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Hierarchical Violence against Gypsies and Travellers

Helen Jones's picture
By Helen Jones |  May 16, 2012 |

A guest blog from a social work student placement at Leeds GATE

“Civilization is based on a clearly define and widely accepted yet often unarticulated hierarchy. Violence done by those higher on the hierarchy to those lower is nearly always invisible, that is, unnoticed. When it is noticed, it is fully rationalized. Violence done by those lower on the hierarchy to those higher is unthinkable, when it does occur is regarded with shock, horror, and the fetishization of the victims.”

 Derrick Jensen, Endgame, Volume 2: Resistance 

When a Gypsy or Traveler family pulls up on the roadside they are perceived to be violating land which is not theirs. They are met by the authorities and asked to move. The general public, so deeply conditioned into accepting this hierarchy, collude with the idea that the Gypsy or Traveler family are dodging taxes and have no right to be there. The law backs up this opinion by making it “illegal” to pull up on publicly or privately owned land (basically all of the land).

There are things put in place to “fetishize” those on the lower end of the hierarchy who do violence (such as violating land) to those higher on the hierarchy (such as the council or those who can afford buy their own land) such as targeting Gypsies and Travelers in the media and evicting families.

What about the way those higher on the hierarchy (such as the authorities) act in violence towards the Gypsy or Traveler family who are lower on the hierarchy? Is it not violent to consistently harass a family into “moving on”? Is this not a violation of the right to family life? Is it not violence to take ownership of every inch of land in the country and then forbid those who have been living a nomadic lifestyle for hundreds of years to live on this newly acclaimed land? Of course this violence goes unnoticed in the day to day lives of ordinary members of the settled population and when it is pointed out to the council it is rationalized; they are only upholding the law.

What do you think?

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