Romani Self-Help

or maybe better “Gypsy Self-Reliance”

Well, I am going to talk today about DIY, yes, you heard me right: do it yourself is the theme for today. I know that now everyone is going to think that I have gone bonkers but I don't think so for we are not going to be talking – at least not directly – about the making of furniture or other such tasks on the DIY scale. What I am primarily on about here today is about doing things for ourselves.

Yes! I did say “doing things for ourselves”, as in SELF-RELIANCE.

It really gets under my skin -when the Rom, and not only in Eastern Europe, complain about their living conditions when, especially in Eastern Europe Romani men appear to have more spare time on their hands than seems to be good for them. Some, it would appear are just too proud to work and rather send their women and especially chavies out to mang from the Gadje in the streets of the towns and cities, while they sit around in the coffee houses and tavernas drinking and playing dominoes or cards. At the same time their houses are all in a bad state of repair and there is litter and trash and garbage strewn everywhere.

Not only does this litter and garbage problem exist in the rural areas. Far from it. It is even more pronounced in the more urban areas, on and around housing estates occupied by Rom. There we can find garbage being, literally, thrown out of windows and it is a nigh “gar de loo” situation around the housing estates of the Rom for such matter too may find it self flying out of windows or raining down from balconies. There is also trash and garbage of all sorts piled high on balconies, in communal walkways and other common areas, as well as all around the blocks of flats. What a way to life is all I can say to that. No wonder, therefore, that some people want to have walls build around Romani settlements, and understandable even, when one sees those condition.

As a Rom of integrity, I must say, that I could not even think of visiting with those for I would be afraid of becoming ritually defiled.

This situation exists while the men do nothing all day and are idle. No, they say, however, the rubbish is not our responsibility. The municipality does not send refuse collection. Sorry folks, but if you do not pay for it then you cannot expect such services. Alas, but they do, for too long have they lived under communism where they got everything provided. They also claim that they could not possibly be able to pick up the litter and garbage themselves and dispose of it because to touch the litter would marime.

While they claim it to be marime for them to go and pick up the litter from around their houses and neighborhood and to dispose of it in a proper manner no qualms seems to be had when they send their women and children out to scavenge on the refuse tips and landfill sites, even for food for the chavies. Give me a break! Laziness is all that it is. They are so accustomed to sitting on their butts doing nothing that they just do not want it any other way and all manner of excuses are found rather than to do things.

Oh, you think I am having a got at the Roma again because I am Sinto. I am having a go at the “no can do” attitude of all the Rom per se, and I include in that Sinti as well as Kale (Cale) and others, and not just the Roma. I even include the Romanichals in this; those that, for instance, in the UK, have begun to behave, as and when still po drom ap i reisa like the Irish Trailer Trash in that they leave garbage strewn around the site where they camped and even body waste.

Unfortunately, it must be said that this malaise is not only one of the E. European Rom. Some Sinti, so it would appear, can also keep up with those in the East with rubbish piling on the balcony of their apartments simply because they are too lazy to take it to the refuse chute in their block and with dirt and filthy linen all over the apartments. I must say I personally have seen the apartments of Rom in Germany many years back and have been unable to believe my eyes what I saw in some of those places and the vermin that was running about. It is such as those that give the entire Romani People a bad name, as being dirty and lazy.

Yes, I do know that one could find nigh on the same situations with the so-called “Trailer Trash” in the USA. But they are Gadje and we are Rom. No comparison there, is there now. We have rules and taboos but may no longer seem to remember those. Well, they do but only when it suits them, like to say that they cannot move the garbage because they would become marime or magerdo from doing so. Now that is bull dust and we all do know that.

Another favorite is complaining about the fact that, and I am getting sick and tired of that, as victims and People persecuted by the Nazis, our People (with that they mean themselves) have not received any reparation payments for the atrocities of the Holocaust from the German and other culpable governments, as did the Jews. OK, so Germany refuses to acknowledge its guilt properly and pay lova. Let me ask you a question: Do you really want blood money? Do you want money that is tainted by the blood of our Martyrs? They cannot pay us for our losses, ever; and certainly not with the paltry sums they have paid to the one or two which were in the region of, I believe, 1,000 Euro or such derisory amount.

Same as when the “German” Sinti demand that the German government build a memorial to the Gypsies lost in the Holocaust. Why? Could we not do such ourselves?
“Oh, no”, they say, “they owe us and they did build one for the Jews, so we demand one too.” Why demand one (or anything for that matter) from the German government? The Sinti and Roma in the Netherlands got together, raised money, petitioned the municipality for a location and set there own, small but very nice, memorial to the Sinti and Roma from the Netherlands murdered by the black legions.

It seems that a great many Rom just love to demand from the Gadje and the governments “because they owe us”. They OWE us kek.

Same as someone translated the proverp “Nay avlom ke tumende o maro te mangel, me avlom ke tumende te man pative te den” into “I did not come to you to beg for bread but I came to you to demand respect”. Duh? Demand what? We cannot DEMAND respect. We, just like others, have to earn it. Stop demanding and start doing things for yourself. The proverb, in fact, does nowhere mention “demanding respect”. It talks of trust. In other words it states “I came to you so you would trust me”. That, at least, is the way I would understand it.

It really does seem to be well beyond the capacity of a great majority of the Rom to think and to do things for themselves and those that set out to do things alone on behalf of the People get shot down and blacklisted. We are a strange People indeed. Always do you ask for others to do things for us and mostly the others that you demand to do things for us are invariably Gadje. Have you no pride whatsoever in yourself and in the People? Obviously not! It is time you got off their behinds and did things for themselves. “Ourselves Alone” is the old meaning of the Irish word “Sin Fein” (pronounced “Shin Fein”) (and which is also the name of the Republican Party of Ulster/Ireland) and the same also does and must apply to the Gypsy People – “amare kethane kolkoro” (ourselves together alone). We can never be really free as a People as long as we keep wanting and demanding handouts in whatever shape or form. Have some pride, People! Do you want the Gadje to continuously do things for us and fund projects for us and then have them go home and say that the stereotype of the lazy, good for nothing, Gypsy is true? Those that behave as described, from among all of our groups, do indeed aid and abet that stereotypical image that the Gadje behold of us. This is, however, exactly what the majority of especially Eastern European Rom seen to want. Their behavior is living proof to that fact.

It has been said that the Gypsy can turn his hand to anything and make money from other people's discards. This may be true for the Romanichals and such but does not appear to hold any water when it comes to the Rom from Eastern Europe. Not all of them, I know; the great majority, however, or so it would appear. Also the Romanichals never were afraid to touch scrap and even other discards from which to produce stuff for sale. Looks like the majority of eastern European Roma never have had such an ability or they simply have had it too good with handouts under communism.

We must move over to a “can do” attitude and finally do things for ourselves instead of demanding that the Gadje do it for us, and relying on outsiders. Are we infants who cannot do things for ourselves? Many of ours, Roma and Sinti alike, sure behave like that. No wonder the Gadje treat the Romani People like children, like minors, like children who have no say in things and who can do nothing for themselves and have to have everything done for them.

© M Veshengro Smith, February 2007