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March 9, 2021

Simultaneously, in turn or in parallel

The ‘tricolour headband’ row brought to light several inconvenient realities. First, there are reciprocal frustrations. Some Romanians can hardly bear the new ‘multicultural’ trend imposed by the EU integration and the collaboration with UDMR in the government. Our proverbial tolerance is just a self-flattering propagandistic invention and the truth is that some Romanians would prefer an ethnically more homogenous country. The reason is mostly psychological, because they find it easy to resort to the surrogate of ‘national pride,’ reduced to an ambiguous sentiment of superiority and domination. Such a sentiment often has a compensatory role. For those who live in regions with a majority Hungarian population (especially in Szeklerland), there is also a fear about what the future might bring (secession, bloody conflicts, discrimination), which may poison the present cohabitation.

The decentralisation measures were seen by some as concessions made by a state they consider as too weak.In their turn, politicians are not innocent, because any measure that refers to inter-ethnic relations was adopted under pressure and out of interest, rather than as a consequence of enforcing responsibly assumed principles. Those who criticised the Hungarians in the past, thus obtaining a nationalist political capital, keep largely silent now, wishing to be spared such trouble. And sometimes they threaten to return to their past feelings.

This does not mean that there are not enough Romanians who not only ‘don’t hate’ the Hungarians, but even admire them and, anyway, seek the benefits of cohabitation, with all the (more or less) inherent disputes. The problem is rather the psychological vulnerability, because even these well-intended Romanian might be rendered tense by the escalating intolerance. All in all, political responsibility means: the wise avoidance of such escalation, plus securing a climate in which discrimination is the exception, at best.On the other hand, the Hungarians have the complexes of minorities, which need empathy to start with. Obviously, behind the autonomist aspirations there is, in some cases, a wish for revenge or, anyway, the wish to have power (at least locally). And some certainly do not love their Romanian neighbours. But we should not forget the basic idea: people generally rather hate or ignore each other. Love is the exception, especially when there is no significant interest. So, inter-ethnic tolerance refers to a complex attitude: civic spirit, human solidarity, neighbourhood, cooperation, economic interests. Another problem refers to the balance between the various efforts against discrimination. It is not enough if a Hungarian has specific rights; Romanians, too, must have them in the specific conditions when they become minority, such as in Szeklerland. And many of the autonomy plans conceived by Hungarian politicians were discriminatory against Romanians, sometimes to the extremes.But what can be done with these frustrations that sometimes erupt in various situations? The case of the high-school girl wearing a tricolour headband shows that the risk resides precisely in seeing the issue through the lens of teenagers’ emotions. Adolescents tend to solve their conflicts by fights between gangs (the case of the hockey player beaten in the dressing room by his Hungarian teammates is symptomatic). It is even dangerous to praise the ‘authenticity’ of the girl’s attitude, because adolescence is known as the peak interval of psychological vulnerability.

Anyway, the school’s repressive attitude must not be given a nationalist explanation, because the imperatives of school discipline would have operated even for a different kind of provocation. But there still was discrimination, because one may not ban a flag and accept another. It is illusory to believe that each one celebrates his/her nation separately, and everything that is required from others is tolerance and responsibility. It is like a ‘cold war’ frozen in time. Probably it is utopic to think that one can celebrate at the same place and time, each with his own ‘flag’ and nation. But at least we should not demand that, when some celebrate, the others should prudently stay ‘at home.’ We can rejoice for different things, but at least we do it in parallel, not just in turn.

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