This is a grotesque spectacle. It's almost impossible to imagine the entire population of French citizens being deported from a non-European country after an incident involving fifty or so French hooligans. To deport the Roma, by contrast, is another matter.
Part of the explanation is of course the deep-rooted, ingrained racism and discrimination against the Roma, found throughout Europe. But there is also a hatred of mobility as such which I am sure has helped motivate the deportations.
As Hortefeux, the French minister of interior, carefully explains, the French government is not targeting any specific ethnic group or stigmatizing the Roma. In a certain sense, he is right. What the government is battling is not the Roma per se, but a far worse hydra - namely the ability of people to take even a few steps in directions not authorized by the system.
Few things are as threatening to an unequal social order as the ability of people to break out of their confinements and gain access to what, according to the rulebook, should be reserved for the winners.
To prevent this, capitalism has always needed borders, despite its talk about the freedom of movement. It goes without saying that the relativization of national borders hasn't meant any increase of peoples' freedom to move. The freedom of people to move within the EU is comparable to the freedom of movement enjoyed by the Japanese during the Edo period - everywhere there is the same need of permits, the same sorting of people according to what papers they possess or in what direction they are travelling, the existence of gates and barriers not for exacting tolls but for "public safety", and thus also the same ability of the police to selectively restrict this "freedom" whenever it needs to. What happens is much better described as an increasing freedom for authorities to regulate the processes of exclusion. This is why some EU members - such as Romanians or Bulgarians - need work permits to stay in France longer than three months and why the deported will be prevented from returning to France by digital fingerprinting. Meanwhile, Sarkozy is reassuring his colleagues in Bucharest and Budapest that he has no intention of limiting the freedom of movement of their security apparatus:
Mr. Sarkozy also proposed that France bring in Romanian and Bulgarian police officers to work in the Paris region and send the French police to Romania and Bulgaria to help fight trafficking and other crime by Roma (New York Times, 29 July 2010).In the face of hilarious absurdities like these (which, like many other absurdities, may well come true), perhaps I may be excused if I allow myself just a moment's daydreaming.
I wonder if Sarkozy is a Christian. I am not, but in my daydream I fancy Sarkozy at the Day of Judgment, looking up at the clouds and beholding the throne of God. Recoiling in fear and horror as he sees His angry face, which is the face of gypsy woman, he recalls the words of the Lord:
On the last day, Jesus will say to those on His right hand, "Come, enter the Kingdom. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was sick and you visited me." Then Jesus will turn to those on His left hand and say, "Depart from me because I was hungry and you did not feed me, I was thirsty and you did not give me to drink, I was sick and you did not visit me." These will ask Him, "When did we see You hungry, or thirsty or sick and did not come to Your help?" And Jesus will answer them, "Whatever you neglected to do unto one of these least of these, you neglected to do unto Me!"