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Gypsies: a scapegoat for a frustrated majority

May 16th, 2011

Hungary’s 600 thousand Gypsies are the biggest losers of the regime change in Hungary, but the majority of the population do not identify themselves among the winners either. Ethnic distrust and conflicts are an inevitable consequence. Two decades of political correctness imposed by left wing-liberal intellectuals only served to deepen the crisis.  It may come as a surprise that this opinion should have been published in Demokrata, the passionately right wing pro-government weekly that is often accused of racist inclinations. The author of this thorough analysis, on four full pages, without ever blaming any community for the worrying developments is the weekly’s publisher, Gábor Bencsik (brother of the editor in chief András Bencsik) who recently received his PhD degree with a dissertation on the perception of Gypsies in 19th Century Hungary.

He enumerates 12 factors responsible for the deterioration in inter-ethnic relations; these include the fact that the industrial revolution deprived the Gypsy community of its traditional role as the provider of several categories of hand-made products, and the fact that the fall of a brand of communism which provided them with a measure of integration, caused most of them to lose their jobs in heavy industry and the collective farms, and pushed them outside  mainstream society once more.

“Transiting from one social structure to a different one is a tough job. Under extremely fortunate conditions, and with the help of exceptional teachers, perhaps one in a thousand succeeded.”

For most of the past twenty years the mainstream media was under the influence of left wing-liberal intellectuals and their political correctness, characterised by the belief that the “Gypsy question” was simply a result of the racial prejudices of the non-Gypsy population. Bencsik says this claim actually backfired because people gradually stopped believing “officialdom”. In fact, the right wing radical Jobbik party gained surprisingly strong support, especially in  areas hit by ethnic conflicts.

Bencsik quotes the example of the Salem witch-hunt in 1692-93 in Massachusetts to show that a frustrated population is naturally inclined to blame its own misfortune on others. Since most Hungarians also regard themselves as victims of the big social transformations, they often tend to look for adversarial groups which prevent them from being successful. “Hence the disturbingly deep political division in our country. But an additional explanation at hand is the presence of the Gypsies.”

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