The president of the French republic raised a mountain, and it has fallen on his toes. In launching its offensive against the Roma, the French government believed it could turn to its electoral advantage a problem which is essentially a problem of border policing and the state authorities. Major error. The question of the Roma is not about public or social security, it is about mental security. And it is not a uniquely French problem, it is a European problem. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, the American daily the Los Angeles Times conducted one of the first polls in Eastern Europe in 1990. The results showed that for 80 percent of the populations freshly freed from Communism – Czechs, Hungarians, Romanians, Bulgarians and Poles, the ‘Gypsy’ was the incarnation of the diabolical other. In the nineties and in the face of strong popular resistance, Czech President Vaclav Havel tore down a ghetto where his people wanted to see the “travelling people” incarcerated. The hatred of the “Gypsies” may be widespread and have seen its worse excesses in Eastern Europe, but it is certainly no stranger to the West. Nineteen century literature and opera – from Victor Hugo to Verdi – amply betrays the fears of the sedentary about the non-territorial collective. Begging, disease, thieving, and even fantasies about child snatching – such were the associations that for centuries haunted a European mind living in fear of “people who don’t live as we do”. Propelling this hysteria to its extreme, the Nazis sent these “sub-humans” to the gas chambers.
more from Andre Glucksmann at Sign and Sight here.