Mr. Benea, regrettably, is not in. Yes, our 12 p.m. interview was on the calendar, and certainly he appreciates that it was a hot three-hour train trip from the Romanian capital city of Bucharest to Slobozia, a forgettable little transit town halfway to the Black Sea. But Mr. Benea is, um, at an important meeting. Very busy man.
The lobby of the Hermes Land Hotel is as deserted as the set of a long-canceled television show. The parking lot outside does not contain a single car. Well, we tell the girl shrugging through her shoulder pads at the front desk, we'll just pass the time by walking around the fantastical premises.
In the mid-1990s this mini-resort, sitting in one of the poorest and most forgotten corners of Europe, was profiled by The Hollywood Reporter, the Chicago Tribune, Newsday, and The Dallas Morning News, among other news outlets, because of its you-gotta-be-kidding-me gimmick: The entire hotel complex is a nearly exact replica of the South Fork Ranch from the television show Dallas, down to the length of the entrance road in that famous opening shot. Built by a reverential post-Communist cheese tycoon named Ilie Alexandru--the "J.R. of Slobozia," who among other colorful boasts maintained that he was a longtime personal friend of George W. Bush--Romania's "SouthForkscu" was an easy symbol of the Wild East capitalism that sprang up from the bones of Nicolae Ceausescu's murderous regime and a reminder that the unlikeliest scraps of America's surplus popular culture can provide potent inspiration to the global oppressed. Romanians of newly acquired means could come here and see their small-screen dreams come to life, ride polo ponies, even fire off a gun or two.
But that was then. By the summer of 2004, the polo field was choked with three-foot weeds, the swimming pool was drained, and the paddleboats lay rusting in the sun next to a stagnant bilge-water creek. Alexandru, like many would-be J.R.s of the 1990s, was rotting in jail on a 12-year sentence for various frauds and forgeries (his threats to "bring down the entire political system" by revealing high-level corruption apparently came to naught), and the new owners had rendered the main ranch house almost unrecognizable with a coat of bright yellow paint. Desperate to attract traffic from the nearby two-lane road, they plopped onto an adjacent cornfield a 132-foot replica of...the Eiffel Tower.
Back in the grim lobby, we are informed that Mr. Benea will be at his meeting indefinitely. Fine, we say, we'll just wait. After another 45 minutes of shrugging and sighing, with not a single customer or visitor in sight, the girl finally picks up the phone, hisses out a few sentences, and then as if by magic a gray-faced man in an ill-fitting polyester suit emerges reluctantly from the door behind her desk. Mr. Benea regards us warily through rheumy eyes, lights up a chemical-smelling Eastern Bloc cigarette, and proceeds to not answer a single question about his property or the Russian holding company that owns it. No, he can't tell us when the pool, disco, or "Texas Hotel" wing will be completed. Sorry, he won't reveal such sensitive information as his occupancy rates. Yes, that includes for tonight.
It takes about 60 seconds to realize that this mid-'90s symbol of Romanian capitalism has, in the early 21st century, become as archaic and communist as the system Romanians are desperately, and at long last successfully, trying to leave behind.
From muddy farming villages to wired urban centers, strands of anecdotal evidence are weaving themselves into an intriguing movement potent enough to topple a government, put corrupt ex-communists on the run, and inject optimism to a long-bleak country. And it gives the rest of us an object lesson in what happens when an authoritarian tries to starve his subjects of popular culture--the kids will eventually seize the very tool employed to keep them down, and use it as both a political weapon and economic engine.
Larry Flynt's Gangstas vs. Post-Commie Hacks
Back in the capital, things looked much different than in Slobozia. Though school was out and the cool kids were at the seaside, Bucharest was still swarming with giant packs of brightly (and scantily) dressed young people, spilling out of patio bars and Internet caf�s, or just stomping merrily down the busy, pockmarked streets. As a well-traveled diplomat from the U.S. Embassy told me, with a tinge of bitterness, "This is the most youth-obsessed culture I've ever seen."
The younguns had more reason than usual that season (June 2004) to celebrate. The hated Social Democratic Party (PSD)--successor to the Communists, misruler of post-Ceausescu Romania for 10 of the last 14 years, and most grievously the ally and ringleader of violent rural miners who periodically invaded Bucharest in the early 1990s to crack student skulls--had, only a few days before, suffered wholly unpredicted losses in local elections across the country, especially in big cities and university towns. An alliance of two center-right parties, the Liberal Democrats (P.D.) and the National Liberal Party (PNL), had made surprising gains by campaigning against the blatant corruption of the PSD's notorious "Local Barons," a specifically Romanian breed of regional tycoons who leverage their multiple political posts to enrich their own companies and punish their enemies. Unapologetic, J.R. Ewing�style corruption, as noticeable as the stench from Bucharest's open sewers, has long been identified as Romania's single biggest obstacle to catching up with the civilized world.
Like every Romanian governing party since World War II, the PSD, led then by longtime president and former Communist hack Ion Iliescu, tried to manipulate television to influence the elections. Private TV stations that had been coasting along without having to pay taxes or even electricity bills were now getting visits from the feds, and those who offered positive coverage found themselves with fat government advertising contracts from state monopolies such as the country's lone international airport. Just prior to the June 20 ballot, the federal censorship body issued a ruling that media outlets were prohibited from so much as covering candidates criticizing their opponents. In a heavily rural country of 23 million residents scattered across a territory twice the size of New York state, where subsistence farming is the norm and villages count themselves lucky to have paved streets and plumbing, the practical effect of the TV crackdown was to mute half the nation's only source for political information: the terrestrial, state-owned television stations.
But in the urban centers, where there was cable and satellite TV, there was a way around the restrictions, in the unexpected form of original music videos. In the 30 days leading up to the election, and especially during the final 48-hour blackout, two of the most heavily rotated spots on the handful of 24-hour Romanian music channels were defiantly anti-government hip-hop songs. Ca$$a Loco, a goofy, Beastie Boys�inspired three-man rap/R&B group, posed as sleazy, mafia-looking candidates from a familiar-looking political party called "PDS" for a song called "I'm So Happy That You Failed." And an edgier, more acerbic crew known as Parazitii (The Parasites) eschewed satire for a more direct hit, entitled "Jos Cenzura!" ("Against Censorship!"), featuring a music-free, one-minute guest monologue from...Larry Flynt.
"Uh, I can't believe that, uh, Romania, being a country that should have learned from the past, is still exercising censorship," the Hustler publisher croaked in the middle of the heavily rotated video, wearing a suit behind a desk under an American flag. "Nothing worthwhile can come of this. And people have an inherent desire to be free, and they're gonna be free--if not with the existing government, a new government that they will put in their place."
"Man!" laughed Parazitii manager Gianiny Munteanu, recalling the stunt just after the elections. "I mean, you really need balls to do that in Romania!" Like many Romanians younger than 30, the Parazitii boys are less enamored of J.R. Ewing than their elders, and contemptuous of the wannabe oligarchs who mistook his rancid wheeler-dealing for proper capitalism. "Corruption is the big problem here," Munteanu said. "And it's not just the politicians. People in the street, the older generation, my parents. I cannot explain to them many things. Because they lived like 50 fucking years in communism--what can they expect?"
The youth-fueled June 2004 local elections scrambled the country's political calculations, giving liberals crucial momentum heading into the November 2004 national vote. (In most of Europe, especially the post-communist part, liberal means anti-statist.) When the dust settled last December, Bucharest mayor and Liberal Democrat chief Traian Basescu was the new president, and the National Liberal Party's Calin Popescu-Tariceanu was prime minister. For only the second time since Ceausescu's Christmas Eve execution in 1989, commie-hating reformers ran the country, thanks in part to the voting habits and cultural activity of a new generation that knows more about gangsta rap than Dallas. The fat, oligarchical J.R.s of the Social Democrats have yielded, kicking and screaming, to a scrappy collection of entrepreneurial Eminems.
J.R. vs. the Evil Empire
There are three things Romanians don't want to talk about with foreigners: vampires, orphans, and Dallas. A proud and insecure country, painfully aware of its own bad press, Romania has come to resent its clich�s--the child-slavery and prostitution rings; the stray dogs roaming through every large city (an artifact of Ceausescu's horrific late-'80s campaign of "systemization," in which historic neighborhoods all over the country containing priceless buildings and hundreds of thousands of residents were impulsively razed, forcing people to move suddenly into new lodging that frequently did not allow pets); the seemingly daily bizarro headlines ("Priest Unrepentant After Crucifying Nun") that wind up in places like Ananova.com and Yahoo!'s "Oddly Enough."
But like most clich�s, all these contain thick chunks of truth. There is a deep-rooted pre-Christian belief in some regions of this millenia-inhabited country that the dearly departed occasionally haunt and even kill their surviving family members, at least until their dead hearts are pulverized by a stake or perhaps cooked and eaten. (I once spent a weekend in a small southern Romanian village, where the locals at first denied vehemently that there was any such thing as vampire-type creatures...well, except for the neighbor's uncle, whose heart had to be burnt and drunk down with tea; and, oh yeah, the father of the gardener who comes here from time to time, etc.) Orphans, too, are in ample, glue-huffing evidence on the streets of Bucharest, and cross-border adoption politics (which find the U.S. and the European Union at bitter loggerheads) have been a persistent thorn in Romania's diplomatic side.
But unlike the undead and the unparented, Dallas actually played a tangible role in the overthrow of Ceausescu and the celebration that ensued. So much so that J.R. portrayer Larry Hagman has appeared in Romania frequently as a Stetson-wearing pitchman for the Russian petroleum company Lukoil ("The Choice of a True Texan"). "People from Bucharest come up to me on the street with tears in their eyes saying, 'J.R. saved our country,' " Hagman told People magazine in 2000. Media-savvy Romanians will still deny at first that they ever really paid attention to the nighttime soap, but after a few shots of tuica, the hair-singeing national plum brandy, they'll enthusiastically volunteer obscure story arcs from Season 3 or sing playground rhymes they invented about Bobby and Pam. Women lusted after the Ewing ladies' clothes and enormous kitchens, and men thrilled to the idea of having the freedom to make or break their own fortunes. "Whoever decided to show Dallas," award-winning 38-year-old film director Cristi Puiu tells my wife, "was an idiot who deeply misjudged the people."
The real story of how Dallas came to Romania has never really been told properly in English. According to Hagman, "Ceausescu had put three hours on TV--two were of political speeches, and one hour was an episode of Dallas--to show the corruptness of America. The people saw that and said, hey, why don't we have that? So they took him out and shot him." That's colorful and fun to believe, but it is not true.
In fact, the dictator's manipulation of television was a telling example of how even the most Stalinist of rulers can't rebottle the genie of popular culture once it's been let out--or, more precisely, in. Romania, many people are surprised to discover, wasn't always an audio-visual backwater. On the contrary: From around 1965 to 1980, "it was a Golden Age," says Alfred Bulai, deputy dean of the Political Science Faculty at the National School of Political Studies and Public Administration.
"After the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968," Bulai reports, "Ceausescu understood--correctly--that he could be an important person in this region." So the Romanian leader broke with Moscow, condemned the invasion, and became the West's favorite Eastern Bloc dictator, rewarded with a state visit from President Richard Nixon in 1969, most-favored nation trading status in 1972, and even an honorary knighthood from the Queen of England in 1978. As part of this lucrative arbitrage between world powers--a game Romania and neighboring Bulgaria have played for centuries--"we were very open to Western culture," Bulai says.
State television in this period became both a showpiece and an agent for change, easing restrictions on content, hiring young writers to create spools of original programming, and importing top-quality movies and series from the U.S., Great Britain, and France. Romanian teenagers studied abroad and came home to spread news about the various countercultural ferments around the world, and that attitude spread to the airwaves. "It was very dynamic, showing another mind, another way of thinking," Bulai says. "The public television was very fresh."
So fresh that in 1971 the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) ranked Romanian TV No. 6 on the entire European continent. "To be the sixth country in Europe by these criteria," says Ion Ionel, deputy chief of programming at Romanian TV, who was part of that new wave--"oh! It was very good to know!" Ionel is the man who brought Dallas to Romania at the tail end of this mini-glasnost and heroically kept it on the air even after Ceausescu slammed the window of opportunity shut.
The still-cherubic programmer came across the first few episodes of the series at an international trade show soon after its American debut on April 2, 1978, and was immediately smitten. "The public must see this TV!" he recalls thinking. "Finally, there's something thrilling, something beautiful!" The show's acidic take on Texas capitalism helped smooth it past Romanian TV's chief censor, but Ionel claims this didn't play a role in his own enthusiasm. So after a little creative editing of a hay-loft sex scene between Ray Krebbs and Lucy Ewing in the pilot episode, the first season of Dallas premiered in Romania on August 25, 1979. The country went nuts.
"People were very happy, because nowhere around the communist countries was there a series like this!" Ionel says. Streets would become totally deserted on Saturday evenings, when J.R. plotted his schemes. Women tried to style their hair like Sue Ellen (whose alcoholism was sometimes edited out, since it wasn't considered proper for ladies to drink). In a country where the waiting list for crappy Dacia cars stretched as long as 10 years if you didn't know the right person to bribe, the series offered what Bulai calls a "very nice image of the world."
With wild popularity came government suspicion. "Television was becoming powerful, and Ceausescu was paranoid about power," Bulai says. By the spring of 1980 a little birdie up in the censor's office warned Ionel that the ideologists thought the series "propagated a petit-bourgeois mentality" and were on the verge of pulling the plug. At the same time, Ceausescu became obsessed with the country's runaway debt to Western banks and started introducing draconian measures to keep Romanians from purchasing foreign-made products, down to raw materials. The TV schedule was rolled back to save scarce electricity, and international programming was deemed too expensive.
Ionel had to act fast to keep Dallas on the air. He and an accomplice inside Romanian TV came up with an elegant plan to take advantage of the new austerity: sign an absurdly long-term contract with the international distributors of the series, and then when Ceausescu's hammer inevitably fell, insist sadly that the precious hard currency had already been spent. They gambled that the dictator's mania to squeeze maximum value out of his dwindling foreign purchases would override his desire to keep capitalism out of Romanian living rooms.
First, though, Ionel had to convince Dallas' global sales rep to sign an extraordinary, nonstandard contract with a faraway country that was paying only around $400 to $500 an episode, without even being able to explain the reason why, for fear of being found out.
"I called every hour, 'Please send me the contract, now now now!' " Ionel recalls. "He was so, so, so, so, so--I don't find the word in English--so furious against me. 'I don't want to work with you, or with Romanian TV, because it's not the kind of normal partner!' " And indeed, the rep did break his relations with RTV and Ionel. But not before reluctantly signing a 40-episode extension. "A day or two days after this," Ionel says, "we got the order: 'Stop Dallas! Stop Dallas!' " But it was too late for the censors.
In all, 71 episodes of the series ran, until the contract expired at the end of 1981. What started as a runaway hit during a protracted era of openness became the last flicker of light in a period that soon went almost completely dark. By the end of the 1980s, Romanian TV was down to a measly two hours a day, four on weekends. News was a brief daily tool to nurture Ceausescu's cult of personality (he was a keen student of North Korea's Kim Il Sung), and viewers could count themselves lucky to see a horribly truncated Yugoslav "western" on Saturday nights.
But the series lived on in the popular imagination, and occasionally via illegal homemade aerials, which allowed TV-starved citizens to tap into the programming of nearby Bulgaria, Russia, and Yugoslavia. (Crowds would gather outside of the office of Bulgarian Airlines every morning, waiting for employees to post a TV schedule on the window.) Occasionally, some bureaucrat would slip up and allow other brief, tantalizing glimpses of Western culture.
"Dallas, it was an experience, but don't forget the
music," filmmaker Puiu says. "In 1983 or so, a counselor of
Ceausescu decided to open a disco inside the National Theater,
the Intercontinental Hotel. The disco was great, with TV screens everywhere, and they showed the British Top 10 video clips of Duran Duran, Depeche Mode. We had never experienced such a thing. It was like going West. It was so packed, it was very hard to get in. Inside you could drink vodka with Pepsi Cola, that you couldn't find anywhere. It was crazy. It was the West. They decided to close it soon after--perhaps a political decision. But after we experienced this, it was impossible not to dream of the West."
By December 1989, when almost all of the communist Eastern Bloc had given way to largely peaceful democratic revolutions, Ceausescu's continued throttling of the airwaves became too much to bear. "Television for the Romanian people was some kind of Bastille, the symbol of the Communist power," Bulai remembers. "This is the reason why in the days that followed the people wanted to take over two buildings: the former Communist Party building, and the television building." The Romanian Revolution began in earnest when Ceausescu made the mistake of appearing on live TV to speak about the violent crackdown on political protesters in Timisoara, allowing the whole country to see his panicked expression when an angry crowd howled for his blood. Days later, Romanian TV broadcast images of the Ceausescus' bullet-ridden carcasses.
One of the first programs the newly liberated state television broadcast was the pilot episode of Dallas. This time with the sex scene left in.
Nicole Kidman Rides Ceausescu's Bus
Ceausescu's bus is not exactly how you'd picture it. Unlike his monstrous Parliament--reportedly the second largest building in the world, in which you can almost feel the blood of the labor-camp dead trying to seep out of the pure white marble--there is no megalomania immediately evident in this souped-up silver bullet of a vehicle. The appliances and doorways are brightly colored and even charmingly retro-modern, like a '70s Romanian twist on Jetsons-era science fiction, and even the securitate cabin seems tasteful.
Of course, there have been some add-ons since the dictator died, most noticeably a ring of clown lights around three large new mirrors in the main room, over a shelf crowded with hair gel, powders, and grooming tools. After years serving as a mobile home for Europe's worst tyrant of the 1980s, this bus is now the main make-up trailer for Castel Film Studios, one of two production companies that in the last decade have helped transform Romania from an audio-visual wasteland into a preferred destination for Hollywood's "runaway production." Elizabeth Hurley's autograph decorates one wall, and Nicole Kidman got her nose powdered here during the shoot for Cold Mountain. "When we heard this was going to be auctioned," Castel Marketing Director Bogdan Moncea says with a wolfish grin, "we just had to get it."
Castel, founded in 1992, has 200 full-time English-speaking employees, six soundstages (including what Moncea claims is the second largest in Europe), special-effects facilities, and a big chunk of forest to play with on the outskirts of Bucharest. Besides Cold Mountain--which saved $20-30 million on an $80 million budget by shooting in Romania, according to statements by director Anthony Minghella--Castel has midwifed Seed of Chucky, two forthcoming Wesley Snipes pictures, and more than 100 other feature films, ranging from straight-to-video Dracula pics to French talkers starring Gerard Depardieu. The studio also produces 130 commercials a year, mostly for European companies; watching the Euro 2004 soccer tournament, Romanians could notice that generic Euro-wide commercials for deodorants and yogurts were all using Bucharest backdrops for spots that had to be dubbed back into the local language.
"Romania is interesting for several reasons," Moncea says. "A very obvious one would be cost saving. The labor here is very inexpensive compared to other countries, including the Czech Republic or Hungary. It's around 30, 35 percent cheaper than the Czech Republic, or even more now, and I expect this gap to increase a little bit more. And locations here are really wonderful. Many of the natural beauty was preserved in Romania. You'll find huge forests untouched, like 100 years ago, like 200 years ago, or fields, or even cities, medieval cities. You should go to see Timisoara, for instance: That's a medieval city still inhabited, people inside, not like a museum like you find in Germany or elsewhere."
And Castel's not the only game in town. MediaPro Pictures, the film wing of the powerful post-Communist media conglomerate MediaPro, which owns newspapers, news wires, television stations, and more, bought out most of Romania's state film studio, Buftea, in 1998, and has since produced such films as Cave, Madhouse, and Costa-Gavras' Amen. The latter production used Ceausescu's Parliament as a stand-in for the Vatican; the Romanian government has even kept some of the decorations from the movie intact, since they invariably improve upon the original. Everywhere you look, the dictator's once-immovable legacy is being defaced and beautified by the leading edge of global popular culture.
Romania's sudden incursion into the global film industry is significant enough to have the previous recipients of Hollywood's bargain-hunting wanderlust scrambling for state subsidies. "Will [Toronto] Film Biz Get Groove Back?" asked a March 2005 Toronto Star headline to a story that fretted about Romanian influence. "Not now, but in five, maybe 10 years, if the government does not get involved, countries like Romania could compete with Prague for big movies," Stillking Films' Matthew Stillman told The Prague Post in January. Romania's many advantages also include the fact that, unlike the Visegrad countries and the Baltics, it is not yet a member of the European Union, and therefore has less restrictive labor and environmental laws.
"Romania is scheduled to join the E.U. in 2007; personally, I think that's optimistic at the moment," Moncea says. "Even after that, Romania will still be very competitive in terms of prices. So arguably, we still have about, maybe five, seven years [of] opportunities, big opportunities here in Romania, to develop this sector, and I think we will."
Shooting J.R., Once and for All
As I ride a hot, diesel-puking bus from downtown Bucharest to the MediaPro lot, all this talk of competition and modernity seems far-fetched at best. Single donkey carts hauling sad lumps of hay are enough to snaggle traffic for miles along the two ill-maintained lanes. Drivers who combine the hot-blooded temperament of southern Italians with the shabby engineering of southeastern Europe and the inexperience of American college students (most Romanians have learned to drive in the last 15 years) careen violently to and fro over heavily congested roads with bunker-sized craters. Roadside Gypsy encampments wait for traffic to die down before hauling their clear-cut forest wood to the next village via 1840s-style covered wagons.
The two liberal parties in the new coalition are already at each other's throats, with Prime Minister Tariceanu offering, then withdrawing new elections and his own resignation, in the wake of disastrous spring and summer flooding that killed more than 30 people, and because the Constitutional Court blocked some elements of the long-overdue anti-corruption and justice reform law. Still, President Basescu rammed the legislation through in July, clearing the single biggest hurdle to European Union accession; he has announced plans to finally crack open the securitate files, fired scores of corrupt local cops, launched high-level investigations into the previous government's involvement in the miners' riots, and introduced a 16 percent flat tax. After the successive scourges of totalitarianism and J.R. Ewing�style oligarchy, Romania is wobbling ahead in the right direction.
"It's going to take 50 years," a senior American diplomat from the U.S. embassy tells me. "They're joining the E.U. in 2007, but that will be about 10 years too soon." I heard a dozen variations on this theme during my month in Romania, mostly from middle-aged Western expatriates who had been living there for several years already and felt burned by previous upticks in optimism, notably the liberal coalition government that muddled along disappointingly from 1996 to 2000. "What you really need is to get rid of the 7,000 to 8,000 people who really run the country," the diplomat says. "Young people? They're clean; they don't have a past."
But they have one hell of an interesting future. On the sweaty bus to MediaPro is a team of handsome young men in their 20s shuttling back and forth from building sets on Cave. They make gentle fun about the complaining Americans, talk unabashedly about the joy of learning new skills and mind-sets, and express hope that at least some of them will be making Romanian films in the near future.
That's not far-fetched at all. "In the middle '90s, Romanian productions were almost [at a] standstill, zero," Moncea said. "And now, last year there were 11 or 12.... [This year] two young Romanian directors won, one in Berlin and one in Cannes, the award for best short films. So it's coming back up."
Pop culture, once beaten down to virtual nonexistence, has now become a valuable export. In the summer of 2004, the Moldavian-Romanian boy band O-Zone scored Europe's No. 1 pop and dance hit, the unbearably catchy single "Dragostea Din Tei," which topped the charts in at least 27 countries and sold more than 8 million copies. (You've probably heard it--think relentless Euro disco, and the phonetic phrase "Numa numa yay.") And popular gangsta rap bands like Parazitii, despite suffering greatly from domestic piracy and the censorious ways of the National Audio Visual Council (which banned one video simply for the reasonable couplet "alcohol is life/life is alcohol"), have still managed to sell nearly 1 million CDs since Ceausescu was shot.
Unlike the 1989 generation of anti-communist students, these twentysomethings didn't taste the clubs of miners, didn't help overthrow an odious tyrant, and didn't worship at the altar of a 1980s TV show that glorified a morally corrupt business tycoon. "We were more into Seinfeld," Parazitii manager Munteanu says. Not to mention foul-mouthed 1990s Compton rap sensation N.W.A. "You really need freedom to do this kind of music, you know?"
But their revulsion at corruption, coupled with a government that shares it, offers serious hope that post-communist Europe's red-headed stepchild will finally emerge from its long, dark shadow and create a country far more free, successful, and interesting.
"On a recent and fairly rare venture into Bucharest's club scene, I looked at the trendy crowd and felt for a moment that I could have been in Manhattan or South Beach," said former U.S. Ambassador Michael Guest, who led a daily crusade against Romanian corruption during his three-year tenure, in an exit interview with the monthly magazine Vivid, one of nearly a dozen English-language publications in Bucharest. "Then a series of young people brought me back to reality, stopping one by one at the table to thank me for speaking [out]....Those who think they're getting away with corruption are just fooling themselves. A new generation is coming, and it will demand, and indeed create, change."�