Archive for februarie 2008

Creationism versus Evolutionism (II)

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UPDATE (03.03.2008). It seems that the problem of teaching religion in school was settled reasonably well, at least in my opinion. Romanian readers might want to take a look here. Does anybody know something about evolutionism?

Yes, George, there are two theories:

(a) The Dawn of Man („2001: A Space Odyssey”, Stanley Kubrick, 1968)


(b) The Creation of Adam (Leonardo Da Vinci, „The Creation of Adam” Sistine Chapel, c. 1511)


You are free to choose whatever theory you like – and I think that, choosing one (or choosing none) does not by itself give anyone the moral right to ridicule the other one (or both).

I think Kubrick himself is an exponent of epistemological neutrality – or, if you want, of agnosticism. Remember that, in his movie, man evolves from the monkey – but this evolution itself is made possible by a superior intelligence (remember the monolith!)

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In rest – I know: my way – the third (fourth??) way – is (politically and psychologically) the worst…

Creationism versus Evolutionism (I)

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UPDATE.  A trecut o luna de la postarea acestui articol, si se pare ca discutia a fost reluata. George o continua si el pe blogul lui, aici. Personal am considerat aceasta discutie foarte relevanta, pentru ca, in primul rind, mi-am clarificat si eu unele lucruri si petru ca, in al doilea rind, am demostrat ca putem dezbate civilizat o problema fata de care avem pozitii diferite. Dar prelungirea la nesfirsit a unei discutii a carei solutie este atit de simpla devine plictisitoare…

Pentru ca George, aici si aici, discuta de zor acest subiect, ceva imi da ghes sa imi spun si eu parerea 🙂 Ok, deci iata ce se intimpla acum in Romania. Pe de o parte, Guvernul a scos obligativitatea predarii teoriei evolutioniste in scoli. Pe de alta parte, orele de religie sint obligatorii. Pe de (inca) alta parte, anumite organizatii politice si non-guvernamentale (printre care si Consiliul Europei) cer reintroducerea acestei teorii in manuale. Discutia se pare ca a inceput in SUA prin anii 1999-2000, dupa care a fost exportata in Europa si, mai apoi, in Romania. Sincer, mie mi se pare stupida intreaga discutie. Cred ca, rational vorbind, situatia e simpla si sta in felul urmator:

1) Avem doua teorii despre aparitia vietii pe pamint si a omului. Aceste doua teorii au, fiecare, proprii sustinatori, si se bazeaza, fiecare, pe zone diferite ale experientei umane.

2) Ambele teorii pot si trebuie prezentate elevilor

3) Am spus ca cele doua teorii se bazeaza pe zone diferite ale experientei umane. Ceea ce inseamna ca cele doua teorii trebuie prezentate si in materii diferite: evolutionismul in orele de biologie, creationismul in orele de religie.

4) Aceste din urma „ore de religie” pot fi impartite in doua tipuri: „istoria religiilor” (curs obligatoriu, pentru a echilibra obligativitatea biologiei si a prezenta elevilor principiile generale ale religiilor) si cursuri axate special pe o religie sau alta, in functie de confesiunile existente intr-o scoala (cursuri optionale)

5) Concluzie: in acest fel, un guvern neutru fata de cele doua teorii poate oferi elevilor nu numai acces liber la informatie, dar poate asigura si diversitatea informatiilor. Desigur, e de discutat daca un guvern trebuie sa fie neutru fata de aceste doua teorii. Asta e o alta discutie, iar eu unul cred in aceasta neutralitate. Uitati-va la motto-ul blogului meu si hai sa ne linistim, fratilor, bind (inca) un paharel de vin…

6) PS: scoaterea capitolului „Dumnezeu” din manualul de filosofie (un capitol bine realizat, cu prezentarea unor opinii pro si contra, si cu prezentarea variatiunilor din cadrul acestor doua tendinte) mi se pare un respectabil examplu de idiotenie care poate fi – si este – periculoasa

God is Dead (Gott ist Tot)

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Well, it seems that, at least prima facie, Nietzsche was right. But there is something more dangerous and humiliating than being dead. This is when you are considered as being trash. Just take a look here:


Atheists and religious people – the floor is yours! I am speechless…

Written by Andrei Stavilă

februarie 24, 2008 at 10:03 pm

Publicat în De risul curcilor

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Freedom of Expression in Romania: Not Bad, Indeed!

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My friend Marian Coman is editor-in-chief of the „Obiectiv” newspaper in Braila, Romania. He was accused of defamation and libel by a businessman (which is in the same time a member of the liberal party!). The public prosecutor decided that she will not press charges. She wrote: „the journalist enjoys the freedom of expression, which includes not only the information and ideas that public opinion welcomes or treats with indifference, or considers as being inoffensive, but also those that offense, shock or disturb. These are the requirements of pluralism, tolerance and of an open mind, without which there can be no democratic society”.

Sometimes I become optimist and I start to think that we are on the right way.

Written by Andrei Stavilă

februarie 23, 2008 at 10:44 am

The “Romanianization” of the United States of America

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In the year 2000, Romania confronted itself with a very nasty political situation: in the second tour of elections for the Romanian Presidency, we had to choose between a former communist leader (Ion Iliescu) and the leader of the far-right party (Corneliu Vadim Tudor). The situation was awful indeed: we hated them both, but we still had to vote for one of them. So we elected the one that seemed, at that time, the lesser wrong: we elected the former communist leader. Cynical as it were, many people who suffered under the communist regime were then obliged to vote for a communist, because of the fear of the far-right policies.

The USA seems to be in the same political situation now. On the one hand, there are Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama – who are better suited to be TV stars, showmen or whatever – but not presidents! They look so weak, a sort of “crash test dummies”, or actors begging for audience. Now, in the actual context, where Russia is going to be governed in the next 10 years, in a way or another, by the same unmerciful and strong “Tzar” Putin; where terrorism has become a real threat to all of us; where extremism and xenophobia undergo a strong revival all over the world; where USA must continue to be the guardian of liberal values and individual rights in the world – in this context, the president of the USA must be a strong person – not a crash test dummy. USA needs a new Margaret Tacher – not a Hillary Clinton. USA needs a new Ronald Reagan – not a Barack Obama.

On the other hand, there is John McCain. He is not a TV star – on the contrary, it seems that he lacks a lot of charisma. He seems – at least prima facie – to be a strong person (well, he fought in Vietnam, right?). But just take a closer look at his political opinions. He strongly opposes gay marriages. He strongly opposes abortion. So McCain (and many republicans, as a matter of fact) don’t give a damn on liberal rights: he denies to some people the right to marry whomever they wish; and he denies others the right to do with their bodies whatever they wish. The USA led by John McCain cannot be the guardian of human rights. It cannot be the champion of democracy and liberalism in the world.

So it seems to me that the USA undergo this year a process of “Romanianization”: the Americans have to choose between two wrongs: Clinton or Obama, on the one hand, and McCain, on the other hand. Ho is the lesser wrong? What will the Americans choose, between the Muppets show and the potential dictator? I’m afraid this time the answer is not that easy anymore…

Written by Andrei Stavilă

februarie 22, 2008 at 12:44 pm

La multi ani, Alin!

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Am invatat impreuna cum sa mizgalim linii pe hirtie: intii drepte, apoi culcate, si pe urma oblice. Au urmat bastonasele, prima litera a alfabetului, primirea cravatei rosii de pionier la Cetatea Neamtului, intrarea in clasa a cincea la „Negruzzi”. Pe urma cartile citite si discutate (parca „Sera” de Brian Aldiss a fost printre primele, nu?). Liceul, cu primii doi ani in care am fost „cumintii” clasei, pentru ca mai apoi sa ne dezvirgineze „Garofita” si „Zoiosu'”… Si muntii pe care i-am urcat impreuna (in Apuseni mi-a placut cel mai mult!). Si olimpiada la romana dintr-a unspea cind l-am chemat la o sedinta de spiritism pe Eminescu, de ne-au scazut astia nota la purtare mai rau decit batausilor liceului, si apoi – cum as putea sa-l uit? – „Saprosan”-ul, prima revista din Romania editata in intregime de liceeni, si necontrolata de directiunea liceului (la care Marian a avut o contributie extraordinara)… Am intrat apoi la facultate, ne-am exersat amindoi nervii cu jeanpierre, le-am explicat noaptea politistilor la Constanta ca plaja nu este totusi granita si noi nu am fugit in Turcia, ne-am baut bursele pe o luna intr-o noapte intreaga in care am colindat, programatic, toate barurile din Copou. Am pierdut oameni dragi: pe profa de filosofie Rodica Vosniuc, la mormintul careia ne intilneam o vreme in fiecare luna sa bem o sticla de vin. Pe dirigul nostru, proful de romana Gheorghe Antoce, care intotdeauna ne scapa din bucluc si care s-a stins rapid in urma unui cancer pe creier. A murit bunicul lui. A murit si bunicul meu. A murit Catalin Bicu.

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De patru ani a plecat din Iasi. La citeva luni l-a urmat si Raluca, si un timp m-am simtit despartit de mine insumi. Apoi mi-am impus sa accept situatia, faptul ca asta e lumea in care traim, o lume care ne arunca pe toti in cele patru zari. Il vad rar de atunci, cam de doua ori pe ani. Ceva din mine s-a dus la Bucuresti cu el – si totusi, intr-un mod ciudat, ma simt implinit. Iti multumesc, Alin, pentru ca ca am crescut impreuna, pentru ca mi-ai fost prieten o viata intreaga, pentru ca pentru mine definitia prieteniei se leaga de numele tau. Si chiar daca te vad asa de rar, chiar daca vorbim rar pentru ca tu nu prea ai chef de telefoane si mailuri lungi, chiar daca nu vei citi acest post pentru ca din principiu nu citesti bloguri, eu tot vreau sa iti urez, din toata inima, „La multi ani!” si la inca de 30 de ori 30!

Written by Andrei Stavilă

februarie 21, 2008 at 8:41 pm

Gender Fundamentalism and Hate – part II

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UPDATE. George has also commented Iddo Landau’s talk and the reaction of gender fundamentalists here.

The first example of political correctness and gender stupidity (this is taken from a serious philosophical text):

“One way to flesh this idea out is to pretend that there is a superbeing, GOD, who can comprehend very complex patterns. SHE alone grasps in full the pattern in the way that moral matters connect with descriptive ones” (Frank Jackson, Philip Pettit, and Michael Smith, “Ethical Particularism and Patterns”, in B. Hooker and M. Little, Moral Particularism, Oxford University Press, 2000, p. 90; capital letters are mine)

Two days ago I had another two examples of gender fundamentalism and gender hate. I attended two conferences at Central European University: the first was offered by the Gender Department, the second by the Department of Philosophy.

weiss.jpg Gail Weiss

The first talk was given by Gail Weiss (George Washington University) and its title was “Intertwined Identities: Challenges to Bodily Autonomy”. She discussed the problem of surgical separation of conjoint twins. She is against this separation, because she thinks it is based on: (a) “the dominant logic of identity” – that is, “one identity – one body”; (b) the idea that “conjoint life is not a worthy life”. As an argument in her favor, she says that in the majority of cases, adult conjoined twins refuse to undergo such an operation. The conclusion is that all these can show us an alternative theory of identity, which goes beyond the “dominant” one – that is, “one identity – one body”.

Now this idea strikes me as simply false. I propose the following counterfactual situation. Suppose that a physician tells the twins: “Look, because of the very advanced technology, we assure you 100 % that the operation is totally harmless to both of you; moreover, after the operation, you will live happily until the age of 99”. Now, my question is: what would the twins say? I am sure that they would like to undergo the operation. This shows that they refuse to be operated not because they have some strange philosophical notion of identity, something like “one identity – many bodies”, but because they fear that they would not survive the operation. In what concerns the fact that the separated life is worthier than the conjoint one, I really do not think that this is necessary or logically related to the social and cultural norms of our societies, as Gail Weiss sustains. If we set aside some perverse ideas, what is so worthy in being obliged to “shut down” yourself when your conjoined twin makes love with his wife??? I think the whole talk was a good example of empty words. I mean, if you want to present me just a nice story with metaphors, then it could be interesting. But if you present me this story with propositions like “Colourless green ideas sleep furiously” (Noam Chomski) as being a scientific truth, then you have to do much more than using metaphors. That is, metaphors like this: “intercorporeality as a basic condition of human existence that doesn’t undermine identity but makes it possible in the first place”. Some of us are not that stupid, Mrs. Gail Weiss!

landau.jpg Iddo Landau

The second talk was given by Iddo Landau (University of Haifa) and its title was „Should Marital Relations be Non-Hierarchical? Issues in Distributive Justice and Love”. Some of the members of the Gender Department came too. Basically, Iddo Landau wants to argue against the idea of the Marital Non-Hierarchy Standard (MNHS). He says that in every human associative venture there are hierarchical relations (“in almost all associations, including many financial, professional, educational and recreational ones, in almost all spheres of life”). Because of this, it is odd to claim that one such human association – that is, marriage – should be exempted from the rule. His idea is this: if I am married and I stay with my wife in her parents’ house, it is normal for her parents to have the last word in what concern, for example, their house. Here is a hierarchy in the family, based on the fact that we stay in your parents’ house. This does not run against justice and does not diminish family love. Again, if we are married and we have a child, and if you read a lot on child rearing it is absolutely normal for you to give me directions in what concerns this domain, and it is absolutely normal for me to listen to you. This is yet another type of family hierarchy, which is based on knowledge. But this does not run against being justice and does not diminish our love towards one another. In consequence, it is absolutely normal for hierarchies to exist in a family. So MNHS, which has a strong egalitarian claim, is false.

Unfortunately, after the talk, four representatives of the Gender Department (three “female” students, one “female” professor) demonstrated that they understood nothing from this talk. Very hysterical and very aggressive, they monopolized the discussion for more than one hour, attacking Iddo Landau. The only thing they understood from this conference was that the poor guy wanted to legitimate the hierarchical status of man over woman in a marriage, and that he does not recognize the importance of the academic literature written by “female” authors. The poor man really tried to explain what he was talking about – with the only result of a considerable increase in hostility and agressivity. That was very telling, in fact. Gender hate and fundamentalism is jointly nurtured by violence and stupidity. It is sad, because this is very detrimental to the receptivity of serious academic writers in gender studies as Martha Nussbaum, Susan Moller Okin, Uma Narayan, and many others.

Written by Andrei Stavilă

februarie 21, 2008 at 6:49 pm

Kosovo and the Romanian Foreign Policy

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(Romanian Translation: Kosovo si Politica Externa a Romaniei)


This picture is taken from here. I propose you to see that man as being the USA, who is pissing in / on the International Jurisprudence’s car…

Romanian politicians did yesterday another stupid thing (no news, indeed). The Romanian President, Traian Basescu, and the Romanian Parliament jointly declared that Romania will NEVER recognize Kosovo as an independent state. Oh, really? And after 200 years, say, when every state will recognize Kosovo, and probably Kosovo will enter the European Union, what will Romania do then?

The problem with Kosovo is not that simple. We have to take into account at least three variables:

1) the right of this region, with some 90 % Albanian ethnics, to independence and self-government

2) the international jurisprudence contained in the UN Chart, the Helsinki Treaty, the UN’s 1244 Resolution, and many other treatises, according to which in Europe national frontiers cannot be changed, unless both sides (the specific country and the region that seeks independence) agree with this secession

3) the future of the European Union

In what concerns (1) I don’t have much to say. Indeed, I think Kosovo has the right to self-government. The same thing holds for Nagorno-Karabah, Transnistria, Abhazia and South-Osetia, even for HARGHITA AND COVASNA. The reason for this is the following. At least in what concerns the future of Europe (so this is an answer to point 3), I DO believe that the only borders European Union will know in the future will be cultural, and not national-defined. Moreover, in the EU, administratively speaking, the future belongs to regionsnot to countries! So probably in the future we will talk about administrative regions like Moldavia, Transilvania, Harghita-Covasna, Kosovo, etc. – AND about the Romanian Culture (which is not reduced to Romanian regions!), the Serbian culture, the Albanese culture, AND about only one citizenship: the European citizenship. So I would really like to see my fellow Romanians kicking the “nationalist” bucket. But this is a very weak hope, to be sure. Romanians are generally proud to be nationalists – and sometimes stupid.

In what concerns (2), this time I have to say that USA, France, Germany, Italy, Turkey and all the other countries that are so readily to recognize the new independent state Kosovo make me really sick. So for them, international jurisprudence is SHIT. And they SPIT on this shit any time they wish. Especially the Americans showed us yesterday that they don’t give a damn on international laws – anyway, they are the ones who make international laws, so they can violate them every-single-hour of every-single-bloody-day, right? I think that the UN countries should have discussed first the international laws, their existence, the possibility and the desirability of changing them – and only then they would have been right to accept the independence of Kosovo. But the way they behaved yesterday showed that the domain of international jurisprudence is something like no man’s land – or even worse: the “Wild West”, where the most powerful do whatever he wants…

The Most Unusual Books

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If you like books and want to see the most unusual ones, just look here.

In quite another sense of the word „unusual” – informations about books banned by the Index Librorum Prohibitorum here, here and here.

I think someone should investigate and write an „Index Librorum Prohibitorum” of our liberal demoracies. Liberals as we are, unfortunately we still ban books… Hitler’s „Mein Kampf” and David Irving’s books are but one example… (if you ask me: no matter what its content is, a book should not be banned!).

Written by Andrei Stavilă

februarie 17, 2008 at 11:18 pm

My Grandfather (2)

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I thought a lot whether to tell the following three stories about my grandfather or not. Today I decided to do this. Unlike my grandfather, Constantin Stavila (Tata Icu, as I was calling him), I do not believe that only love comes first. I think love shares its first place with the truth.

picture3.jpg 14.02.1990 (with some of his nephews). He is 74. I am in the right side of the picture

1) It might be interesting to find out why my grandfather rejected the idea of becoming a Christian Orthodox scholar. In the year 1953, he went to a sort of summer school, organized by the Romanian Patriarchy. He wrote a sermon about the Christian virtue of labor, and it was considered the best sermon written at that summer school. His professors decided to publish it in the official journal of the Romanian Patriarchy. But two things happened. First, the publisher considered that it had to be changed, in order to be more… communist-friendly. You know – labor is good, and also notice that our authorities sanction good labor… And other stuff like this, which made my grandfather mad. Second, it happened that, just a week or so before the appearance of that issue, “our Father”… Stalin died. Now, at that time the relation between the Church and the Romanian Government (sustained by the Soviet Union) was complicated enough: the Church was afraid of the communists, while the communists did not want to explicitly ban religion. So the publisher of the official journal (having probably the approval of the Patriarch Iustinian himself) considered that it would be a good idea to put Stalin’s picture on the second page of that issue, together with some words of mourning! This made my grandfather really crazy. Now, just imagine: the Russian soldiers insulted and beat his grandfather in the First World War; moreover, the communists took him the land and all that he inherited from his grandfather. He really hated the communists, the Soviet Union, and the Romanian regime. And now, his sermon was published as a communist-friendly one, in an issue of the official Orthodox journal whose main concern was to mourn the death of the Devil himself! At that time, he did not have the courage to protest – but he promised himself that he will keep distance from his hierarchical leaders all his life. This is why he decided to be a simple country priest. Now I remember that, after his retirement, he moved to Iasi, and used to go every Sunday to a church close to our home. The priest of that church didn’t know him – and once he told me this, and asked me why my grandfather never came to their monthly meetings and conferences (notice that he didn’t have the courage to ask my grandfather directly this question). I told him that I don’t know – oh, but I knew. I damn knew very well why.

picture1.jpg 1991, in the Church of the Cogeasca Village

2) I said that my grandfather retired in 1992, when he was 76. But he never wanted to retire. In fact, in the Orthodox Church there is no such notion as “retirement”. Indeed, after you become a priest, you remain a priest for all your life. You are exempted from your service only if you are not physically able to do your duties anymore. So look what happened. My grandfather was a priest in Cogeasca (Letcani, Iasi) for more than 30 years already. He wanted to die as a priest there. But another priest, with good relations to his hierarchical chiefs, wanted to take my grandfather’s place (well, holy man are still… humans, right?). Now, that priest had some relatives in Cogeasca – and these relatives started to complain about my grandfather. They said that he is not able to do his duties anymore, for the reason that he is not hearing well, because of his age. This was only half-right. My grandfather was not hearing well – but not because of his age. I already said in my last post that he was among those (very few) priests that accepted, in the Second World War, to go on the first line of the battle. Once, a bomb exploded close to him – and made him half-deaf. But this thing never constituted an impediment for him. People just had to talk louder with him – that was all. Anyway, those individuals started to complain about this. When the bishop (my grandfather’s hierarchical leader) came to Cogeasca, the whole village was in an uprising – the villagers wanted my grandfather to stay. The bishop, a close friend of the priest who wanted my grandfather’s place, explained to the people that my grandfather had to go. In that very moment, when the people were ready to lynch the bishop, my grandfather stopped them. He said that priests must listen to their hierarchical leaders, as well as they must listen to God. He said that it is time for him to go, and ask the people to listen to their new priest. I remember that I asked him afterwards why he did that (I knew he was not at ease with the idea of leaving Cogeasca). He looked at me with his eyes full of love, caressed my head and said: “Don’t worry. God knows my way better than me. He will take care of me”. Days after that event people were coming over and over again to my grandfather, crying and begging him to stay.

picture4.jpg Me and my beloved grandparents

3) But notice an interesting thing. He was a retired priest now – but he couldn’t stay home: his most ardent desire was to do what he knew best – to stay with people, to take care of their spiritual needs. One day, the telephone called, and the bishop said he wanted to talk with him. At that time, there were many villages without priests – this was because no priest wanted to go in such poor, far-away villages, where people did not use to go to church. The bishop asked my grandfather to go as a locum tenens to one of these villages. Yes – the same bishop that declared that my grandfather is not able to do his duties anymore as a priest, only three months after this decision appointed him to another village (a village that no priest wanted to go to) as a priest. My grandfather was more than happy – his dream became true: he was again in service! So since 1992 and until the year 2000 or so, he was a priest in two or three more villages. Why not in only one? Well, that’s another quite interesting story.

As I already said, at that time there were villages where no priest wanted to go, mostly because the inhabitants were very poor, and no extra money (beside the salary) could have been earned in those places. But my grandfather (who, after the communists took all that he inherited from his grandfather, he never was a rich priest) didn’t care for money. So he accepted the village he was appointed to as a pensioner priest. When he first arrived there, no one was coming to the church. So, just as Ioan Slavici’s Popa Tanda, he started to visit every single villager, in order to persuade him or her to come to the church, promising them that they will see very beautiful religious services. So people did start to go to the church. Money did start to come. But my grandfather never took money for himself – he gave all the money to the Metropolitan bishopric of Moldavia. So young priest started to be interested in this village – and one day, one of them was appointed there. My grandfather had to go again – and he quietly and humbly accepted the situation. He left – but not before teaching the young priest all he knew. And this young priest recognized that he BOUGHT his place – he gave to that bishop (the same one, as a matter of fact) something like 2500 American dollars, if I am remembering well. With some minor differences, the story repeated itself in other two villages in which my grandfather was appointed as a locum tenens. In the year 2000, I think, he retired for good: he was 84, and he had to admit that, this time, he really was not physically capable anymore to do his job. But he kept going to that church close to our house until the beginning of 2004, when he tragically had to recognize that he could not walk and stand too much.

I think that these three stories about my grandfather say very much about him – and, probably, about my reasons for not going to church and priests anymore* (although I still believe in God). As I already said, a whole age died together with my grandfather – and I’m afraid that its values and virtues died too.

* In fact, there are other reasons, too. For example, if you are an Orthodox Christian and usually go to Church, you don’t want to know – believe me! – what my grandfather said about our two last Patriarchs (that is, Teoctist and Daniel) and about their relationships with the Securitate (The Romanian Communist Intelligence Service). Another reason is that two of his colleagues, who attended his funeral, behaved like anything else, but priests. One of them was asking me, while my grandfather’s coffin was still in the church, whether I accept to pay a fine he took while driving in Budapest (!!!!). The other one, who was leading the funeral service while we were going to the grave, was talking at the mobile phone!!! The latter said, just two years before, that my grandfather is like a spiritual father for him…..

Written by Andrei Stavilă

februarie 16, 2008 at 8:44 pm