7 November 2015

Emotions in Sequence: A Real Life Case

Contempt & disgust >>> solidarity & fear >>> anger >>> hope.

Some of you might know already about the tragedy that happened one week ago in Bucharest – Romania. There was a fire in a nightclub which resulted in 32 deaths and more than 130 people being injured, at least 20 being in life and death situations. I wrote about it here and international media ( BBC, CNN) covered the event.

Prior to this tragedy, the general feeling among (middle class) Romanians was that of contempt and disgust for politicians, government, most public authorities – in general The System.  For those of you who don’t know much about my country of birth, it is a fantastic place that, unfortunately, is plagued by oligarchy, corruption, imposture and nepotism. This is particularly in public administration and government, though, to be fully fair, the private sector is, one way or another, accomplice or at least involved.

However, for many (young) professionals from the middle class, things were tolerable as long as there wasn’t any major disruption in their daily lives.

After the tragedy in the Collective nightclub, where 32 people died burned alive and more than a hundred were injured, the citizens of Bucharest (capital of Romania) realized that, what used to be an acceptable / tolerable level of corruption, was in fact, one of the causes of the tragedy. Fire safety certificates, public business certificates issued with bribes, general negligence etc. were the causes of this tragedy.

After 3 days of mourning during which there was an unseen expression (attitudes and behaviour) of solidarity, Romanians took to the streets. In an unprecedented show of public anger. More than 25.000 citizens of Bucharest (that is more than 1% of the population of the city) asked for the resignation of the mayor of Bucharest’s fourth district (where the nightclub was established), the resignation of the Minister of internal affairs and the resignation of the Prime Minister (which, by default implies the resignation of the whole Government).

The next day, all three resigned. The outcome was 35.000 people on the streets of Bucharest and 70.000 in the entire country demanding profound change in public governance and manifesting against corruption.

The next day, the President of Romania (the last politician with a good level of trust) invited the political parties for consultations in forming a new government. Moreover, he invited the civic society and representatives of the protestors for talks.

After these consultations and talks, there is some feeling of hope.

Setting aside the factual very recent history (talks with the civic society & protestors’ representatives took place on the same day of writing this post), from a psychology point of view, it is fascinating to see the evolution of public emotions and their recipients.

Before the tragedy there was contempt and disgust towards politicians and politicized public authorities. Immediately after the tragedy there was solidarity (altruism) with the victims, their families and technical public servants (i.e. doctors, first respondents, firemen etc.). There, also, was a natural fear of death and fire. Subsequently there was huge anger with the political establishment. Now there is a glimmer of hope.

Contempt and disgust >>> solidarity & fear >>> anger >>> hope.

P.S. Honour to the first responders and medical staff who treated and treats the wounded. A huge Thank You to the citizens and governments of France, Turkey, Belgium, The Netherlands, Israel and Germany (sorry if I missed someone)! These countries and their citizens offered to help with medical services for the care of the wounded.

P.S. 2. Apologies to my fellow Romanians for not being on the streets alongside you.

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