11.3 C
October 24, 2021

Humility and national pride

When he was still playing as much football as he was doing politics, Viktor Orban was a liberal. Those were the years of the fall of the communism and being a liberal probably seemed for an ‘angry young man’ the most eloquent way of affirming his disgust for the past. After only few years, the young Orban gave up his liberal ideal and discovered the conservative doctrine. But, unlike other variants, his ways were privileging the role of the State. His target became a ‘powerful’ interventionist state, capable to stand unshaken by the private interests of business environments, press campaigns, anarchic social demands, or by a counter-culture that had too little interest for the national identity. With the energies of youth, he started a longer-term combat, first against the left, which in Hungary regrouped the successors of communists and the liberals.

First there was a cultural war, fiercer in Hungary than elsewhere, at stake being an ideological revolution in favor of a ‘new’ nationalism, which merges Christian patriotism to the cult of ethnic traditions, care for Magyar communities abroad and, above all, an uninhibited national pride. But the nationalist-conservative propaganda went in hand with an ‘ideological purification’ of the State. Opponents simply lost their jobs with various cultural state institutions, which drastically reduced their influence. The press, too, was confronted by a state control tougher than in any other country of the EU. Then followed the economic war, with the goal of the regime being to increase the ‘localization’ of businesses, which even led to serious tensions with the IMF and even the EU. The successes seem undisputable: lower unemployment, higher GDP, smaller prices for energy. But all of these came at a cost. Viktor Orban declared himself in favor of a non-liberal democracy. Which reminds of the ‘sovereign democracy’ promoted by the ideologists of Vladimir Putin. Hungary probably looks with the most favorable eyes at the regime of the Russian leaders, among its European counterparts. The huge investment made by the Russian in the construction of new nuclear reactors in Hungary is not just the fruit of a bold economic strategy. It also has an important political impact. Let’s not forget about Jobbik, the far-right party that aspired to replace the acting ruling party Fidesz in the next general elections. With one in five voters and an upward trend, it cannot be ignored, especially as the relations between the two parties are not completely devoid of certain dialectic. Jobbik overtly promotes authoritarianism and even some form of ‘ethnic cleansing.’ What Orban admits only in a veiled form, Jobbik proclaims boldly. The frontier between the two political cultures is even more permeable than the Hungarian premier assures. In fact, it is precisely the rhetoric of ‘respect’ promoted by Viktor Orban (last time even in Romania, at the summer school of Baile Tusnad, an already traditional place of ‘pilgrimage’ for the Hungarian leader), is not exempt from ambiguities. Recently, a diplomatic scandal has been avoided only because the Hungarian ambassador appointed in Rome withdrew on his own. Peter Szentmihalyi Szabo is not only a poet and a former prestigious scholar, but also a fan of the Magyar Guard, the paramilitary extension of the Jobbik party, and also the author of anti-Semitic books and a promoter of restoring Greater Hungary. It took a letter addressed by Abraham H. Foxman, the director of the Anti Defamation League, to the Italian minister of Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, to warn over the implications of this nomination. The proposal was a governmental one, implicitly reflecting the political agreement of Fidesz. Where was, in this case, the ‘respect’ for the nation promoted by Viktor Orban? Such a rhetoric, largely populist, only hides the attempt to justify the priority of own interests, while granting only little attention to those of other ‘nations.’ Plus, what does making your ‘nation’ respected mean? There are many steps between ‘self-hatred’ and national pride. Not always the former inhibits and the latter stimulates. Perhaps politics should rediscover the benefits of a humbler pathos: acting efficiently without admiring yourself in the mirror every day, flexing your muscles. And without excessively promoting a national narcosis of self-sufficiency. Excessive self-pride, be it ‘national,’ has always been in a tense relation with that Christian culture stridently evoked by the new Hungarian constitution.

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