Csíkszereda Musings

My life in and around Csíkszereda, also known as Miercurea Ciuc.

Archive for the ‘xenophobia’ Category

Life as a blogger

Posted by Andy Hockley on 7 March, 2008

Every now and then for my pains I get a tirade of abuse from some rabid nationalist psycho. This can appear in the form of a comment on the blog, an email to me, or in some occasions a post on another blog which I have to discover by accident. These come from both Romanian nationalists and Hungarian nationalists, which to my mind means I’m getting it just about right (I recognise that this is not a very scientific way of deciding that, but it’ll do).

A couple of months ago, for example, I received the following email from someone called “Radu B”. I did try to engage Domnul B in debate but he didn’t respond, so I feel that it’s OK to taunt him here. The italicised bits are Radu, and the non-italicised bits are my sneering response. In the interests of fairness I have quoted the entire email just so you know not I’m not taking any of this out of context.

Dear Mr. Andy H, while I have no idea about your ethnic(I’m assuming you’re British), social or professional background (and quite frankly I don’t care about either), I have stumbled upon your blog. I appreciate you have chosen my country to work in and I do hope you are having a good time there.

This is a fair enough opening. I don’t really care much about Radu’s background either. Not quite sure why he needed to say this however. But there you go. Interesting use of the word “there” which implies that while he is obviously Romanian, he’s not actually living here. This is somewhat interesting given what comes later.

However, I do know that Mc. Ciuc is a Romanian city, in a Romanian county, in a Romanian province, and guess what! The official language of Romania, regardless of the ethnic make-up of the area in which you find yourself is – you guessed it!- Romanian.

He’s clever, is that Radu. Again I’m not sure why he is quoting undisputed facts at me, but once again, who can ever really know the mind of another.

For that reason, I find the URL of your blog (szekely) and the fact that you keep calling the city by its equivalent name in Hungarian and the fact that you chose to learn Hungarian first and then Romanian, highly offensive.

Highly offensive! It is highly offensive to actually use the word “Szekely”! Not quite sure how Radu would like to proceed with this ethnic group – deny their existence totally? Now I do recognise that it bothers some people that I call this town Csikszereda more frequently than I call it Miercurea Ciuc, and while I think they’re being a bit over sensitive, I at least see where they’re coming from (and I hope that in turn they understand why I choose one over the other for the most part). It’s also highly offensive that I chose, on arrival in Romania (yes Radu, I know I am in Romania) to attempt to learn the language of my wife and (especially) step daughter first. Very odd. (In fact I kind of wish I had had the opportunity to learn Romanian first since it seems so much easier than Hungarian, but I think my reasons for choosing the option I did are clear – and in fact 100% correct)

You are not only offending some Transylvanian (myself) through your actions, but also our forefathers and the sacrifices made to liberate the province from Hungarian occupation.

We’ll gloss over the whole “Hungarian occcupation” thing since we’re never going to resolve that here. As for offending someone, well whatever I do I will offend someone. So, I think I can live with myself on that one too.

I remind you once more that you are living in Romania, not Hungary.

Thanks Radu. I have to confess I keep forgetting which country I live in. That’s why I wrote “A small town in the Ciuc Depression, Romania” at the top of this blog just in case it escapes my attention and I suddenly imagine myself living in Hungary.

I’m convinced your ethnic Hungarian friends are absolutely extatic about your choices,

What choices? The one to live here? I hope some of them are vaguely happy about it, yes. I like to think my wife is very happy, and even possibly ecstatic, but I don’t think most people really care that much what I call my blog, to be honest.

and that they add fuel to their erotic dreams regarding autonomy for that part of Romania,

Those dreams are erotic? Wow, no wonder people like them. I’m not sure if I want an erotic dream involving Marko Bela though.

but if you like their language and culture so much, I cordially invite you to cross the border and immerse yourself in the culture Attila’s heirs have created in the Pannonic Plains.

And so it closes, with the traditional “Why don’t you fuck off to Hungary” line (and let’s not be distracted by the “cordial invitation”, we all know what that means). I assume Radu is “inviting ” me to Hungary anyway – he seems to be somewhat confused by who the Hungarians actually are – the Magyars are not thought to be directly connected to the Huns (and thence Attila), by the way Radu.

Sometimes I think I ought to write a manifesto for this blog so I can just direct people like Radu to read that, but at other times I think that that would probably be a bit over-the-top and self-important. So, at least for now, I won’t bother.

So, anyway, thanks Radu for the laugh, and for the material for this blog post. I realise this was somewhat gratuitous, but you know, I think ridicule is all that nationalism and bigotry deserves.

I, at least, feel better for writing that, even if it hasn’t improved the lives of any of my readers one iota. Sorry all. I’ll post something a little less obnoxious next time.

Posted in nationalism, xenophobia | 14 Comments »

4 tier Europe?

Posted by Andy Hockley on 26 October, 2006

I remember a few years ago there was talk of having a two tier EU. There would be the countries that believed in it and wanted to work together for some undefined glorious European tomorrow in one tier, and the countries that didn’t believe in it but were too scared to be left on the outside in the other tier. The UK of course was one of the latter.

Since 2004, we’ve effectively had this two tier Europe, but it’s slightly different from what was first thought up. This is down to Europe admitting a series of buffer states to protect it from the perceived terrible ravages of immigration. These buffer states (look it up on a map if you don’t believe me) form a thick barrier of cabbage, sour cream, and beer from the Baltic coast of Poland in the north, through the former Czechoslovakia, Hungary and down to the Adriatic in Slovenia. This cabbage curtain effectively allows the Western end of the continent to limit immigration from further east (though they clearly need to set up some kind of floating buffer states between north Africa and various Spanish and Italian islands, to really make sure they’ve blocked off all the avenues.)

In admitting them, existing European states made choices as to whether to allow citizens of those nations (now to be EU citizens) should actually be allowed to live and work anywhere they liked in the Union – what the EU was supposed to be all about in short. To its credit, the UK opened its doors, unlike many of the nations which were supposed to be all about EU integration and the like. This was often talked up in comparing the relative economic performance of placeslike the UK and Ireland which opened up and France and Germany which didn’t.

So for a while we had a three speed Europe – countries who were actually making use of the idea of the union to gain ground economically; countries who were not doing that, but were “old Europe” and hence more powerful in the grand scheme of things; and the countries being stripped of their human resources to fuel the UK’s economic growth.

Now, however, cowed by tabloid scare headlines and racism towards gypsies, the UK and Ireland have decided to close the door to Romanians and Bulgarians, thus creating an underclass of Europe within the Union itself. It’s fucking disgraceful. Is my country run by the Daily Mail? It certainly feels that way.

Now Romania could respond to this with reciprocity, making life hard for Brits who want to live and work in Romania, and in fact that would be a good idea (despite the fact that it would be a pain in the arse for yours truly). But the fact is that there aren’t that many of us who want to be here, and most who do come work for large multinationals who can afford to jump through bureaucratic hoops. Instead, what the Romanian government should do is to make it hard for Brits to buy property here. The UK press is full of articles about the advantages and benefits of buying property in Romania and Bulgaria, and a policy denying Brits the right to own property in this country would upset a lot of people over there (and the kind of people who are likely to be having dinner parties with politicians and journalists). So, Calim and Traian, what do you say? Give New Labour something to think about, the xenophobic scumlords that they are.

Here are the most recent comments of the BBCs Europe editor on the subject of Romania and emigration 28th September (the comments section at the bottom is worth a read, if only to get all steamed up about people such as the cretinous “Steve H, of Littlehampton”), and October 26th (ie today – hence not many irate comments yet from Little Englanders (Littlehamptoners?))

Posted in EU, romania, uk, xenophobia | 4 Comments »

4 tier Europe?

Posted by Andy Hockley on 26 October, 2006

I remember a few years ago there was talk of having a two tier EU. There would be the countries that believed in it and wanted to work together for some undefined glorious European tomorrow in one tier, and the countries that didn’t believe in it but were too scared to be left on the outside in the other tier. The UK of course was one of the latter.

Since 2004, we’ve effectively had this two tier Europe, but it’s slightly different from what was first thought up. This is down to Europe admitting a series of buffer states to protect it from the perceived terrible ravages of immigration. These buffer states (look it up on a map if you don’t believe me) form a thick barrier of cabbage, sour cream, and beer from the Baltic coast of Poland in the north, through the former Czechoslovakia, Hungary and down to the Adriatic in Slovenia. This cabbage curtain effectively allows the Western end of the continent to limit immigration from further east (though they clearly need to set up some kind of floating buffer states between north Africa and various Spanish and Italian islands, to really make sure they’ve blocked off all the avenues.)

In admitting them, existing European states made choices as to whether to allow citizens of those nations (now to be EU citizens) should actually be allowed to live and work anywhere they liked in the Union – what the EU was supposed to be all about in short. To its credit, the UK opened its doors, unlike many of the nations which were supposed to be all about EU integration and the like. This was often talked up in comparing the relative economic performance of placeslike the UK and Ireland which opened up and France and Germany which didn’t.

So for a while we had a three speed Europe – countries who were actually making use of the idea of the union to gain ground economically; countries who were not doing that, but were “old Europe” and hence more powerful in the grand scheme of things; and the countries being stripped of their human resources to fuel the UK’s economic growth.

Now, however, cowed by tabloid scare headlines and racism towards gypsies, the UK and Ireland have decided to close the door to Romanians and Bulgarians, thus creating an underclass of Europe within the Union itself. It’s fucking disgraceful. Is my country run by the Daily Mail? It certainly feels that way.

Now Romania could respond to this with reciprocity, making life hard for Brits who want to live and work in Romania, and in fact that would be a good idea (despite the fact that it would be a pain in the arse for yours truly). But the fact is that there aren’t that many of us who want to be here, and most who do come work for large multinationals who can afford to jump through bureaucratic hoops. Instead, what the Romanian government should do is to make it hard for Brits to buy property here. The UK press is full of articles about the advantages and benefits of buying property in Romania and Bulgaria, and a policy denying Brits the right to own property in this country would upset a lot of people over there (and the kind of people who are likely to be having dinner parties with politicians and journalists). So, Calim and Traian, what do you say? Give New Labour something to think about, the xenophobic scumlords that they are.

Here are the most recent comments of the BBCs Europe editor on the subject of Romania and emigration 28th September (the comments section at the bottom is worth a read, if only to get all steamed up about people such as the cretinous “Steve H, of Littlehampton”), and October 26th (ie today – hence not many irate comments yet from Little Englanders (Littlehamptoners?))

Posted in EU, romania, uk, xenophobia | 4 Comments »

More on anti-Romanian bigotry

Posted by Andy Hockley on 24 August, 2006

Just as an addendum to yesterday’s news, after I wrote it I went out and saw the headline on the Daily Express which was something along the lines of “Romanian Scum Plan Invasion”. They weren’t the exact words, but given the readership of the Express and the people who work for it, it’s clear that this was the meaning. (I think it actually said “Romanians Set to Flood Britain”). So now Romanians are the new bete noire of Europe – first Spain and now the UK. I don’t doubt that the right wing press in Austria and Germany and elsewhere is saying the same shit too.

I should point out to Romanian readers of this blog that the Express is a noted extreme right wing rag read by (1) sad deluded elderly people who hanker after a day when food was rationed, German bombs were raining down on our cities, and there were no black people in the UK; (2) rural in-breds who have never actually been beyond a 5-mile radius from home and who have never even seen an immigrant in the flesh; or (3) members of the British National Party (our answer to Vadim Tudor’s Party of the Great Romanian Nightmare). It shouldn’t be assumed, though, that it is on the margins of British society, as I imagine it (and it’s fellow bigoted muckspreader the Daily Mail) probably speaks to about 25% of the population. So while it doesn’t mean that the nation has suddenly turned into a hardline fascist state full of anti-Romanian hatred, neither does it mean that the depth of bigotry among the small minded few should be underestimated.

(Some other choice headlines are quoted in this Independent article)

Posted in EU, romanian, xenophobia | 4 Comments »

More on anti-Romanian bigotry

Posted by Andy Hockley on 24 August, 2006

Just as an addendum to yesterday’s news, after I wrote it I went out and saw the headline on the Daily Express which was something along the lines of “Romanian Scum Plan Invasion”. They weren’t the exact words, but given the readership of the Express and the people who work for it, it’s clear that this was the meaning. (I think it actually said “Romanians Set to Flood Britain”). So now Romanians are the new bete noire of Europe – first Spain and now the UK. I don’t doubt that the right wing press in Austria and Germany and elsewhere is saying the same shit too.

I should point out to Romanian readers of this blog that the Express is a noted extreme right wing rag read by (1) sad deluded elderly people who hanker after a day when food was rationed, German bombs were raining down on our cities, and there were no black people in the UK; (2) rural in-breds who have never actually been beyond a 5-mile radius from home and who have never even seen an immigrant in the flesh; or (3) members of the British National Party (our answer to Vadim Tudor’s Party of the Great Romanian Nightmare). It shouldn’t be assumed, though, that it is on the margins of British society, as I imagine it (and it’s fellow bigoted muckspreader the Daily Mail) probably speaks to about 25% of the population. So while it doesn’t mean that the nation has suddenly turned into a hardline fascist state full of anti-Romanian hatred, neither does it mean that the depth of bigotry among the small minded few should be underestimated.

(Some other choice headlines are quoted in this Independent article)

Posted in EU, romanian, xenophobia | 4 Comments »

Poles Apart

Posted by Andy Hockley on 23 August, 2006

Quite interesting being in the UK at the moment. Yesterday the government announced figures for the number of Eastern Europeans who have come to the country since the 10 new members acceded to the EU in 2004. Apparently the predicted figure of something like 15,000 a year has turned out to be more like 500,000 in the first two years plus, the vast majority of whom have come from Poland. Predictably this has led to calls from the Conservative Party (Motto: “Still the party of casual racism, whatever image makeover we may have tried to bamboozle you with”) to make sure Romanians and Bulgarians are not given the same rights to move here as everybody else was. Equally predictably the Labour Party (Motto: “Taking policy decisions from the editorial pages of the Daily Mail”) have started making noises of a similar limitation. Now obviously there’s no way they can tell Romanians and Bulgarians to fuck off without it looking terribly discriminatory (since they quite happily let everybody else come), so they’re kind of backed into a corner on this one.

Mind you, everybody (well, outside the Daily Mail and its Little Englander readership) are at pains to point out how beneficial all these people have been to the UK economy. And of these 500,000 ish people fewer than 1000 are on the dole and claiming benefits, so it’s a bit much to go on about the drain on social services. There is of course a serious downside to this influx of people – not on the UK, which is doing fine, but in Poland and Lithuania and elsewhere whose workforces are being sucked dry of most of the young qualified workers who have opted to become builders and hotel workers in the UK rather than put their qualifications to good use at home.

Today’s Guardian editorial points out that there are likely to be fewer Romanians wishing to move to the UK, for a number of reasons – the major one being that there really isn’t much of an established Romanian community here, whereas there was a Polish one. [Although to ruin their argument they also say that there are fewer English speakers here, which while true in real terms is probably not true in per capita terms – Romanians young people speak excellent English in my experience, and the number of people passing advanced level exams from the University of Cambridge’s suite* of international English language qualifications is very very high in Romania. (*I use the word “suite” because I’ve done a fair amount of work with them and know that’s what they call them, so it’s not just me being poncy)]

Anyway, since Germany is apparently now changing its mind again, it sounds like Romania may not get in at the end of this year after all, so it all may be academic for now.

Posted in EU, romania, romanian, xenophobia | Leave a Comment »

Poles Apart

Posted by Andy Hockley on 23 August, 2006

Quite interesting being in the UK at the moment. Yesterday the government announced figures for the number of Eastern Europeans who have come to the country since the 10 new members acceded to the EU in 2004. Apparently the predicted figure of something like 15,000 a year has turned out to be more like 500,000 in the first two years plus, the vast majority of whom have come from Poland. Predictably this has led to calls from the Conservative Party (Motto: “Still the party of casual racism, whatever image makeover we may have tried to bamboozle you with”) to make sure Romanians and Bulgarians are not given the same rights to move here as everybody else was. Equally predictably the Labour Party (Motto: “Taking policy decisions from the editorial pages of the Daily Mail”) have started making noises of a similar limitation. Now obviously there’s no way they can tell Romanians and Bulgarians to fuck off without it looking terribly discriminatory (since they quite happily let everybody else come), so they’re kind of backed into a corner on this one.

Mind you, everybody (well, outside the Daily Mail and its Little Englander readership) are at pains to point out how beneficial all these people have been to the UK economy. And of these 500,000 ish people fewer than 1000 are on the dole and claiming benefits, so it’s a bit much to go on about the drain on social services. There is of course a serious downside to this influx of people – not on the UK, which is doing fine, but in Poland and Lithuania and elsewhere whose workforces are being sucked dry of most of the young qualified workers who have opted to become builders and hotel workers in the UK rather than put their qualifications to good use at home.

Today’s Guardian editorial points out that there are likely to be fewer Romanians wishing to move to the UK, for a number of reasons – the major one being that there really isn’t much of an established Romanian community here, whereas there was a Polish one. [Although to ruin their argument they also say that there are fewer English speakers here, which while true in real terms is probably not true in per capita terms – Romanians young people speak excellent English in my experience, and the number of people passing advanced level exams from the University of Cambridge’s suite* of international English language qualifications is very very high in Romania. (*I use the word “suite” because I’ve done a fair amount of work with them and know that’s what they call them, so it’s not just me being poncy)]

Anyway, since Germany is apparently now changing its mind again, it sounds like Romania may not get in at the end of this year after all, so it all may be academic for now.

Posted in EU, romania, romanian, xenophobia | Leave a Comment »

In the Lebanon

Posted by Andy Hockley on 9 August, 2006

One of the biggest problems with being stuck at Milan airport for a while, was being able to take a while reading English newspapers and learning of the ridiculous and sick position taken by my government over the possibility of a ceasefire in the Lebanon war. Something along the lines of “There’s no point having a ceasefire now as it may only last a week and we need to find a comprehensive peace agreement”. Are they really that stupid or just trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes? The whole point of a ceasefire is to stop innocent people being killed, maimed, and left homeless. You do that, and then you start to look for an agreement that is workable. Even if a ceasefire does only last a week, at least that’s a week in which no people are dying. For christ’s sake. But no, they just give everyone a green light to keep on killing as many people as they can (and given the disparity of deaths on both sides of the border it looks once again like Arab lives are basically worthless in Blair’s view.) I am more and more convinced that this bastard needs to be taken to the Hague as soon as possible and be tried for his war crimes.

It’s rare that I get this angry over something, but god almighty. How many people have you killed today Blair? Do you ever sleep? Or do you wake up in a sweat dreaming about swimming in the blood of children? I bet you don’t because you’re a wild eyed ideologue who really believes that killing Arabs is a necessary step toward the new world order.

And now, finally, the UN are debating a ceasefire resolution that will allow Israel to continue attacking people as long as they do it “defensively”. Since they claim that everything they do, from the daily brutality of the occupation to various invasions of Lebanon is “defensive”, this doesn’t sound like it’s much of a solution. And our glorious leader thinks he can now act to get a solution for the Palestinians – since he’s said this from day one, and has come no closer than he was then, I find it hard to imagine. And how he expects to be taken seriously by the Palestinian side, now he’s nailed his colours firmly to the side of Israel-can-do-what-it-likes-whenever-it-wants-and-be-applauded-for-it, is anyone’s guess. I despair. Every week I have to remind myself of how bad Thatcher was in order to have something to compare him with, but I’m reaching the point where I think he’s even worse than her. And that takes some bloody doing.

Posted in intercultural communication, news, rants, xenophobia | Leave a Comment »

In the Lebanon

Posted by Andy Hockley on 9 August, 2006

One of the biggest problems with being stuck at Milan airport for a while, was being able to take a while reading English newspapers and learning of the ridiculous and sick position taken by my government over the possibility of a ceasefire in the Lebanon war. Something along the lines of “There’s no point having a ceasefire now as it may only last a week and we need to find a comprehensive peace agreement”. Are they really that stupid or just trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes? The whole point of a ceasefire is to stop innocent people being killed, maimed, and left homeless. You do that, and then you start to look for an agreement that is workable. Even if a ceasefire does only last a week, at least that’s a week in which no people are dying. For christ’s sake. But no, they just give everyone a green light to keep on killing as many people as they can (and given the disparity of deaths on both sides of the border it looks once again like Arab lives are basically worthless in Blair’s view.) I am more and more convinced that this bastard needs to be taken to the Hague as soon as possible and be tried for his war crimes.

It’s rare that I get this angry over something, but god almighty. How many people have you killed today Blair? Do you ever sleep? Or do you wake up in a sweat dreaming about swimming in the blood of children? I bet you don’t because you’re a wild eyed ideologue who really believes that killing Arabs is a necessary step toward the new world order.

And now, finally, the UN are debating a ceasefire resolution that will allow Israel to continue attacking people as long as they do it “defensively”. Since they claim that everything they do, from the daily brutality of the occupation to various invasions of Lebanon is “defensive”, this doesn’t sound like it’s much of a solution. And our glorious leader thinks he can now act to get a solution for the Palestinians – since he’s said this from day one, and has come no closer than he was then, I find it hard to imagine. And how he expects to be taken seriously by the Palestinian side, now he’s nailed his colours firmly to the side of Israel-can-do-what-it-likes-whenever-it-wants-and-be-applauded-for-it, is anyone’s guess. I despair. Every week I have to remind myself of how bad Thatcher was in order to have something to compare him with, but I’m reaching the point where I think he’s even worse than her. And that takes some bloody doing.

Posted in intercultural communication, news, rants, xenophobia | Leave a Comment »

Romanians in Spain

Posted by Andy Hockley on 5 August, 2006

There are a lot of Romanians in Spain. A recent survey into Spanish immigration found that something close to 400,000 Romanians live here (and given that the population of Romania is only something like 24 million, that’s a fairly big chunk of the Romanian population). In fact Romanians form the third largest immigrant group in Spain after Ecuadorians and Moroccans. (The fourth biggest group are Brits, who eschew the gritty urban poverty of the typical new immigrant and instead buy bars and houses with swimming pools in small sunny replicas of England, where they can all get together watch Sky on TV and read the News of the World while complaining about the Spanish) [Stats]

The image of Romanians here, though, is terrible. “Romanian” has become almost synonymous with “petty criminal” (and in some cases not so petty). People have told me that whenever anything gets stolen, or when homeless people start cluttering up people’s nice neighbourhoods, it is always “Romanians” who are to blame. (Though it seems that Romanian has become shorthand for all Eastern European immigrants). I have heard this stated to me every time I tell people where I live. It’s not all negativity – the other day I was on the metro and there were two Romanians playing the accordion very proficiently to the apparent delight of most of my fellow passengers who accordingly coughed up a fair amount of loose change. But I have heard a lot of stories – of pickpockets, of organised crime gangs, of house robberies, of public drunkenness, etc etc and so on, every time I’ve mentioned my home. Now, it should be pointed out that I haven’t yet heard anyone actually tell me a story of a personal experience – it’s all that kind of rumour, hearsay and TV news sensationalism. It may be based on an element of truth, but it seems likely to me that it is, at the very least, exaggerated.

Whatever the origins, it does not bode well for the Romanian emigrant experience here, and presumably with EU accession round the corner, there will be even more people looking to come here and work.

Posted in EU, romanian, xenophobia | 9 Comments »