Should I Stay or Should I Go?

by Steven van Groningen on 3 October, 2014

“Should I Stay or Should I Go?” is the title of a song made famous by the British rock band The Clash in the early eighties. I remembered the title of the song and looked up the lyrics the other day.

It is not a question I ask myself a lot (I intend to stay), but one that inevitably comes to mind when meeting young and talented Romanians. This is mostly in a setting where there is no opportunity for one-on-one dialogue on the topic and my telling of the following story is how I now respond to it.

Some time ago I had lunch with a successful Romanian. I have known him for a long time and appreciate him. Let’s call him Bill. (I just want to avoid using any Romanian name for obvious reasons). After discussing the state of affairs in Romania, the subject of our children came up, as it so often does. Bill’s children were approaching the age that required decisions about their university education and he was facing a dilemma. He admitted freely that he was not very proud about the way he had made his money and now he had the following choice. He could teach his children “how things are done in Romania”, something he didn’t really want to do, or he could send them to study abroad risking that they don’t return to Romania.

Bill realised that he was part of the problem and that he wanted a better world for his children. Not better in terms of material aspects, but better in terms of human values. I felt he wanted his children to be happy and successful, but not by having to make the same compromises he had made himself and he doubted they would be able to do this in Romania.

I thought this was a very sad story and it kept coming back to me. (Note for those who don’t have children: please skip the following part!) When you have children it is as if you get a second chance and one of the secret wishes of, I guess, all parents, is that their children will be better/more successful etc. (however we measure success) and not make the same mistakes they made in life.

Whoever asks me the “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” question I tell them about Bill’s dilemma. I tell them that I am convinced they can be successful in Romania while respecting their personal values and suggest they should at least try to make Romania a better place rather than some other country. But whatever they do, they should NEVER find themselves in Bill’s situation once they have children themselves. We should strive to make the world a better place for our children and the next generation. Success is not measured in money, but in terms of respect and the appreciation we hope to receive from our children.

The hope that this will be possible keeps us sane and prevents us from becoming cynical. The moment I become cynical about the future of (the young people of) Romania I am out of here. So, now I also answered my own should-I-stay-or-should-I-go question.

Writing this text I couldn’t help thinking about how (most) politicians measure success. Do they not care about the future, about the debts they are piling up without visible impact on the infrastructure of the country, to be repaid by the next generations? What is success to them? Don’t they care about what history will write about them? Does it matter to them that millions of Romanians have left in search for a better life, that youngsters are considering a better future abroad?

Too many questions….

(You can find the Romanian version here.)

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Corrin Stratton October 13, 2016 at 17:43

Your opinion is good and idealistic and not less than expected. But, yes, there are many other questions as well. Such as those arising from just the fact of you having lunch with this rich guy which casually sought advice on how to educate his kids. So it’s a person from the same social tier as you? An important, befriended client maybe? Admitting openly (well, not openly) he made his money in unorthodox ways? He surely thinks he made the world a better place for his kids because his family has wealth and influence. Do you want to bet they were sent to some famous private school abroad and taught how they can rule the humble ones in any environment? Sorry but you swim in a layer of Bill-like people and while you present him as an exception he’s actually the rule.


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