In discussions on the pages of the news server Romea ( www.romea.cz ) on various occasions debate between Roma and pro-Roma activists often returned to the issue of legitimacy – who actually can and should “act as Roma” or “Romanies representative”? Editor in Chief Paul Pečínka (Romano Newspaper) addressed a circle of contributors with a range of issues which can be summarized in one basic question of “who can act for the Roma?”
News Server Romea.cz will gradually post answers to this question by selected authors. The first answer is by Alica Heráková.
When looking for an answer to the question, “who are the representatives of the Roma” – we do not have to look too far. Who are the representatives of the Czech Republic on an international level? Do they share the same views? Is it Prime Minister Petr Necas and President Vaclav Klaus and their openly anti-European stance? Or is it the Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg with his opposing views? Or is it Czech deputies in the European Parliament representing different parties and therefore different approaches and views? Yes. They are all representatives, but to want them to have a uniformity of opinion is an almost totalitarian idea.
Secondly, we must ask ourselves whether we are looking for representatives to the majority or to each other. For the majority, we are all representatives. Anyone who speaks in the media, whether it’s a guest at an event, in comments, poll respondents on the street, or those accused of a crime.
It would be worth an attempt to perceive our current “discussion” through this lens. Well – who is representative of the Roma and who is not, who can speak for all Roma and who is harmful?
From this perspective, the fact that we are trying to combat plurality of opinions has very much hurt our own. We attack those who do not share our opinion (see the discussions on Romea.cz ) and insult them.
It is, in fact, our greatest problem: not the inability to find consensus, but to politely and thoughtfully be able to debate. In this context, the names of Patrick Bang or Radek Horváth are implied. It is not necessary to agree with their opinions. But equally it is not necessary to be vulgar and aggressively attack them only because they present themselves differently than we imagined. Dissenting opinions engender discussion. Discussion engenders the ability to listen to the other and refine your own mind. Discussion engenders civil society.
A very closely related question is whether we should, as tradition states, always respect the opinions of elders. Traditions are needed, but also among the Roma, as in every other society, there are conservatives and liberals. Therefore – yes, let us have respect for authority. But not blind obedience. Not fear.
Indeed, the ability for critical thinking skills is the basis for democracy, European democracy. That same European culture, to whose legacy as a Roma nation we proudly proclaim.