Performative Oppression – George Monbiot

[The so exceptional, white, Christian west shows its true colours. European Nazism wasn’t defeated. It hid, morphed, recouped and here it is, rising up as surely as it did in the 1930’s and what will confront it and challenge it this time? There is nothing and hardly anyone left with a working conscience to be found. The western world has succumbed to the lowest common denominator of schadenfreud. – my comment.  Sha’Tara] 

Performative Oppression

Posted: 15 Nov 2019 10:37 AM PST

The government proposes the cultural cleansing of the Romani and Traveller life from Britain.

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 13th November 2019

This is how it begins: with a theatrical attack on a vulnerable minority. It’s a Conservative tradition, during election campaigns, to vilify Romani Gypsies and Travellers: it tends to play well on the doorsteps of Middle England. But what the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, proposed last week is something else. It amounts to legislative cleansing.

The consultation document she released on the last day of Parliament aims to “test the appetite to go further” than any previous laws. It suggests that the police should be able immediately to confiscate the vehicles of “anyone whom they suspect to be trespassing on land with the purpose of residing on it”. Until successive Conservative governments began working on it, trespass was a civil and trivial matter. Now it is treated as a crime so serious that on mere suspicion you can lose your home.

When I say “you”, obviously I don’t mean you, unless you are a Romani Gypsy, a traditional Traveller or a New Traveller. If you’re on holiday in your caravan, it does not affect you. It applies only if you have “intent to reside” in your vehicle “for any period”. In other words, it is specifically aimed at travelling peoples. It is clearly and deliberately discriminatory.

It’s true that some people have sometimes behaved appallingly, damaging places, leaving litter and abusing residents. But there are already plenty of laws to prosecute these crimes. The government’s proposal, criminalising the use of any place without planning permission for Romani and Travellers to stop, would exterminate the travelling life.

The consultation acknowledges that there is nowhere else for these communities to go, other than the council house waiting list, which means abandoning the key elements of their culture. During the Conservative purge in the late 1980s and early 1990s, two thirds of traditional, informal stopping sites for travellers, some of which had been in use for thousands of years, were sealed off. Then, in 1994, the Criminal Justice Act repealed the duty of local authorities to provide official sites.

Over the past few weeks in Grimsby, Lincolnshire, local people have been debating the merits of the council’s proposal for an official transit site for travelling people. According to one of the councillors, there have been threats to stone, bottle and petrol bomb anyone who uses it, if planning permission is granted. For centuries Romani and Travellers have been hounded from parish to parish, suffering prejudice and bigotry as extreme as any group faces. Now the government is stoking it.

Patel’s proposed laws belong to the most dangerous of all political categories: performative oppression. She is beating up a marginalised group in full public view, to show that she sides with the majority. I don’t know whether she really intends to introduce these laws, or whether this is empty electioneering. In either case, she is playing with fire. Already this month, three caravans in Somerset have been torched by suspected arsonists. Travelling peoples have been attacked like this for centuries, and sometimes murdered. In 2003, a 15-year-old Traveller child, Johnny Delaney, was kicked to death by a gang of teenagers. One of them is reported to have explained to a passer-by, “he was only a fucking Gypsy.”

I asked a traditional Traveller how Patel’s legislation would affect her. Briony (not her real name) told me she has ploughed her life savings into her motorhome, which she parks out of people’s way, beside roads within easy reach of her children’s school. She has good relations with local people, many of whom know her and see her as part of the community. But none of this will help.

If this proposal becomes law, “the police will have the power to kick my door in, take my home, arrest me and take the children into care. We won’t get them back because we won’t have a home. Because of my work, I can’t afford a criminal record. When I walk out of the police station, I will have no home, no assets, no children and no career.” It would also leave her without state protection. “Sometimes we’ve had to call the police when we’re on the receiving end of hate crimes. This legislation would mean we had to go under the radar.” Understandably, she is terrified.

She has nowhere else to go. “There’s one transit site half an hour away, but you can stay there only for 28 days a year. So my only option is roadside. Roadside is our cultural heritage.” Stopping by the road has already been made extremely stressful and precarious by existing laws. Patel’s proposal would stamp it out altogether. It would end a migratory tradition that’s as old as humanity.

As Briony points out, this is collective punishment. “The majority of us are minding our own business. We’re providing our own housing, not relying on the government. But everything I do that’s positive is lost in people’s minds. Most people I meet have no idea I’m a Traveller. We’re invisible until we do something wrong. Then people notice we’re Travellers.”

A week before Priti Patel launched her consultation, the Weiner Holocaust Library in London opened its exhibition on the Porajmos: the genocide of Roma and Sinti people carried out by the Nazis. It shows how ancient prejudices were mobilised to destroy entire peoples. I’m not saying that this is how the situation will unfold in this country, but the exhibition shows us the worst that can happen when the state sanctions the demonisation of an outgroup. First they came for the Travellers …

13 thoughts on “Performative Oppression – George Monbiot

    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      Thanks for commenting, Jim. If I didn’t already know the answer, I could ask, ‘Isn’t it strange how society seems to always be attracted towards that which destroys; that which vilifies, oppresses, extorts, suppresses and denies freedom to those who have been relegated to a marginal way of life? Great efforts have been expended to design a better, more mentally and spiritually evolved society in the west in the last couple of centuries but the fire of reform has gone out, extinguished by pathological greed, hubris and dead consciences wrapped in political correctness used as fire retardant. The swamp was not drained, it was given a different label and it expanded.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Hyperion

    Quote: “But everything I do that’s positive is lost in people’s minds.” I think I was whining that line this week too. I doubt very seriously if this will evolve to anything but more restrictive choices on where to park Or homestead. The travellers and Gypsy’s are a hardy bunch and survived every attempt in history to stamp them out. The clever ones will adjust and the dullards will disappear but they will emerge victorious no matter what some politician spouts off in an election year. The Era of Trump-like Butthurt too shall pass…


  2. Sha'Tara Post author

    Thanks for commenting, Daniel. You are probably correct, but that is not the point, is it! Yes, people survive atrocities and genocides, but do we not care about the victims, and do we not care how “we” allow it to continue? The point is, why the sick need to oppress a minority, to take pleasure from creating fear, then dread, then coming on full bore, pillaging, raping and murdering? The point is, how can any people indulging in such brutality call itself civilized or even human? Some Gypsies, some Jews, survived the Nazi holocaust: does that make the holocaust done in full knowledge of a white, Christian, educated populace, less problematical in trying to explain it? I was taught, and I firmly believe this, that a child’s life IS WORTH MORE THAN MAN’S ENTIRE HISTORY AND CIVILIZATION! Is it any wonder civilization is plummeting into an abyss from which it will never arise? I am not concerned about the loss of this civilization, it’s moral/mental corruption makes it the great enemy of humanity. I am concerned about the current and exponential increase of deaths that will accompany society’s downfall. As it dies, society will turn on itself and the destruction and killing will surpass the imagination. The one good thing is, no record will remain of this downfall. No history, nothing to look back on. It will be wiped out; as if it had never been. And yes, even in that there will be survivors but they will be a mutated species with no ties to any past. This article by George Monbiot is a microcosm of the macrocosm of civilization. The attacks on minorities, marginalized individuals, refugees and just about any “other” who is declared non-fitting (remember Pleasantville and its signs, “No Coloreds” when people evolved from black and white to colour?) are on the increase throughout Europe and “white” North America. White (meaning oppressors, not coloureds) are turning upon those whom they consider “non members.” It’s always been that way with Earthians, of course, but this trend is all the more indicative of depravity and downfall as it is expanding among societies that have thought of themselves as exceptional by virtue of their Christian religions, their “whiteness”, their technological superiority, their education, their uncontestable military forces, their control of the world’s resources. The mightiest always fall the lowest when they fall, and both Europe and North America are falling from their wall of power and not all the king’s men nor all the king’s horses will be able to put Humpty together again.


  3. deteremineddespitewp

    Sorry for the delay, catch up today.
    This tenor is why I have been away, lecturing and haranguing British Liberal Democrats and Labour supporters to stop their feuding and get the Conservative Party out of government. in this General Election.
    The travelling community is an easy target because of the aggressive actions of some small groups which the press then stoke up as ‘typical’. If this theme of government continues, once they have ‘dealt’ with the Traveller problem, they will them move onto the Muslim Community, and the Afro-Caribbean Community and then they will seek out left-wing spokesperson for vilification in their press which will tread the fine line between urging verbal and physical abuse on those ‘guilty’.
    Of course the homeless and those on social security benefits will be swept up in the purges….
    Meanwhile our Opposition parties will argue amongst themselves and wings of the Labour activists will attack those in their own party or journalists being objectively critical with all the bile and venom of their brothers and sisters in hate on the Right Wing and do damn all to stop it.
    Sorry Sha’ Tara I’m in my Socialist Commissar mode at present.
    So damn angry.


    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      Totally understandable Roger. These are critical times for the people of the West. If they don’t rise up to the challenge now they won’t get another chance.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. deteremineddespitewp

        Down the road they will get another war. On their doorsteps, between themselves. And the USA will suffer a disintergration which will not be polite or very civic (though who gets the nuclear weapons is a big problem).
        History is warning. But we are awash with ‘small’ folk of little vision.


      2. Sha'Tara Post author

        History may be a lot of fake news in the details, but in the big picture, it never lies. It repeats itself, that’s what it does. How far down the hole the average Joe’s and Jolette’s are going to let this debacle of corruption go, well, given past performance, denser populations, the crises of climate change, endless resource wars, a globally linked economy on the brink of collapse manipulated by corrupt and heartless financiers, we can only logically look down much deeper than any previous downfall. This is going to be the mother of all civilization collapses. I’ll say this: the will to stop this slide into perdition does not exist anywhere except in the minds of a few “exceptional” individuals which the machine will have no trouble ignoring or crushing to further its ends.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. deteremineddespitewp

        The bizarre accusation from some that the environmental pressure groups are paid for by ‘big money’ shows the length some will go to for denial.
        Can’t help but feel that at some stage an extinction event is a real danger…..It’s happened many times in the planet’s history.


      4. Sha'Tara Post author

        Deny and lie… deny and lie… these seem to be the by-words of today’s civilization. If we don’t like the facts, they’re fake news. If we don’t like those who publish them, we demonize them. There, problem solved. Let’s go back to shopping.

        Liked by 1 person

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