European Network on Social Inclusion and Roma under the Structural Funds
Structural Funds: Investing in Roma
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Jiøí Pehe: Once the Roma start using Twitter...
Prague, 07/09/2011 - The electronic media - television in particular - have unfortunately played a large role in the hysteria created around the problems with coexistence between the "majority society" and the Romani community in the ©luknov foothills. The populism of various politicians has also played a big role.
Various television stations have been and are reporting on the situation in Rumburk or Varnsdorf in a one-sided, populist manner - and sometimes directly in an apocalyptic style. Government politicians, under pressure from the unrelenting problems in their own coalition, have sensed the opportunity to flex their "muscles". It's not that there are not serious problems in the ©luknov foothills, but it cannot be a total coincidence that these problems have moved to the center of the country's attention at the very moment the governing coalition is introducing many anti-social measures through its reforms.
The tactic of "divide and conquer", or inciting society against itself, is a tried-and-true political tool. In other countries where governments have gone down the path of unpopular measures, it has worked for them to incite the poor - or the lower middle class who are being rendered poor by the reforms - against those who are the very poorest, often those afflicted by total social exclusion.
The rhetoric used in such cases is rather simple: During hard times, we must all make sacrifices, and unfortunately our world is being ruined by a layer of parasites and "moochers" who in addition are terrorizing our fellow citizens with their violence - citizens who may be poor, but who are honest, hard-working, and who pay their rent. Then, when the resentful "nation" takes to the streets demanding harsh measures and security, the television cameras movingly follow the socially "adaptable" dads, moms, teenagers and children as they take out their justified anger against the "inadaptables", demanding decisive measures. If the police weren't stopping them, the "adaptables" would be only too glad to beat those Roma up.
We cannot make light of a certain justified degree of desperation currently being felt by locals in some towns over rising crime. However, a deeper analysis is missing from this flood of emotionally extreme television reports.
For example, the information is not being delivered to the public that the Czech government, for more than 20 years since communism fell, has not managed to propose social policy or other measures to prevent the creation of the Romani ghettos into which politicians and town counselors are moving Romani people who once lived in town centers. These evictions are often a cynical display of corruption and gold-digging, with "the market" cutting its teeth on the potentially lucrative buildings in which the Romani tenants are residing.
Various human rights organizations and think tanks have long warned that the Czech Republic is stirring up an enormous problem for itself by creating these ghettos, of which there are already several hundred, just as it is by segregating Romani children in the schools and adopting ineffective social policies. This is compounded by the fact that the freedom of "the market" to pick and choose who will be in the work force has never been considered an effective anti-discrimination policy for states to adopt in societies riddled with anti-minority prejudice.
The people who have been evicted into the ghettos have nothing left to lose, because the ghetto is, for most of them, the "terminus". There are no (legal) jobs near the ghettos, and drugs, gambling and loan-shaking are the norm there. Children from an early age are learning how to survive in environments where they have never seen anyone hold a regular job.
The superficial reporting by the media, and the populist outcries of politicians in response to the problems now arising in the vicinity of these ghettos, are food for racist stereotypes, according to which "only repression against them will work", because - "What's the point of discussing it?" - this problem is, so to speak, "genetic". When I recently published an opinion piece on how the invisible hand of the market is contributing to the creation of ghettos while the state passively ignores the problem, I received many responses to it in that vein.
It's not surprising that various neo-Nazi fighting units who want to settle accounts with the "inadaptables" by using force - or at least squeeze some political capital out of it - have started feeding off of these desperate citizens' marches with lightning speed. Unfortunately, the government has come quite close to operating on the "skinhead" level itself. An otherwise indecisive Prime Minister, evidently inspired by the British government's recent response to unrest in British towns, has theatrically sent police reinforcements to maintain order in the ©luknov foothills.
There is nothing wrong with modestly ensuring order where it is being repeatedly violated, but the publicized, forceful speeches about the police reinforcements remaining there as long as necessary - and that if necessary people from the Police Presidium will roll up their sleeves as well - are completely beside the point, because they are not addressing the essence of the problem. When the Prime Minister then says the new method for disbursing welfare payments will contribute to solving this problem because people will have to earn their welfare by performing public service, it is clear that even worse times lie ahead for us.
In the final analysis, the actual failure of social policy must always compensated for by repression. Of course, more prisons, police officers, and special forces do not, in the end, cost as much as an active social policy - but they also don't solve the problem. They just push it under the surface. Moreover, if we "Øápkovize" the Romani problem through programs of harassment and repression, it is completely certain that it will lead to the radicalization of the people in the ghettos with nothing left to lose.
Here it must be ironically added that the police and the "majority society" in general are in great luck that the Roma have not yet learned to use "Facebook" and "Twitter". When the Prime Minister made the sweeping gesture of deciding to deploy riot police in the battle with the "inadaptables" in a ghetto in just a single town, I could not help but rather mischievously imagine what the government would do if Romani activists suddenly used social networking sites to call for unrest in the hundreds of ghettos the Czech Republic has allowed to develop. I guess the Prime Minister's colleagues at the Office of the Government would have to help out in addition to the bureaucrats from the Police Presidium.
The same applies to the Czech skinheads. The hard core of neo-Nazis is said to have hundreds of members and several thousand fellow-travelers. There are an estimatedRomani people in the country. What if they start organizing like the right-wing radicals? The catastrophic social policy of the Czech state has not yet managed to move all of the Roma into the ghettos, but the tens of thousands of people who have ended up there are just a bomb waiting to explode.
Published with the consent of the author.
http://blog.aktualne.centrum.cz/blogy/jiri-pehe.php?itemi..., translated by Gwendolyn Albert