Unfortunately, I don't think I will be reading up tonight (or anytime this week, maybe). I was mostly just bookmarking. I will try to keep abreast.
My comment about good description was re the first post. Only to be quickly superceded...
Do you mind if I link your posts here to friends, Nimh?
I may have underestimated this.
Teens interviewed on the street tonight by the Magyar Hirlap
say that we aint seen nothing yet.
They say the demonstrating by the parliament is in vain: "we've got to set cars on fire to achieve something".
And they promise that the real chaos can be expected on Thursday and Saturday; "the point of the revolution" will be that on those days, they "dont have to go to school, dont have to work, nothing".
Oh, well, that was silly, we post, we don't mind if our posts are linked, do we? Still, I'll ask.
Well, Id be hesitant about people linking friends to my posts about my three-legged sheep fetish.. :wink:
I started to post before, an odd reminiscence and then shut myself up but saved it. I'll pull it in now as as example of a related time re '56, but quite tangential to now.
Quoting myself from the unpost -
I've friends who arrived in the US as early teens in '56.
This is making me remember a date I had when I was about eighteen, with a friend at work's brother, I guess my first blind date. He and his sister were relatively recently arrived from Hungary to Los Angeles. That would have been around '60, '61. He took me to the movies, He Who Must Die and a movie with Melina Mercouri....
My mother - me still living at home - told me he smelled bad (he smoked, I have no sense of smell.) He was an older man, probably 27 or such.
Well, that sure didn't work out. I grew up some time later. But I remember he had a tweed jacket, smoked, and took me to good movies, the once.
I bring this up since he was probably an interesting person.
I remember his name, I'll see if it comes up on google.
Re the earlier friends, they've done well within the movie industry/finance. Talk about successful.. in the monetary sense.
Aaack, shutting self up. Time enough for tangents later.
From today's The Guarsian:
Painful - and costly - route to euro entry lies ahead
Related this pic from the frontpage of today's Hungarian newspaper Vilaggazdasag (florint <> EURO):
There was a distinct change of mood this morning. On the street, workmen in overalls in agitated discussion. People who grinned and shook their heads still yesterday, are edgy. Zs for example, visibly nervous this morning, was no longer in a joking mood. Three of them agitatedly discussing events at a table - first time ever I saw her neglect an arriving customer. Making comparisons, agitated talk of 1956, 1948.
Historical analogies have their own dynamic. What has happened so far, at least in terms of rioting, is arguably nothing but a Hungarian play on last year's Paris riots, but in Hungary, they are not seen as freestanding events. They are located in historical contexts, which one depending on your political preference, and take on an accordingly larger importance.
Now, a backlash appears to be brimming. I already mentioned my colleague swearing that she would vote after all in the local elections now - and for the first time in her life, Socialist. Zs spat out: "I am scared. Scared that the police wont be strong enough. I hate the right - I didn't used to, I already hated Orban but now I hate them all."
Moreover, I had looked at the storming of the TV Monday night as a kind of fluke, an unexpected, kinda surreal and not wholly unentertaining excess. I wasn't the only one. But it looks like this will not end soon. Chances are rather that things will escalate further. A student demonstration against government plans for tuition fees will proceed as planned tomorrow. For Saturday, conservative opposition leader Viktor Orban has called a large rally on Heroes' Square. That one was also long planned already, but at first it had still seemed like Orban would cancel it. And I already mentioned those rioting teens being quoted as promising that the real chaos can be expected on Thursday and Saturday.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, I'll probably be out of town on Saturday ;-)
(Right now, the barman of this café is going round to warn everyone that the rioters are now at Oktogon, two blocks down from here, so that its safer to leave "that way" - "that way" being, unfortunately, exactly the opposite direction of where my flat is. The guys behind me nod and keep discussing Almodovar's films.)
Meanwhile, we had an interesting lunch presentation today at the office. Where a well-known academic discussed the backgrounds of the current situation with all us ignorant expats and agitated Hungarians. (It was just an internal presentation, so just as formality I guess I shouldn't name him.)
He started out with drolly commenting on the riot of Monday night as "a victory of succesful advertising". Just a few months ago, after all, Hungarian Television launched an expensive advertising campaign to bolster its status as the nation's prime news source. Giant billboards appeared across town then, with a simple slogan: "In case of revolution, which station would you watch?"
Something in that message, he observed, obviously stuck. ;-)
The second thing he pointed out was that next month will not just see the local elections, but also the 50-year anniversary of the 1956 revolution. "The '56 anniversary is in the air".
In a way, he said, the people on the street now are "acting out" the memories they were passed on about '56, in an "ironic, tragicomic" way. (I'm a little proud that this is practically exactly how I worded it last night). It's all about "finding ways to deal with our history".
A salient detail in that context, is that when Gyurcsany made his "lying in the morning, evening and night" comment, he was actually misquoting a historic broadcast. When, in the 1956 revolution, journalists started broadcasting on independent Kossuth Radio, they famously repudiated the propaganda they had been forced to air the preceding years, declaring: "We lied in the morning, we lied in the afternoon, and we lied in the evening."
(One remark of Gyurcsany's I have been wondering about myself is when he called Monday night the "longest, darkest night" since communism fell. Wasn't that adding insult to injury, implying, after all, that the fall of communism constituted a "dark night"?)
He expounded on the nature of what he called a "cold civil war" that has emerged time and again, and in particular after 1989, in Hungary, between the liberal and conservative Hungary - the familiar story. Specified two focal points on which the two have battled over control of the discourse. The role of history, and how to assign responsibility for the crimes of fascism and communism. On this, socialists, liberals and conservatives have each forwarded their own competing narratives. And the role of the welfare state institutions left behind by the socialist state. On that count, the left and right have merely tried to outbid each other.
This ongoing 'cold civil war' has combined with the emergence, as elsewhere, of radical, illiberal populism, which rails against institutions, elites, and the political classes, applying anti-intellectual rhetorics. MIEP and the Jobbik are its radical representatives, but in the mainstream, it's Viktor Orban who saw the void on the right in 1994 and had Fidesz fill it.
Finally, the current crisis is rooted in the 2002 elections, after which the victorious Socialists made "the stupid mistake" (he said sarcastically) of actually fulfilling most of their election promises. 50% salary increases for nurses, teachers (?), civil servants. Freezing gas prices despite rising oil prices on the world market. The result: a grotesquely mushrooming public debt.
As the 2006 elections again centred around the two parties outbidding each other with promises, there was an order before the elections within the government to not publish any reliable economic indicators. When the real numbers emerged afterwards, they came as a shock, which allowed the right to claim it had been right from the start.
That is untrue; after all, what the right had claimed n the election campaign was that people now lived worse than in 2002. The opposite was true - people lived better; it just came at the cost of a disastrous macroeconomic state. Fidesz had been right on one count though: the MSzP was lying.
All this offers a great opportunity for Viktor Orban, the populist who lost the popular vote (and had thus gotten in a difficult position as party leader). He is trying to use this opportunity to rephrase the entire concept of what has happened. In his take, the Gyurcsany tape proves that he had not lost the elections, in fact; the elections had been stolen, by deceiving the voters.
By redefining it like this, Orban has shifted the goalposts altogether. The government is not just incompetent; it is illegitimate - undemocratically elected. Ergo, the people now have the right to resist (to deny the government its right to govern) - which he is therefore now calling it to do.
Orban has declared the October local elections a national referendum, a "third round", in fact, of the national elections. Should Fidesz win, that means that Fidesz has actually won the national elections after all, and the government should resign - and take its economic austerity package with it. The problem here being that there are a dozen ways to interpret who wins the local elections: by number of mayors won, number of councillors won, who wins Budapest, etc.
He said everything will hinge on the Budapest results, in fact - "if there will be local elections", that is. The liberal Demszky, mayor since the system change, is running against an independent candidate, who started out as liberal once too but is now endorsed both by Fidesz and the far right, MIEP, the Jobbik.
For now, next Saturday is the day that counts. Orban has called on people to stay in the streets (there are 10,000 out again tonight), but to refrain from violence. He has promised to do everything to prevent violence on Saturday, though how this can be done is unclear. It would, however, be an opportunity to imply that the right can keep order, when nightly events now prove that the government obviously cant.
Someone asked, what will Socialist voters do? They are the ones who were cheated, after all - it's they who were lured into voting Socialist only now to find out they were lied to. It's hard to tell, he said, because we have public opinion agencies in this country - "and they also lie". Until now, it had seemed that they would be staying home. Not just out of disilusionment over the sudden post-election austerity package, but also out of the sense that Orban was "finished" anyway. The "cold civil war" was over - they had won. Now, however, that it's clear that Orban "is back", and it's not over at all, they might actually rally once more behind the Socialists. (That's definitely my impression).
About the tape, he said that in a way, Gyurcsany has merely outed everyone's "private knowledge" (that everyone lies) into the public domain. In the old system, everyone was socialised with this knowledge (that everyone lied) - that was "acquired social knowledge" - and people accomodated accordingly. (I made that point here already too ;-).) Eg, health care was "free" - but you paid doctors.
That distinction between official truth and informal experience, though, is psychologically important. Hence, eg, the outrage now about the government proposing to make people pay 300 Ft for a doctors' visit - health care should be "free"! Never mind that they already pay 3,000 Ft to the doctor under the table now. When people are openly confronted with how they lie to themselves like this, "they are lost". It may be true, like someone said, that the whole affair shows up how people are still, or again, using the skills they grew up with under communism, reading between the lines to deduce the real meaning of what's announced like nothing changed after '89 - but "what we never learned is to talk about lies."
On a similar note, he indulged in a little "semantic analysis" of that leaked tape of Gyurcsany's comments.
The standing interpretation is that Gyurcsany's use of, err, "rustic" language demonstrated how sincere he was, how passionately he wanted to convince his reluctant fellows. But he has different memories. This is the typical language that members of the Central Committee of the Communist youth organisation would use. When they would go out into the countryside to talk with their local chairs or members - "standing on the table, lighting a cigarette". As in: 'listen here, we are in a ******* mess. We cant go on like this any longer, dammit, you gotta change something about the ******* way things are going here'. Several of the Cabinet members are from that background. The language Gyurcsany used is just the typical language of the kind of people who are now in government. "It's the only language they know".
Also on a semantical note, he talked about how Gyurcsany, in an attempt at damage control, has said that he didn't mean they had lied for the past 1 ½ year, but that he was talking about how everyone's lied, the past sixteen years. Everyone was lying - not just me, not just us, the MSzP. (I think that's a very dangerous tack to take, btw - it directly reinforces distrust and disillusionment, not just in one or the other government or party, but in the system of democracy itself. Its not like that isn't already alarmingly soaring, see that poll of East-Germans I emailed about yesterday.)
Unfortunately for Gyurcsany, the thing is that everyone can easily look up in the text of the leaked tape that that's not what he said. So he tried to clear up questions about his remarks about how we should all stop lying - by lying. ;-) And transparently at that.
This is fascinating stuff, thanks.
Rioters 2 blocks away though... eek. I know it doesn't automatically mean anything, but there is something about the whole aspect of young angry people who want to feel part of history that makes me nervous. That can be a force for great good of course, but here it feels more like a force for hoodlumism. Take care.
Gotta wait and see of course, but I dont even think the protests will mushroom all that much further.
when you posted this, I marvelled that this must be another example of the external news being soooooooo much more dramatic than what's happening on the scene
Yes, but it turned out to just be an example of me being marvellously wrong ;-)
Though its still also actually true, what you say. I mean, 95% of the Budapest population just did the same as what they normally do, tonight (and last night and the night before). The cafes were full, the streets too. Writing about all this, I was probably more occupied with it than 9 out of 10 other Budapesters - definitely more than anyone else in the cafe just now. The news camera does magnify the exceptional.
I just listened to radio interviews on the CBC with three of the demonstrators/activists. They certainly talk a good story of revolution and change.
I came onto a2k this morning worried about nimh, so keep posting when you can, eh?
Your commentary is excellent, it puts us there, and that academic person sounds quite sharp.
I just listened to radio interviews on the CBC with three of the demonstrators/activists. They certainly talk a good story of revolution and change.
Hey, can you tell me more? Everyone I know seems to be on the other side - apart from that girl I met at that goth party a couple of months ago, bafflingly, I havent met anyone from the side now demonstrating since I came here.
(Trying desperately to cut an article about all this down from 1000+ words to just 500 before 3 AM.. I'm at 811 now.)
For here or elsewhere? If here, post away!
I've got to leave for about an hour in a few minutes ... trying to grab you a link before I run out.
click on Winnipeg - it should be playing shortly
Regina about an hour later