Saturday, September 04, 2010

Gypsies in France 

AP reports from Paris that thousands are protesting the new steps taken by the French government do deal with the Gypsy population.
Thousands of people marched in Paris and around France on Saturday to protest expulsions of Gypsies and other new security measures adopted by President Nicolas Sarkozy's government.

Protesters blew whistles and beat drums in the capital, the largest demonstration among those in at least 135 cities and towns across France and elsewhere in Europe. Human rights and anti-racism groups, labor unions and leftist political parties were taking part in the protests.

They accuse Sarkozy of stigmatizing minority groups like Gypsies and seeking political gain with a security crackdown. They also say he is violating French traditions of welcoming the oppressed, in a country that is one of the world's leading providers of political asylum.

The protests mark the first show of public discontent since the conservative Sarkozy, a former hardline interior minister, announced new measures to fight crime in late July.

Sarkozy said Gypsy camps would be "systematically evacuated." His interior minister and other officials said last week that about 1,000 Roma have been given small stipends and flown home since then.
Sarkozy's father, Pal Sarkozy, was born in Budapest in 1928, and was from a family "belonging to minor Hungarian nobility," so he probably had a certain approach in dealing with Gypsies. (Full disclosure: my mother was also born in Budapest). Magyars, especially the nobility, had little use for the Roma or Gypsies, who were considered to be ethnically different, did not speak Hungarian, and were perceived as troublesome because of their itinerant lifestyle (not unlike the "Tinkers" in Ireland). For people born in the post-WWI era, some Roma who based themselves in the mountains (and were not necessarily ethnically Romanian) were a reminder that the Austrian-Hungarian Empire was no more, and the Magyars no longer controlled Carpathia, which the Treaty of Versailles had carved out for Romania. Many ethnic Hungarians still live in Carpathia, and Bram Stoker's late 19th Century vampire novel "Dracula" -- the title character being a Hungarian nobleman -- takes place there. (Not all Hungarian noblemen are vampires, and certainly other cultures have their own vampiric traditions. But I digress.)

So, has Nicolas Sarkozy inherited what may have been his father's negative predisposition toward Gypsies? There is certainly a belief among sociologists and others that prejudice can be passed down, as children hear their parents express poor opinions of certain groups. Or, is this simply a case of the head of government trying to deal with a legitimate crime and security issue? Are the protesters trying to redefine the concept of national sovereignty as it relates to citizenship rights for a permanently and trans-nationally mobile ethnic minority with a bit of a PR problem?

Contemplate those questions as you listen to Brahms, Hungarian Dance No. 5, performed by the Budapest Gypsy Symphony Orchestra, and a "Hundred Gypsy Violins."


By Blogger Bomber Girl, at Sat Sep 04, 06:39:00 PM:

Given the nature of gypsies, it is hard to fathom how they gathered for that (brilliant) performance. It seems counter-cultural. Sarkozy and his measures, not so much.  

By Blogger dr kill, at Sat Sep 04, 09:43:00 PM:

This comment has been removed by the author.  

By Blogger dr kill, at Sat Sep 04, 09:44:00 PM:

But it's fine with the frogs that the North African muslims destroy their society. Hard to understand, that.  

By Anonymous Sally, at Sun Sep 05, 09:27:00 AM:

Gypsies have been persecuted for centuries and no one's ever given a flying leap one way or the other so this is an easy call for Sarkozy.

Had to laugh at that line about France's "tradition of welcoming the oppressed." Really? Maybe if you were a Russian aristocrat after 1917. Other than that, not so much.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Sep 05, 12:15:00 PM:

Gypsies have for centuries carried on with what the surrounding culture considered "antisocial behaviour", that is a fact whether it is approved by the tolerance police state or not.

It has been a dilemma for their neighbors who established rules of law, property rights, and norms of behaviour that the Roma people did not feel the desire or need to conform.

Now that the EU has opened borders, gypsies are no longer concentrated in Eastern and Central Europe, as they migrate West.

Now the multicultural, tolerant, politically correct Western Europeans must face the reality of traditional gypsy activities in their own back yards, and they do not like what has transpired.

Now they feel the need to react, but have not resolved the contradictions between PC tolerance and their daily frustrations with what seems like out of control adolescents running amok amongst them, and not capable of being restricted to the banlieus like the North African muslim immigrants.  

By Anonymous Marja, at Sun Sep 05, 01:07:00 PM:

Not necessarily ethnic Roma, but definitely Romanians. My country (Finland) has been having that problem for a few years now. They come in the spring, ostensibly to beg and to work, but they also steal and commit other crimes (+ use all the social services help they can get). They say they are poor people who can't make a living in their own country, but there are quite a lot of rumors that they, or at least some of them, work for organized crime. Who knows.  

By Anonymous Marja, at Sun Sep 05, 01:15:00 PM:

And by the way, my country already has an old and somewhat integrated Roma population. Some of them profess sympathy for the Romanians, some don't.  

By Blogger Assistant Village Idiot, at Mon Sep 06, 01:01:00 AM:

Marja - Roma does not equal Romanian. Latvians are not Lapplanders, and Finns are not Fijis. Odd that Europeans, who live much closer to the situation, frequently make this mistake that Americans tend not to.

The Roma have kept to their old ways, perhaps because of the law of marime, which may stem from purity taboos in the area of Northwest India that the Roma come from, probably around 1000 years ago. They are a wandering people - a reasonable enough idea theoretically - but a significant problem when encountering settled peoples who have concepts of property rights. The European countries want to keep their ideas of owned real estate and boundaries, the Roma want to keep their mobile culture. It hardly seems resolvable.

It is a nasty cycle. The settled Europeans would never give gypsies jobs, so they resorted to begging and thieving. This in turn, meant that no one wanted to hire them. Historically, the Roma have also had other specialised occupations: animal trainers, coppersmiths, musicians, basket-makers, horse-traders. But these groups were not separate from the fortune-telling, begging, thieving gypsies - it all came as a package.

Their lives have been as miserable as any group in Europe for centuries. While individual gypsies may indeed become wealthy, I have never been to a Roma village that was not poor even by Transylvanian peasant standards. Which is darn low, in case you need to ask.

Their languages (or dialects of the same language), though very different from surrounding European languages, are nonetheless Indo-European, and more closely related to the Germanic and Romance languages than the those languages are to Finnish and Hungarian. It is perhaps closest to the Gujarati language of India.

Escort, your history, though not unfair, betrays a certain Magyar bias.

As to Sarkozy and the French, or indeed Western Europeans in general, you can end all discussions of how racist and prejudiced Americans are with a single word: gypsy.  

By Blogger Gary Rosen, at Mon Sep 06, 02:08:00 AM:

"you can end all discussions of how racist and prejudiced Americans are with a single word: gypsy."

But those Europeans love them some Jews now, don't they!  

By Anonymous Steve Skubinna, at Mon Sep 06, 05:05:00 AM:

violating French traditions of welcoming the oppressed...

So long as the "oppressed" weren't oh... Jewish, you mean?  

By Anonymous Marja, at Mon Sep 06, 02:08:00 PM:

Assistant village idiot, that was sort of the point - most are Romanians, some of these Romanians are also Roma or Gypsies but not all of them.  

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