Romany communities ways of living in relation to criminality (in the known territories of the Czech Republic and Slovakia) Roman Krištof - PDF

Romany communities ways of living in relation to criminality (in the known territories of the Czech Republic and Slovakia) Roman Krištof I state beforehand, that the subject of this micro-study itself

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Romany communities ways of living in relation to criminality (in the known territories of the Czech Republic and Slovakia) Roman Krištof I state beforehand, that the subject of this micro-study itself is extremely socially delicate, setting itself beyond the cliffs of tartaros of political correctness, because it explicitly anticipates, that there are some characteristics of the Romany populations here, which are criminal, and moreover that such characteristics can be labeled as Romany. So let s inquire if the family structure known by the Romany people makes possible the types of criminality not known by other groups of Czech citizens, if a certain type of criminal activity was (committed) here first, or was started off solely in the Romany community Communalism of pariahs When some minority is subjected to discrimination and disdain, it is mostly read as and justified by the fact, that some moral inferiority is attributed to this group. Its members are lazy, incapable, habituated to stealing, commonly susceptible to crime, are filthy, take on nasty sexual practices, booze etc. Such attribution can indeed be entirely unfair and unjustified. On the other side it can be forced on or produced by repeated self-affirmative practice. To some easily identifiable sub-population, to which strong criminal tendencies are ascribed, can have difficulties in getting ordinary job and can be hound on to criminal activity. It is hard to escape the effects of social stereotypization, and determined attempts frequently conduce to stronger primary attribution. Apart of fairness or other quality of such an attribution, this normal prerequisite of discrimination has certain evident logic. The minority in view trails behind the accepted values of the dominant host, or majority society; when the attribution of such inferiority is righteous and I don t know, in some cases it can be then discrimination is legitimated in a way. Such a situation regardless to the problem, if the attribution of a relevant defect is in fact legitimate represents, what can be called standard or simplest version of discrimination. Arnošt Gellner, Jazyk a samota (Language and Loneliness) 1 1) Delimitation of the terminological and analytical frame For the purpose of grasping the situation, the adjective Romany will describe activity carried out by persons considered to be Romany by Czech society (so-called popular discourse), whether they by themselves feel, or proclaim to be Romany, or not. The term criminal will be regarded as any activity, delimited by provisions of the Criminal code 2 of the CR. Romany populations: In this micro-study, the term Romany populations is used as a category of attributed ethnicity, i.e. the target group are populations described as Romany/Gipsy by their environment, not by means of their virtue (Romany populations ) volunteered declaration of Romanyhood or Romany nationality, because this would constrict the area of this study only to members of the Romany political community/national minority in the CR, which (as a group) definitely don t overlap with Romany populations in localities described as Romany (perhaps even 1 Ernest Gellner, Jazyk a samota, Centrum pro studium demokracie a kultury, 2005, p Act no.140/1961 Coll. as amended by subsequent acts. socially excluded, segregated, marginalized, pauperized etc.) and only very loosely with surveyed types of criminal actions and the corresponding crime-producing environment. Socially excluded Romany locality/enclave/community: For the purpose of this study, it is necessary to work with as broad as possible delimitation of the notion of locality/enclave/community; the compiler will treat Romany localities/enclaves/communities as the territorially delimited areas of cities and villages, which are known as such in existing macro- (nationwide media) and micro- (local sources) discourse, to the interested parties. Therefore this denotation applies for a complex of socalled blank-flats, slab blocks, or structurally heterogeneous parts of a city/village with a majority of Romany inhabitants; with all residential aggregates described in this manner we will work with ex definitione socially excluded, thus, it is with the population not participating as the of majority society and not having the same access to common goods (services, jobs and housing) as the majority/other population. The term community appears, especially in the micro-study dealing with the criminality of a social group, problematical. Recent evidential studies show, that if in any locality live two or more unrelated Romany groups (and such a situation is a rule nowadays), this population doesn t form a community in any sense. Such a population is not able to pick out a representative, is not in a position to agree on a common program etc. The reason why is that kinship as an organizational principle makes it not possible to associate any sort of filiation formations, so that the unrelated families never, as it were by definition, agree on the abovementioned moments. 3 A different focus is represented by the linguistically-national point of view claiming that community is imposed on us by the fact of speech alone. I don t think, that this focus can be useful for the description of crime-producing environments in enclaves inhabited mostly by Romany people, due to the differentiation of language usage in such enclaves (vernaculars of Czech and Slovak, Romany as ethnic dialect of Czech, east- Slovakian Romany, prison argot etc.). Pertinence to such a socially excluded locality (although in public/popular discourse described as Romany/Gipsy) should be laid ex definitione by social exclusion of its inhabitants, that means by their social condition, not by their assumed ethnical or even racial identity. How confused the situation becomes in this respect, is probably at best illustrated by a sentence from one of the cited criminological papers by philosophy students: In former times, pertinence to this ethnicity wasn t perceived as we perceive it today, racially, that means by the color of the skin, but by the life pattern. 4 Internal factors of social exclusion: Adaptation to conditions of material poverty, known as a poverty culture this term is used in our study as a conceptual instrument for describing the situation of Romany populations social exclusion creating an environment with a specifically integrated system of values, locally accepted rules and strategies of living, which contradict the norms of the majority of society; the notion of culture (both generally and specifically) is used in its non-evaluative 3 Marek Jakoubek, Lenka Budilová; In: (Lokální) romské komunity dekompozice pojmu (na příkladu lokality České Kamenice), str.16; Projekt HS 108/03 Dlouhodobý stacionární výzkum sociálně vyloučených romských komunit realizovaný Katedrou antropologie Fakulty humanitních studií Západočeské univerzity v Plzni. 4 Social pedagogy seminary paper Kriminalita Romů (Romany criminality), Iva Krajová, Jitka Slámová, Andrea Večeřová, Philosophical faculty, Masaryk Univerzity, Brno, 1999, p.24. sense, which makes the understanding and interpretation of actions of socially excluded Romany populations possible. External factors of social exclusion: These are read by the compiler as factors forming the nature of an institutional environment in relation to the social exclusion of Romany populations. They can have political (specific programs directed to Romany populations), economical (employee programs, so-called active employment policy, in support of Romany companies), legal (legislative support of Romany communities integration), cultural (support of artistic and social activities), symbolical (declaratory) character, or nature of territorial segregation (displacement and accumulation of rent debtors so-called non-payers). Social exclusion: The government s Romany Integration Policy Concept updated in 2005, takes the definition of European Community (2004) and characterizes the social exclusion as a process, by which some individuals are ousted to the margin of the society and are prevented from participating fully in the life of the society as a result of poverty or lack of basic skills and lifelong learning opportunities or due to discrimination. This separates from work, income and chances of education and also from networks and activities of the society. Such individuals have little access to power and decision-making authorities and often feel helpless and unable to control decisions that affect their daily life. (Part 5.1) Also the government s Report on Romany Communities Status in the CR (2004) states in part 4.4., that (the notion of) social exclusion is close to the notion poverty, but is not identical with it. If poverty is connected with the separation of individuals and groups from material resources of the society, then social exclusion is the shutout from the participation on the life of the society and the loss of social station in the society. This study starts, in accord with governmental materials, from the concept of social exclusion as a multidimensional phenomenon, by which an economical, social, political, community, territorial, and group dimension can be distinguished. The identification of localities/communities and of the associated crime-producing environments/ types of criminality starts from the accumulation of the phenomena typical for the broader definition of social exclusion, hence it records also its symbolism by the inhabitants of Romany communities with experience, which doesn t necessarily correlate to a poverty or housing standard. The compiler treats socially excluded localities/communities also as such settlement aggregates, in which the standard (of housing, transport services etc.) does not significantly differ from the surrounding environment, but by which their inhabitants and the surrounding population is considered to be different and excluded. This applies namely to the case of streets or parts of big cities, where it is very difficult to delimitate the extent of territorial exclusion of Romany people (Prague Smíchov, Karlín, and Nusle this more likely concerns individual houses or entries ). The government s Report on Romany communities Status in the CR (2004) distinguishes such territorially integrated settlements from territorially segregated aggregates (for example lodging-house of the Meat-?? in Kladno). Moreover it alludes to the distinction between bigger enclaves (for example Brno- Cejl) and micro-enclaves. Each person in relation to the locality/community in view, and to the associated crimeproducing environment/type of criminality, i.e. one which is considered to be a partaker of information exchange and with a value hierarchy in a given locality, within the frame of this study, is regarded as a member of the socially excluded Romany locality (community). This can include attendants of facilities in the locality such as community centers, gambling houses, or pubs. The term locality/community will hence be used as a geographical definition of a group, which can, but does not need to overlap to its factual or attributed ethnicity. 2) Suggestions on the relations to the general context of social exclusion of the Romany people in the CR I. Introduction Specialized cultures have begun to be harmful; they became a parody of human condition, where they once were a norm. Arnošt Gellner, Jazyk a samota The ways of living by Romany populations is known from many sources ranging from early medieval records up to present day knowledge, and out of specialization by (sub) contractor services of the Romany people to the rest of the population. During the pre-industrial period, the Romany clans in the host countries filled up the niche of traveling craftsman and resellers of wares. When this niche was already occupied, intermixture with the local non-romany clans occurred (Travelers in Ireland, and others). Itinerant trade and marketeering is today the style of living favored by the Romany people in the Western European countries (Spain, France). When the Romany people were constrained in a rural environment, their agricultural activity was again oriented to the seasonal labor available from farmers and landowners (former Hungary, Balkans). The industrialization of European countries in the 19 th and 20 th centuries led to the elimination of the services offered by Romany people from the basket of socially needed and valued activities. The effect of this was the adaptation to the conditions of material poverty leading to the segregation of Romany populations and to their progressive criminalization. Distance maintained for centuries by Romany clans to the surrounding (ritually unclean) world turned into, in recent centuries, a factor worsening the segregation and demobilizing the Romany people in regard to the access to services and goods distributed (in a discriminating way indeed) to all populations of liberal societies in the early capitalist era. This, in combination with the racial prejudices of most Europeans to the differently colored and culturally equipped Romany people, resulted in a social decline, (auto)segregation and criminalization/crime-production? of a major part of the Romany populations, which in their colonies began to generate an anti-world sentiment of their surroundings; kind of value counter-world granting deviant appreciation also to individuals, to which the majority society any appreciation denies (Skupník 2004:118) 5. During the pre-industrial period (as well as in prevailing popular discourse today), the Romany people were frequently considered to be born footpads and evildoers. When they were recognized as liars, thieves, and villains, they were persecuted in Spain at first, then also in other countries. In the 16 th century they relieved, here and there the attempts to change them into a settled nation and uplift them have been made, but these attempts have failed states the Otto s encyclopedia under the entry Cikáni (Gypsies). But we can assume that this was an expression of a different type of conflict than that of the modern criminality linked to the age of enlightenment and to the periods during the process of industrialization 5 Term anti-world is teken over form a study by Jaroslav Skupník: Pohled z druhé strany potoka. Sociopsychologická dynamika marginalizovanosti. (The view from the other side of the brook. Sociopsychological dynamics of being marginalized.) In: Rómska marginalita, Ed.: David Scheffel, Alexander Mušinka, Zborník z medzinárodnej konferencie, Prešov 2003, Centrum antropologických výskumov, 2004, str.118; and institutionalization (slammers). This was rather ancient animosity between nomad and peasant, meaning that the term nomad represented thefts, frauds and tricks, trespassing of fields and woods. This led to violent persecution of the Romany by the settled population, and together these ill feelings and negative actions exceed the framework of this study. As mentioned above, the anti-world of the Romany exclusion and criminality is in effect a value counter-world giving to its participants a sense of human integrity, only rarely granted to them by the so-called majority of society. Not by chance do we find many majority citizens set free from the jail execution of their homes in the setting of Romany ghettos. For the surrounding world they are only tattooed and cockeyed monsters, within the Romany environment they get the attention, appreciation and confirmation of their values independent of criminal stigmatization. I think, that Skupnik s characterization of a Romany colony (or ghetto), which grants to its inhabitants the sense of human integrity, can be extended also to the life of Romany criminals: The fact, that these colonies so stubbornly continue their existence in spite of their material poverty, and their inhabitants frequently return there as birds of passage, is (regardless to the indispensable external pressures mentioned by mine informer) a structural effect of a socio-psychological dynamics of human constitutional incompleteness and of resulting inevitability of social life and existential necessity of appreciation: the colony is a socially construed world granting to its inhabitants appreciation of their humanness and confirmation of their value as human beings. (Skupník, 2004:118). II. Types of Romany anti-world criminality Why, to find out something general in the individual lives of clan and caste structures, by the Romany individuals or groups living in different environments and on all levels of integration to the majority society, is almost impossible. And in addition to this, current politically tinged informational embargo on the Romany asocial or antisocial behavior data kills the possibility to document the further suggested, frequently generally shared theses by evidential empirical materials. Kazimír Večerka, Socioklub, 1999:427 The relevant materials dealing with Romany criminality agree in the fact that these are chiefly crimes against property. But the obtainable statistics leave out the factor of indirect offence, by which in principle the whole family of the offender shares the material benefit, and within the frame of social network exculpates him and generates the environment, in which the criminal offence and the subsequent execution, is in fact one of the possibilities taking place within the hierarchy of ranks and merits. In this the Romany criminality differs from the majority of crimes, in which the offender is permanently (negatively) stigmatized. Most of the information known to the compiler states that Romany criminality is primarily directed outside of the world of its life, against the so-called majority (Večerka, Štěchová 1990:5, Chalupský 1997:32), but the factor of misprision of offence by reason of a filial or intra-community tie can be so strong, that it necessarily changes the testimonial value both of statistical data (by the year 2000) and present studies. On the contrary, known data and researches from American ethnical slum-ghettoes clearly show the opposite trend (Wilson 1987) 6. Generally it is possible (I suggest) to divide the criminality of the Romany anti-world into an external and internal type. Some offences committed by the Romany people can be directly deduced from different cultural traditions, which, on the ground of their minority status were never normative: for 6 Wilson, William Julius; The truly disadvantaged the inner city, the underclass, and public policy, the University of Chicago Press, 1987; example, sexual intercourse before the age of 15 which is consensual and frequently consecrated by the family of the offenders. Traditionally arranged and (sexually) completed marriages are frequent especially by Olah Romany people. Also the offence of sponging, which was prosecuted during the communist regime, was in conflict with the tradition of mutual support in Romany families. There is (verbally transmitted) some information about the victims sanctioned by the Olah internal courts called Kriss. It is not true (as is frequently handed down), that the acceptance of the decision of this internal clan court is based on willingness. Often, it is enforced by threats and violence, mostly in case of collection of penalties by this court. The sentenced as a rule don t demand protection from the state and its authorities. Socially, the biggest problem is the comprehension of theft and other criminal offences by some Romany groups, especially the Olah 7. We can claim, that robbery by gádžos (the majority) is not by many Romany clans perceived as morally wrong. It is true, especially in the case of groups which are in permanent war against the surrounding world and consistently divide the universe into them and us. Alarming is the fact that society is not able to prevent such filially/clan conditioned criminality caused b
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