On my way to the event I didn’t know what to expect. The Culture of Democracy program of Autumn 2015 organized by InterCollege was held in Vadul lui Vodă, Moldova, at an excellent location near the capital city of Chișinău, on the banks of the Dniester river.
I travelled by myself, to an unknown place, with over 20 participants whom I have never met before. It was kind of like an experiment. Right from the beginning I was outside of my comfort zone, so I knew that the experience will be intense.
The road from Cluj-Napoca (Kolozsvár) to Vadul lui Vodă was bumpy and tiresome. I couldn’t wait to arrive. Wh07en I finally did at about 2 o’clock in the afternoon, almost none of the participants had arrived yet. Luckily Sandu, a local from Chișinău was there, so we immediately started talking. I learned many things about the neighboring country.
Soon enough, participants started arriving in small groups, so conversations were sparking up everywhere. Everyone was sharing facts about their own cultures and countries. By the end of the night we recognized many things that binded us. We laughed a lot at the similar issues our countries were facing, and proudly presented some of the solutions for them. All countries have their own model of Democracy which has developed according to the specifics and possibilities of each. We found that the convictions of our peoples were not really reflected in our countries’ politics. This might have been the saddest thing we had in common.
We tend to look for the differences first, but when we started sharing stories of the most pressing issues in our own countries, similarities started appearing. Consensus over a derided political class quickly arose. Ukrainians,Georgians, Moldovans, Danes, Armenians and Romanians all recognize that the erratic ways of their nations’ politicians led to an unhealthy democracy. While debating active citizenship and democracy, we found that our participation ends with voting, leaving us feeling weak and unsignificant.
“Nothing good comes out of politics”, said one of the participants, prudently concluding her attitude towards involvement in that messy business.
Although we had suffered our own specific disappointments in this field, I found that the majority of participants had the same idea about politics: we better stay out of it. Even though in theory it was clear that we shared the most basic values of participatory democracy and we all had clear ideas on how change can be implemented, we quickly found ourselves disillusioned by the reality reigning in our countries. These values sounded nice, but were far from the reality which we were living.
Luckily, politics is not the only way to make change happen. The importance of civil society has been strengthened in our minds. For me it has been the only way to go for a few years now and I hope all participants recognized this and will find the strength to get more involved.