A very moving article in The Independent this morning details a small portion of the history of the Roma people in Europe and some of what is going on in France and Italy. It is well worth mentioning the vitriol and venom expressed within the Disqus comment thread. Some were nothing short of outright racism and I was even accused of “reverse-racism” by one John Standing for apparently not caring about ‘The English’ and not sharing their white-supremacist views. I am ashamed to show some of my international readers the hateful nature expressed by some of my fellow countrymen, comrades, I really am. Unfortunately it would be the height of dishonesty to hide it. I will leave the comment thread to the end as it really would be wrong to take it out of context.
A group of northern councils in the firing line for public spending cuts has won funding to help Roma communities integrate in Europe.
Leeds, Wakefield and a partnership of other Yorkshire authorities will lead the £1m European Union-funded project, which also involves cities in Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Italy and Spain.
This coming Thursday will mark the next steps in a move to forcibly integrate the Roma population. The Council of Europe, a group of academics, government advisers and Roma representatives, will be discussing their media-and-PR-friendly project entitled “The Decade of integration 2005 to 2015“. The idea behind this is apparently to improve their socio-economic standards of living and will entail Romany representatives all over Europe being paraded in museums and displayed like artefacts to talk about their culture to alleviate our fears. Does this seem to you as it does to me, like blaming them for the prejudices of the majority which have been vastly amplified by media hype and political vote-winning hyperbole? This initiative is understandably very low key and low funded but now that the French president, Mr Sarkozy, (who is in very real danger of losing the next election) has joined with Silvio Burlusconi in a sickening plan to eject the Romany people from their respective countries of residence. They would have us all believe that they are a grave security threat but by trying to make us believe this, they betray their own prejudices.
Dictionary definition of the word ‘Gypsy’
- itinerant: a laborer who moves from place to place as demanded by employment; “itinerant traders”
- a member of a people with dark skin and hair who speak Romany and who traditionally live by seasonal work and fortunetelling; they are believed to have originated in northern India but now are living on all continents (but mostly in Europe, North Africa, and North America)
- Romany: the Indic language of the Gypsies
It began in Italy, where the descriptive noun ‘Gypsy’ has been deemed to be synonymous with ‘Criminal’. Since the 15th century, Gypsies from the Balkans have been emigrating into Italy and the estimated population is now 180,000. Many are believed to have been sedentary for centuries. These are people with their own language and heritage and who are the rest of Europe to say that they have no right to their lifestyle even if they had chosen it? We did it to the native Americans when we stole their land and forced them onto ‘reservations’. We did the same again to the Australian Aboriginals. We should, as Europeans, take pains to not allow history to continue on this loop of repetition.
When Romania entered the EU in January 2007, it’s citizenry were given relative freedom of movement around Europe. It resulted in vast influx of immigration into Italy and a panicked realisation that they were entitled to be there. The Romany people are but a tiny fraction of this. The majority of Romany people in Europe are settled and contributing members of society but Burlusconi and Sarkozy will put an end to the progress they have made by ejecting them from France and Italy on the basis of a single principal; they are Roma. In Communist Yugoslavia, education was compulsory for all including the Roma. The Romany who were educated were then able to get jobs and improve their lives without the artificial stigma of their heritage barring them from a settled life. In Romania they were enslaved through much of the 19th century and in Italy, they remain the marginalised and easy polemic scapegoat for the country’s social problems.
During the conflict in Bosnia Italy refused to recognise a people with a nomadic history as refugees and rather than help them to reintegrate, they forced them back into being an itinerant people by making them live in camps and continual notification to quit. Is it any wonder then, that they bear those who have foisted that lifestyle upon them any resentment? Italy has not allowed them to integrate and therefore it is morally wrong for them to condemn the Romany for not doing so. The land that these camps are placed on is little more than wasteland and to pretend magnanimity by ‘allowing‘ them to stop there is dishonest to say the least.
The city of Rome did nothing to prevent unauthorised camps (of refugees they had refused to help) from appearing, beggars on the subway, strangers raiding bins, and unlicensed windscreen cleaners and the authorities seemed content to let them struggle in poverty. When, in November 2007, a wife of a naval captain was mugged and murdered in a dark lane, a Romany gypsy was the ‘suspected culprit’ so the mayor ordered the demolition of all unofficial camps and brought in a law calling for the expulsion of any and all foreigners who he deemed a security risk. Mr Veltroni is a hypocrit. He claims to be on the side of the weak and deems the weak to be those who suffer. By that reasoning he should be PROTECTING and ASSISTING the Romany inhabitants and not persecuting them further with a populist cure-all to win votes on polling day. It will not solve the country’s problems but exacerbate them, and when the Italian and French authorities realise this they will no doubt be looking around for yet another minority group to pile all their woes onto and send out into the desert.
Their intent is to make Via Idro a transit camp with a maximum stay allowance of three months. ALL of the residents have been given notice to quit so the may move the Romanians in and close the much worse informal camps. Moving one problem out to make room for another? Isn’t that what the Nazi’s did in their concentration camps to make room for each new shipment of their ‘stock’? I’m sure you’ll pardon me for noting the similarity, but ignoring it will not simply make it go away. What the Presidents of France and Italy are doing is deeply and morally wrong and they cannot be allowed to get away with it. After an outbreak of violence, the inmates of the Romanian camp were sworn to a pact of “sociality and legality” if they wished to stay. This meant they were offered the ‘choice’ between a promise to refrain from stealing and begging, and from having overnight house-guests, or to be moved on yet again. Yes, they were all assumed to be naturally corrupt and the authorities even went so far as to dictate how they should socialise. What they were offered was not a choice but an ultimatum and they are being treated as prisoners held under erroneous charges, with neither hope of parole nor release or, indeed, any fair opportunity to improve their own lives and this should NOT be happening in the 21st century.
Are we ever going to learn that when a minority is forced to scrape a living on the outskirts of society as the Roma people have, that is where they will stay? It is equally wrong to deprive them of the choices we all expect as our due. Barring them from any form of settled life is NOT the same as natural economic or human competition. The key-word here is people and we are talking about an individuals right to not be forced to live on a scrap of waste land because those of us who chose to live a ‘normal’ life have an irrational fear of those they have little or no understanding. To label every person of Romany heritage as naturally immoral is no better than claiming that those of us with blonde hair and blue eyes is a Nazi, simply because somebody else many decades ago had some twisted irrational idea of a ‘master-race’. Maybe they do have members of their clans that steal but so does every other nationality and they need to be aware that among those they demonise as ‘naturally criminal’ are children and infants.
And here we are at the Comments. 61-90 on an ‘oldest first’ filter is where you can find my comments. This is the one I replied to from John Standing, but by no means the worst of them. He was busy attacking someone else for basic human decency when I was so rude as to question his own motivation.
You are not “human and decent”. You are selfish and you don’t care about other people at all.
If you don’t know what altruism is, I suggest you check it out. Add the word “competitive” to it, while you are at it.
I don’t think that my reply was particularly harsh but I had some questions that he is yet to answer.
Does telling yourself that decent humane behaviour toward other people who are otherwise strangers is abnormal help you ease your own conscience and justify your ill-informed prejudices?
We know what altruism is and most of us don’t need to make a conscious effort not to be sociopathic monsters only out for ourselves. What your idea of ‘self-loathing’ implies is that not putting ourselves at the forefront of our ambitions is abnormal behaviour. There is no such thing as pure altruism as this defies any instinct for our own survival, but what you decry as “acts of out-group altruism” is actually a call to discontinue the dehumanising of these people. These people have been confined to camps and treated as criminals on the basis of ‘race’. They have already been subjected to centuries of harassment and persecution. What you are implying is that the discontinuation of this and the cessation of forcing an entire demographic into the same nomadic lifestyle that has, in many cases, been the source of a culture of distrust of them, is not only wrong, but selfish. It is my experience that the truly selfish often try to scapegoat their problems and mistakes rather than face up to their own part in it and find a REAL solution.
That, Mr Standing, is a disgusting and selfish attitude. I sincerely hope that you reconsider your out-moded ideas and join the rest of us in the 21st century.
I received this reply.
There is no cost that you would not ask Europeans to pay so you can cleave to your idiotic illusions of goodness and decency. You do not care whether the English survive into the 21st Century. But you care about the Yamomani. You do not care about the degradation of the English working class. But you care about black education and black employment opportunity. You do not care about the preservation of our cultural institutions such as freedom of speech and association, and even marriage and the family. But you care about Tibetans and Palestinians.
I find you totally repugnant and anti-human, and your assumption of moral supremacy, while characteristic in the extreme, to be really a mental disease.
Link to comment: http://disq.us/o0rbq
Firstly don’t presume to know me. Secondly these people have no desire to be looked after and have traditionally been either self sufficient or taken local jobs and moved on only when there was no work. For your info, I am very happily married and stay at home mum, so your assumption about my disregard for ‘family’ is just as erroneous as the rest of the utter garbage you have be spouting on this thread. You are a very good example of what the rest of us should strive hard not to become.
Secondly, don’t project your sickening racism on to the rest of us. You seem proud of your deep-seated prejudices which is all the more worrying. I refuse to get involved in an argument with a white-supremacist, fascist, bully. Nor will I get into a discussion with a close minded bigoted moral-reprobate who seems to delight in deprecating those who do not share your illusory nationalistic pride.
This is where the comments stopped. I think he went off to pick on an easier target.