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Commentary: How to learn hatred for poor Romani people

Prague, 1.11.2012 18:04, (ROMEA)
--ilustrační foto--
--ilustrační foto--

The title of this article might make some readers angry. Why not - for years we have been hearing all around us how Romani people drive their Mercedes to get their welfare money - which can be any amount they like, as much as they are able to shout down the authorities for - how their purchases in pharmacies are free of charge, how non-Romani people who commit the same crimes get stricter punishments than Romani people do, etc. Imagination knows no limits.

Thousands of years ago the ancient Romans knew that “fama crescit eundo” - rumors grow as they spread. A frustrated society spreads rumors at a hundred miles an hour. One person says he doesn't know something for sure, but he believes it, the next person heard it somewhere too, the third person claims to have a witness, everyone insists on it, and by the time the fourth person hears the rumor, it's a sure thing.

Many others, taken in by this invective, strengthening their networks with all who share their justified anger by rabidly banging out on their computer keyboards "reliable" information about the lazy criminals and parasites who have not yet adapted after all these centuries. They don't even notice that outside beneath their windows, a group of Romani ditch-diggers is briskly breaking ground on the underground channels for the next, even more modern communications cable so the internet users can communicate their justified anger over "gypsy" laziness at even higher speeds.

These justified complainers will never, for example, take a look at the residential hotels [where impoverished Romani people live], like the former Hotel Sport in Varnsdorf. Why would they make the trek? Isn't everything quite clear without making such an effort? So they will never see what even I myself had previously considered to be a past that had long been overcome, i.e., living conditions typical only of the situation for the poorest "white'' levels of society sometime back in the 1920s or 1930s.

In these places a mother with several children is squeezed into a small, dark room with shoddy facilities and a hot plate instead of a kitchen. The water faucet is located in the common hallway, and God only knows where the bathroom and toilet are. I cannot imagine how they can get their children ready for school in such a crowded room, without the necessary peace and quiet. However, I do now understand a bit better why so many of these children end up outside of mainstream education. To live in such “comfort” the family pays thousands of crowns in rent every month!

Those who have spent many years openly, patiently (or unobtrusively) sowing hate and helping to erect barriers between the already-impoverished and those on their way into poverty can be satisfied now. The majority part of society, which is actually suffering from problems which are becoming more and more serious because they have long gone unresolved, is angry at the Romani people who have ended up at the very bottom of society. That part of society has learned to cruelly hate those who, in their poverty, steal a wheelbarrow of old iron worth a few crowns, but they will powerlessly brush aside news of those other thefts of billions of crowns which go missing from just about everywhere. The method of “divide and conquer”, tested for centuries and perfected through the devices of the information age, is once again celebrating a triumph. 

Originally published by Deník Referendum (available in Czech at http://www.denikreferendum.cz/clanek/14250-jak-se-uci-nenavisti-k-chudym-romum).

Miroslav Hudec is a children’s psychologist, an educational psychologist, and a graduate of Charles University in Prague (1976). Prior to 1989 he was a rabble-rouser who refused to sign the “Anti-Charter” and was engaged in environmental protection activities that were unpleasant for local power structures, who considered him politically unreliable. In 1989 he was a founding member and, for a time, the spokesperson for the Civic Forum in Česká Lípa. He is currently a member of the Czech Green Party, has long been a town councilor, and continues to be engaged in environmental protection activities which continue to be unpleasant for local power structures. He occasionally writes political commentary. Recently he has become more ad more disturbed by developments in the domestic political situation in the Czech Republic, the rise in social differences, social unrest, and fascisizing tendencies in society.

Miroslav Hudec, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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