Eurocentrism and Its Impact on Romani Gypsies
In the fifteenth century, the Romani Gypsy people entered Western Europe, en masse (Lee, 2000). They came in peace, seeking amnesty from their torturous travels (Lee, 2000) from the land of Punjabi, India (Nadia & Peter, 1998). Along with the Romani Gypsies came their spirit filled culture (Lee, 2000; Gadalla, 2004). A culture that is one with Devel, the One God (Auken, 1999). A culture that honours the Earth as the giver of all life (ibid; Lee, 2000; Gadalla, 2004). A respecting culture, of all living beings (ibid). The Romany Gypsies have an ancient and timeless culture (Lee, 2000; Gadalla, 2004) that traces its roots to the beginnings of the Egyptian civilisation (Gadalla, 2004; The True Origin of Roma and Sinti). A rudimentary understanding of Ancient Egypt will reveal that it is considered a highly civilised culture (Auken, 1999), as is the culture of the Romani Gypsy (Gadalla, 2004). Federico Garcia Lorca, “in commenting on the significance of the (Egyptian) Romany/Gitano in his poems observed: … the gitano is the most distinguished, profound and aristocratic element in my country, the one that most represents its Way of being and best preserves the fire, the blood and the alphabet of the Andalusian and universal truth” (Gadalla, 2004, underlining mine). Unfortunately, the grandeur of the Romani Gypsy culture has been belittled and stereotyped as a culture of “filthy beggars in rags” (ibid).
In the past, the press have falsely labeled Romany Gypsies as “outcasts, thieves, beggars, charlatans and confidence tricksters” (Lee, 2000). In the present, the press continue their racist propaganda stereotyping Romani Gypsies “as thieves, tramps, con men and fortune tellers” (Antiziganism). A slight observation of history reveals that, by the sixteenth century, Romani Gypsies had arrived in vast numbers into Western Europe, “which was when persecution of them in Britain reached its height, particularly under Henry VIII, under whose rule it became unlawful even to be a Gypsy” (Lee, 2000). In the eighteenth century, 1710:
Joseph I issued an edict against the Gypsies, ordering ‘that all adult males were to be hanged without trial, whereas women and young males were to be flogged and banished forever. The result was ‘mass killings’ of Roma. In 1721, Charles VI amended the decree to include the execution of adult female Roma, while children were ‘to be put in hospitals for education’ (Antiziganism).
In the present day, “Gypsies are the most hated minority in Europe despite centuries of persecution and the Holocaust” (Gypsies are ‘Europe’s most hated’, 2005). Dr James Smith of the National Holocaust Centre comments:
Sixty years ago, after centuries of persecution, Europe’s gypsies faced extermination under the Nazis, simply because of who they were…. Yet even after the Holocaust, gypsies remain perhaps the most hated minority in Europe. When hysteria is whipped up against a minority by politicians and the media, people get hurt and they are getting hurt, right now (ibid).
Nature of Eurocentrism and Its Impact on Romany Gypsies
As the nature of Eurocentrism is examined in the following section, a light will be directed to expose a darker side of Eurocentrism that, it must be noted, does not entirely define Eurocentrism, but it is indeed a factor in its function and purpose. The darker side of Eurocentrism, as noted below, is characterised by capitalistic greed, destructive imperialism, and a dark religious force. And yet, in all fairness, and though this section omits the fact, Eurocentrism has brought humanity many positive scientific breakthroughs and advancements. However, the intent of the following section is to analyse the darker side of Eurocentrism in light of its impact on the Romany Gypsies.
Anti-Romanyism has been prevalent in Western Europe in the past, and by all accounts, it is still prevalent today. The imperialistic nature of Eurocentrism is a ratchet of white dominance over the Romani Gypsies, who are amongst the many tribal peoples who have suffered from the imperialistic expansion of Eurocentrism across the world (Eurocentrism; Knudsen, 2005). Tribal peoples, such as the Romani Gypsies, Australian Aborigine, Native Americans and Pavee (ie. Irish Travellers), have suffered a history of rape, demonisation, psychological and spiritual trauma, torture, enslavement, and are/have been victims of ethnic cleansing, genocide, and cultural genocide by a Eurocentric civilisation (Nightmare of My People; Crimes of the Europeans; Racism in Ireland: Travellers Fighting Back; Commission for Racial Equality, 2007). Though these acts are crimes against humanity, Euro Imperialists justify their actions by a “decided and unquestioned superiority over all the nations of the earth” (Has Race Always Been the Same?). Historically, by 1899, “racial superiority has become more than common sense. Whites now have a moral imperative to govern inferior peoples, a mission preordained in the hierarchy of races” (ibid). Furthermore, the preeminence of Western European culture, at the expense of non-Europeans, led to the theory that “European achievements arose from innate racial superiority… justifying race-based slavery, genocide, colonisation and other forms of political and economic exploitation” (Eurocentrism).
History reveals that Eurocentrism has insistently violated the human and cultural rights of Romani Gypsies. Eurocentrism, via its innate racial superiority, violates Romani Gypsy rights to “manifest, practise, develop and teach their spiritual religious traditions” and, furthermore, violates the “collective and individual right not to be subjected to ethnocide and cultural genocide” (Draft United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 1994). The Eurocentric violation of Romani Gypsy rights will remain uninhibited if there is no constructive fighting against what is considered by Gypsies to be an unlucky darker force which is opposing the natural order of things (Lee, 2000). This “darker force” that may be found within Eurocentrism has been appropriately termed as the “religion of progressivism, economy, merchants and market” (White, 2008). And though Economists values have been noted to conflict with Christian Ethics (ibid), history reveals that Romani Gypsies, and various other tribal peoples, such as the Australian Aborigine and Native American, do not differentiate between Europe’s Imperial domination and Christianity (Hessel & Rasmussen, 2001). To the tribal peoples, subjugated by the advancements of Euro-Imperialism, Europeanism and Christianity are one and the same order (ibid; Imperialism). In his book, One Blood, 200 Years of Aboriginal Encounter with Christianity: A Story of Hope, author John Harris comments:
… their [early Australian missionaries] theology was inadequate and they failed to distinguish properly between the gospel and what they called ‘civilisation’, European culture…. The missionaries appeared sometimes to speak as if they regarded ‘gospel’ and ‘civilisation’ as distinct entities. But in reality they believed the two were very closely connected…. They did not really differ over whether the two were inseparable, but only over the order in which they should be instilled (Harris, 1990, underlining mine).
Tribal peoples, including Romani Gypsies, who have an innate relationship with Earth, have recognised the interconnection of organised religion, capitalism and imperialism, as being the dark forces of destruction (Lee, 2000; Hessel & Rasmussen, 2001), which has been proven to be the main cause of the ecological crisis we are facing today (Hessel & Rasmussen, 2001; Chilcott, 2006). Eurocentrism is impartial on what it destroys, be it human or ecological. “The [Eurocentric] logic that led to slavery and segregation in the Americas, colonization and apartheid in Africa, and the rule of white supremacy throughout the world is the same one that leads to the exploitation of animals and the ravaging of nature” (Hessel & Rasmussen, 2001).
It is difficult for Eurocentrics to learn from their victims when their terrorist actions are justified by their very Europeanism, a mentality that views other tribal peoples as inferior and uncivilised (Eurocentrism; Has Race Always Been the Same?). “Everything came from Europe, and everything comes from it. Almost everything” (Kreis, 2006), poet and “exemplary cultural critic” (West & Brown, 1993), Paul Valéry, wittingly remarks. Valéry’s wit, unfortunately, is in concordance with the spirit of Euro-Imperialism, an empire that has in recent years matured into the all-consuming Beast of Revelations (Revelations 13:11; James & Strandberg). In the twenty first century, “the former Western Europe” (Braidotti, 2000) has become “the European Union” (ibid; Noakess, 2007; Let The People Decide) with the “constitution of a dictatorship, and the laws of a police state” (Noakess, 2007). The European Union is said to be a materialisation of a century old virus of the European mind-set (Braidotti, 2000), a cancerous disease of the Earth (Rae; Roddick, 2001). A disease that needs to be salved before global extinction (ibid; Hessel & Rasmussen, 2001). In 1996, the United Nations was reminded of “the native ancestors of the ancients that still carry the understanding of the old Spiritual Earth ways. They understand the spiritual nature of the land, and of peace” (Carroll, 1996). These native ancestors of the ancients include the Native Americans, Australian Aborigines and the Romani Gypsies (Feys, 1997). The virus of European civilisation (Rae), like cancer, it is not effectively recognised by the immune system and eventually destroys the host (Roddick, 2001). Following on from this analogy, the salve for the virus needs to be a culture that recognises the virus in the host, such as the tribal cultures of the world who have been forcefully ‘contaminated’ by Euro-Imperialism (Ellis; Rae). Unfortunately, “in most of the essays and books I have read, there is hardly a hint that perhaps whites could learn something of how we got into this ecological mess from those who have been the victims of white world supremacy” (Hessel & Rasmussen, 2001).
While First World countries try and find a solution through the framework of their “advanced civilisation” (Eurocentrism), the tribal peoples of the Earth, who have been victims of Euro-Imperialism see things very differently. Native American, human rights activist, John Trudell, makes the poignant observation concerning the European civilisation:
The great lie is that it is civilisation. It is not civilised. It has literally been the most blood thirsty, brutalising system ever imposed upon this planet. That is not civilisation. That’s the great lie – that it represents civilisation – that’s the great lie. Or if it does represent civilisation and it’s truly what civilisation is, then the lie is that civilisation is a good force (Rae, underlining mine).
Romany Shaman, Patrick Jasper Lee, observes that Western European civilisation “was about lies: lying to the Earth, lying to the spirits, lying to each other and, worst of all, lying to yourself” (Lee, 2000). In the Romani Gypsy eyes, Europeanism is not inclined to produce morally sound solutions for its own problems, considering that the problem is the very framework which European civilisation was built on, that is, lies and greed.
Spiritual Culture of the Romany Gypsy
Romany Gypsies have long been falsely labeled as a demonised culture (Gypsies are ‘Europe’s most hated’) and satanically inspired (Antiziganism), aligned with the practice of black magic, and yet the reality is far from such labeling and propaganda. The following section will succinctly examine the essence of the Romani Gypsy’s spiritual nature in an attempt to dissipate the cognitive-dissonance that hinder the public from seeing the positive side of the Romany Gypsies. Arguing whether the Romani Gypsies are satanic or not stands outside the intentions of this essay. However, the reader may choose to decide for themselves after they read these facts:
- Romani Gypsies follow the O Drom, The Way (Gadalla, 2004), which is the path of Devel, One God (The True Origins of Roma and Sinti).
- The Way is found in communion with Ma’at, Truth (Gadalla, 2004).
- The Romani Gypsy culture is the experience and communion in the Way and the Truth, resulting in a Life giving culture (ibid, The True Origins of Roma and Sinti).
The above points are directly connected to the soteriology found in Gospel of John 14:6. In fact, Gypsy spirituality is in harmony with the divine principles in the Christian Canon. “Most Roma [Gypsies] read the Bible now, and all of them astonishingly exclaim: ‘All our laws and rules are written in the Bible!’ – No other people in the world except the Jews may say such a thing” (The True Origins of Roma and Sinti, underlining mine). The essence of Gypsy culture is their spiritual heritage, an atavistic heritage, where Biblical spirituality and the Gospel is deeply engraved in their collective memory (The True Origins of Roma and Sinti; Gadalla, 2004; Auken, 1999). The true essence of Gypsy culture is completely different to what is depicted in Western European media. Some say that “by experiencing the Romani people and their music, people can learn more about them and understand that – what you’ve believed about these people has been a lie your entire life” (Johnny Depp).
In an attempt to unveil the mysterious Romani Gypsy culture, to see what “they understand [of] the spiritual nature of the land, and of peace” (Carroll, 1996), and how these victimised people can give humanity a hint of how humanity can heal the ecological crisis we are in (Hessel & Rasmussen, 2001), we will focus on a Romani Gypsy principle that is in direct opposition to the main drive of Eurocentrism, that is, Capitalism.
The Borrowing Principle
Capitalism, or the ownership of capital, is a foreign concept to Romani Gypsies. The ancient Romani Gypsies had no “verb meaning to possess, to have, nor any verb meaning to belong to” (Gadalla, 2004). The Borrowing Principle was favourably invested upon the use of the land, as Romani Gypsies have a strong innate and historical connection to the land and earth (Gadalla, 2004; Lee, 2000). For the Romani Gypsy, “the earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it” (Psalm 24:1). On the other hand, from a Romani Gypsy perspective, ownership is clearly a state of mind (Lee, 2000) and it manifests itself as a “giant vacuum cleaner, sucking everything up in a greedy fashion – possessions, people, animals, land, ideas, thoughts, and the very soul of life” (ibid). Romani Gypsies embody the belief that the land must be respected – that it belongs to no one (Moran, 2006). The Borrowing Principle stems from a harmonious and mutually befitting relationship with all Creation. However, the Capitalist does not desire to live in a harmonious and mutually befitting relationship with all Creation (Readings from the Perspective of the Earth), instead it embraces a “Western dualistic perception of reality” (ibid), a nature—culture dichotomy that has existed in Western thinking since time immemorial (Moran, 2006):
Perhaps the most destructive form of this dualism in relation to our perception of the natural world developed as a result of the mechanistic approach of Descartes and his successors…. This tendency was reinforced by a mechanistic approach to natural phenomena, which can again be traced back to Descartes who wrote, ‘I do not recognise any difference between machines made by craftsmen and the various bodies that nature alone composes’ (Readings from the Perspective of the Earth).
The progressively mechanised character of European culture was contrasted with tribal and indigenous cultures of the world (Eurocentrism), leading the mechanised European culture to be classified as more civilised than tribal cultures who have lived in harmony with the Earth for thousands of years. From a Romani Gypsy perspective, it seems that for hundreds of years, Europeans have acted as if they own the world’s resources and have forced tribal peoples to accept their scientific and ethical values (Hessel & Rasmussen, 2001). Many ecologists speak often of the need for humility and mutual dialogue (ibid). Why is there so much talk of love, humility, interrelatedness, and interdependence, and yet so little of these values reflected in the European’s dealings with tribal peoples (ibid, 32)?
What drives Europeans in an self-destructive and glorified pursuit for complete global destruction? Romani Gypsies, who have had all their cultural rights violated by Euro-Imperialism, ask this question and find their answers in O Drom, The Way. It is said that “according to the old Gypsies, Europe became enchanted by bad gaujo [non-Gypsy] sorcerers” (Lee, 2000). The sorcerers may be unseen to the European public, but to the Romani Gypsy, these sorcerers hold the masses under their sway.
The Romani Gypsy, despite thousands of years of persecution and invasion (Gadalla, 2004) has clung to its spiritual heritage and followed the Way of Devel, One God. “The general belief is that if the old ways are not observed you lay yourself open to bad luck which will weaken you…. These can be a severe threat to health and well-being if not taken seriously” (Lee, 1999). Romani Gypsies have observed the disease of Europeanism (Rae) devour lands, peoples and cultures. It is time for all people to decide what life is worth. “Peace is no longer an option. It is a necessity” (Carroll 1996). Romani Gypsies have always known peace (Lee, 1999), maybe some have forgot (Rae). It is time to remember.
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