Isn’t it annoying when those two clash? This thought was brought about by a discussion in my final Romanian lesson – my contract here ends at the end of this month. I was discussing an article in a local tabloid with my teacher. The article itself was about social security in Romania and who should be entitled to it. The article listed the Government criteria which define who should be classed as ‘poor,’ and who should not. Amongst other things, if you own three cows, or pigs, 80 ducks, female turkeys, hens, geese or eating pigeons, or a video recorder, (a what?) a laptop, (but not a desktop,) a video entry-phone a hand-loom, or a coffee grinder, you should not be entitled to social security. The sentence that prompted the discussion read, ‘There are indeed some people who don’t even have a cat outside their door, then there are others who live in villages with windowless houses with little towers.’
Although I could translate the sentence well enough, I had no idea what it actually meant, either. ‘You don’t even have a cat outside your door,’ wouldn’t mean much in, for example, England, but anyone who has spent any time in countries like Romania, or Cyprus, or even Greece knows that the abundance of feral moggies means that everyone has a cat outside their door looking for a handout, even if only at mealtimes, so if even the cats have given up on you, you must really be down and out. The second part of the sentence is interesting in a different way. It is coy shorthand for ‘Gypsies.’ I have seen such villages in my travels around Romania; dirty, run-down, houses without glass in the windows, but all with their little tower attached, which is the signature of Roma architecture. (Note the difference between Roma – Gypsy – and Romanian.)
There are a lot of Gypsies in Romania, as there are in Bulgaria, Serbia, Macedonia and Hungary, and a dirty, shiftless lot they are, in the main. I have learned that, in the main, Gypsies prefer to keep themselves to themselves and live their lives in the way they want to, which is fine and dandy. Don’t, however, expect me to pay for it.
I don’t like Gypsies, much, though I like their music a lot. I don’t like muslims, either, for reasons I have made entirely clear in these pages.
I titled this piece ‘Prejudice and Principles,’ because it made a good headline. I do not, however, believe that disliking either Gypsies or muslims can be counted as ‘prejudice,’ but should instead be counted as discrimination, (in the old-fashioned sense of the word, not the pejorative modern sense,) based on experience. I don’t like Gypsies because they expect hand-outs from society without possessing any concept of contribution, outside their own closed little worlds. I don’t like muslims for similar reasons, though in this case, it is not hand-outs they generally expect, but respect and tolerance without having any conception that these qualities are as much a two-way street as hand-outs and contributions. (Apart from being psychologically stunted by adherence to an out-of-date, oppressive and repressive system of superstition that causes nothing but trouble wherever it is found.)
So, where do the principles come in? We have discussed a lot of subjects in my Romanian classes, one of them being the EUSSR, (which has not brought the expected benefits to Romania and is about as popular here as it is in the UK,) and, in particular, my view that it was a mistake to admit Bulgaria and Romania – they were not ready, and still aren’t, an example of which being the decision not to admit the two countries to the Shengen zone in March as was planned – but that, since the decision was made and the two countries were admitted, there should be no difference between them and the other EUSSR countries, nor should there be any discrimination, (in the modern sense of the word,) against their nationals – we are all citizens of the EUSSR, Flying Spaghetti Monster help us. Now, after that slight detour, back to the point, my teacher was quite surprised to learn that I oppose the expulsion by France of a bunch of shiftless Roma a few weeks ago. One law, remember? This is what I meant about the clash of ‘prejudice’ and principle. Although I dislike Gypsies and muslims that doesn’t mean that I agree with discrimination, (in the modern sense,) against individuals. If I was seated on a bus and there was an unidentifiable object in a black sack standing, I would give up my seat, considering that the odds are in favour of it being female, as I would if it were a Gypsy woman in swirling skirt, headscarf and bangles (- yes, most of the Gypsy women and girls do dress like that here, though the headscarves are less in evidence in the towns.)
Similarly, I defend the right of Gypsies to live in their own preferred way, and of muslims to adhere to their ridiculous superstitions, but don’t expect me to pay for it, and don’t complain if you get trampled if you’re blocking the pavement with your Rse stuck in the air when I’m out for my constitutional. And don’t expect any special treatment we all get the same and if you don’t like it, bugger off somewhere else.