Christina Hooson

Christina Hooson (Dženo Association): Christina completed her BA in European Studies in London. At the time of her fellowship, Christina was studying for her Masters in International Affairs and Governance at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland. She first came across the issue of Roma Rights during her Bachelor studies in the context of the democratisation process in Eastern Europe.



Jump aboard.

17 Jul

Bus timetables in London? Don’t bother. The phrase ‘just like London buses’ is no mere figure of speech: those loveable red double-deckers just do come along in twos…or threes, or fours…  A drop of humour, an ounce of patience and a pinch of apathy is the only antidote.

Bus timetables in Switzerland? One minute delay equates to scandal. The only downside is that impeccable punctuality may inadvertently induce intolerance in even the most well-trained Londoner.

Timetables and Roma? Has Christina finally lost it? Feel free to question my sanity and in the meantime I’ll get to the point. Dividing much of my time between Switzerland and the UK I have become aware not only of subtle cultural differences but also the semi-automatic process of adaption one undergoes as one travels. We’re no chameleons, but we do adjust to certain norms – bus timetable credibility as well as the more profound.

The general perception in Europe is that Roma refuse to conform to social standards; they may have adjusted their tolerance levels in accordance with the reliability of buses but they insist on pursuing lifestyles destructive to majority values. How to overcome social inequalities? Roma just need to adapt, conform, assimilate, evolve, integrate. Bingo, problem solved.

Oh if only upward social mobility was as fluid as bus punctuality tolerance levels. Using ‘difference’ to explain Roma impoverishment, social tension and conflicts, migration, and the failure of integration initiatives detracts from the fact that Roma are excluded from the very means that would eliminate their social marginalisation, such as education and employment.

Romodrom is a partner organisation of the Dzeno Association which directly addresses the hurdles that stand in the way of progress. At Romodrom, they brush aside futile chicken-or-the-egg-type-discussions on social deprivation to address its root causes. Their work includes counselling prisoners and their families, social work and programs for children which focus on improving Czech language skills. Having been given the opportunity to observe the work of Romodrom over the coming months, I hope in future blogs to elaborate on their efforts as well as the scale of the challenges ahead. So stay tuned.  

Wait! What about bus timetables in Prague I hear you cry? I think it suffices to say one neither has to resort to the London cocktail of wit, patience and indifference nor fight the onset of intolerance like in Switzerland.

Posted By Christina Hooson

Posted Jul 17th, 2009

4 Comments

  • gwilym, elder

    July 17, 2009

     

    It was the Egg, all along – without the mutation, passed on through the egg, that first gave us the chicken, there would be no chicken. x

  • Andrea

    August 4, 2009

     

    Das Huhn und das Ei gehören wohl unzertrennlich zusammen. Hier in der Schweiz besteht die Pflicht, alle Kinder in die Schule zu schicken. Dies geht aber nur, wenn man einen festen Wohnsitz hat. Soll man nun die Fahrenden (so werden sie hier genannt) zum Verbleib zwingen, damit sie ihre Kinder in die Schule schicken? In Bern besteht ein spezielles Stück Land mit Infrastruktur für die Fahrenden. Sie können dort einen Standplatz beziehen, befristet ihr Fahrzeug aufstellen, sich dann in der Stadt anmelden und ihre Kinder zur Schule schicken, bis sie wieder weiterfahren. So gibt es viele Fahrende, die über den Winter bleiben und einige bleiben sogar für immer hier, aber immer noch im Wohnwagen. Dieses Arrangement wurde von der Stadt mit den Fahrenden ausgehandelt und die Umzonung des Landes wurde von der Bevölkerung gutgeheissen. So entstand eine Win-Win-Situation, wobei nicht verschwiegen werden soll, dass sich die negativen Seiten der Romas hier vermehrt zeigen als die positiven (siehe Stereotypen, die Du beschrieben hast)liebe Grüsse Andrea

  • Luisa

    August 25, 2009

     

    “The general perception in Europe is that Roma refuse to conform to social standards; they may have adjusted their tolerance levels in accordance with the reliability of buses but they insist on pursuing lifestyles destructive to majority values.”

    Yes yes yes! That familiar pattern! Not conforming appears to be dangerous. Great observation, not obvious to many but very true. Let me just have fun with this for a second: It reminds me very much of the work of Sander Gilman who is very much about examining “images” (sometimes even physical images) and projections. And indeed, perhaps there is such a projection at work here as well? Gilman, in one of his books, claims that part of Nazi antisemitism might have been the fear of the stereotypical Jew lurking in oneself. Perhaps part of the hatred of gypsies arises from the danger of secretly wishing to live “differently”, less concerned about work and discipline as well?
    (Again, let me stress that I was just trying to make an unorthodox point. Though now I do wonder whether there is something to it actually…)

  • Luisa

    August 25, 2009

     

    “How to overcome social inequalities? Roma just need to adapt, conform, assimilate, evolve, integrate. Bingo, problem solved.”

    People might and do call for “assimilation” or “acculturation”….and then “bingo”, the problem simply becomes a different one. If the Turks in Germany are unemployed and don’t speak proper German, they are a burden on the welfare system and should better follow our German Leitkultur. If on the other hand they are successful, German-speaking careerists, they are accused of stealing away our jobs and anyways, they’re probably still going to force marriage upon an unwitting German girl fooled by their misleading appearance and then ship her back to some village. In the mid-19th century, Jews were granted emancipation on the German territories on the condition that they cease to regard themselves as a “national” community and limit the practice of their faith to the domain of the private. As you know, many embraced this enthusiastically, and tried to integrate into German society as well as they could: And what happened was that in Imperial Germany and also during the Weimar years, the focal point of much antisemitism were those Jews “who were not even recognisable anymore”. I’m sure with “antigypsyism” an element of old-school racism might enter into it as well. So my point is that it is not that Roma are so marginalised that the traditional instruments of upward mobility aren’t even accessible to them, but that even if they succeeded, their success would likely come at a cost. And that’s why stereotypes are such a bitch (excuse me). They tend to evolve, rather than disappear.

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