Thursday, February 21, 2008

manele: what's with all those nasty comments?

EVEN MORE: I don't know if it's actually true but a story was going around that a group of hungry Roma eat the famous black swans from a lake within a public park in Spain...

MORE: Roma were "early adopters" as far as moving West once it became an option. Quite a few Western countries (notably Germany, where Romanian immigration camps were at times set on fire and most recently Italy, which ended up deporting Romanians back to Romania apparently against EU policy after an Italian woman was killed by an ethnic Roma originally from Romania) weren't at all pleased that they found themselves in the position of having to deal with things like petty crimes (or much more severe crimes) and in-your-face begging. No doubt, some ethnic Romanians were probably also causing such problems but percentage-wise, the ethnic Roma group just brought a lot more of these problems.

It didn't help that Western media didn't differentiate between ethnic Roma and ethnic Romanian. Pretty soon, Romanians were seen as persona non-grata in Western Europe and plenty of them were pretty pissed... (and never quite recovered). So for a vocal part of the population, the usual distrust of Roma has turned into an acute us-versus-them mentality. D.
you will probably still find those comments (especially the worst of them) reprehensible and they are but I think it helps if you understand the history and the present situation:

Roma have been pretty much the equivalent of blacks, except that they are of dark Caucasian ancestry and they weren't brought to Eastern Europe against their will, they came on their own accord from places like today's India and Bangladesh (some of them ended-up being indentured laborers in monasteries and private households until around 1850); although some of them are doctors and lawyers today, most of those who hold jobs still do menial work and a good portion of them do not hold actual jobs at all; as a group, their rate of incarceration, for instance, is much higher and their education level significantly lower than that of ethnic Romanians.

They have a long history of producing music for countryside and edge-of-town parties. Some of these "bands"/tarafe were very good, particularly when it came to playing instruments (e.g. Taraf de Haiduci - fragment from a movie filmed in a Roma community in Romania)

Although a high percentage of Romanians reportedly listens to "manele" (which is a relatively new form of mostly Roma performed music that can be crude like rap, but it can also be very romantic, like the old Romanian songs) at least occasionally, a vocal portion of the population considers it a disgrace (they charge that the lyrics are puerile and things like grammar are not given much importance).

I get the impression that this is due at least in part part to the belief that it gives foreigners an inaccurate image of Romania and of Romanians (some of these bands have been invited to perform abroad) -- I personally came across a number or relatively educated Americans (one of them was in law school) who were convinced that Romanian people and Roma people were the same...

Poor journalism seems to have given the world this impression and Romania actually passed a law seeking to impose a fine on "irresponsible journalists who damage Romania's image". I don't know how well it succeeded but I did see a number of "documentaries" on Romania that were the equivalent of descending on South Chicago, gathering a group of blacks (exclusively) and saying things like: "These... are the Americans!"


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