Sam is an American that has been living in Romania for many years. We crossed paths (and met in person) while Andreea & I were renting an apartment in Cluj Napoca before moving out to Bhudeva. He is a unique character who has a unique perspective on Romania because (a) he didn’t grow up in Romania (his perspective is aligned with the values and cultural norms of a modern western world) and (b) because he now lives in Romania (which is a far cry, for better and worse, from a ‘modern western world’).
Sam is an excellent writer and story teller and from what I’ve seen so far his story-telling abilities do cross-over to the video format with which he has been exploring for a while. He has touched extensively on the subject of Gypsies in Romania in many engaging posts on his website. My perspective is usually slightly different then his because he lives in a city and I live in a village. In typical Romanian village settings there is more integration due to the more natural (=close to nature) settings of village life (Gypsies are bigtime outdoor folk). His depiction of the Gypsy story from a Romanian and a wider European perspective is well told.
He has recently launched a Kickstarter to complete editing and publishing a movie about Gypsies in Romania:
The story of Gypsies exposes cultural attitudes and prejudices that are present in many personal (between people) and social (between ethnic groups and countries) views. Such attitudes (what is culture, what is progress, what is criminal, what is education, what is money, what is quality of life, etc.) often go unchallenged within homogenous groups because there are agreed underlying (often unspoken) agreements into which most members are indoctrinated. Gypsy culture challenges many of these attitudes. But more importantly it challenges how different attitudes (to those accepted in a given culture) are met (within a given culture). Many cultures like to pride themselves on being open, tolerant and inclusive … until they are put to the test by meeting and living alongside people who are different, people who challenge the norms, people who are not inclined to conform to the norms – in this case gypsies.
Robert Pirsig, in his book Lila, describes a fascinating relationship between Native American Indian culture and American culture:
“The new intellectualism of the 20’s argued that if there are principles for right social conduct they are to be discovered by social experiment …
… intellectuals became excited about anthropology in the hope that the field would provide facts upon which to base new scientific rules … Here in this country, American Indians were suddenly revived as models of primitive communal virtue …
The moral values that were replacing the old European Victorian ones were the moral values of American Indians: kindness to children,maximum freedom, openness of speech, love of simplicity,affinity for nature. Without any real awareness of where the new morals were coming from, the whole country was moving in a direction that it felt was right.
The western movie was another example of this change, showing Indian values which had become cowboy values which had become 20th century all-American values. Everyone knew the cowboys of the silver screen had little to do with their actual counterparts, but it didn’t matter. It was the values, not the historical accuracy,that counted.”
A similar and amusing parallel can be witnessed in modern day Romania where Romanians look down at Gypsies and then on one of their holidays (don’t remember which one – I think it’s something around New Years) Romanian girls love to dress up like Gypsies (who typically wear colorful, shiny, flower decorated, happy clothes). The cultures of Native American Indians have, for the most part, been trampled by modern American society. Gypsy culture has not yet been trampled. It continues to shout out in the face of modern European western culture and it refuses to bend. It takes its own slow and stubborn (excellent qualities in the face of todays ubiquitous fast and uninhibited) path, mingles where it can (such as village life) and collides (sometimes as a criminal elements) where it can’t.
The natural response of modern western European society is either racist (rejection) or colonial (taming and control) – both extreme and intolerant in their own way. The Gypsy situation highlights these extremeties and brings them to the surface – and Sam does an excellent job of depicting this aspect of the story. I hope this comes across in the movie … because I believe there are precious lessons to learn about cultural evolution from this story … and this is something many cultures can benefit from.
So if you are interested in this unique perspective that Sam has revealed then please consider donating to the project and spreading the word about it: