Friday, 9 October 2009

Caught Between Two Big Brains

Well! Controversy! Did you see a programme a few weeks back on Roma Gypsy children in Spain and Italy allegedly being trained to a life of crime – petty thieving? It went on to show apparent adult Roma in Romania boasting their wealth and large houses.

A Professor I know who is a leading authority, has dismissed this: ‘The whole thing was about as plausible as Sacha Baron Cohen's Kazakhstan,” he told me. “A tiny minority of thieves, easily caught, photographed, and voluble about their methods - it's usually called attention-seeking behaviour.’

But a Romany journalist, with whom I am acquainted online, who could be fairly described as an activist in support of his people, says in his blog O NEVO DROM about the programme: ‘While this program has come under attack, some rather severe, from several quarters, especially from academics in the field of Romani Studies in the West, including Romani People amongst them, and also some Romani activists, it is time that we, the Rom, the Romani People, firstly admitted to ourselves and amongst ourselves that this problem exists and then admitted it also to the outside world; and secondly that we, as a People, did something about stopping this practice.’

Such a difference of opinion from both exceedingly knowledgeable people. I watched the programme again last night and am still sitting on the fence.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

WI do a U-Turn?

Well, not the whole organisation, but members of a Hampshire branch, possibly no more than a twig, have proved to be independent thinkers. They emailed me because one of them borrowed my book, Gypsies Stop tHere, from the library and enjoyed it so much they all thought they would like to hear my talk! Now that is the kind of thing I like to hear very much indeed.

Are they scheming to rip me apart now they’ve lulled me into a state of calm smugness? To find out I must wait till next March. You may remember the Madonna like reception I often get once my thorny topic is raised, as outlined before. This audience I feel absolutely certain will be lovely. I just know it. I can taste the warmness of their welcome already.

I wonder if anything will have changed by then. I attended a Gypsy and Traveller Forum a couple of weeks ago, where various agencies and members of the G&T community come together. The air was electric with frustration! One committee member stormed out of the room! Resigned after (I think) 17 years! Fact sometimes offers more drama than fiction, except for my book of course.

Site provision is a complex subject and no way can I tackle it in a blog. As ever, though, the nub of the meeting came down to G&Ts being permanently worried about having nowhere to live, largely due to objections by local residents. For any councillor this is not a vote-winner. So a tiny minority have to resort to unauthorised encampments without facilities … highly visible. It’s a self-perpetuating circle that gets dizzy chasing its own tail. I can see all sides of the problem but what many people do not realise is that their proper sites, usually tucked away out of sight, are kept immaculately. Trailers are gleaming, usually fitted with pale upholstery and carpet and everything put away. Puts some houses to shame!

Also crime rates do not increase with the number of G&Ts living in an area. This false view is often in people’s minds fuelled by biased scapegoating in media reports, headlines and photos. Police are clamping down on such hate-related reports now.

Well that’s me done. I’d better jump off my soapbox and my high horse. Tweet me if you have some thoughts of your own. And don’t forget to read my book before the sequel is out.