remote Gypsy villages are littered with satellite dishes.  So come on, ditch the snooty Anglo-American prejudice and and cut them some slack.

Of course, it would be easier if the guy who just lost the presidential campaign didn't charge his opponent with hiring a magician to give him the evil eye.  Click above, but here's the gist:

... Mircea Geoana's claim that a "negative energy attack" by a bearded mystic led to his defeat [by Traian Basescu] in the presidential election has become the talk of the nation.

Like most former Soviet nations, Romania is used to rough and tumble politics and accusations of fraud were nothing out of the ordinary .../

But the recent publication of photos showing well-known parapsychologist Aliodor Manolea close to Basescu during the campaign has caused Romanians to wonder whether the president really did put a hex on his rival.

The photos show Mr Manolea, a slightly built, bearded man with a round face and cropped receding hair, walking yards behind Mr Basescu ahead of the debate. The mystic's specialities include deep mind control, clairvoyance and hypnotic trance, according to the Romanian Association of Transpersonal Psychology.

Wait a second.  "Transpersonal Psychology"?  And the winner denies it all, in a way that suggests that the accusations may be true:

Initially, Mr Basescu's office declined to comment on the issue with officials referring enquiries to the Liberal Democratic Party that supported the president. Officials there gave evasive answers – but not outright denials.

But yesterday, the president's spokesman admitted he knew Manolea but insisted the parapschycologist did not take part in campaign staff meetings. "I am not clear what this person was doing next to President Basescu," he said.

Mr Manoela's role in the elections evokes age-old Balkan rituals where the evil eye, witch doctors and other mysterious forces were used to launch mystic energy attacks on opponents and sap hapless victims of their vital strength....

Former Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu was so terrified of even traditional psychologists he feared were a threat to communism that he abolished psychology departments across the country and banned the word from the official dictionary.

(Unless of course, they were faculties of transpersonal psychology.)  

Now, before we get all high-horsey about politicians casting hexes on each pother, let's just remember the Gipper.  Yes, that's right, Saint Ronnie.  From the 1940s to the 1980s, Ronald and Nancy Reagan consulted a series of high-profile astrologers:  Walter Righter, Jeane Dixon, Joyce Jillson, and finally -- the one who became public -- Joanne Quigley.  (A Vassar girl, we add with a self-mocking smirk.)  Word is that they made important decisions, like negotiating with Gorbachev and the choice of Bush Sr. as Veep, based on astrological advice.

While we don't credit the scurrilous proposal that Righter's death -- on the very day that the Quigley story hit the press -- was arranged by the government, we do know that when Reagan was asked about his history of consulting astrologers and making decisions based on their recommendations, he just plain lied.  

So, should it be true that the president of Romania paid a psychic -- excuse us, transpersonal psychologist -- to suck the vital energy out of his opponent, it need not be viewed as a curious example of Balkan superstition.  On the contrary, it is just as likely to be another case of American cultural imperialism.


Anonymous said...

Aha! THAT'S how Scott Brown won.

Father said...

Nicely done, sir (or madame). We would have gotten there eventually, a few posts from now, when it finally occurred to us.