What did one Visigoth say to the other Visigoth? Nothing, Visigoths don’t value language. I was once told that your values dictate that way you live, and so when you chose your values you are ultimately choosing what is important to you. Neil Postman, a highly regarded American author, media theorist, and cultural critic, said in his essay entitled My Graduation Speech “You must be an Athenian or a Visigoth” and then went on to say that to be an Athenian or a Visigoth is to act with a certain set of values (par. 11). If you align yourself with the Athenian values then you hold knowledge, complex language, community, and respect in high regard. On the other hand, to be a Visigoth is to value money, power, and to have no sense of community. The article titled Home of the Roma Kings, in the September 2012 issue of National Geographic discusses the lifestyle of wealthy modern-age gypsies from Romania.
These people are self-centered, as they have been known to seek attention by paying performers to call out their name, and to wear expensive clothing with their names embroidered on it. They also do not exemplify moderation or modesty as they live in extensively large houses with many unlived in rooms. Visigoth values are exemplified in the article, Home of the Roma Kings. The article suggests that these modern day gypsies uphold the Visigoth values of not keeping traditions though not being travelers, only being interested in one’s own affairs through spending lots of money on selfish objects, and not believing in moderation through building excessively large mansions.
The Visigoth value of not keeping traditions is exemplified by the wealthy Roma, for they are not travelers as their previous generation was. Postman said that to Visigoths “Tradition exists for their own convenience” (par. 8). What he is saying that the Visigoth’s did not value keeping traditions, as the Athenian’s did, but they only had traditions if they were advantageous. The article explains that the wealthy Roma no longer keep the traditions that had been passed down for many generations: such as living in monstrous sized houses instead of traveling and living in caravans. “Some affluent Roma, especially the older ones who grew up traveling in horse-drawn caravans, are uneasy in the mansions and still use outhouses and outdoor kitchens” (O’Neill 140).
In addition, one elderly Roma was quoted on her response to a man talking about his new large home: “Foolish gadjo, no matter how high you build up, everyone ends up in the grave,” (gadjo means outsider) (O’Neill 141). From this quote one can see that the past generation is frustrated with the change in traditions of the present generation. Their traditions are not likely to change back to the way they were any time soon, for even a young girl said that she would never have long flowered skirts and headscarves, the traditional Romani dress, in her closet. It is apparent that these gypsies uphold the Visigoth value of not keeping traditions unless they benefit from them, through their new attitudes towards what they wear and where they live.
Secondly, the Visigoth value of only being interested in one’s own affairs is followed by the Roma through their spending of lots of money on selfish objects. Postman writes about the lack of meaning of community to a Visigoth. He also said, “A modern Visigoth is interested only in his own affairs” (par. 9). This means that the Visigoths only cared about their own well-being. Likewise, the Roma gypsies are also made out to value themselves. One wealthy Roma was quoted saying, “We are the most civilized gypsies in Romanian”(O’Neill 140). When an outside journalists was in the town of these gypsies he was told to go away, and that he was not wanted here. The outsider was not accepted into their community because they do not care about other people. Not only do they not care about outsiders, but they are self-centered. For example, there is a picture of a band member accepting hundreds of dollars for calling out the donor’s name and playing his request at a party. There is another example of a man wearing a tie made out of gold thread, with his name and car type written on it. Wealthy Roma gypsies maintain the same value of only being interested in one’s own affairs as the Visigoths.
Lastly, the wealthy Roma gypsies share the value of not believing in moderation with the Visigoths. Postman contrasted the values of the Athenians and of the Visigoths in his essay. He said that the Athenians believed in beauty and moderation, which would imply that the Visigoths did not value those things. He also said, “To a Visigoth, the quest for knowledge is useless unless it can help you to earn money or to gain power” (par. 6). Postman describes the Visigoths as people who do not value moderation, and instead are always on a quest to gain more, more of anything. The wealthy gypsies are also on this quest.
They do not believe in moderation, and in fact they want to have more of everything as well. The article describes this when it quotes a parent saying “Parents seem, intent on giving children everything they themselves lacked, from fast cars to heaps of toys and stuffed animals.” (O’Neill 138). They believe that there is always something better that they need to own. One gypsy man was quoted saying, “If we see something beautiful we want something even more beautiful.” (O’Neill 139). For example, one man built the first multi-million dollar house in the gypsy community, but his sons recently decided to tear it down and build a different shape because they believe that the old one is out of fashion. They do not value the significance of the heritage of the house, but instead they search for something bigger and “better.” Their expensive, yet under-appreciated houses show that these wealthy gypsies do not value in moderation, just as the Visigoths.
To conclude, Home of the Roma Kings is an article that exemplifies Visigoth values in a modern day society. The wealthy Roma gypsies do not keep traditions, they are self-centered, and they have no sense of moderation. The Article promoted a Visigoth way of life because the values of these gypsies are similar to the values of the Visigoths in Postman’s essay. In both pieces, the two groups of people are described in a stereotypical manner, so it is not just to say that every Visigoth and every wealthy gypsy from Romania share the same values, but it can be said that as an overview, the gypsies share values that are more similar to the Visigoths than the Athenians.
Postman divides people into two groups, and those groups represent two different sets of values. He uses the example of the Visigoths and the Athenians in order to show that everyone has a choice in life to chose what values they want to follow, and it is an important choice, for your values will dictate how you live your life. The wealthy gypsies have chosen to live their lives valuing their expensive homes and cars, themselves, and not the traditions of their ancestors. One cannot tell if they are happy living this way, or if they would be happier living with a different set of values. However, I would hypothesize that happiness is found in the appreciation of things that are more Athenian than Visigoth, such as art and language, and that it can not be found in an empty room of a mansion. For this reason, I hope that more people chose to value the non-material aspects of life, so that they may find happiness.
O’Neil, Tom. “Home of the Roma Kings.” National Geographic. September 2012: 128-143. Print.
Postman, Neil. “My Graduation Speech.”