Czech Republic: Romani town councilor critiques antigypsyist petition
After spending a longer period of time out of the news, the Janov housing estate is once again being very actively discussed, and not only by local media. The proof is a petition asking for aid in addressing social problems that has been sent to Prime Minister Sobotka by a group of the "decent majority", led by the chair of the Krušnohor housing cooperative there, František Ryba.
Janov is indeed a socially excluded locality and should be approached as one. Increased crime rates and risk of criminal activity do exist there, just as they do not only in other excluded localities, but in many other particularly socially burdened towns and villages throughout the entire Czech Republic every day - unfortunately.
I don't want to belittle the situation at Janov in any way, but it is necessary to clarify some disinformation that is out there and reflect on who hopes to benefit from this situation. After reading the reporting on this issue by news server Romea.cz, I must respond to some of its wording:
1. At the beginning of the article we read that the "decent majority" living at the Janov housing estate in Litvínov sent a petition to Prime Minister Sobotka. This is a bit startling, since the majority of the population at Janov is actually Romani - but we'll let that pass.
2. We read that the signatories to the petition "aren't racists". I don't want to encroach upon the conscience of the signatories or argue about who is and isn't racist. However, at a minimum, one of them, Mr Ryba, the chair of the local housing cooperative, has a tendency to racist behavior and speech. I have personally experienced this from him, directly at a session of the Lom town council when, as an elected representative, I was commenting on an agenda item and he interrupted the proceedings by saying "And now a gypsy is dancing for us here!" On the other hand, what can I expect from such a scruffy character? The aim of his petition, in my opinion, is not to calm the situation or solve problems at the housing estate, but to incite a further escalation of tensions and unrest.
3. The signatories, led by Ryba, are concerned about a small-scale "civil war". The question is: Isn't this just an intentional raising of the alarm, an artificially created rumor that ultimately will benefit Ryba himself?! In that town, which is the "Palermo of North Bohemia", things work like this: The frequent populist statements of politicians, from left to right, first verbally stir up issues of this sort and then various radical "outfits", including the DSSS, insert themselves in the matter, taking upon themselves the "physical" side of things. Ryba's almost "poetic" reference to "fathers carrying their children on their shoulders turning out to protest against this problem" (in 2008) all but plucks the heartstrings of those who are less enlightened about what actually happened back then. When emotions are sparked like this, you don't have to wait long for a "tough" gesture to follow.
4. Ryba's comments on the current situation at Janov are quite startling and, in my view, almost absurdly cheap. He has evidently forgotten that he was also one of the people who contributed to this situation, that he, too, is responsible for it now. As long as the money was being sifted into the housing cooperative that he manages, everything was fine, and nobody from the Krušnohor cooperative was bothered by the fact that Janov was slowly but surely becoming a ghetto.
5. Ryba is notorious for his antigypsyist remarks. On the one hand, he says he wants to improve the situation at Janov, but on the other he does nothing but incite the "decent majority" against the "inadaptables".
6. Here is a question for reflection: Isn't it noticeable at Janov that the individual apartment blocks are gradually being trashed in a systematic fashion, starting with the rear section heading away from the Jiřetín side and toward Gluckova Street? Do problems with "inadaptables" only exist there? Or is this actually a smart move on the part of the housing cooperative?After all, it is no secret that in the neighboring town of Horní Jiřetín, there is a very active discussion ongoing about relaxing the limits on coal mining. Allegedly, the election campaign of the "Association of the Residents of Most for Most" (Sdružením Mostečané Mostu - SMM), in which Ryba is active, received support last year from the coal lobby that was numbered in the millions.
7. There is one more aspect that must be counted on here, and it is not a negligible one. Ryba is also interested in the "politics" of this entire affair, and he is vehemently doing his best to influence events in yet another troubled place, the town of Most itself. There his activities are connected with the SMM, which governed Most from 2006 until last year's local elections, when it was pushed out by a similar group, Severočeši.cz ("NorthBohemians.cz" - or rather by Severočeši Most). In terms of personnel, the town councilors there used to have each other in a "stranglehold". Recently that embrace has changed to their just holding each other "by the necktie".
Why? Let's just say that personal interests, and primarily money, comes first for the individual political actors in these groups. One of the cards these entities play in their role as "politicians" has been and still is the question of housing and related services, as well as "entrepreneurs" of all kinds. We are once again at home, so to speak, in North Bohemia.
There is no reason to be surprised as to why Mr Ryba is now playing the "political" card of housing. It is almost always advantageous to win over more adherents among the people who reside in a locality encumbered by social tensions and an economically very bad situation - not just for ethnic Roma, but for those whom Mr Ryba classifies as the "decent majority". Elections will take place next year, and who doesn't want to be a member of the "decent majority"?!
Despite all of this, it is still more than desirable that the issue of socially excluded localities begins to affect those seated in the responsible places in government, and in more than just their hearts. Their minds should offer solutions for erasing the hallmarks of risk, rootlessness and simple criminal activity from these localities - activity that is exploited by those who can profit from it.
A solution has occurred to me: Why not make the people living in the socially excluded localities responsible for these places, by working to implement economic and social activities that will benefit these places where they are living, raising their children and residing? Yes, to do that evidently would not be an inexpensive endeavor. However, it pays more to invest into prevention now than to invest later into complicated maneuvers to address criminal activity, the growing welfare rolls and social unrest, and to address these issues in ways that almost never succeed.
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