Friday, September 26, 2008

Who's Right? Whose Wrong?

Disasters help people see clearly.

Even if only for a moment, people always cling swiftly and surely to what they value most just as the proverbial shit hits the fan.

Two very different disasters struck last week, one in my country and the other in my adopted country. I've come to better understand the character of the people involved as a result.

Last weekend there were several political rallies here in Budapest. The most publicized event was held by the Hungarian Democratic Charta. It was held almost in concert with a demonstration of several Roma organizations. Those rallies were held to protest against the menacing rise in influence of the far-right here in Hungary.

Far-right extremists held a counter-protest which allegedly threatened the safety of people leaving the
Hungarian Democratic Charta rally. The counter-protest led to a violent clash with the police. Petrol bombs and cobblestones versus riot gear and tear gas. Property was damaged. Police and citizens were injured.

A disaster.

Since the anti-government protests of 2006, the extreme right has been gaining political traction - slowly perhaps - but such progress is alarming nonetheless. The ideology of the far-right in Hungary is not something many Americans would recognize as a legitimate part of political discourse. Many of the far-right protesters arrive at rallies wearing
swastikas or other symbols harkening back to the days of fascism. At the protest last week, anti-Semitic chants were interspersed among the anti-government chants. The far-right is proudly racist, hating both the Jewish population and the Roma population with equal vigor. And the violent enthusiasm with which they threw themselves into last week's protest shed some light on what they're all about.

The far-right here in Hungary is cornered, threatened, and frightened. They are lashing out at anything that resembles a threat to their twisted anachronistic values, and they are doing so with the strength of an animal in its final throes.

I would normally think this was a positive sign, but I know a cornered animal is dangerous. And I thought fascism went through its final throes last century.

I am happy the left came out to protest the influence of the far-right. In a country of very reserved people that is progress, but I think it is time for more unified action against such extremism. Fidesz is the mainstream party on the right, and they will certainly win the next Parliamentary elections. They have no need for the votes of extremists. So now is the time to put that dying animal out of its misery. Now is the time for Fidesz to condemn the extremists outright... But where are the Party's leaders? No one can say. What are those leaders saying when they fail to condemn violent racist behavior?

Speaking of party leaders, what the hell is Congress doing about the impending financial disaster? The Republicans can't govern their own, and the Democrats seem to have forgotten they have the majority.

What I've learned about America's political leaders from this disaster is making Hungary look pretty good right now. It seems the panic in D.C. is going to cost Americans even more than the past decade of incompetence.

Let me try and sort this out. For all the politicians who read my blog (none), here's my advice:

Republicans: You have failed. Your fiscal policy has led to a disaster of epic proportions, and the solution is going to run counter to your core principles. So sit back and watch the Democrats make the painful choices needed to put this right again. Oh, and by the way, thanks a lot.

Democrats: You do not have to accept the Administration's Bailout Plan. If you do and people don't like it, the Republicans are going to pin the blame on you. You are the ruling party in terms of legislation. Draw up a plan that illustrates your party's commitment to the middle class.

Here's the plan:
1) Be realistic. Make it a trillion dollars.

2) Buy up the bad mortgages and re-write them, helping %80-%90 of at-risk Americans keep their homes (primary residences only).

3) Extend lifelines to troubled banks on the following conditions:
a) loans are paid back with interest, or if the bank becomes profitable again taxpayers get a percentage of that profit (whatever benefits the taxpayer more)
b) cap executive salaries for three years, but give a substantial loyalty bonus to execs who weather the storm (we need talent now more than ever)
c) Until the loans are paid, banks that receive aid must give monthly reports to a panel of financial experts appointed by a bi-partisan committee, this panel then offers recommendations to the committee which may exercise control of the bank

4) Establish a regulatory apparatus capable of overseeing the financial sector that emerges after this crisis passes

5) Use remaining funds to give a cash infusion into sectors that have been neglected while the housing market was being inflated artificially.

That should do it. Any questions.
Now playing: OK Go - It's a Disaster
via FoxyTunes


chumpo said...

what is the part of a society that allows outward and organized displays of racism to go large unchallenged? apathy? a lack of personal experience, and no skin in the game? i wonder how america would react to a demonstration that included petrol bombs and brick throwing? i know how many peaceful protesters were arrested at the republican national convention, and these people were not close to chucking petrol bombs. here in america we have hate organizations running insidious internet campaigns against obama using all sorts of shameful slurs and lies.

okolepuka said...

I find this disturbing.

Which party was it that was caught joking about fleecing the Hungarian people? Were they left or right?

Hogan said...

Okolepuka, members of the leadership on the left were indeed "caught joking about fleecing the Hungarian people." The left in Hungary has lost its mandate, and they will pay dearly in the next election.

However, suggesting the left is corrupt and dishonest does not mitigate the wrongs committed by Jobbik protesters who were chanting anti-Semitic rhetoric, destroying property, and injuring police officers.

Regardless of the far-right's deplorable actions, the mainstream right is going to come to power because the left has demonstrated their complete incompetence. Meanwhile, the far-right has demonstrated core values that are riddled with hate and intolerance. In this situation the mainstream right can distance itself from hate and intolerance with no real political risk. But they have failed to do so. I find that disturbing.

okolepuka said...


I had no idea if the party in office at the time was left or right, just asking.

As someone who lost ancestors in Hungary during the Holocaust I found your last post disturbing.

Why is this kind of extremism still so visible in Hungary? You would think Hungarians would have experienced enough exposure to the rest of Europe, the outside world, other cultures to not have a sizable population of extremists.

Isn't the economy strong in Hungary at this time or is there a high unemployment rate?

Hogan said...

Sorry about the misread on your first comment. In answer to your questions, this kind of extremism is not uncommon in the region.
For example, the Slovakian Minister of Education recently said on the record that Ethnic Hungarians living in Slovakia should only speak their native language in the privacy of their own home. Nationalism is the cause of a lot of tensions in Central and Eastern Europe.
The Hungarian right is just a bit more visible these days because the ruling government has lost enough support that these extreme protests have little in the way of legitimate opposition.
As for the economy, Hungary has the largest trade deficit in the EU. The story behind that tape when the powers-that-be talked about lying to the public is related to the state of the economy. They've instituted austerity measures that have weakened their already weak support.
No easy answers.

okolepuka said...

Thanks for the response.

I would assume the Hungarians living in Slovakia are along the border region. I traveled this region a couple of years ago and was appalled and at the condition of the Roma communities. I researched this when I returned to the states and found out that Slovakia has a two tiered education system in the Roma areas, one for the Slovaks, the other for the Roma. They are clearly discriminating against the Roma.

Are they treating the Hungarians the same way? Is Slovakian nationalism on the rise as well?

This makes me wonder about the stability of the region.