After all these years of “covering” Romania-related issues, it really doesn’t give me a whole lot of satisfaction to find out, once again, that I was right.
In the domestic media (here in Romania) for some reason there is never any coverage about Nigel Farage, the UKIP or all of the fearsomely waged internal politics going on in Britain about the upcoming rule changes that will allow Romanian (and Bulgarian) citizens to freely travel and work in the UK in 2014. In fact, when I threw together my little video I Don’t Care, I Love It very few Romanians had ever even heard of this guy.
Yesterday however I saw it all come to a head in an article from The Guardian (UK), saying that “slandering” Gypsies in Britain isn’t courageous but actually “racist”.
This follows on the heels of a British MP warning of “explosions” and riots once the restrictions are lifted and a supposed “flood” of Romanians are going to come to Britain, all of it being code for Gypsies, not Bulgarian or Romanian citizens who plan on going to school, working or opening companies in Britain.
The author’s article is rather plebeian and simplistic (as are virtually all editorials in the Guardian) but it’s especially interesting reading the more nuance and applicable replies by readers in the comment section. Here’s one:
For decades the Communists forced ‘integration’ on Roma people. They forced education on them. They forced them into guaranteed jobs. It failed. Indeed, the Communists invented the crime of ‘Parasitism’ specifically for those Roma who refused to work under any circumstances.
With the EU came money and Roma families found themselves moved into new and better housing. I’ve been inside of these homes, where wooden structures have been ripped out and burned and where rubbish is simply thrown into the stairwells and onto the common areas in front of the apartment buildings.
Any rational person that puts aside their ‘liberal’ prejudices will conclude that aspects of Roma culture are indeed defective. For example, many of the families that my mother-in-law works with praise their children stealing.
The problems that exist within Roma culture create problems for Roma individuals, families and communities. The tragedy is that ultimately, they create communities that are incapable of supporting themselves.
Consequently, wherever they exist, these communities cause resentment and yes, ‘racism’ from their neighbouring communities, creating a viscous circle that makes everything worse.
The way to help the Roma is not to deny these problems are caused at least in part by Roma culture. The cultural factors exist and must be confronted.
You might remember that I wrote about this exact same thing in The Self-Hating Gyp.
In another reader comment on the Guardian’s website we get this:
It’s a very complicated issue. In Poland we organized a community centre and nursery for Roma children. When taking a tram with them you could see negative reactions from the public towards them, which in turn made the kids more hostile. People were commenting on their behaviour which to be honest was not challenging.
Furthermore the kids at home are not encouraged to go to school, girls are to get married very early etc. Often they end up in schools for kids with special needs due to poor attendance in regular schools. I think what government needs to focus on is having all the kids registered from this community and monitor their school attendance.
Of course I addressed this issue at great length in my article Black and Blue.
Keep reading the comments (which are far more enlightened and tolerant than those on other British media sites such as The Daily Mail which is fomenting an actual Crusade against gypsies) and you’ll see further proof of what I said: the truth is that some elements of gypsy culture are fundamentally incompatible with the rest of European culture.
- You can’t have a culture (mainstream Europe) that says stealing and thievery are morally wrong and a co-existing culture (Gypsies) that say stealing and thievery is morally justified.
- You can’t have a culture (mainstream Europe) that says littering and throwing garbage everywhere is morally wrong and a co-existing culture (Gypsies) that says it is permissible.
- You can’t have a culture (mainstream Europe) that says literacy and schooling is important and a co-existing culture (Gypsies) that say literacy and schooling are unimportant.
- You can’t have a culture (mainstream Europe) that says voting in elections is critically important and a co-existing culture (Gypsies) that says voting and political organizing is a complete waste of time.
These are four hugely important elements in which one culture has one value and a second, smaller culture within has fundamentally opposite values.
Interestingly enough, European cultures have about 500 years of history of dealing with fundamentally incompatible cultures, whether we’re referring to the Incans, Aztecs, Native Americans (of the USA), the First Peoples (Canada), the aborigines (Australia) or anyone else.
In every case, the “solution” was exactly the same:
- All incompatible governments (tribal councils, tribal courts, chieftains, rajas, etc) were declared invalid and only the European governmental institutions, laws, rules and authorities were declared valid.
- Force everyone to dress like Europeans
- Incompatible religious beliefs were outlawed and everyone was forcibly converted to the reigning European religious beliefs
- Native children were forcibly schooled and taught European values and European languages
- Kill anyone who resists (genocide)
These were all acceptable methods up until the end of World War 2 so the “problem” for modern Europeans is that none of the above are still permissible. Note, if you will, that the commenter who organized a nursery for Gypsies in Poland wants mandatory schooling and monitoring, about the only possible option left.
In every earlier case, the “Black” elements (those which contradict European culture) of native peoples were wiped out and only a few token “Blue” elements were left, so nobody cares these days if aborigines in Australia make a few sand paintings or Hopi Indians weave a few blankets.
Europe, and Britain specifically, has to make a difficult choice. They either have to return to their past habits of obliterating foreign cultures and use the police to force gypsy children to attend school and learn European languages and grind out all elements of resistance until a few old drunks sit around the campfire and sing traditional songs for the amusement of paying tourists, all of it under the “enlightened” banner of integration OR…
They’re going to have to find the space for people to be different, that child brides and little boys learning to steal and garbage strewn everywhere and loud shouting discussions and illiteracy and different clothing and begging are okay. Not okay for me, or for you, but for them.
It’s that last part that’s the hardest: acceptance. I myself can’t even understand why I am so tolerant of gypsies when I have zero desire to emulate their lifestyles or beliefs. I hate it when people shout and I don’t want anyone stealing my stuff. I not only love reading books but also writing them and yet I have no problem hanging around with completely illiterate gypsies. I don’t want my (theoretical future) daughter getting married at age 12 but I have no problem if a gypsy family wants to do it. I guess the answer is that I believe there’s room for all of us to be who we are.
And yet people still call me racist.
Well all I can say to that is I’ve found a way to peacefully co-exist with gypsies with neither side having to change who we are, so good luck to the people of Britain (and other countries) in the future!
8 thoughts on “Told Ya So (Redux)”
Sure Gypsy culture has some harmless elements. Flamboyantly decorated houses, music and language. No one is telling them they have to give those up. But it also does have some unaccepted elements, mainly the stealing and the child marriage. Did anyone ask that little girl if she wanted to be married? What about the people getting stolen from? Would you really expect the police to sit by while that happens?
Still I don’t think the gypsies can entirety themselves be blamed for their actions, as they are just trying to make money and get by in the only way they know how. Child marriage to either get a profit or ease the financial burden of parenting. Stealing as one of their few methods of making a living. It makes sense after hundreds of years or marginalization, and their enslavement in the middle ages (a factoid the Romanian history books have conveniently forgotten.) Yes that’s right. I came across this fact reading the history of India that people from Pakistan invaded india and displaced the local population either as refugees or by selling them as slaves. Then later on I read from two other sources Some of these slaves were sold to Wallacia and even Vlad Dracula himself. How else do did get Romanian last names if they are from india and don’t intermarry with Romanians?
So in sort I do think compulsory education would in fact help them, mainly by allowing them to function more easily in society and opening up employment opportunities for them that were unattainable before. They can still be gypsies. They can still have their colorful houses and music and Roma language. They will just more educated, ones with more ways of making a living and this in turn will ease the financial burdens that cause them to steal and marry off their daughters for money.
As a British person living in Romania,I probably should not comment on Romanian policies,but here goes anyway,the Roma it seems to me do nothing to counter predjudice against them they never respond to any sort of overture and make no attempt to throw of the shackles of thier clan leaders who use them in thier various criminal enterprises,furthemore they besmirch the name of Romania and other Eastern countries by their behaviour,in the west,so until they themselves address this nothing can be done except control them as much as possible to limit the damage.
As for the odious Mr Farage and his party UKIP in Britain,he has an entirely different agenda,he wants the UK out of the EU at any price (including the price the British people will have to pay if he gets his way) ,he scaremongers on the subject of Eastern European immigration because with high unemployment and costs of living in the UK at the moment its an easy target (beleaguered people always look to put blame elsewhere) ,if this bunch ever get to power (unlikely thank God) they would destroy our institutions like the National Health Service and other welfare organisations,the financial world would have no oversight and would run rampant lining its pockets,labour would be supplied on the cheap flooding in from the far east,minimum wages laws revoked,and our country devastated in the name of making the rich richer and we would have no protection from Brussels and indeed may become the pariahs of Europe,the government we is bad enough,if the Tories ruled alone they would be no better and more dangerous,they are laying the ground work and stirring up anti European sentiment already,I wish my countryman would ask themselves this,whilst ordinary honest hard working people from this part of Europe have to jump through all sorts of hoops and restrictions to enter and work (and pay taxes) in the UK,people like the Roma (largely undocumented) and literally thousands of people from Pakistan,Somalia,The Sudan etc can come and go as they please with all the troubles they bring to the ordinary public (ie the non rich) eg terrorists ,criminal gangs etc.
Why bring in pseudo-economic and political babble into this interesting view on different cultures cohabitating? Please spare us the political propaganda.
On topic, i see a parallel in france with two widely different cultures cohabitating (european and n african muslim) with very different belief systems…. Causing friction in some cases.
Good grief, he brings it in because ‘political and economic babble’ as you call it is *fundamental* to dealing, coping, with different cultures. Unless you just put up a big damn fence and keep one of the cultures inside it.
May I say, also, from my own experience of decades past, that I have found ‘gypsy’ people (NOT Irish Travellers, NOT EE Roma (who hardly existed here until recently) fundamentally decent people who actually preferred to live with as little contact with the gorgios as possible, and kept it friendly.
No need to have written the lengthy article…The pic and title would have been enough-Priceless!
Where do I start?
This is a topic on which I will never agree with you and, what’s more, I find that this kind of ideas should be combated. I think it’s a kind of ‘good willed racism’ that in an ideal world, where people are individually generous and tolerant, could work, but in practice would take Romania to a ’50s US-style segregated society. Furthermore not we’re getting enough terrible ideas from the US about neo-liberal free market capitalism, we don’t need the racial theories as well.
To counter your arguments here’s a thought experiment:
Assume, by some miracle, every Romanian citizen is afforded a decent house (wherever they may want it), enough money to buy food, to go to school, to send their children to college and became blind to the tone of other people’s skin. Ask yourself, in two generations time, how many people would still beg, steal, refuse to send their kids to school (the penalties for not doing so would remain the same), marry off their daughters for money?
Personally I cannot see how the percentage of people that would fit the ‘gypsy culture’ that you perceive would not diminish considerably.
This culture that you assign to ‘gypsies’, I’m guessing by the color of their skin (or what is your criteria?), is a product of hundreds of years of exploitation, poverty and xenophobia. Fix those without taking away the language and whatever customs they might have (I don’t know about any, I only know ‘Romanianized gypsies’) and you’ll have fixed 95% of the problem.
Do you know anything about gypsy culture? Their purity laws? Their beliefs? Culture is a lot stronger than lifestyle.
Well, you seem to forget that those were natives, in your examples, whilst the gypsies came from wherever they came, late, to stay parasites – even though at first they were used as slaves, they’re free for over a century and a half :). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romani_people