Cum s-a incadrat in colectiv ?

Wednesday, 19 March, Year 6 d.Tr. | Author: Mircea Popescu

Do not panic, we're still doing English.

The question in the title is based on a Romanian construction created by and forgotten with the Romanian rendition of communism. They had a special language you see, called limba de lemn (ie wooden tongue). It was stylistically rather balanced and in many ways linguistically superior to the Romanian currently spoken in the press and on the street, but nevertheless also rather rigid and for most folks unwieldy to usei.

As part of it, "a se incadra" is a reflexiveii verb which comes from the ancient latin for "square", and denotes the action or ability of becoming part of a prestructured set without significantly altering its structure. It was limited to a few uses over its short and mostly unhappy lifetime : one contemporary (with communist Romania) use would be "a se incadra in trafic", which roughly dealt with the activity described by the English "merging" (in trafic). Another, mostly post-communistiii, "a se incadra in buget", which'd mean to fit (or moreover be fittable) within a given budget. They're both mostly forgotten today, outside of the edge cases where someone tries really hard to appear formal.iv

The other part, "colectiv" denotes the genus loci perceived by Romanians to exist in any place inhabited. This was primitively assigned by the communists to "the group" of people with no futher ado, so any class of school childrenv and any group of workers (inasmuch as they ordinarily worked in the same hall) made up a "collective". Careful reconstruction of intension by examination of praxis readily shows that there is no substantial communist contribution here, but merely an ancient concept (in fact, again, as old as the Romans) has been misappropriated for modern usage.

So, "a se incadra in colectiv" would denote the ability and the practice of becoming part of an established social group without altering its hierarchy or modes and mechanisms of functioning. This works on the ancient political (polity-cal ?) strictures of "does not upset the laws of the gods" (as opposed to you know, the laws of men) and is in a sense social weightlessness, the mark of inexistence : one who readily incadrates himself in any collective would necessarily be a bland, boring lion tamer accountant. As such, "nu s-a incadrat in collectiv" quickly became the polite expression of rejection and the lowest level of employee delinquency. Why has Bob been fired from your company ? Well... nothing specific, but he sucks.

The pressure to "meld into the collective"vi was generally strongest upon young children, who were expected, as part of the normal development of the intellect around the age of nine or ten, to become able to function within a group.

Older children and young adults actually individuated as resolution of the implicit conflict here : obviously not all people can work in all groups. Yet one has to!vii work in his current group, so what's one to do ? Well... ideally establish which group it works well with and stick to that. There was a little class consciousness to help with this processviii but mostly it was resolved empirically in the much flatter, narrower universe of a communist state.ix

This is where you'd perhaps expect me to have a point. If I did have one when I started writing this I've meanwhile forgotten it. Sorry.

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  1. The proper form of mentioning Romania's last communist dictator, Nicky C, would have been "Tovarăşul Nicolae Ceauşescu, secretar general al Partidului Comunist Român, preşedintele Consiliului de Stat al Republicii Socialiste România". That's like 50 syllables right there. []
  2. Verbs that take an object but no agent (ie, something suffers the action described, but nobody actually does it, like is the case of "to rain") are called intransitive. Verbs that take an object and an agent (like "to fuck" : somebody is doing the fucking, and somebody is being fucked - there's nothing symmetrical about sex) are called transitive. Verbs for which the agent is always also the object are called reflexive. This category does not exist in English, for which structural lack the pigdin in question compensates by abusing the pronoun ("go fuck yourself"). And since we're on this topic : see also The linguistic mark of cultural failure. []
  3. It was possibly used to some degree pre-Revolution, too, but at the time budgets were not of particular concern, which is what happens in socialism once the currency is destroyed by inept policy. The exact situation is replayed by the US as we speak, in fact I would say politically speaking the US is just about to reach the maturity displayed by Romania cca 1967. Maturity in the sense of cheese, obviously, we're discussing socialism and therefore putrefaction over here. []
  4. This is a big issue with Romanians still. Consider this guy for instance : he is trying to explain that a piece of the gutter fell off, but because he's doing it on TV he perceives he needs to beef the formal up, which happens to be something he has not much practice with and no clear recollection of. Consequently his verbiage sounds quite schizoid. []
  5. Unlike the (boneheaded) US model where the teacher owns the classroom and the students rove from one to the next, school in Romania consisted much more appropriately of the class owning the classroom and the teachers roving from one to the next. It would seem that moving one person being cheaper than moving thirty has somehow escaped our (very liberal, n'est pas) friends in the colonies. []
  6. An awful translation, as it connotes way too much zergism than the original we're translating. That's the problem with words in different languages : even if what they denote may sometimes match (allegedly), what they connote never ever will. Except for the times when it does, for absolutely no good reason, just to troll. []
  7. To better understand that has to, have you seen The Caine Mutiny ?

    Lt. Barney Greenwald: Ah, you're learning, Willie! You're learning that you don't work with a captain because you like the way he parts his hair. You work with him because he's got the job or you're no good!

    []

  8. The communist middle class were called "intellectuals", went to college and became doctors, engineers and other respectables. The lower class were the proles, and the stratification implicit in this, as well as its universal quality and wide currency is for instance displayed in the film "Reconstituirea" - a 1968 black and white film by Lucian Pintilie. The story is simply this : an intellectual and a prole happen on the same beach at the time the former's beach stuff disappears. Interlude :

    GEORGE:...and then when I saw the photo I remembered where I'd seen him; the boom box incident.

    JERRY: The boom box incident?
    GEORGE: Summer of '89 I'm at the beach. This family sits up next to me. I go in to the surfs and when I come from out, my clothes, my towel, my umbrella, they're all gone. I am furious, I start screaming to these kids demanding my stuff back and finally I lose it; I grab their boom box and I chuck it in to the ocean.

    JERRY: Seems reasonable.
    GEORGE: Then I see my clothes floating out there. The tied took them out, not the kids.

    JERRY: Even more reasonable.
    GEORGE: So now, the father is screaming at me, he's demanding that I pay for the boom box. Finally, I gave them a fake address and got the hell out of there.

    JERRY: And that guy is your new boss?
    GEORGE: Until that stupid photo jogs his memory.

    Apparently people get really touchy about their beach stuff. Anyway : the local police sees no difficulty and perceives no problem in harassing the prole on the orders of the samurai, roughs him up to the point he has a nervous breakdown, after which he stabs the doctor. There's also some superficial erotic element provided by some chick that is fucking the doc but he won't marry (and worse, impregnate her) which makes her feel like a whore. Imagine - a woman having identity crises for reasons of hormonal imbalances due to nulliparity, who'd have thought! []

  9. As a funny aside : the earliest tool of that resolution would be The Oracle, a holy instrument of junior high consisting of a repurposed school notebook which contained on each page a question (written by the kid authoring The Oracle) upon which page the entire class (anonymously!) wrote down answers (with the convention that anonymous or not, they'd follow the same number throughout. Like so :

    oracol

    This was public material, and muchly favoured by girls, so as to establish which handwriting likes which boy and other topics of major interest for female maturation, sexual and otherwise. So how do you like your Facebook page now ? []

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