CONFORMING to standards of morality, good taste, but also fairness, goodwill and kindness are all expressions that dictionaries use to define the word ‘decent’. However, the organisers of recent anti-Roma rallies in Slovakia, which turned instantly into popular forums for extremists, are now attaching a new, rather scary meaning to the word ‘decent’ with slogans such as ‘together for a decent and safe life’ or ‘marching for the rights of decent people’. Many of these ‘decent’ people refuse to be labelled extremists or neo-Nazis when attending these ‘decent’ marches, yet they talk about ‘Roma parasites’, suggesting that they should be either deported somewhere out of sight where they will not bother ‘decent people’ or severely disciplined and given food and aid only if they are ‘decent’.
These ‘decent’ people know instantly what is wrong and what is right: they do not seem to be bothered by public figures and politicians suspected of cronyism and mismanagement of public funds who escape punishment despite having possibly deprived the state coffers of millions of euros, but they do have a plan for those who they say are sponging off the state.
It seems too that a huge number of these ‘decent’ people are more likely to vote for those who would promise an iron fist for the Roma rather than weed out corruption. And with this knowledge it seems the ‘decent’ politicians readily adjust their vocabulary to match their ‘decent’ campaigns with what actual ‘decent’ people want. Who are the ‘decent’ people?
People associated with Marián Kotleba’s extremist People’s Party – Our Slovakia have shown up at two recent anti-Roma rallies: a rally organised by the Say Stop to Anti-Socials in Your Town civic initiative in Partizánske, on September 29 and a rally organised by Oskar Dobrovodský, a resident of Malacky who has had widely reported problems with his Roma neighbours, that took place in Bratislava on October 13. Marián Mišún, who ran as a candidate for Kotleba’s party in the March 2012 parliamentary elections, was co-organiser of the Bratislava event.
On the same day that they marched for a ‘decent life’ these ‘decent’ people commemorated the 125th birthday of Jozef Tiso, the Catholic priest who was president of the Nazi-allied Slovak wartime state responsible for deporting tens of thousands of Slovakia’s Jews to Nazi death camps, among other atrocities.
Kotleba has a long record of anti-Roma rallies: back in 2009 in Šarišské Michaľany, a village in eastern Slovakia, he marched against what he called ‘Roma Terror’, claiming that he was taking action because of the state’s inactivity.
This year, on September 29, Kotleba and about 300 extremist followers marched on a Roma settlement adjoining Krásnohorské Podhradie, where he had acquired a parcel of land on which the houses of several Roma families currently stand.
Mišún himself on October 13 described the ‘decent’ march as a fiasco because the participants ultimately clashed with Anna Belousovová, head of the Nation and Justice party, and one-time ally of Ján Slota but later his arch-enemy in the fight over the leadership of the nationalist Slovak National Party (SNS). Mišún commented that it is unfortunate when nationalist forces are splintering, SITA newswire reported.
Belousovová’s level of ‘decency’ when it comes to the Roma issue could be easily demonstrated by the shameless billboard campaign that the SNS chose back in 2010. It featured a large, bare-chested Roma man whose image had been digitally altered with a thick gold chain around his neck and tattoos to better fit the common stereotype of this particular minority. The SNS picked the slogan “so that we do not feed those who do not want to work” to achieve the desired effect.
The organisers of the most recent march, Mišún and Dobrovodský, argued that they are not extremists and that they are distancing themselves from “any form of unjustified racism”, the TASR newswire reported. Well, there is no ‘decent’ form of racism, and even though racism can take a more sophisticated form, it is still racism and thus is unacceptable in any society which claims to be democratic and to have respect for human rights.
People blinded by their frustration fail to recognise that they and their situations matter very little to these ‘decent people’ who would use any occasion to express their intolerance and hatred towards the Roma, something which does not contribute to any long-term solution.
Instead they provide forums for extremists and thus surrender the chance to be considered decent in the original sense of the word.