Debate regarding the August-September 2010 ROMA evacuations in France

Political bodies arguing. States and nations being more important than people currently, increasingly.

Political bodies arguing that institutions and processes are in place in many European nations regarding ‘how to deal with’ the Roma.

The Roma, having to assimilate into the ‘civilized’ European, North American and Japanese colonial systems…..is already a violence, an exclusion, a globally-mandated assumption of obedient minorities having to create themselves into something they are not. It is already a set-up. The fascisms are not acceptable now. But there are residues of fascism in every state, in certain attitudes of many individuals, ourselves possibly. When things go underground, they adapt to the current milieu and operate with new tactics. It is easier to follow an ideology or a fundamental structure in our minds, families and neighborhoods. Many of the scientists and thinkers of fascist governments were paid by the so-called democratic states, to survive and thrive and continue to create in the name of the elites. They are everywhere. The residues show up in people’s attitudes. As I write this, some people have wanted me dead. It is not a surprise. Ethics, love, negotiation, difference, intensity, and struggle, are seen as unwanted. It’s so much easier if everyone just obeyed. It takes lots of obedience to be civilized. It takes lots of obedience to be many things. It is a struggle to think creatively about our issues and what it is we want.

There is little talk of getting programs and institutions together, providing counseling and educational change and other activities, to address the prejudice, racism, violence, brutality, impunity, and aggression of the dominant attitudes and behaviors against the Roma and other minorities. It is a set-up. But there are many who are privately setting up creative ways of resisting the dominant flow of treating minorities like something to do surgery on, to assimilate. The issue is dominance and resistance.

Apparently, much like some of the US Americans I know who are anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim (and whose families were probably anti-Japanese-American during WWII etc.), states have a right to keep the ‘other’ out. Who is ‘us’ and who is ‘them’?? The lines are often justifications for our psychological/social violences to be played out. It is that division, that demarcation, where we give permissions of violence. Nations and national systems are that place, an extension or perhaps where it begins through histories of developing from tribalism to ethnic/sexual/gender/racial/religious identity and national identity currently.

Now it all plays out in its failures. Violent nationalism internalized into safe havens and names such as ‘our state’ and ‘our city’ and ‘our people’. Tribalism continues as democracy fades. But democracy isn’t fading for many. It is enacted and seen everyday. There are thousands around the world, millions around the world, right next to us, who understand the difficult struggle for democratic ethics in our lives. We cannot confuse permissions without ethics with democracy. We cannot confuse the boundaries of identities as demarcations of democracy.

The Roma, the Kurds, the Jews, the Armenians, the Dahlit, the Ainu, the Mayans, and millions of other bodies are forced into the isolation called ‘minority’ and are treated like chess pieces and diseases in the national systems now global. We must make our way in the violent world structured by the dominant system and we are supposed to listen to these people and bodies that have somehow assumed precedence. Even as those in governments are for justice, the system requires you to be a strong state, complete with strong militaries and economies and secret hiding places and hidden tactics and lots of money to pay the secret operators to make the state into a certain self-image, leaving certain ideas, cultures, ways-of-thinking and acting, out of the equation of this imagined state.  It’s an imaginary of violence, playing out with hollow words such as ‘rights’ and ‘diversity’ and ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ in many cases.

There are many people in world government, such as can be seen in this video snapshot of politicians arguing about what to do with the Roma people, who actually care and want peace.  However, justice cannot come in states where peace is about obedience to laws, no matter how lofty.  Laws, in most powerful states, ignore the brutality of how that state came into being in the first place.  Law is not justice.  Neither is law about anarchic violence and tearing down of all.  Justice is more of an attention to history and creative processes of negotiation through differences. But in positions of privilege, where a person or a body of people ‘decide what to do with others’ is precarious when the rules of law are interpreted in different ways. What is worse, as Raphael Lemkin (1900-1959) himself, wrote the first writings on the term ‘genocide’ and watched about a third of the laws he proposed be left out when the genocide laws were implemented by the international body–because those laws that were too threatening to the so-called integrity of the state would make all states culpable and make the global national system criminal itself). The human rights system is a necessary group of policies, laws, and research and documentation bodies, do not get me wrong.  But no one can enforce them. There cannot be a human rights police.  So human rights are continually broken in the United States, the European Union, Japan and other nations.  All one can do is watch arguments or invasions.

What’s even more daunting is that the term ‘genocide’ has been coined as an event, a moment in time with a certain look, an obvious massacre and displacement and hatred. The issue is that genocides rarely happen as an event. Culminations in massacres happen, but the processes of cleansing in states and regions happen over long periods of time, due to intensifications of exclusion-wishing and creating our living spaces in certain ways that do not allow certain differences. Displacements may happen continually for centuries, making a certain group poor. Policies to exclude and keep them poor keep being passed, while institutions are set-up to ‘help’ these minorities. The help keeps that group in their particular circumstances and are designed to construct assimilation. Help is usually a form of surveillance and identity-making. It is created through the dominant’s will, not those who are marginalized. Propaganda can be created over decades, where racism and prejudice can strangle the look of a city or a state or a people into a  reality where certain people and communities and areas can only be seen through that lens of the constructed dominant instead of through a different lens. Criminalizating minorities and their actions is a tactic of killing the spirits and locking the men away, leaving vulnerable populations to fend for themselves. Since laws concern the privileged, what does survival look like for the already-vulnerable?  Genocide is not an event. The killing of spirits and ideas and lives happen over prolonged periods in all of the ways Raphael Lemkin has stated (in the complete version, not only in the edited version the international body has made public). So genocide may not look like genocide. For change in our world, we must intervene into these smaller structures of cultural killings before an event.  In fact, some philosophers have actually spoken to the everydayness of genocide. Our ignoring and going about our lives is an aspect of the killing of another community. Buying or not buying certain things can also play into killing ‘the other.’  We cannot wait for the ‘event’ that we recognize. By then it is usually too late.

These politicians can argue, but whoever has the biggest weapons currently controls whatever happens, regardless of human rights. States have more power than groups of persecuted peoples. States have become more important to maintain, rather than communities. Self-hatred begins to creep in as we think of ways to empower and resist. Making ourselves into ethnic groups, then wanting a state, seems to be a logical conclusion of ways to live, as the stronger states treat those within its boundaries that are not the dominant group, as well as weaker states and non-dominant peoples globally, as things to extract work from (exploit) and displace and make into problems at will. It is ugly. There is no secret. We all know individual people like this in our lives. But when it is larger, we may think they are nice people, but the structures will a certain pattern, a certain way for things to turn out. More and more people are no longer willing to take it, however.

Issues of dominance and dominant attitudes control the so-called ‘Roma issue’ and other minority peoples’ and stateless peoples’ living circumstances, continuing to be ‘cases,’ as can be seen in this video, in the early 21st century.  It brings up memories of World War II, fascism, and the current crisis of human, social, ecological systems at crossroads. They don’t fit it.  ‘They’ are nomadic, ‘they’ are communal and not individualistic, ‘they’ have ties to life-ways that are contradictory to the dominant globalizing state system. Where does difference come into play? What can be done? Must we/they obey to survive? Where is our creativity?

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“Calling it Home” Documentary Video by Zeynep Uygun: Displacement & Democracies

Tarlabasi is a district in Istanbul, Turkey with a long history of housing non-Muslims and other displaced persons such as trans-identified persons, Armenians and Kurds, Christians, Romani, and others. There are a few neighborhood districts in the huge city of Istanbul that are like this. They are home to these thousands and provide safety and diversity in a city that is continually mobilized (in people’s minds and therefore actions) as one that tows the dominant ideologies and meanings of the Turkish state. The Turkish state has long afforded many of the elites with the controls to navigate its global identity through the late 19th century and early 20th century political worlds, imprinting it into the present. In that period in the 1800s and through the 1950s, the Turkish model of citizenship included everyone as long as they became ‘Turkish.’ The single mode of identity was crafted as a defense against encroaching European colonial powers in their times. But to the popular masses, no mention of ‘Turkishness’ was spread.  Only after the establishing of the republic in 1923 did the ideas of cleansing move into full force to create national unity.  Through tremendous and bloody wars against many fronts, the Turkish mono-identity politics was formed as a resistance to a certain domination. It was done at such costs considering the general poverty and exhaustion of the large Ottoman population that earlier, stretched from the edges of Spain and the African continent, into the edges of China and South Asia. Centuries of warfare left its people exhausted and wartorn. Yet, through tremendous efforts, it fought off completely being swallowed by the French, British, American, Greek and Italian encroachments, among others. The region’s peoples gained their strength of spirit, through warfare as defense of itself. In empowerment, how does this play out as identity? However, its ideological center, which usually creates the nationalist unities necessary in order for people to fight against something against all odds, was borrowed from those foreign ideologies that were popular and powerful at the time, which had totalitarian and fascist elements, mainly the French and Italian forms of ideologies and their forms of ‘science.’

These elements have been called ‘Kemalism’ –named after Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who was the military officer who is credited for saving what was left of the former Ottoman Empire and creating it into the new Turkish Republic. This authoritarian form of rule, mixed with its secular Muslim Turkish ethnic identity written into the Turkish Constitution, has created its violent political clashes ever since. Although Woodrow Wilson’s democratic ideals were forced upon the new Turkish government, its wordings and its lack of protections created a diverse array of dominating tactics along mono-ethnic and mono-religious lines.  Difference existed in relatively more harmonious relations in the Ottoman period, have been hammered into violent political differences in the nation-state system of Turkey. Today, the diverse population tries to navigate and make life live-able with its diversity, while the laws and policies remain very typically staunch in its single ethnic, and particular forms of secular Islamic qualities that defined the earlier periods of Turkey. Those who have gained prominence and power in this system, will not let that go, even though their changes may bring about more love from some of its people. On the other side, it will bring about exile, imprisonment, and assassination at the turn of a dime, as have the many coups and right and left-wing assassinations in the streets and even in Europe, have proven, in the name of maintaining the structure of what is considered ‘the Turkish state.’

Tarlabasi is one of the beautiful, poor neighborhoods of Istanbul where the marginalized have crafted lives and learned to live with each other, complete with disagreements and harmonies, sharing and autonomies. While cities in modern nations are crafted, the marginalized are apparently equal to everyone else, and must find their own way. As those in this great video state, the neighbors know each other and respect each other. If they are displaced, how will they live? Where will they go? What will happen to them? Often, people do not realize how social ostracization works in countries where they are heavily more politicized than in, let’s say, the US or the UK. But even in these two western nations, the marginalized are still invisible and their voices are the last to be heard, if at all. Oh well, the city wants to build new apartments here. So we’ll give you a couple hundred or a thousand dollars, go find your new home….

Tearing people and communities apart is only the beginning of a series of fears, isolations, loneliness and the sheer exhaustions of starting over again in new places. In places such as Turkey, which are communal, much of the ways people survive are based on relationships formed, the places frequented, etc. In new places, without those places and people, starvation and stress and ill-health begin to form. In many nations, these are blamed on the poor and marginalized themselves. In effect, the elites and governing forces, along with the over, tacit or secret agreements of the more privileged, create these circumstances.

Please watch and listen to this wonderful video. This is a glimpse into Tarlabasi, but also a glimpse into a way of making and displacing and creating suffering, that is common in every nation, especially those that are ‘modern’ and supposedly civilized.

Photo by Tesstantrum at Flickr.com

UPDATE: Info & Lyrics ADDED to Roma/Balkan/Goran Bregovic post

I have added a bit of information on the song ‘Erdelezi’ and included Roma lyrics and English translation on the previous post:

https://ainoko.wordpress.com/2010/07/01/the-roma-people-balkans-balkanization-music-by-goran-bregovic/

For wikipedia’s decent information on the history of this recording, please visit the following link.  As always, especially with Wikipedia, please be careful when reading, being aware of how things are placed in wikipedia’s information.  For instance, the way the the Roma word is insinuated (whether on purpose or not)  ‘from’ Turkish in the Roma language.  This may mistakenly be interpreted as the Roma ‘taking’ the word from that language, or that ‘Turkish’ came first.  This is ‘Not’ the case.  Throughout the hundreds of years of our history, people shared and made their own languages through sharings.  The words are ‘related’ but to bring origins into it would be problematic.  Thus is the problematic today with the ‘minoritization‘ –  the ‘making of minorities’ through majority-rule formulations (majoritarianism) of history, logic, interpretation and subsequently–the positions that information take in the people’s minds, then used politically for certain advantages and disadvantages.

Wikipedia link:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ederlezi_(song)

Commentary on Barry Lopez Post: On HOPE

Imagination.

I think that having a pre-determined imagination and then performing it in the world most-often leads to a colonizing of the imagination with another.

There are layers of justifying and claiming innocence in our will to control.

However, power is always being exercised. Whether one sits still or speaks or takes up arms or sleeps, this takes power.

Social power is the reality of social worlds. Since our social worlds are complex, we must learn to engage complexity.

So Barry Lopez asks us to welcome the ineffable, the unknown, wonder, diversity; to question loss and how it comes to be.

A different imagination begins with questions we must ask ourselves.  What, in our worldview, is assumed to be real, coherent and universal?

If we begin examining, we see that everything is fragile.

This fragility is feared in our present world.  Being fragile can be socially seen as weak.  This also comes into play when we work with identity, gender, and masculinity.  The assumptions of what is considered ‘strong’ and what is necessary to ‘hold things together’ and to ‘protect.’

Protection is something we must do sometimes.  But I feel that in the present realities, we protect way too much.  Often, we do not know that we are protecting anything.  On the other hand, an ‘everything is okay’ attitude is also a way of not committing, not making a mistake, and not being seen as one thing or another.  Often, we may even say we are ‘free’ when we say this to ourselves.  But it masks a value of non-commitment and intensifies alienation and brings nothing deep or lasting because that is what is desired.  It is a slavery to a certain moment when one decides that this is an effective strategy to resist something that has happened.  It is no more free than any other method.

To work with difference, to struggle with how we are complicit in the loss and violence in the world, would make us examine closely, our process of self-making as individuals and communities, and begin challenging our own assumptions and at the same time discovering new things.  These new possibilities may also not be new.  They are often ‘old’ or ‘ancient’ things that have been discarded and killed and excluded in the past.  Indeed, they may be things that have been twisted into something else through the passage of life.  As we begin working, I think that we begin to recognize these things, and to welcome the deepening of our lives.  The way we are now, as Barry Lopez points to, will lead to more loss.

Perhaps this will be a way of making a self-hatred and a misanthropy–a hatred of people, into a global reality for some.  They will be fulfilling their role in the world.  As we begin a journey to change our imagination and imagine anew, perhaps we may change directions.  In any case, it will be a struggle.  And I say that in my own experience, it will be a beautiful challenge for ourselves and we will make new friends on new paths.  We will no longer be colonized by the idea that it should be easy.  We will move with the ecologies of mourning, reflection, recognition, and natural movements of time and the trees and the planets.  It will not look one way.  It could be urban, it could be in a grain of sand.  We cannot know.  All that must be done is to take the steps.

Barry Lopez: On HOPE

Barry Lopez (Jan. 6, 1945 – ), US National Book Award winning essayist and author, who writes on ecology and social concerns, is one of my favorite authors.  He is perhaps most well-known for his beautiful work Arctic Dreams, as well as Of Wolves and Men and River Notes: the Dance of Herons.  Along with Peter Mathiessen, Gary Snyder and  Terry Tempest Williams, he is considered one of the premier ‘nature-writers’ of our historical present.

This video below, is an excerpt from his lecture at Middlebury College in the Environmental Affairs department.  It is a beautiful, short talk in which he spells out hope and its link to having the capacity for a different imagination, in a way that is parallel with my own thoughts on why I live in the world and why I work on this blog.

He speaks poignantly about the loss of diversity in our world, the reality of genocide, the unknown people and cultures which we do not seem to be concerned about, and the loss of imagination in our world today which we must fight.  He, along with myself, have seen some people and groups in our world who work long and hard hours for a different imagination and way of being in the world than most of us are living now.  This is the hope, what Barry Lopez knows exists and wants to celebrate and work toward.

The Roma People, Balkans & Balkanization: Music by Goran Bregović

The movie “Time of the Gypsies” tells of a teenage Roma (gypsy) who has telekinetic powers and is used by forces to commit petty crime.  It is a beautiful movie.

The story of persecuted groups  throughout the ages is told to blind ears and hearts today.  The Roma, the Jewish people, the Kurds, and other groups, have been persecuted and killed and their cultures co-opted. For a good overview of the Roma (Romani, or gypsy), see wikipedia:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romani_people

The Balkans is a region today that spans from Turkey to Western Russia.  The ‘Balkanization’ of land is a term used by people studying history, politics and cultural survival, to mean that lands are divided and parceled out according to dominant powers deciding, usually by religion and ethnicity, on how to make states, nations, countries.  The Balkanized lands, originally, where the persecuted Roma people have been dispersed and displaced, their culture fragmented across the various lands.  Their originally nomadic lifestyles, similar to many of the Kurdish tribes and Jewish tribes, were a thorn in the side of some of the sedentary cultures because  increasingly as the sendentary tribes and the development of towns  rely on capitalist enterprising and the ownership of land, creating problems for nomadic tribes who needed food and water.  The former open lands were now off-limits.  This increased desperate measures.  This also created the prejudices that intensified against them. This just one strand in a thousand different ways the exclusions became more embedded.

The genocidal nature of the ‘progress’ that we speak of, is real and happening as we speak, as you may have gathered from all of my postings.  It is not ‘natural, and not an ‘accident.’  Progress is also not natural but a series of political and socio-economic ideas to advance the cause of the wealthy.  As it has improved lives in many ways, it has excluded and assimilated, leaving a vast array of violence across our bodies, where we perpetrate without knowing that we perpetrate and view all mention of ourselves as related to the destruction of others as threatening to us.  It is not that we take in hand and kill, or we wish them to be.  But we participate as we ignore and pursue our own pleasures while our taxes, and ways of life are feeding systems that perpetrate.  We need change.

Although the following does not mention the indigenous people of the area that much, it is a good work covering the chain of events in recent Balkan history from before WWI, see:  The Balkans: Nationalism, War & the Great Powers, 1804-1999 http://www.amazon.com/Balkans-Nationalism-Great-Powers-1804-1999/dp/0140233776/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1278018731&sr=1-2

For an excellent historical read on the development of Balkanization, see:  The Roots of Balkanization: Eastern Europe C.E. 500 – 1500 by Ion Grumezahttp://www.amazon.com/Roots-Balkanization-Eastern-Europe-500-1500/dp/0761851348/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1278018418&sr=1-4

For a most beautiful re-thinking of the Balkans, see: Imagining the Balkans by Maria Todorova – http://www.amazon.com/Imagining-Balkans-Maria-Todorova/dp/0195387864/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1278018731&sr=1-7

Here is a summary of the movie:  ‘Time of the Gypsies from Wikipedia:

(Serbian: Дом за вешање, Dom za vešanje, literally “Home for Hanging”) is a 1988 Yugoslav film by Serbian directorEmir Kusturica. Filmed in Romani and SerbianTime of the Gypsies tells the story of a young Romani man with magical powers who is tricked into engaging in petty crime. It is widely considered to be one of Kusturica’s best films.

The film revolves around Perhan, a Gypsy teenager with telekinetic powers and his passage from boy to man that starts in a little village inYugoslavia and that ends in the criminal underworld of Milan.

The movie’s soundtrack was composed by Goran Bregović.

Goran Bregovic’s music has been called  ‘intoxicating, bridging the extremes of euphoria and melancholy.”

Here below is a image video of a song, which is among my favorites, from the soundtrack of Time for Gypsies entitled “Erdelezi.”

The SONG is a traditional Balkan region song.  The Roma people celebrate Spring Festival/equinox with this song, and there are variants in the Turkish and Serbian spring songs.  The version on this video is arranged by Goran Bregovic and has been recorded by many artists throughout eastern Europe as well as the Turkish regions.

Lyrics in the Roma language, followed by English translation below:

Sa me amala oro khelena
Oro khelena, dive kerena
Sa o Roma daje
Sa o Roma babo babo
Sa o Roma o daje
Sa o Roma babo babo
Ederlezi, Ederlezi
Sa o Roma daje

Sa o Roma babo, e bakren chinen
A me, chorro, dural beshava
Romano dive, amaro dive
Amaro dive, Ederlezi

E devado babo, amenge bakro
Sa o Roma babo, e bakren chinen
Sa o Roma babo babo
Sa o Roma o daje
Sa o Roma babo babo
Ederlezi, Ederlezi
Sa o Roma daje

All my friends are dancing the oro
Dancing the oro, celebrating the day
All the Roma, mommy
All the Roma, dad, dad
All the Roma, oh mommy
All the Roma, dad, dad
Ederlezi, Ederlezi
All the Roma, mommy

All the Roma, dad, slaughter lambs
But me, poor, I am sitting apart
A Romany day, our day
Our day, Ederlezi

They give, Dad, a lamb for us
All the Roma, dad, slaughter lambs
All the Roma, dad, dad
All the Roma, oh mommy
All the Roma, dad, dad
Ederlezi, Ederlezi
All the Roma, mommy