Bulgarians - Angry, but Faithless
As temperatures drop, it will be harder not to see them – the homeless and the poor. The storms will tear through the cloak of statistics and once again an abstract problem – discussed in percentages and demographics – will become a gaunt man, a toothless woman, a pair of sad eyes.
Last year, just before temperatures dropped, trade unions and opposition forecast that social tensions will escalate and break out into the street once the winter sets in.
The storm came in February, when protests against high electricity bills eventually toppled the government of Boyko Borisov.
The storm was over, but doubts about the spontaneity of the unrest continued to linger, prompting many people to view Borisov's resignation as the PR move of a coward.
This year doomsayers raised their voice again and with a much better reason, at least at first glance.
On the one side of the fence, thousands of protestors have been rallying in the capital Sofia calling on the government to resign and end the "reign of oligarchy" for more than 150 days already. Students have chained and padlocked doors at Bulgaria’s largest university. Scuffles have broken out with riot police as anti-government protesters tried to block off parliament.
On the other side of the fence, Bulgaria's power-crazed government is tightening its grip on power.
But social unrest is concentrated exclusively in the capital. Outside Sofia, despite the deterioration in living standards, there is a widespread lack of political consequences and social activism.
This is an amazing phenomenon due to the omnipresent apathy, „nothing will change” mentality, the decline of trade unions and the lifeline that migrants' remittances represent.
Yesterday an unusually intelligent taxi driver in a small, sleepy town explained to me that the 'sleepyheads' outside the capital are hoping that the ''alerts'' in Sofia will start the revolution. He fumed that the protests are not powerful and radical enough to make any impression on the government. The young man went as far as to say it may take some blood shedding for the changes to start. Only to add that all his colleagues share his gloom and anger, but release it only verbally in the company of their family and friends and most often after one drink.
But even in the capital the government seems to be on the safe side. On Saturday, when political arch rivals staged simultaneous protests, showing the government does not have qualms about running the risk of making the situation really explosive, it seemed that escalation of violence can't be avoided. To top it all off, the football match between Sofia's rival teams Levski and CSKA was on the same day, their fans known to be arch enemies.
Even then the situation did not go out of control.
Bulgaria's civil society is young, but already faithless. This stops it from acting with determination when a tumor appears in its body, probably thinking the fever makes the cold appear more sinister than it actually is.