What can unite Bulgarians at this moment of desperation with the unbearable corruption in Bulgaria after 30 years of trying to transition from an oppressive totalitarian regime to developing democratic processes with the rule of law and a more just and equitable civil society? What is the path beyond the pervasive disillusionment with the European Union, which, for all its constructive support, has adopted a passive stance and an absence of effective control on the disbursements of European funds, and has in fact strengthened the power of mafia and violence in our country?
Perhaps it is time to ask ourselves the question what makes our country so weak and subject to the lowest forces in society?
For me, who left my land 30 years ago to seek bigger horizons and to return, like my grandfathers, with something useful learned – that is the loss of understanding of human nature and of society. For Roumen, who has been following closely the protests over the years and now – that is the absence of a unifying vision of what kind of leaders we need and what strategy can really transform our country.
In recent decades, ruthlessness became a standard. Selfishness and violence, and contempt for basic human values, made clear how low we can get without genuine spirituality.
Spirituality is not expressed in religious arguments and competition for control, but in the quality and depth of consciousness, which allows us to recognize and respect the soul in every person, as well as our interdependence on this small planet. Spirituality is expressed in our choices, in the clarity of the standard that guides us, as we seek to express our higher nature.
We have become so accustomed to arguing and each pulling toward themselves, that we forgot that human nature is fundamentally spiritual, and things only work to the extent that they stand on that foundation.
Are we looking for leaders and overall strategy that embody the above principle?
The current protests show that the majority of people are not indifferent to the fact that our country has become lawless, and that arrogance, crudeness, and violence have become the standard of governance. Fears about who and what comes next cannot stop us. Each nation builds the society it wants. After 30 years of the rise and fall of hopes for a genuinely democratic civil society, which escalated in an even more deeply corrupted state, the situation is critical.
At such historical turning points, it is important to act decisively. Progressive and responsible Bulgarians need to unite – not in a new political party but in a consultative process addressing the question what kind of future leaders do we want, where can we find them, and how can we support them.
Future leaders need to bring a healthy blend of youth and educational experience abroad (at universities, jobs, and international projects), and the social experience, maturity and resilience of the middle aged Bulgarian citizens who worked hard in Bulgaria and survived the transition of the past 30 years, preserving Bulgarian culture and spirituality. Our generation, which lived through the beginning of the transition in 1989-91, the protests in 1996-7, and who welcomed with hope Bulgaria’s entry into NATO and the European Union, cannot drive the social transformation now – but it can support many aspects of the process ahead.
We have to stop making our choices from the point of view of choosing ‘the lesser evil’, and we need to start looking for collaborators with whom we can build – a long and difficult process, but a necessary one if we want a better future for our children.
The world around us is changing fast. We are shaken by cataclysmic events, which call on us to awaken and to search for the change needed first within ourselves: to stop digging into the past, to ground ourselves in current reality, and to seek constructive solutions. It is time we recognize that we are part of a global society, and to change our culture in the direction of respect for people and of working together for sustainable democratic solutions.
We have to begin with leaders with integrity, and to keep building on a clear spiritual foundation that unites. We can lean on systematic research on what strategies effectively counteract corruption.
Finally, we conclude with a quote from the Bulgarian director Galin Stoev: “we need people that project their ideas onto the next 100 – 200 years, so that we know what we want for Bulgaria, and whether we want Bulgaria to exist then.” 
Authors: Roumen Banov and Elena Mustakova