Friday, November 21, 2003

On a slight tangent - my life as a street performer, and circus worker, allied me to travellers and gypsies. I experienced the same ambiguous reaction of fascination and repulsion. "It must be an interesting way to live" was balanced by accusations of irresponsibility. And then again, people would accuse me of romanticising them - even when I told them my dad had pushed a puppet-show around the UK in the 30s. OK, then he was the romantic fantasist.....

Being a dropout upset my mother and her aspirations to an academic and respectable career for me. A few people would always respond to my busking with the 'get a proper job' attitude they had for 'beggars'. It always helped a bit to be white, well-spoken and intelligent (that used to throw them) but they would then just act suspicious as to what terrible thing I was running away from, that I would have 'given up my privilege'.

No good telling them that I loathed everything they stood for - that my intelligence was not going to be sold into being used to run an empire, or promote capitalism, etc.
Nowadays my alignment with 'aliens' and outsiders is seen as a reflection of my position on the spectrum of autism ' Asperger's Syndrome'. I used to think it was just to do with being Introverted and Intelligent - but there are fashions in diagnosis - and a stupid and prejudiced population will always seem scary to the likes of me. Just as I scare them. In England you are supposed to be modest (unlike in The States) so it seems arrogant to claim intelligence - but I can't help it. In Test The Nation I got a higher score than anyone in the studio, and a point higher than the best online participant. Whatever that means. But I know I am smart. A long way from the top of smart, of course - and socially maladapted, and so unable to end up in a university with a sheltered role as 'absent-minded professor' or 'spacy mathematician'.

Clever people feeling weird is not uncommon in a culture that still believes in god (for instance) - such pervasive stupidity scares me badly. And the apparent arrogance of such a statement alienates me from sympathy (that's why the Aspie diagnosis rings bells). Blunt talk and a lack of social skills (what I would mostly call hypocrisy - lying to oneself and others).

So anyway, I am reading a fascinating new book on 'Duende' (the spirit of flamenco) so my eyes turned to the gypsies again. Locally they are upsetting to the settled community of Cardiff, as ever. They are getting all muddled in with the British fear of 'refugees' and 'immigrants', of course.

Going to look for a book in the Social Studies section [In search of the true gypsy : from enlightenment to final solution] which had this synopsis:

"The reader of European history looking for information on gypsies will only find them in footnotes. It has only been recognized tardily and with reluctance that during World War II hundreds of thousands if itinerants met the same horrendous fate as Jews and other victims of Nazism. Gypsies appear to appeal to the imagination simply as social outcasts and scapegoats or, in a flattering but no more illuminating light, as romantic outsiders. The world is patently intrigued by them, yet at the same time regards them with anxiety as "undesirable aliens". Where does such ambivalence come from? What ideas are involved under the surface of these mixed feelings? In this study, contemporary notions about gypsies are traced back as far as possible to their roots, in an attempt to lay bare why stigmatization of gypsies, or rather groups labelled as such, has continued from the distant past. "

I researched and wrote an article on these themes, for a juggling magazine, and I recently found the first, long draft of that article, which had a lot of material which I ruthlessly pruned. I may put the original version up at some point (now the OCR is working).

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