Carnage and Colectiv responsibility

I am playing catch up at present. Like everyone I was appalled by the news of the fire at gig at the Colectiv in Bucharest. But having checked that no one I knew was involved and then seeing the protests build up to the fall of the government I had been first confused by how the government could have been so swiftly implicated – and then the global  news machine rolls on so I forgot about it. Until I realised that I did know people who were there at which point the horror of it all hit me.

I have been visiting Romania for nearly 10 years now during which time Bucharest has changed radically.  But there has always been a feeling of mild chaos. I’ve gone to nightclubs to see bands, I’ve gone to dance clubs underground. And if you’d told me the walls were covered with flammable tiles and people were standing around them cigarettes in hand I would have shrugged. That’s just how it is around here. Is it dangerous? I suppose so.  But that is how the culture is – people take short cuts – officials look the other way. And most of the time nothing goes wrong. So what?

Nearly 50 lives snuffed out. That’s what. Unnecessarily. The trouble with fatalism is that you think it can’t be changed. Or that it doesn’t matter. The two I knew who were there – probably right up at the front watching the band Gravity. Right where the action was and right where the fire started. They didn’t have a chance.  Monica Tanasiou was a director of innovation – I’ve taken the liberty of using a photo of her standing by a display of fragrances. The photo taken by her partner Ionut Popescu one of the founders of the agency Cell.   I’ve taken the liberty of linking to an experimental film of dancing buildings he was working on a few months ago. They were lovely people and really good at what they did. Evidence that Romanian creativity and talent is world class.  So why should someone have to take their lives in their hands when they go to a gig or a night club. No reason. Because the difference between making products and environments that are healthy and safe or ones that can kills us is a tiny difference. It costs a little more money. But not much.  Unless somebody doesn’t care.  And then all the creativity and quality in the world won’t save you.  I was bemused by all the anger following the fire at Colectiv because I too had become fatalistic. But if the people who opened that club and the officials who gave it a venue license had taken the trouble Monica and Ionut took over their work there wouldn’t have been a problem.  Its partly why what happened to them is so unbearable – its the opposite of the life they were building for themselves which is all too evident from the pictures they left behind. I don’t want to suggest that the lives of creatives and craftspeople are worth more than the lives of others – every life is precious and unique. But much of the the richness of our own lives come from the best of what others make for us. When they make it well.

It is true that Romanians beat themselves up over institutional corruption. And while there seems to be a lot of it in Romania the rest of Europe are hardly clean. British bankers are getting back to business as usual after bringing the continent to its knees with the financial crisis.  We have discovered that iconic German marques put software in all their diesels to fake the tests. And we have just been told that from the highest levels Russian athletics sanctioned doping.  Corruption is everywhere. It doesn’t go away.  But what allows corruption to succeed is fatalism.  If we refuse to tolerate it wherever we find it we can drive it back.  The reason billions of people have a better standard of living than they did a generation ago and might expect a better future for their children comes from small changes which add up. The imminent climate change conference in Paris will either be an exercise in fatalism or making a real effort to make changes which will lead to a better future and not a worse one.  We need to hold the line against cynicism and fatalism – we can do better and be better. And the world will prosper when we do.




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