Curtain Raiser

They’re Going for the Witches, Colltalers

As the world economy continues to falter, the rounding up of the usual suspects and the open hunt season for scapegoats got underway on both sides of the Atlantic, with reason to suspect that much of what’s going on south of the equator and in Asia is also linked to this new age of going backwards.
In the U.S., despite a bruising and ultimately failed attempt to hijack the government, the Tea Party continues its puppetry act over the GOP, and poor Americans brace for yet another round of vicious slashes on Social Security, Medicare, the Food Stamp and other federal programs.
That, compounded by errors plaguing the Affordable Care Website, overwhelmed by demand from millions whose states still refuse to provide health coverage, has taken away any momentum President Obama and the democrats could have enjoyed in the aftermath of the government shutdown.
In Europe, the hunt has been directed to the centuries-old Roma, an ethnic group that’s so far managed to ward off attempts at cultural genocide, paying a heavy price for it. Mythical outcasts, with layered and cross-referencial traditions, they are now indistinguishable from the world’s poorest.
Also known by a misnomer, the Gypsy, as it was believed they’d come from Egypt, not India, the Roma diaspora had been all but contained for most of the 19th century in what’s now Eastern Europe. Two world wars though helped dislodged them and forced them to continuous migration.
It’s hard to think about any worldwide event that haven’t affected negatively the Roma. Pretty much every war of conquest, change of borders, independence movements that took place in Europe in the past century has had only one role for them to play: that of the displaced scourge.
Being an essentially nomad community has helped them to maintain a loose, underground network that preserved at least part of their rich but still untapped cultural heritage. But when push comes to ethnic cleansing, first thing ‘local authorities’ usually do is to go after the Roma.
The latest and yet familiar reawakening of anti-Roma sentiment, instigated by Europe’s fascist and ultra-right conservative groups, was initiated, of course, by the spectacularly misguided austerity push of the past five years, orchestrated by the leadership of the European Central Bank.
Anchored by bad economics theories, and a savage defense of the euro, it’s caused an unprecedented wave of extreme poverty in the region’s weakest economies, and the complete erosion of the social contract that guaranteed the political and social stability of many nations.
And yet, despite having driven Greece to bankruptcy, and Spain, Portugal and Ireland, to name but the worst case scenarios, to a nearly unsustainable level of public indebtment, unemployment, homelessness, and hunger, the ECB shows no signs of changing direction.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because many of the ‘ideologues’ of these tough love policies have found fertile ground in the U.S., and produced, not surprisingly, the same results. The president didn’t help either, with his timid growth policies and a cabinet full of Wall Street economists.
But in Europe, the Roma are, once again, the easiest target, aggravated by rampant xenophobia and an immigration crisis exacerbated by racial hatred. Despite all that, the lowest blow was perpetrated by an until then unsuspected source: France’s President François Hollande.
Deemed a moderate, Hollande presented himself as an alternative to his predecessor Nicholas Sarkozi’s flashy center-right bravado, but had been quietly continued the same immigration policies ever since. That is, until he stepped smacked at the malodorous core of the racially-tinged battle.
When a few weeks ago, the French police stopped a school bus and took a 15-year old girl of Roma origin straight to deportation, along with her family, it ignited a public uproar, but it was merely a continuation of the country’s currently hostile sentiment towards immigrants.
Pressured by France’s dismal economic growth, the rise of the far-right, and by his own constituency, Hollande made then the decision that many see as the unfortunate signature of his government: he allowed the girl, Leonarda Dibrani, to go back to France, legally, but without her parents.
Such disastrous, thoughtless intervention, which was promptly rejected by Dibrani and pretty much everyone in France, left and right, may have stunned Hollande, but we wouldn’t lose our sleep over it. Much worse is what’s once again already happening to the Roma.
In fact, the consequences of discrimination and unfair profiling of the group in France and the U.K. have already spread out, with repercussions as far as Ireland and Kansas City, Missouri, where some believe a baby who disappeared years ago may have been abducted by Gypsies.
In raid after raid, that ‘expert’ in genetics and anthropology, the ever-so-careful immigration police, sounded the alarm that an inordinate number of blue-eyed children have been found living with the Roma, who, still according to such scholars, must have only brown-skinned children or else.
Thus began an yet another nauseating round of racial profiling, as the children were separated from their parents for costly DNA match studies, in most cases, only to conclude that they were indeed children of their parents. With one exception, so far, which opened another Pandora box.
When authorities raided a Gypsy camp in Greece, they found ‘Maria,’ a blue-eyed girl living with a couple, and took her away, because her parents failed to provide papers for her. That got people in Kansas all excited for absolutely no reason; the girl’s biological parents have since been found.
A Bulgarian woman provided the DNA match for the baby she had had in Greece but gave away, because she couldn’t afford to raise her. Now the focus is whether she sold the baby to the couple, a costume the Roma has been chastised for practicing, but it’s not unlike the Indian dowry system.
While the parents got indicted by Greece on charges of abduction, another development has been reported: in Dublin, the police took another blond girl from her Roma parents, under the same racist assumption, but had to return her back once it was established that she really was their daughter.
In the kind of needless heartbreaking story tabloids love so much, the McCanns, a British couple whose three-year old daughter Madeleine disappeared in Portugal in 2007, are said to have ‘hope’ that their case will be finally solved. Someone should tell them, but it won’t be us.
And even more disturbing, that kind of approach to complex issues of ethnicity and government policies, by the way of trivializing family ties based on unscientific assumptions, serves as a distraction from the main point about the xenophobic fever taking over Europe.
It may be particularly cruel to the Roma, as it is to the elderly, the poor, the dispossessed, refugees, and the hordes of immigrants crossing one border to the other, hopeful with no base on reality, that they’ll meet a better fate than the often war and poverty ravaged territories they’ve left.
For it’s the forced choice of the lesser evil that austerity policies, racial profiling and indiscriminate fascism that’s the real heartbreak in the world we’re living today and that any person with a working moral compass and a progressive sense of human decency should never put up with.
If by now you’re slightly depressed or borderline disgusted, Colltales has once again operated its miracle. Of course, we could be talking about much more heartwarming stories, instead, such as surveillance or voting rights, but somehow we’ve decided to lighten up today. Hope you do the same and enjoy the Halloween ahead. WC

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12 thoughts on “Curtain Raiser

  1. Hi…I’ve been visiting your blog a bit…and I very much like what I see! I also thank you for you visit and following Migration-X3. It will be a pleasure following you too and even re-blog some of your articles on my other Blog ”Partager la Magie – Sharing the Magic”. So, I’ll be seeing you soon!

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  2. willowdot21 says:

    Why must there always be a group of people a race even who are persecuted. Sadly it has been this way for time in memorial . The list grows, The Jews, the Gypsies/ the Roma, the Irish, the Aborigines,the Native Indians , the Black nations ( fancy just the colour of your skin??) the Mauri, and so it goes on. I am guilty too.

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    • colltales says:

      Some ‘justify’ it with a, ‘it’s human nature,’ and a chuckle. I simply don’t buy it. Thanks for the input. Wesley

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      • willowdot21 says:

        what ever the answer it is wrong we are all the same , aren’t we, aren’t we.?

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      • colltales says:

        We are, indeed.

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      • auntyuta says:

        Isn’t it simply a question of who owns the land? If you own land, you think this is yours and you do not want to share it with other groups. Why are humans so possessive? Isn’t the earth big enough for all of us? Why do some people have so much and others miss out? You can say it has always been like this and it is human nature. However with education (also in a moral sense) and good use of technology nobody has to miss out anymore. This does not mean we should all own the same amount of things. But every human being should as a birthright own enough to be able to survive in a decent humane way without fear of persecution.

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  3. auntyuta says:

    We were visiting Berlin last year. In front of a museum one Roma Woman made lovely music on her guitar and we gave her a small donation. On another day a Roma woman approached us, begging for money. When we didn’t give her anything, she kept following us asking us whether we spoke English. We just did not like to be followed like this. It was very difficult to stop her from following us without giving her any money. We thought it was our decision whether to give her money or not. We did not want to be blackmailed. Indeed, we felt blackmailed and did not like it. We did not want the woman any harm, but we did not want to be followed by her. I ask myself now, was this unreasonable? I feel very sorry for all people who have no home country. I wished everyone on this earth had a proper place to call home or the means to travel around and be shown proper respect. I so love Roma music and dancing. I like the way Roma people look and dress. They have a wonderful temperament. I wished Roma people could be recognised as artists by everyone and be recognised as entertainers. I absolutely hate that they have to resort to begging. Are they really that desperate or is this just their culture?

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  4. Here in Andalucia, which has been a home to Gitanos, or Gypsies, for centuries, we have the spectacle of the self-hating Gitano raising its head.

    Some years ago, when a classmate of my partner’s nine-year-old daughter was reminded of her rich, Gitano heritage, she became angry with her teacher for using the word, treating it as an accusation and denying it.

    The media have done their job by continually portraying the stereotype we all know, and I remember from my own childhood in the UK. This stereotype in turn, ghettoises and impoverishes the victims and becomes a self-fufilling proclamation. At the same time, tourists are presented with images of Spain, such as flamenco dancing, that are taken directly from Gitano culture, and not Spanish culture as a whole, while failing to mention it.

    Romanians and Roma have now also become targets here. We now have Romanian Roma unwilling to admit they are Roma unless you are a trusted friend. Not that it makes a lot of difference, as many ordinary Spaniards are understandably confused by the terms, with many prejudiced against both groups because of the negative stereotypes portrayed by much of the right-wing media. I am speaking from experience with Romanian Roma. I have to say this does not apply to all Spaniards, the majority of whom are both helpful and friendly to all foreigners. How long this will last, with unemployment and homelessness growing at a terrifying rate, I don’t like to think.

    As you point out, the alien culprit scenario suits the powers that be only too well as they try to pitch one against the other to distract from their own huge failings.

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  5. The Tea Party and the Christian Right have not hijacked the government but they have hijacked the Republican party. They vote in droves and raise the money that insures the Republican Party will nominate jerks that could never win election. They are more interested in ideology than governing and their obstructionist ways will continue to hamper progress.

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  6. WordsFallFromMyEyes says:

    Reblogged this on WordsFallFromMyEyes and commented:
    As Halloween presents, the Roma continue to live their everyday horror of (dis)placement in this world. Eloquent as ever, CollTales speaks.

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  7. WordsFallFromMyEyes says:

    Love that expression “the usual suspects”. It’s so true.

    Like your expression “When push comes to ethnic cleansing” – I just like the way you phrase things, Wesley. I really enjoy your works.

    The Roma seem such a horribly, horribly persecuted group of people. How CAN any one of them step out of it and be a part of general society, when there is such deep distrust and ill sentiment. I really feel for these people, and don’t understand what is the reason of this continuance, unchange, cruelty. It never even hit the news, at least not here in Australia, about the 15yo girl deported. DISGUSTING, UNJUST. What can I do?

    My God, I am so guilty. I thought the little girl in the photograph was not of the Roma parents too. I thought it suss too. I thought they had taken her from a white skin blue eyed loving couple, for sexual deviance. I am so guilty of that. Excellent article, Wesley.

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