I got one (!) email in answer to my post about Hungary; the letter described how I am a Hungarian hater and of Nazi tendencies in the way I think [sic] and asking if I was hurt by a Hungarian while living in Hungary “for a little while” after “somehow learning Hungarian”. I presume the guy does not understand English very well or did not read my actual blog post. Let me put this straight: I am Hungarian. Both my parents are and all 4 of my grandparents. They all spoke Hungarian as their first language. My great grandparents are another matter altogether and that’s what is hilarious about this whole discussion. For centuries Hungary was part of a big, multicultural empire and my folks came from ALL over. Apart from Hungarian (mostly székely) I am of Saxon, Sudeten German, Polish, Romanian, Czech and Italian (etc) heritage. I look more Germanic/Slavic than anything else… Three of my 8 great grandparents did not speak Hungarian as their first language. Genetically I am a mongrel (most Hungarians are). It is not something we, Hungarians ever talk about, though. Especially not if we are right-wing. We pretend to be Hungarian is to be “pure” or something. Genetically? Culturally? It’s just insane… So, yes, I am indeed Hungarian. I was born in Hungary, went to school in Hungary (for the most part) and lived there most of my formative years. Yes, I do feel somewhat British and a bit American, but I am definitely Hungarian.
Funny, that the other piece criticism I got recently is that “in a strictly western [sic] paradigm you count as an unreconstructed extremist and even use Enoch Powell‘s meta-narrative here and there.” I mean, seriously?! (No offense intended. Do watch the BBC doc about him and his “Rivers of Blood” speech, though.) Anyway, a friend said all this before all contact was severed, stating that the fact that I do not get the reason (it has to do with me proclaiming to be Hungarian) shows how unworthy of his friendship I am. Or something. Both of these people are Hungarian, by the way. By Hungarian I mean they speak Hungarian, live in Hungary, grew up there etc. Talking about extreme reactions to one’s Hungarian identity…
I thought long and hard before I wrote “confused and misunderstood” about Hungarians‘ relationship to their identity. I did not use those words lightly, either. And (obviously) I did not mean all Hungarians (DUH! – I am sure there are many who are not at all conflicted by their identity), just many, many of us – including me. There are many examples and numerous reasons, most of them historical, I mentioned a few of them already. We, Hungarians, collectively inherited a huge amount of trauma, carry the burden of many sins our ancestors committed and many committed against them. We carry the burden of harmful patterns of thinking and behavior, too. We, collectively often have “interesting ideas” about right and wrong, i.e. lie and cheat at times one way or another. For example most Hungarian children of 8 think nothing of cheating on tests (that included me when I was 8) and do all the time. Many Hungarians thought nothing of the fact that president Paul Schmitt’s PhD thesis was plagiarized. Many Hungarians think very little about corruption, lying on their tax returns. And most Hungarians think little about the fact that Viktor Orbán has been the leader of Fidesz since the very start, while losing altogether 4 (FOUR!) elections and failing to be re-elected as prime minister once (2002) and then once more (2006). In a democracy, now I know, when a leader loses an election they step down and political parties are structured in a way that when a leader start to go soft in the head (see a certain Margaret Thatcher) others in the party can step in and take over. In Orbán’s party there is no-one who would be willing to challenge him, isn’t that strange? In the real world, if that certain failed leader is lucky (and American, probably) they will get a second chance, but not a fourth and a fifth while completely changing the political direction of a whole party, collectively. Then Orbán finally became prime minister after spending 8 years in opposition undermining a democratically elected government. He and his party more or less questioned the legitimacy of the elections, thus the government and refused to work with them. In other words, Orbán decided he was not going to risk it anymore, he decided he was going to see himself as the only viable option and deem democracy less important. He got help from the incompetence of the previous governments and the credit crunch. So as soon as he got elected he got cracking; he wanted it all. So put all power over the judiciary in the hands of one person, took over the national bank, fired everyone from state media who is not “with them” or neutral, stole my pension (see below) and on and on. Also – by the way – made it impossible for me to have a civil conversation with my mother. Thank you, lovely Fidesz people. THANK YOU! People in a democracy would be outraged in a situation like this. And I know there are many who are, but there are many more who simply do not understand what the fuss is about.
But no, I do not hate Hungarians, no. And anyway, how can one hate a whole nation? Especially since it is my people, my tribe we are talking about. But I do criticize Hungary and Hungarians (or some of them, at least). I criticise David Cameron (the posh toff that he is) and the Tory Party ALL THE TIME. And the Labour Party, too. And Noam Chomsky criticizes the US quite a lot, but no-one ever questioned his right to do so. He also did say there is nowhere else he’d rather live and he is proud to be American. (No, I do not mean to imply that I am of Chomskian heights, by the way.) He also said something very interesting about the matter.
“The concept “anti-American” is an interesting one. The counterpart is used only in totalitarian states or military dictatorships, something I wrote about many years ago (see my book Letters from Lexington). Thus, in the old Soviet Union, dissidents were condemned as “anti-Soviet.” That’s a natural usage among people with deeply rooted totalitarian instincts, which identify state policy with the society, the people, the culture. In contrast, people with even the slightest concept of democracy treat such notions with ridicule and contempt.”
So, there… On the other hand most politicians who have been in power since 1989 I do dislike intensely. They made a disastrous job of it. But there are many Hungarians I love. Hungarians are (often) FUN! Hospitable, witty, loud etc. I love the language, the literature, the poetry. I grew up there, I lived most of my life there. I am often homesick. Hungarian is my mother tongue. I feel and think in Hungarian mostly and do so very intensely.* I love in Hungarian and I sleep next to a Hungarian man every night. I want to teach my children Hungarian. I do not rule out living in Hungary again, either. The fact that there is another language and culture I feel strongly about does not belittle my love for my language, country and culture at all.
I sometimes wonder what I would have done in Germany, in the 1930s. The situation in Hungary is nowhere near that extreme, but it is bad enough. I have always hated people who move abroad and then trash everything at home. I do not do that. By criticizing Hungarian leaders and the behavior of certain individuals I do not condemn everything and everyone in Hungary. I am no moral authority, either. I just feel I have things to say about Hungary. And because I have lived and has been educated abroad for quite some time l feel I have the tools to see things from a different perspective. But because I am Hungarian, I am quite passionate, sometimes hysterical and slightly dramatic about (most things and) what is going on in my beloved home country. It is more than skin deep for me, you see. I now have to sit through family dinners without screaming and it is very difficult. I have to watch terrible things happen to a great number of good people. I have to witness how great people’s spirit is broken by idiots. I cannot help myself. So, no dear whoever-who-probably-cannot-understand-me-anyway, I do not hate Hungarians. I just hate some of them, the politicians mainly. And I have the ignorance that spreads like wildfire because of them. I have their ignorance, their greed, their corruption. I hate those made and let this happen. Those who make laws, so my best friend, A, an amazing secondary school teacher decided not to be a teacher anymore, because she is not willing to put up with the crap she has had to, and with the stuff she should say and believe in order to keep her job. I hate those, too whose influence turned my Facebook page into a tug of war. Those who made me think twice for a year about what I post on my Facebook wall, because “one can never know”. And I resent myself for feeling thus.
Above all else, I hate those in power because they bring out the worst in many Hungarians (and that includes me at times, I am afraid). The coward, the petty, the vindictive, the stupid, the nationalist, the racist, the anti-Semite, the bully – and I could go on and on and on and on… This past 10 years this is what happened, this is what Fidesz have done to us, Hungarians. And I absolutely resent it.
So, dear whomever, I doubt you will ever get me. And I am glad you won’t….