Thursday, October 24, 2013

Zeal, Suspicion And The Hermeneutic Of Prejudice

Roma women in Romania
The whole area of child protection is an absolute maze.  Given failures in the past, people are now hypersensitive in some areas (I say "some" for a reason), and procedures have been put in place to protect children from abuse, and rightly so, but sometimes you wonder: who will protect the children (and their families) from the 'protectors'?
In the last week or so we have had a media frenzy over Roma gypsies and their "supposed" children.  In Greece there is a case in which a child, not biologically related to her supposed parents, is being investigated.  The little girl has blond hair and blue eyes and so, we are told, could not be a Roma child.  We do not know what happened, we should keep an open mind.  The investigation continues.
On the back of this, however, we had two cases here in Ireland: one in Dublin and one in the midlands, where two children, blond hair and blue eyes, were taken from Roma parents as it was thought these children were in the same situation as the Greek girl.  However both accusations were found to be untrue.  The little boy at the heart of the midlands case was returned after a day to the Roma couple who are his real parents, and last night, after investigations and DNA tests, the little girl in Dublin was returned to the gypsy couple because, despite her "Aryan" looks, the child is their daughter. 
The Minister for Justice has ordered an investigation.  It seems that despite assurances at the beginning that a sound investigation had taken place before the State intervened, simple questions were not asked like: when the woman had the child in the Rotunda maternity hospital, as she claimed, might she be recorded under her maiden name rather than her married name?  If that question had been asked and investigated this sorry mess would not have happened. 
People are now upset.  The liberal faction of Irish society tut-tutted as the children were being taken into care, and rightly so, but let us not forget it was the same faction and their political representatives who, over the last couple of decades, have sought to increase the State's powers over the family to enable even draconian measures be taken to 'protect' children.  I do not condone abuse or maltreatment of children, and yes there are times when the State must intervene, but I do ask the question: who will protect the innocent from the protectors, from false allegations, from crazy suspicions?  I fear the answer to that is: no one, and we shall many more cases like these in the coming years, and more innocent people will suffer; more innocent children will suffer as they are needlessly taken from loving parents.
In the first paragraph I wrote that "people are now hypersensitive in some areas", emphasis on the some.  Why are some in modern Western society held in suspicion and others not?  Do the above cases have anything to do with the fact that we are dealing with Roma gypsies?  If a middle class, left-wing couple with dark hair and features have a blond haired child, are suspicions raised, alarm bells ringing all over child protection offices?  Usually no, we just think it may be a genetic throwback to an ancestor who had those features and it usually is - or, if not, perhaps the child is legally adopted or one spouse wandered into other pastures at some point in time.  We never think initially that this child might be abducted.  Perhaps child protection officers might actually advise us to be more suspicious as a norm and actually consider abduction as a possibility whenever we see children with genetic traits at variance with their parents.  But where would that continual hermeneutic of suspicion lead us and lead society?
But I wonder if these recent events are not just another manifestation of the old fears about gypsies - they steal your children etc etc?  Whether we like to admit it or not old prejudices do not die because we now think we are sophisticated, we just dress them up in language and attitudes we think are enlightened, reasonable and modern.  Secular ideology rarely if ever exorcises prejudice, it usually affirms and normalises it as we saw in 1930s Germany and today in the secular west as, for example, people of Orthodox Christian faith are now the pariahs.  We might think we love the gays now, but walk down a street in Dublin, London or any other European city and see the righteous indignation at the Roma ladies selling the Big Issue.  Yes, professional begging is one thing, and we can discuss alleged petty crime another time, but none these serve as reasons to turn our noses up at the Roma nor suspect that they have abducted children.
I found this interesting article on the Roma, it is worth reading.


The Minister for Justice defends the actions of the GardaíCatholicus Nua disagrees and parses the actual legislation. He also raises the issue of the recent children's referendum which gave the State even more power over the family. 

And apparently the Greek case is not as simple as it seems.  Recent developments appear to suggest that this is more a case of informal adoption with money changing hands rather than abduction.                     

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