Yesterday, in Romania, something amazing happened.

It was a protest meeting, right in front of TVR, the Romanian national television station. About one hundred people, give or take, gathered there, sat quietly on the sidewalk, and read.

Yes. Each and every one brought a book with him (or her), and read quietly, thus protesting the termination of two cultural shows on the national television – “Lumea citeste” (The world does read) and “Nocturna” – due to be replaced by political talk-shows, these being much more interesting in the current leadership’s views. The protest was initiated by well-known cultural Romanian blogger Lucia T. and was attended by bloggers in Bucharest, as well as a few well known authors. It took only five days to organize, and the word was spread exclusively through the Romanian blogosphere.

So bloggers met. So what? You’re presenting this as if this was a huge deal, I mean, flash mobs have been seen before, and what’s so special about people reading on the sidewalk anyway? Yes, except for the fact that:

  • it never happened in Romania before
  • it was a flash reading mob, the first of its kind, as far as I know
  • it was about culture, people. Culture!

This East-European country, fresh member of the European Union, has known its fair share of protesters. Come to think of it, there’s always something to protest against, from the price of daily necessities to the meager social protection to the low income of certain members of society (such as teachers, the ones who are supposed to lay down the foundation for a new society… but I digress). This was a benign demand for culture, a spontaneous, grassroots, completely apolitical way of asserting one’s country’s need of something more than the famous Roman recipe “panem et circences”1.

It may not be much, world. But it’s a start. This news managed to put a big smile on my face.

  1. means “bread and circus”, if your Latin is a little rusty []