The songs of Leon Rosselson will be familiar to many an old lefty. His best known is probably The World Turned Upside Down, a tribute to the Diggers of mid-17th century England which has been covered several times (by Billy Bragg and Dick Gaughan amongst others). Of his thousands of other songs (the man is prolific and remains active even today, well into his late seventies) few, however, will be immediately familiar to those not brought up with his work. Our personal faves (and recommendations) include the rueful Wo sind die elefanten?, the hopeful Postcards from Cuba and the hilarious We Sell Everything. Yet it’s another Rosselson song which has been in our minds this past week: Palaces of Gold.
A bleak, sparse song, its premise is rather simple: if politicians and the like had to send their children to state schools, those state schools would rather quickly, magically turn in to palaces of gold. Likewise, if politicians had to live in social housing, that social housing would rather quickly, magically turn in to palaces of gold.
We are well aware of course that it’s not quite that simple, but the sentiment is a worthy one.
We were reminded of Palaces of Gold this week after seeing the level of public outrage over the death of Bogdan Gigina, a motorcycle outrider who was killed last week while accompanying interior and vice-prime minister Gabriel Oprea home, allegedly from a restaurant. Oprea has yet to give a full explanation for the incident, so much so that Romanian President Klaus Iohannis has called on him to resign (he won’t). As the week has gone by, and the extent to which Oprea has abused the privilege of his office has become public knowledge, there has been a groundswell of anger from ordinary Romanians. One source has claimed that Oprea – who is officially entitled to use a police escort only when on the most urgent business of national importance – has benefited from an escort more than 1500 times so far this year. Basically, any journey the man makes, he does so with a police escort.
And he is not the only one. While – according to the law – only the president, prime minister and the speakers of both houses of parliament are entitled to police escorts, it has emerged that many ministers and even the head of the Romanian orthodox church, Preafericitul Daniel, regularly use police escorts to avoid congestion. Because traffic jams are for us, the little people. And here lies the rub.
If there were no police escorts at all, if every politician and public dignitary had to sit in traffic like the rest of us: how quickly would Bucharest’s roads magically turn into palaces of gold? If Oprea, Ponta, Iohannis, Daniel and everybody else had to sit for hours on the DN1 on a Sunday afternoon, how quickly would the motorway from Ploiesti to Brasov – less than 100 kilometres – be built?
We can dream on. For instead of being shamed into action, an emergency ordinance issued by the government of Victor Ponta this week in fact increases – quite considerably – the number of politicians who will be allowed to use police escorts.
They are all total shits. It’s no wonder they bring out our inner communist.