Roma activist Valeriu Nicolae departs for Euro-Narnia, a parallel world ruled over by the mighty Baroslan whose inhabitants discuss in strange and wonderful terms remedies for the Roma problem. But what is the role of the Queen in all of this?
Some days I feel like there must be two parallel worlds: the one I live in (together with my colleagues, family, friends, and the people I work with in the ghettos of Bucharest), and another which is almost the same, but somehow perplexingly different.
In my world we have successes and failures, but most days are a mix of the two: good things and bad things happen, many of them beyond our control. We do our best to cope and to help the people around us. We talk to people in order to communicate, to share information, and to understand what others are experiencing and what they need.
You know that you’ve entered the parallel world due to the presence of a few telltale signs. Firstly, the actions of the “elites” are always good. The language spoken is another give-away: certain words and phrases seem to have rather unconventional meanings. You might also notice the almost complete absence of ethnic and religious minorities (or “darker people” in the ordinary language of my world).
Let’s call this parallel world “Euro-Narnia”. In Euro-Narnia we always see “significant progress”. Euro-Narnia is accessible through special doors in Brussels, and in capital cities where governments sit. Practices initiated by Euro-Narnians are always “positive” and there have been many “leaps forward” when it comes to the social inclusion of Roma (quotations courtesy of the holy reports of the Roma Ministry of Euro-Narnia).
As I mentioned, one of the special features of Euro-Narnia is the language spoken there. Let’s take a closer look.
The workings of Euro-Narnia are based, among other things, on Respect for the Human Rights of Roma. Now, Respect is not a code of law handed down by a talking lion (in fact there are no lions in Euro-Narnia, even if we call its mighty ruler “Baroslan”). In fact, the meaning of the word Respect in Euro-Narnian is difficult to fathom. When it comes to Roma, the governing institutions of Euro-Narnia exhibit (and here I use another Euro-Narnian phrase) the worst symptoms of “structural racism”. In our language: you are not likely to spot a Roma person in any important job in Euro-Narnia. Respect seems to mean that Euro-Narnians love Roma as long as they are only visiting (preferably briefly), and as long as they praise the Royals and Seniors (blessed by Baroslan be their names) leading the Euro-Narnian institutions. Euro-Narnians do not trust us, and decisions about how to “fix” us are placed in the hands of those untainted by direct contact with our realities, under the wise guidance of the mighty Queen.
I know this seems difficult to understand. Maybe an example will help. The Euro-Narnian Ministry for Roma organized a huge event on Roma this year, which they the “The Extraordinary European Platform on Roma Inclusion”. The Queen honoured us ordinary folk (you can call us peasants, if you wish) by breathing the same air as us for almost five minutes after her speech. She spoke in Euro-Narnian: we peasants didn’t understand much. She maintained her usual dignified and imperial pose, and certainly didn’t get involved in any discussion with the audience.
However, the Queen and her Ministry exercised Respect by inviting two Roma peasants as speakers (out of twenty-nine). One of us even stood next to the Queen. The Euro-Narnians made sure that both peasants had spent enough time in Euro-Narnia and spoke good Euro-Narnian, in order not to scare away any High-Level Euro-Narnians or Royals who might have wandered into the building during the event by mistake. Both peasants were polite and used the compulsory Euro-Narnian almost fluently (“Mainstreaming Roma intersectionality”; “multistakeholder’s positive practices”; “better flexicurity within the framework of the flagship initiative 2020”).
The Respect thing is mentioned relentlessly by the Euro-Narnians. I’m beginning to suspect that they believe it will protect them from the Gypsy evil eye. It seems to work: it keeps us Roma away most of the year. (Note to myself: I should try it with some of my relatives.)
Read the rest of this article on Eurozine.