The Gypsy and the Environment

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The true Gypsy, o Tatcho Rom, he who relied on Nature for his livelihood in one way or the other, has always taken care of the environment, of Mother Earth.

This, unfortunately, is not true with many of those that are about today and that are perceived by people in general as Gypsy and who are thrown into one pot with the old Romani, the true Gypsy.

Many that are today referred too as “Gypsy” should never been given that “title” as it is not theirs for they have no link to the Rom, the Romani, the true Gypsy; the one with his roots in Ariyania. But I digressed.

The Romani, the Gypsy, has always treated the environment as a source for food and raw materials from which to fashion his home and his livelihood, whether that was for the making of baskets, pegs, wooden flowers, hurdles, or whatever else.

Most cultures that live from and depend upon Nature that surrounds them for food, shelter and material from which make goods for use and sale did used to have a much better take on environmental things than town folks did.

In recent years, even among the true Gypsy, the Romani, the understanding of and concern for the environment seems to have gone a little out of the window. This, however, is a rather recent phenomenon and to a degree being due to the fact that other itinerants, who are often referred to as Gypsy but are not, and who never had the same regard for Mother Nature as the Rom, and who fly tip rubbish and who also, otherwise, act against the environment. Not that that is an excuse and I am no0t offering it up as one either.

The truth is that there was a time when the Gypsy was real green, for let's face it: who were the first recyclers, well before recycling was even known as such a term. They were the Gypsy.

The Gypsy used what others threw away to make goods for trade and use, such as peg knives made from knives that the Gohja, the non-Gypsy, have thrown away for whatever reason.

They made other goods from what they could take from Nature, such as clothes pegs , tent pegs, baskets, wooden flowers, etc.

In most cases it was also the Gypsy, settled even, who was the so-called “Rag & Bone Man” who would come calling from door-to-door for scrap metal, old rags, bones, etc. From much of the good scrap iron and steel thus collected goods were made and even from tin cans. Many of those goods then found their way into use and especially as wares onto country markets and/or sold door-to-door.

The Rom thus became the first scrap metal dealers and salvage consultants. Gypsies were the first real recyclers and prevented many a still useful item ending up on the rubbish tips.

They also were the repairers of time gone by, mending pots and pans, umbrellas, and even large industrial boilers. They were the ones that went and sharpened knives and scissors, and all kinds of other cutting tools, providing a service that country- and town folk wanted and needed.

The Churimengro, the knife man, made their cutting tools usable again and the “rag & bone man” took away the unwanted pieces of this and that, often, as said, to repair and resell even, or to just resell for the metal or whatever lese to be salvaged from it.

Many a Rom clearing people's clutter for them and bringing the stuff to the rubbish tip that really had not further use anywhere would leave the tip with more then he came there; salvaging usable goods from there and keeping them out of the waste stream. Many a times I would go with my uncles to the tip to dump the things that really could not be recycled and the guys at the tip would comment that we were leaving with more than we had actually brought.

Wastefulness of the Gohja is nothing new, to be very honest, but in recent years it has gotten worse, I am sure.

Without the often despised Gyppo the landfills of old would have been much fuller than they ended up being and reusable items would have just been left to rot.

Nowadays this has all become commercial and the ordinary Gypsy can no longer follow any such trade without this or that license and pickers at the dumps are all licensed and pay fees for the privilege of going through other people's rubbish in order to recycle the good things, and many a good thing does end up on the dumps.

The economic downturn that we all have ended up in at the beginning of 2009 may turn, I hope, the tables once again and make it possible for the Gypsy to follow such green jobs once again, including even, I should hope the making of clothes pegs, tent pegs, baskets, etc.

© 2009


Gypsy group angered by Huddersfield University lecture

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

A row has broken out over Huddersfield University’s choice of speaker on Gypsies and Travelers.

Hughie Smith, president of The Gypsy Council, said the university has caused a “great deal of unrest” in the Romany community, including Huddersfield’s large population of settled gypsies, after it invited Jake Bowers to be a guest speaker.

Jake Bowers, who edits Travelers Times Online, contributes to The Guardian and presented a BBC radio program for the traveling community, which has ceased, so we understand, operating.

Mr. Bowers is due to lecture students in the School of Human and Health Sciences on ‘Britishness, Roma, Gypsies and Travellers’ as part of their studies on citizenship on October 22.

But the invitation has angered The Gypsy Council, a group formed in 1973, who say they are the only authentic Gypsy organization in the UK and do not acknowledge Mr. Bowers as one of their own.

Mr. Smith said extensive research among the Gypsy and traveler community nationwide had failed to produce any evidence that Mr Bowers had any Romany heritage and that he was purely a member of the relatively unknown National Romany Rights Association.

A spokeswoman for The University of Huddersfield said they were aware of Mr Smith’s concerns but said the lecture would still go ahead.

The problem, it has to be said, with The Gypsy Council and Hughie Smith is that they think they are the only ones that should be allowed to represent the Gypsy community in Britain and secondly it is bad blood because it was not they, or better Hughie Smith, that were asked to do the lecture.

It might be a good idea if Mr. Smith would get glasses if he cannot find any Romani connections as regards to Jake Bowers. Any tatcho Rom would recognize Mr. Bowers as one of the People; it definitely is not difficult.

What this shows, yet again, is that there is no unity amongst the Romanichals even in this small country of ours; so how does anyone expect unity to be possible amongst the wider Gypsy community. It shows how much clannishness and jealousy there is.

It is strange that The Gypsy Council and Mr. Smith never had a problem with Jake Bowers when Jake had him on the shows at the BBC Rokker Radio but suddenly...

Anyone who cannot see what this issue is all about will need to have their sense and not just their eyes examined.

Where the choice of speaker by the Huddersfield University can have caused “a 'great deal of unrest' in the Romani community, including Huddersfield’s large population of settled Gypsies”, is entirely beyond the comprehension of this writer for the majority of Gypsies in this country, the great majority of the Romani community, could hardly care less who gives the talk, of that we can all be assured.

This is yet another illusion of grandeur by Mr. Smith in the same way that his claim that The Gypsy Council is the only true representative of the Gypsies in the UK is also rather null and void as most of the Romani People here have no interest in that organization and its self-centered attitude, especially of its Fuehrer.

This is as much a void claim as that of some of the Roma groups that they are the only true Rom.

Is it not time that we learned to work together, at least the Sinti-based groups, such as the Romanichals, the Manush, and others?

© 2009

BBC Program “This World” - “Child Thieves”

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

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.

We have out own system of justice but maybe we have to get an international version of this sorted out and then proceed against those criminal elements amongst our People at speed.

As long, however, that we are in total denial of this, publicly and as a people then it will continue and programs of this nature will be broadcast.

Why suppress the truth, as some of the “leaders” seem to wish to do? If we do that we, that is to say those that try to do so, are as guilty as those who perpetrate those things.

This is the same with the issue of Gypsy children being trafficked for this purpose and other more sordid things even and the sale of children by some Roma groups from Eastern Europe to others simply for gain. The same comments are made as to that not being the case and it all having been made up by the media in racist attempts to smear the name of the Romani People.

The fact is that all of this is happening and that some groups are even proud of doing what they are doing, whether it is living of begging and stealing and such or the sale of children for this or that purpose.

The cases in the UK that have been uncovered where Gypsy boys and girls, some as young as four and five, had been trafficked by Rom from Eastern Europe to places such as Glasgow for sordid exploitation and the rings that were smashed by the police are then, I should assume, also made up by the authorities; if one would go with the logic of those “leaders”.

Many of the “leaders”, it would appear, have no interest in accepting the truth and in actually doing anything against those activities. Instead they are employing the “Ostrich Syndrome” and try to claim that this is not happening.

One can but wonder why this denial in the face of the facts?

We must not try to shoot the messenger just because he carries a truth that is somewhat unpalatable to us and we do not like the taste of it. Instead we must try to discover more and then try to put a stop to it.

We must accept the truth of this and not just because the Fagins that were in the documentary openly admitted it and I also personally have experience with Rom from the former Yugoslavia whose children were proud to go out pickpocketing and stealing from shops and parents of those kids who were proud of what they stole.

It happens. So let's face it! And then, deal with it! But do not shoot the messenger.

© 2009