* this article has not been proofread (note)

Who cares?

Caring, Control and Education in Eastern Europe

Yesterday the hostel manager here in Romania took the heater from the room I was in. Last night, I put it back, plugged it in and turned it on. I was afraid I would get verbally attacked for doing so, but I decided to take the chance because I was cold. Also, I resented her taking it. I actually walked in the room as she was taking it out but she didn't ask if I wanted it.

Now some might attack me with a question like “Why didn’t you tell her to leave it there?”

These “Why didn’t you” questions drain me.

And some might invalidate me by saying "Asking why you didn't do something isn't an attack". These invalidating comments also drain me. But who cares if I am being drained or how I feel at all? (note below)

The other day someone wrote me and asked “How could you…?” then accused me of something I didn’t even do.

The other night I asked a 17 year old who had twice tried to kill herself who she feels the cared about by the most. She said “no one.” Some might invalidate her feelings by saying something like she is exaggerating, but I wouldn’t. I would send her a hug… that is if we were chatting. But in this case we were sitting in the same room. It is, sometimes, easier to show you care when you are chatting. I couldn’t get up and actually give her a hug. Well, I could have but a) someone might have gotten the wrong idea and b) she probably would not have accepted a real hug.

I feel bad now for not showing I cared in some way, some even more tangible way than just listening to her and asking questions. Even though I just met her I suspect that I care about her more than anyone she has ever met. I spent about 4 hours talking to her. Most of that time I was listening. I would guess no one has ever listened to her for that long in her life. But I would have easily listened another 8 hours if she had been free to stay and talk. But she was told by her school authorities that it was time to go. Although she is very independent and unafraid of being punished, she still obeys many of their orders because she wants to go to a university and she knows she needs a high school degree. This gives the school authorities the power they need to sufficiently control her. By sufficiently, I mean to the degree that is acceptable to them and the government. I feel quite sure, though, thatthe school authorities would like to have even more power and control over her if it were left to them to decide.

I have written before about caring and control. I just realized that if you have never had someone truly care about you, it is likely you will try to compensate for this unmet need by trying to feel in control of something or someone. It is easier to see this being in Eastern Europe.

In Eastern Europe it is quickly obvious that the people in Moscow didn’t care about the people in countries like Bulgaria, Estonia and Romania. I have spent enough time in these three countries to see how the system works, in its dysfunctional way. It worked in some ways. Factories did produce things. People did have just enough to eat most of the time, although food was rationed in some cases, and there were enough police and soldiers produced to keep things minimally functioning for a long time. But the people who had the power didn’t care enough about the people they had power over.

Now if we jump to countries like the USA and England, I can say that the same thing is true. I mention these two because I know them well and because they are both still very influential in the world. But I would say their power is declining. Like the decline of the Roman Empire. It depresses me to see what is happening to the young people in the USA and England. It depresses me so much that for my own health I need to stop thinking about it so much, and instead focus on something I feel more hopeful about influencing. It hurts me too much to see something happen and feel powerless to stop it. So at some point I have to look away. Look away or walk away.

One thing I do have, which my young friends under the age of 18 don’t, is the ability to walk away. To leave. To leave a painful environment. And to travel in search of someplace less painful. A place where more of my needs are met.

Getting back to the place I am in right now, it is clear to me that the hostel manager doesn’t care much about me. I am just a passing traveler. This hostel has plenty of customers. The owner is interested in making money. That is the most important thing. I am too insignificant to matter. I am too different. I am not someone who just goes to a hostel for one or two nights and spends the majority of my time drinking, partying, laughing, and sleeping.

Last night I was literally locked in my room. I know the manager well enough to know she won’t really care. She knows I will be gone soon and someone else will come to replace me. So she doesn’t have to care. She doesn’t get paid to care. Who does?

Do teachers get paid to care? Do parents?

What happens when a society has too many people controlling others and not enough people caring about others?

For the answer to that question you can look at what is happening in the USA, since we get so much news from there, and you can travel through Eastern Europe to see what the Communist system did. You can see it in the crumbling buildings and the empty faces.

In Eastern Europe, as everywhere really, it is only the children who are more often smiling than not. But the differences in the faces here are more pronounced. You can see the effect of the Communist system in the eyes of the older generation. They are what you could call the walking dead.

I will leave this hostel today. I will try a new one. I left another one last week where I didn’t feel welcomed or cared sufficiently about. Where I felt over-controlled. One day I may tell stories from that hostel, but I won’t now because I will be returning to it and it is possible someone from the hostel will read this. I will just give one example, because it hurts too much too keep so much inside.

One day I was in the kitchen and one of the workers walked in quickly and said “Come with me.” I felt a little surprised by this but decided to go see what he was talking about. Then he took me to the door and showed me how to lock and unlock it. He said he had seen me trying to unlock it the night before. So he gave me a small lesson on it. It wasn’t necessary at all. I had already figured out how to unlock it myself. I didn’t tell him that though. I let him think that he was helping me and I appreciated him telling me.

Looking back I wonder why I was so obedient. I wonder why I just followed him when I didn’t know where we were going. I wonder why I didn’t say “Come with you to to where?” I suppose it is because I was conditioned to obey the voice of authority, or you might say any and all authority figures. So, since he was the hostel manager, even though he is half my age and much less experienced in life than me, I obeyed him when he ordered me to follow me. And it was an order. It wasn’t a request. He didn’t say “Could you come with me for a minute?” He just said, “Come with me.”

So why did I obey him? Was I afraid of disobeying him? Did I believe he would show me something that would help me? Did I somehow think he cared about me and was using his authority to help me? Is this what we are supposed to think? Is it what we are conditioned to believe? That people control us because they care about us?

I never really bought into this concept. I was always a bit of a rebel. I never liked school, for example. There was way too much control. I didn’t realize at the time there was too little caring. But now I am “wiser”. I see things more clearly. It is almost impossible to miss in Eastern Europe. What is frightening is how similar the Communist system and the Capitalist System really are though. And how similar the education system is in both.

I have spoken to several teachers and professors here. There are two points I want to emphasize:

1. The educational system here now is nearly identical to that in England and the USA (see note about one exception)

2. The educational system here in Eastern Europe has not changed much since the Soviet era.

I’d say that is really something to think about.

S. Hein
Brasov, Romania
April xx

3. Note about freedom in the high schools here.


I would say teenagers are more free in Eastern European countries than in the USA or England. The punishment for disobedience and not attending school or classes is less severe here in Eastern Europe, for example. There is usually less control. The parents are not always immediately called if a teenager doesn't go to school. Teenagers can hug each other, they can use their cell phones in the school, etc. The 17 year old I mentioned who tried to kill herself twice also told me that if a teacher tries to take away her cell phone she refuses to give it to them. In the USA and England I suspect such an act of defiance would end up in severe punishment and probable expulsion if repeated.

A teen's response to this

Note about who cares how I feel.

As I think about it now I feel most cared about by two teenagers.Both male. That is interesting in itself since when I started talking to self-harming teenagers I used to feel cared about by more females than males. My explanation for this is that the females tend to feel more resentful when I don't fill enough of their unmet emotional needs. I can tell when they start to feel resentful and stop feeling appreciative. This decreases my motivation to voluntarily help them and then things understandably fall apart relatively quickly. This is one reason I need someone to help me. Ideally, I would feel cared about by someone who is not a teenager, but so far this hasn't happened for one reason or another. I definitely need a person in my life who cares about me and won't abandon me. Not having such a person is the main reason I often feel suicidal. Or simply put, feeling almost completely alone.


i am physically and emotionally drained right now. i cant read this once more. but i want to post it cuz if i dont post it now it might never get posted. if u would like to proofread this i would appreciate it. thanks. steve