The Gypsy and the Environment

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The true Gypsy, o Tatcho Rom, he who relied on Nature for his livelihood in one way or the other, has always taken care of the environment, of Mother Earth.

This, unfortunately, is not true with many of those that are about today and that are perceived by people in general as Gypsy and who are thrown into one pot with the old Romani, the true Gypsy.

Many that are today referred too as “Gypsy” should never been given that “title” as it is not theirs for they have no link to the Rom, the Romani, the true Gypsy; the one with his roots in Ariyania. But I digressed.

The Romani, the Gypsy, has always treated the environment as a source for food and raw materials from which to fashion his home and his livelihood, whether that was for the making of baskets, pegs, wooden flowers, hurdles, or whatever else.

Most cultures that live from and depend upon Nature that surrounds them for food, shelter and material from which make goods for use and sale did used to have a much better take on environmental things than town folks did.

In recent years, even among the true Gypsy, the Romani, the understanding of and concern for the environment seems to have gone a little out of the window. This, however, is a rather recent phenomenon and to a degree being due to the fact that other itinerants, who are often referred to as Gypsy but are not, and who never had the same regard for Mother Nature as the Rom, and who fly tip rubbish and who also, otherwise, act against the environment. Not that that is an excuse and I am no0t offering it up as one either.

The truth is that there was a time when the Gypsy was real green, for let's face it: who were the first recyclers, well before recycling was even known as such a term. They were the Gypsy.

The Gypsy used what others threw away to make goods for trade and use, such as peg knives made from knives that the Gohja, the non-Gypsy, have thrown away for whatever reason.

They made other goods from what they could take from Nature, such as clothes pegs , tent pegs, baskets, wooden flowers, etc.

In most cases it was also the Gypsy, settled even, who was the so-called “Rag & Bone Man” who would come calling from door-to-door for scrap metal, old rags, bones, etc. From much of the good scrap iron and steel thus collected goods were made and even from tin cans. Many of those goods then found their way into use and especially as wares onto country markets and/or sold door-to-door.

The Rom thus became the first scrap metal dealers and salvage consultants. Gypsies were the first real recyclers and prevented many a still useful item ending up on the rubbish tips.

They also were the repairers of time gone by, mending pots and pans, umbrellas, and even large industrial boilers. They were the ones that went and sharpened knives and scissors, and all kinds of other cutting tools, providing a service that country- and town folk wanted and needed.

The Churimengro, the knife man, made their cutting tools usable again and the “rag & bone man” took away the unwanted pieces of this and that, often, as said, to repair and resell even, or to just resell for the metal or whatever lese to be salvaged from it.

Many a Rom clearing people's clutter for them and bringing the stuff to the rubbish tip that really had not further use anywhere would leave the tip with more then he came there; salvaging usable goods from there and keeping them out of the waste stream. Many a times I would go with my uncles to the tip to dump the things that really could not be recycled and the guys at the tip would comment that we were leaving with more than we had actually brought.

Wastefulness of the Gohja is nothing new, to be very honest, but in recent years it has gotten worse, I am sure.

Without the often despised Gyppo the landfills of old would have been much fuller than they ended up being and reusable items would have just been left to rot.

Nowadays this has all become commercial and the ordinary Gypsy can no longer follow any such trade without this or that license and pickers at the dumps are all licensed and pay fees for the privilege of going through other people's rubbish in order to recycle the good things, and many a good thing does end up on the dumps.

The economic downturn that we all have ended up in at the beginning of 2009 may turn, I hope, the tables once again and make it possible for the Gypsy to follow such green jobs once again, including even, I should hope the making of clothes pegs, tent pegs, baskets, etc.

© 2009