|Caption in NYT 4/4/13:|
"'When communism fell,' a Roma man told the photographers,
"You had to be dumb not to make money."
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD
Published: October 17, 2013
The Roma, sometimes called Gypsies, have been part of the European cultural landscape for centuries. They have also suffered greatly from discrimination and prejudice, particularly in times of economic crisis, when they become scapegoats.
That is happening now. Faced with stubbornly high unemployment and strained budgets, some European Union members are finding it easier to stigmatize and expel Roma than to provide them with the education, housing and employment they seek.
Exactly how much do Gypsies "seek" education? John Updike wrote in 2004:
Gypsies must be the only significant ethnic group in France that actively discourages literacy and encourages truancy. Compared with them, the embattled immigrants from the Muslim world are models of aspiration to bourgeois order and enlightenment.
But who cares about facts? The NYT editorializes onward:
In London, a Roma camp was dismantled over the summer and most of its residents sent back to Romania. In the Czech Republic, Roma children are still routinely segregated in schools. In Sweden, revelations that the police kept a secret registry of Roma families touched off a national storm.
You can just tell by looking at Swedes that they're all secret fascists, just like the English and the Czechs. (I mean, didn't the Czechs have something or other to do with the Nazis in 1938?)
The Roma’s impoverished living conditions and inability to get legitimate jobs reinforce stubborn stereotypes of a people forced to live on society’s margins.
In other words, the Roma have no agency. They aren't human, they are automatons who never choose anything about their lives and thus share no responsibility for their behavior. At least according to the Editorial Board.
France’s interior minister, Manuel Valls, has said the lifestyle of Roma from Romania and Bulgaria is so different that most cannot be integrated into French society and must be expelled.
His comments have been criticized by other officials, and Amnesty International has condemned France’s numerous deportations. On Thursday, there were protests in Paris over the deportation of a Roma girl, who was pulled off her school bus. But Mr. Valls’s tough stance has earned him high ratings among many French citizens.
Discrimination against the Roma is a direct violation of the E.U.’s Directive on Racial Equality and its official policy on Roma integration. Viviane Reding, the vice president of the European Commission and the E.U. justice commissioner, has severely upbraided France for violating E.U. rules protecting the free circulation of individuals. Her office warned that France faced E.U. sanctions over its treatment of the Roma. ...
With important municipal elections in France scheduled for next spring and the far-right National Front party on the rise, the actions of the Socialist government against the Roma look like political pandering. France’s president, François Hollande, needs to confront his interior minister, come out strongly in defense of the Roma’s fundamental rights and join other nations in helping them secure the education and jobs they need and deserve.
By DAN BILEFSKY
PARIS — THE cluster of Roma, handcuffed and caged-in behind glass walls, listened in silence as prosecutors accused them in court of selling child brides for up to about $270,000 in cash, valuing them based on their ability to steal. In a case that has riveted France, the prosecutors accused three family clans from Croatia of grooming girls and boys as young as 11 to steal as part of a gang that committed 100 robberies in France, Belgium and Germany in 2011.
One 20-year-old witness told the court he had stolen about $600,000 in cash and jewels for his parents, or more than $7,000 a month, since age 13. Less skilled thieves could face punishment, including beatings by Roma elders.
All but one of the 27 accused were convicted on Oct. 11 in Nancy, in eastern France, of forcing the children to steal, and received sentences from two to eight years. At the top of the network was a 66-year-old grandmother.
|Black dots represent 50,000 Gypsies|
The case highlighted an increasingly rancorous debate here and across Europe about what some politicians call, rather ominously, the “Roma question,” a reference to the nomadic people, also known as Gypsies, who came from India to Europe centuries ago. An estimated 11 million are scattered across Europe.
At a time of fiscal austerity, policy makers are raising a thorny question: after centuries of persecution and living on the fringes of society, can the Roma ever integrate into Western Europe?
This month’s trial only intensified that debate when members of the defense team offered an unusual legal defense: rather than focusing on the argument that the Roma are forced to resort to crime because of poverty and discrimination, it claimed that in some cases they were simply following age-old Roma traditions and generally operate outside the norms of society in “the style of the Middle Ages.” ...
Alternatively, they are an extreme example of where the world is slowly heading. Berkeley historian Yuri Slezkine argued that Gypsies are "Mercurians" who increasingly thrive because they don't bother with old-fashioned stuff like farming and soldiering. That may sound nuts, but consider how much Gypsies have prospered in the post-Cold War World. For example, like lowbrow versions of Marc Rich, many got in on stripping metal from Eastern European factories.
“It is very difficult to interpret their behavior based on our own 20th-century standards,” Alain Behr, a defense lawyer who represented two of the accused clan chiefs, explained by telephone from Nancy. “This community crosses time and space with its traditions, and we in Europe have trouble to integrate them. Yet they have preserved their tradition, which is one of survival.”
While not condoning the thievery, Mr. Behr said that what prosecutors had characterized as the practice of selling child brides was, in fact, part of a centuries-old tradition of Roma dowry.
But Gregory Weill, the prosecutor, dismissed cultural explanations. He noted that when investigators descended on the ringleaders’ hometown in Croatia, they discovered the family’s imposing marble houses. In the clan’s caravans in northern France, he said, police officers found Mercedeses, Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses and Louis Vuitton purses.
Here are 20 photographs of rich Roma taken by Jesse Newman and published in the New York Times last April 4th.
... “Someone in the Middle Ages would not be able to launder money amassed by children,” he said. “They may have grown up in Eastern Europe. But they perfectly understood Western values. They were criminals."
It's not hard to come up with a Hegelian synthesis of the theses of the defense and prosecution: Gypsies have a culture of crime.
Livia Jaroka, a Hungarian anthropologist who has studied the Roma and is the only Roma member of the European Parliament, maintains that decades of discrimination have resulted in endemic unemployment, extreme poverty, low education levels, segregated housing, human trafficking, substance abuse and high mortality rates. She argues that assimilation into Western European culture does not require abandoning Roma traditions as much as overcoming age-old stereotypes and investing in education, jobs and health care.
“The cultural explanation for Roma criminality is nonsense,” she said in an interview. “It is about economics.”
But critics counter that rights come with responsibilities and that throwing money at the Roma is futile, unless they fully commit to integration.
One glimmer of hope is in Spain, which has some 750,000 Roma, nearly half under 25.
My vague impression is that Gypsies in Spain are more like blacks in America, a highly musical if troubled community, but not one in which parents routinely instruct their small children in crime. Why that is is vague. I've seen it attributed to General Franco promoting Gypsies as central to Spanish culture as part of his campaign to lure tourists, but I suspect there's much more to the story.
In general, it's difficult for countries to take serious steps to reform the predatory Gypsy culture under the prevailing climate of victimism.