I welcome comments, discussions and suggestions. Thanks, József

© All Rights Reserved

Friday, July 12, 2013

Society Going Down the Drain

A twelve year old boy was arrested and arraigned by the police in a shopping mall in Hungary last week: The first victim of the new law that allows police action against minors. His crime: skipping school.

Because of the neonazi threat, Budapest Pride took place inside a police cordon, keeping everybody (i.e., including sympathetic onlookers) away from the march. The moment the event was over, the police became scarce. Marchers were systematically threatened, verbally abused, and, as in the case of three men, two of whom are leading civil rights activists -- one the principal of the Dr. Ambedkar School, a unique institution helping Romani children gain access to education, the other the head of the Buddhist association supporting the school, both in the extremely depressed north-east of the country -- first verbally abused, then physically assaulted in front of a police patrol who fully ignored the assault. When addressed by the victims asking for help, the police checked the victims' papers and obviously let the assailants disappear. The report filed by the police claims that it is impossible to determine who provoked whom. The only reason there is now an inquiry of some kind is that the victims rushed to a hospital for medical care and filed their medical release papers with their complaint to the police.

Residents of a village in northwest Hungary have recently learnt--apparently, from the media (!)--that an as-yet vacant, former-Soviet-era barracks in the outskirts of the village will be converted to a non-penitentiary housing facility for asylum seekers. A local resident managed to incite and organize the villagers to stage a set of protests, including a road block. The movement has what appears to be a full infrastructure. It has its own doctor who claims that people coming to Europe from Afghanistan will "infect everybody with ebola, malaria and leprosy," (a claim echoed on the fly-by-night websites of a neonazi paramilitary group recently banned by the government, a decision affirmed by the European Court, but ignored by its members or law enforcement), a group of efficient organizers, poster makers (creating such beautiful statements as, e.g., the poster saying: "Open Facility = Free Robbery!", etc.). Press photographs taken at the protest show well-to-do, young-to-middle-age, slightly overweight white people, standing up for what they think are their "rights": not to allow the government to fulfill its obligation under international treaties to accept and investigate asylum requests. All this makes the current right-wing government look almost reasonable by comparison. (Actually: not really. For its part, the government is acting in bad faith, basically using the villagers' predictable indignation as an excuse /1/ to stall the process and /2/ militarize the conditions under which asylum seekers are held in Hungary.) For their part, the protestors assured the head of the government refugee agency that the entire village will vote for the nazis come next elections. (I have no info as to the extent to which that threat shocked her.) The regional newspaper gives the protests generous coverage, including a prominent link to the website of the protestors. Dissenting or more moderate voices (e.g., somebody suggesting that malaria cannot be passed on from person to person, etc.) were immediately silenced. A direct comparison of today's asylum applicants to the 1956 refugee Hungarians (who were held in a refugee camp not far from this village, on the Austrian side of the border) was met by explicitly pseudo-"scientific" racist comments claiming essential differences.

The Hungarian Public Prosecutor's Office has just dropped a case against a Holocaust-denier MP, on account of an ostensible "lack of a crime."

Recent polls suggest that, while nationwide open support for the extreme-right party is around 10%, over half of the interviewees would affirm a coalition between the right-wing parties currently in the government and the extreme-right, if the currently ruling coalition were to fail to gain a majority of the seats in parliament.

Arguably, Hungary is showing some powerful symptoms of a fascist transformation. Special thanks for that to the elites--both the right wing and the middle (there is of course no "left" visible in politics in Hungary)--that managed the transformation from a somewhat bureaucratic and perhaps a bit boring, upwardly mobile state socialist society, producing, at its peak, food for twice its population, with better-than-expected scores on the quality of life, culture, health, etc., engaged, at the time of the collapse of state socialism, in bold and extremely creative experimentation in many areas of social and economic life to a small, insignificant, desperate, self-hating, xenophobic, classist, racist, sexist, ageist snake pit with widening social inequalities.

All it took was one generation, a tiny bit of west European capital, a lot of vulgar rhetoric, specifically, a /1/ really un-sophisticated anticommunist dogmatism, (essentially an echo of the Stalinist rhetoric two generations before, with a negative sign of course), coupled with /2/ a painfully dumb, Euro-solipsistic cargo cult, /3/ a cartoon version of the neoliberal economic mantra, plus /4/ the implicit and compelling, collective project of strategically forgetting what was widely known about history, politics, etc.

The ressentiment of the poor servant. Here is Max Scheler (Ressentiment, p.6) on the subject:

"If an ill-treated servant can vent his spleen in the antechamber, he will remain free from the inner venom of ressentiment, but it will engulf him if he must hide his feelings and keep his negative and hostile emotions to himself."



  1. Today's news is that four men have been arrested for the assault after the Pride march.

  2. Residents of a village on Hungary's southern border have been told that "the immigrants" will bring pestilence. They have a nazi mayor, bad petty bourgeois selfishness, soaking up neo-medieval bullshit. Expect witch trials.


cover page of the book

cover page of the book
image used for the cover design by Anannya Dasgupta