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May 10, 2021

Political Stiffness

Kornel Mundruczo created in “White God” the parable of an unexpected revolt that starts to terrorize Budapest. Everything starts when an insensitive father decides to forcefully separate a teenage girl and her dog. The latter ends up in the hands of a cynical illegal dog fights gambler that bedevils him through an adequate training. In a favourable moment, the dog runs away and becomes a Spartacus of his fellow dog companions, initiating a gang that overtakes the power upon a city.

Obviously, Mundruczo’s film mostly takes into account the shady side of the human being, that gets out of control in certain circumstances and may become a danger to society. Actually, the dog could have easily been replaced in the story by a child, turned by the traumas of life into a terrifying “public enemy” as it happened so many times in history. Yet, the dog is a much more adequate metaphor in this case, as it expresses the ambivalence of taming / humanization and going wild / dehumanization. Yet, the film can also be seen as a political meditation. The exclusion  – de jure or simply de facto – of certain categories of the political community can eventually lead to crises that are difficult to control. Obviously, the classical scheme or groups that are excluded from the political process and finally get their revenge by destroying the entire social edifice must be reviewed with certain caution because it is more often than not simplistic. Nonetheless, some of the ignored and marginalized tend to return to a more influential status on various ways.

It is what frequently happens inside a political party as well, in two directions. First of all, due to the enthroning of a team that forgets the benefits of internal opposition, and that is deprived, therefore, of the resources of alternative resources, especially in the overwhelmingly fluctuating world of contemporary politics. Second, because they manage to cast away a quite considerable part of their own electorate, that no longer feels represented by an exclusive political direction. To be elected the leader of a party by a majority of 98 per cent is no enviable situation. It actually proves that the party is stiffened and monolithic. And, as its newly reelected president himself readily admits, it has wandered farther and farther away from the ones they are supposed to represent, the Hungarian community in Romania. Actually, if we want to stick to the metaphor of the film, revolts of the dogs have already happened, because, for many years, there are already plenty of competing Hungarian parties, with increasingly sharpened and threatening political “teeth” – although, so far, they failed to cause any significant disturbances of the political balance. It is undoubted that, so far, UDMR has built a successful story: they managed to release inter-ethnic tensions that threatened the stability of states in the region after the fall of Communist regimes. A probably decisive contribution to this fact was also represented by the project of EU expansion, that made borders relative and increased the flow of migration, thus diminishing the social pressures that could have inflamed the options for autonomy.

And if, initially, the Western politics intended to encourage regionalism, precisely to enhance the variety of identity landmarks and to weaken nationalisms, there were no ulterior support for autonomy-based projects, now seen more like a threat to the stability of the EU. Lately, even Viktor Orban’s Hungary, isolated in Europe due to its conservative and protectionist politics and its affinity to Russia, can no longer represent a real element of pressure.

Therefore, the present situation of UDMR is the following: a political team, compatible with the conduct of the Romanian political class in its entirety – as DNA is not omitting them either – undermined, just like the Romanian political class, by a declining trustworthiness; an exhaustion of the old political objectives, mostly reached, and lacking a pragmatic vision for the future; lacking an internal laboratory that would indeed encourage the diversity of opinions; endowed with an excessive ideological versatility that makes it unable to be identified with a coherent position on the political scale; and an electorate that was won over mostly by exercising a pretended monopoly.

Basically, the alternatives were represented by a more radical right wing, but it is not impossible that a centre-left winged Hungarian version would be a more powerful adversary. UDMR only managed to survive politically so far by adopting a rather fictional role as, after having reached a line of successes by creating laws and institutional practices that favour ethnic minorities, their present agenda is almost empty on this matter.

Yet, the toughest problem is another one: how fragile is inter-ethnic cooperation? The ethnic aspect did not disappear – and could not disappear – from the European politics. It is strongly connected to discussions related to massive migration and to the explosive potential of cultural differences. One may even notice, in the cases of various extreme right-wing parties in European countries, a slide from revengeful speeches regarding to minorities on the territories of adversary nations towards identifying a new enemy: the non-European and non-Christian immigrant.

Many historians and politologists attempted to prove that ethnic – cultural identities are relative, hoping that they would also become relative in political practice. Otherwise, concrete historical situations may become dramatic. Let us remember the case of the Armenian genocide. Pragmatically, the Turks wanted to prevent an alliance of Armenians and Russians and, implicitly, a weakening of the front and possible territorial losses. They did so by exterminating an impressive number of people, identified merely by their ethnic origin. Does it matter that they were not mass executed, but they mostly died of exhaustion? Actually, Romanian authorities acted the same way when they put the Jews of Iasi in trains and they died mostly because of inhuman conditions. And, using the same motivation of war circumstances, they deported much more in Transdnyester, in conditions that favoured a high rate of mortality. Murder can be accomplished not only by bullet, but also by forced marching or by deportation in inadequate territories. The same happened later in Communist prisons, were executions were few, compared to the number of people who had died because of exhaustion. After Armenians, many other populations suffered because of ethnical conflicts. There were not only Jews, but also Poles, Germans, Serbians, Armenians, Romanians and many others. Ethnic hate is always inflammable, unfortunately. Wars amplify it. The great challenges of today’s and tomorrow’s politics is how to reduce the intolerance of political identities based on nationality, culture and religion. Is UDMR ready for such situations of acute crisis?



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