The four days I spent in Bucharest were four of the most interesting yet challenging days of my professional life.
On an education level while speaking at the Bucharest Medical Center, I found the Bucharest dentists to be extremely erudite, well educated academically but not clinically in many of the things that we do in America. They did not have the access to the materials and technology that we had but they kept up through their voracious reading of the literature. I was amazed at how well they spoke English. They challenged me, entertained me and amazed me with their broad range of interests and knowledge.
The city of Bucharest was a totally different story. Following nearly four decades of totalitarian Communism, being in Bucharest was like entering a black and white movie compared to the beautiful city of Vienna which was in Technicolor. The streets were dirty, buildings were run down, and the people seemed depressed. The city was almost without a sense of life.
I was warned when I reached my hotel that I should be aware that since the fall of Communism, crime had been on the upswing; I should be aware of dealing with many changes and thieves who would prowl the hotel.
As forewarned, the opportunity to be accosted came soon enough and when trying to exchange money in order to make a purchase in Romania, I got into a tug-of-war with one of the money changers who was obviously trying to steal my money. I won the battle but it was not a pleasant experience.
Upon my return to the U.S., I was anxious to read about changes occurring in Eastern Europe following the lifting of the Iron Curtain. With great interest, I read an article written by a Czechoslovakian psychiatrist who was discussing the rising crime in Eastern Europe as the yoke of totalitarianism receded. The psychiatrist believed that with every culture, a small but significant number of a population are sociopathic; she labeled it at 5%. With the elimination of the totalitarianism and strict controls, that the sociopaths came out of the woodwork with a vengeance all over Eastern Europe. Many of the more successful sociopaths in those cultures became members of the government and served the dictatorship well where as those who were not so fortunate became petty criminals and began to prey on the population. This all brings me to Charleston 2015; the horrific violence resulting in the death of nine beautiful, spiritual people at the hands of a deranged sociopath reminded me of what I had read in earlier years about sociopaths amongst us.
If indeed the psychiatrist's opinion is correct that 5% of the population is sociopathic, that would add up in our country in just the adult population to a range of 5-10 million sociopathic adults. It's no wonder then that we see people like Mr. Roof embracing racist doctrine and acting upon it.
We struggle mightily trying to understand the motivation behind those who give wings to their hate at the expense of the innocent. Sociologically, politically, and economically, we wring our hands trying to understand these people who are in our midst. However for me, it all harks back to that 5% rule. The SS in Nazi Germany found that 5% served them well in concentration camps. Stalin found that 5% served them well in Stalinist Russia. Thanks for our free society, that 5% can easily manifest itself in the crimes that permeate our society, our cities and our churches.
In summary, the lessons of Bucharest were meaningful to me on a professional and intellectual level and still ring with me on a spiritual level as we confront the dark side of our nation.
Dr. Victor M. Sternberg, D.M.D., PC