“Anti-Gypsy” wall somewhere in Eastern Europe.
Slovenia is saying: “I have to get me one of those!”
Contrary to popular belief Slovenia was never a text-book example of ethnical or religious tolerance. Or any other kind of tolerance for that matter. Kind of hard to be tolerant when 90 percent of population is of Slovene ethnicity (there is a huge difference between ethnicity and nationality, as will be shown shortly) and when on average 75% of people are of Catholic faith (the number depends on wethwer Slovenia has a left-wing or a right-wing government) thus leaving very little room for other ethnicites and religions to develop and maintain their identity.
In mid-nineties a very interesting study was published which found that almost two thirds of Slovenes thought of themselves as tolerant. The same study, however, showed that more than 55,7% of Slovenes were intolerant towards the Serbs, almost 42% felt the same way about Croats and some 36% couldn’t stand the sight of Roma (commonly known as the Gypsies).
And that’s just intolerance in general…
When asked “who would you not like to have as your next-door neighbour”, almost 38 percent said they wouldn’t like to have a drug addict as their neighbour, 31 percent felt the same way about a homosexual person, 17 percent about Roma person, et cetera… Almost 9 percent of people would hate to have a Jew as their neighbour! (according to 1991 census 199 people declared themselves of Jewsih faith, and only 99 in 2002 – less than 0,1 of entire population of Slovenia!!!; source)
These numebrs had of course changed by 2006, at least as the anti-Serb sentimet is concerned, as it was fueled by the historical proximity of Slovene fight for independence and the attrocities commited by the Milošević regime in ex-Yugoslavia at the time. But the level of intolerance has not changed significantly, that – I’m sure of. The intolerance just refocused on other minorities.
In real life the religious intolerance is best seen by fierce opposition of Slovenes and a good proportion of their elected representatives to erecting a mosque in Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital. The Firm(tm) has a relatively good archive on the issue (although it is slightly outdated now). But for an objective look on the issue, check out this story by the Beebs.
But the most recent example of not-so-well-hidden intolerance are the latest incidents in the municipality of Ivančna Gorica, some 20 kilometres outside Ljubljana, where a Roma family was evicted by the local majority population (i.e. Slovenes). Check out the story by the Int’l Herald Tribune for an impartial report.
The last paragraph of the said article is particularly telling: “There is a huge sense of relief,” said Sinkovec, the village president. “We have nothing against them. We just think they should be found somewhere else to live.”
It is the embodiment of the begginig of this post. Slovenes don’t think of ourselves as intolerant. We just don’t want anybody who’s different in any way to be living near us.
Now, the usual argument is that outsiders like me cannot know how it is like in Ivančna Gorica. EEEEERRRRR!!!! WRONG!!!! We sure as hell know! Almost every apartement building in Ljubljana – and I’m sure it goes for other cities as well – has at least one person whose only purpose in life seems to be to make life sheer hell for everyone in that particular building. But hey! We have to live with it? What am I suppose to do if Mr. V. from third floor pumps his turbofolk music way over the medically acceptable level at noon on Sundays? Should I knock down his door, light a bonfire in his living room and tell him to get the fuck out and never come back? I can’t really, can I? So I have to learn to live with it. And so should the people of Ivančna Gorica. That’s what being tolerant is all about.
Of course noone is asking them to tolerate crime, but as shown above this situation has grown beyong security and enviromental issues. Now, a person in guilty and a persona non grata simply because he/she is of Roma ethnicity. Which brings us to the next interesting question:
Ethnicity vs. Nationality
The Roma family is obvisously of Roma ethnicity. But they are Slovene nationals. How in the world is possible that this government refrains from using force when one or more of its citizens are in danger and are being denied basic human rights? The “us” vs. “them” dillema is artificial, as is artificial the notion than Slovenes are purely caucaisan Chatolics. But this is what drives the current anti-Roma sentiment – that they are not one of “us” and should be therefore removed.
But they are one of us. They deserve the same priviliges and are subject to the same duties as any other Slovene national. Should they happen to avoide those duties, the State is the only institution which can punish them. No one else. That’s why the instrument of due procress wasn developed: so that everyone would get the same treatment in front of any court. It seems however that the Roma are second-class citizens, who were stripped of most of their human rights, and – in the case of Roma family in Ivančna Gorica – of their land as well. Sounds much like they did it in Nazi Germany or during the period of hardcore communism in Slovenia – shortly after WWII.
Today, it’s the Roma. Tomorrow it will be Bosnias. Next – the atheists. Then the left wingers and liberals. Endlösung – the final solution to purge this country of any and all unwanted elements. The people of Ivančna Gorica might not see it that way and could very well be shocked by the notion of being compared to the Nazis. But that is what they’re doing. That is what this nation is capable of.
P.S.: I will undoubtedly have the sad opportunity to write some more on this issue. There are scores of issues this post doesn’t cover: The idleness of government(s) during the past three decades. The dissolution of the rule of law. The role of the current prime minister in fueling the anti-Roma sentiment two years ago, and so on – ad nauseam, I’m afraid. But fear not! Come Monday, there will be meat galore, yet again 🙂
P.P.S.: Why in English? I could say that this way more people will understand this post, but the truth is that Michael was bitching about my posts being all in Slovene so I want to give him a break – at least as long as Poulette doesn’t nail me to the cross for my terrible English 🙂