In the concluding paragraph of his essay in The New Yorker (January 13) about the grim situation of the Roma in France, Adam Gopnik quotes the philosopher André Glucksmann:
This is not about the fear of the other,” Glucksmann said. “It’s about the fear of oneself. Mobility, rootlessness, nomadism – these are the facts of the new Europe. We must read Victor Hugo (pictured here). The happy face of nomadism is all the French gone to London to be bankers. The wretched face is the poor Roma in their camps.
And, great surprise, the miserables of our time turn out to be poor immigrants in the cold who behave like poor immigrants in the cold. Behind it, beneath it, is the new fear of having no floor beneath one’s feet. Ordinary French people fear that a real fall is possible….
So this obsession with the Roma is not about the fear of the other – it is the fear of the self – of what we might become. We all have to read Les Misérables again.