By Adela and Dan Fofiu-Sanpetreanu
In the age of individualism, competition and personal merit, we have grown into nourishing challenging needs, such as community, togetherness, empathy and self-determination.
We are a couple from Cluj, Romania. This is in the province of Transylvania, a historical multicultural region that, at times, still seems in our eyes to be a haven where peace on earth still exists.
By mid-September last year, we embarked on a 9 weeks journey, traveling across Europe by train, to reach Ireland. By that time, we left in Cluj our recently closed business – an urban bed & breakfast – to function as the Permanent Culture Club. We define this club as our house, our private space, open to radical creativity based on downshifting, community spirit and permaculture. And so began our journey across space and time towards a strong paradigm shift.
We have been most fortunate to spend a few consistent and significant days in Cloughjordan. Although brand new on these premises, we have then experienced a strong feeling of belonging to a community. A feeling that we have intensely missed, year after year, back home in Romania. There are countless reasons for social atomization and community dissolution in Romania – from the rampant urbanization and industrialization of the country during the communist golden era, to the competitive values of success, high social-economic status and profit during the period of what has been called, more or less inspired, the transition to the glorious capitalism after the 1989 breakdown.
The political, social and economical challenges that describe the Romanian context to its core are too complex to address in this short letter to you, friends, but what is important to mention about them is that they have become so overtly negative and destructive, so dangerous to our near future and so offending to our most common-sensical values, that anti-systemic activism was our first re-action. Two years of environmental activism – to defend a 1800 years old multicultural village 80 km away from our home from becoming the largest open cast cyanide mining project in Europe – have both hardened and softened us. They hardened us in our resilience and criticism towards the unreasonable and irrational run for profit. And they softened us in our apocalyptic fears and worries of a disaster threatening to happen during our lifetime. We have begun to see the light, that small chance for our lives to look differently. We have discovered downshifting, we have started to appreciate what we had to a new value, we have started to read and learn, to educate ourselves about degrowth, resilience, sustainable economics, community building.
This is how, step by step, we have migrated from a world of reactionary activism to a world of creative reconstruction of the world, in small pieces, with dear new friends and kind people that prefer a home made jam to a cheap jar that counts thousands of food miles.
Today, we are happy to belong to a de-territorialized network of downshifters, permaculturists, creators of resilient communities, forgers of some sort of utopia that needs the system to crash and burn before it becomes better, more horizontal, less hierarchical, more human, less institutional.
We might not have a strong, self-sustainable community in our immediate space, but we do have a network of bottom-up initiatives that transcends space and geography, time and culture, and moves into a new dimension of belonging and re-designing the world.
Our Permanent Culture Club might be small, but it is a powerful pebble in the pond of our utopia. Our eu-topia – that good space. Our doors are wholeheartedly open to you, whenever you plan to reach Eastern Europe.
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