The very existence of the vast majority of Roma organisations depends on the abject racism of a part of the majority populations, the ineptitude of a good part of the bureaucracy responsible for Roma issues, the abysmal lack of civil society in a good many of our communities, and the fear of an interethnic explosion. We, the Roma civil society, are an artificial creation, a project run by a number of international organisations and donors. Most of these funding organisations have only vague ideas about the problems Roma face, and laughable expertise on Roma inclusion. Their main concern is not to help social inclusion of Roma but to prevent Roma from migrating and settling in the rich and politically powerful donor countries.
Accordingly, our involvement in our communities is largely imaginary, as are the reports submitted to donors and the effects of funding targeting Roma social inclusion in the communities.
Most Roma ‘elite’ are quite confused about the skills and qualities that it takes to be part of the ‘elite’. Here I will try to address some misconceptions.
1. The improvement in your family’s, extended family’s or friends’ wealth and living standard due to your work addressing Roma exclusion and poverty is not a proof of your professional competence, but rather proof of intellectual dishonesty or corruption.
2. ‘Hands-on experience in the communities’ doesn’t mean you go by car once every blue moon and visit some communities (while receiving a per diem), or you talk about those communities regularly while spending most of your time in elegant offices or conference rooms. Giving or facilitating ‘projects’ to some communities while asking for votes is bribery and not political astuteness.
3. Being part of an NGO and at the same time engaged in political parties in order to secure a well-paid political career or other financial benefits is not a sacrifice for the good of Roma, but selfish and delusional opportunism (and usually also a sign of a corrupt personality).
4. Attending high-level meetings, snapping photos with celebrities, wearing expensive clothing, and driving expensive cars are not indicators of your involvement in the communities or your value for Roma social inclusion. In most cases, they are a sign of ineptitude and corruption on behalf of the international organisations, and usually your own corruption too.
5. Accessing special scholarships designated for underprivileged Roma doesn’t make you special. In fact, it demonstrates your mediocrity if you cannot try harder and compete in the mainstream society.
6. The ability to talk incoherently for long periods of times about any subject, on TV, radio or in conferences is not an achievement, but rather a sign of self-delusion about your own importance.
7. The ability to rationalize stridently contradictory systems of values may suggest schizophrenia. You cannot require others to treat you like a saint, suffering from prejudice and abuse, while you yourself do not hesitate to be racist, sexist, homophobic, corrupt and violent.
8. Dismissing the results and opinions of people that work on Roma issues but are not Roma is not a sign of being a good or true Roma. It is simple stupidity, especially if those people have much better academic and hands-on experience than you. Despite all your beliefs, some 20 or 30 years of ‘life experience as a Roma’ is not a replacement for professional skills.
9. The fact that you have some talents (i.e. music, writing, ability to learn foreign languages easily) doesn’t make you a good diplomat, bureaucrat, technocrat, manager or politician. More likely, you are in fact a corrupt, hypocritical, self-deluded, violent idiot who also happens to be a multilingual, talented writer or musician that ended up due to luck and favourable circumstances in a high-level position.
10. Meritocracy has nothing to do with your ability to lie or exaggerate your academic and professional background. Also, ass-kissing, bribing your way up or out, threatening, intimidating or blocking anybody that can challenge your power position have nothing to do with meritocracy, but more with cowardice and corruption. Not speaking up in order to preserve your position in the organisation is not being politically smart, but proof of a lack of spine.
I believe that a good part, if not most, of our Roma political and civil society elites are profoundly delusional. The discrepancy between their self-perceived importance, education, achievements and professional qualities, and reality is often at – or beyond – the limits for the need of professional psychological help.
I believe – and hope- we will soon witness a serious crisis of Roma elites. The hypocritical discourse of most of these elites, their corruption, unprofessionalism, and abysmal results, compounded with the increase in migration of Roma, the explosion of racism against Roma, and the swelling of the number of Roma living in ghettoes in big cities around Europe are all signs of a looming crisis.
In times of crisis, the ‘impossible’ reforms become logical and obvious measures. One of the most important measures needed is to adopt a basic standard for Roma political and civil society organisations. A similar standard should be applied to the other stakeholders working for Roma social inclusion.
- Roma political and civil society leaders should be limited to two mandates of maximum four years each. This measure will address the overall tendency of Roma leaders to self–sufficiency, autocracy or royalty.
- Significant hands-on work/volunteering in the communities, together with a meritocratic-based system of employment, should be basic requirements for any representative job in the Roma field.
- Public financing of any organisation, including Roma organisations, should require full transparency of expenditures and salaries.
- Nepotism should be banned. Roma politics and NGOs are at high risk of becoming family businesses.
- Roma political and NGO leaders should invest a percentage of their own income in the improvement of Roma social inclusion.
If you feel offended about any of the above you might be one of the people that I thought about when writing this text. I strongly believe that we can improve continuously and most of those I target in this text can do it. Having high expectation from yourself justifies having high expectations from your elites. It is also a text for myself.
This text can well apply to Romanian political and civil society elites and if you felt superior just because you are not a Roma then you might be a racist.
 Can be read “hi” or “fu”. I prefer hi