Political correctness in Hungary
Hungarians don't believe in political correctness. They think that it is just one of those crazy American ideas. Not only is political correctness a ridiculous concept, it is also a dishonest practice. Through it leading members of society, intellectuals, politicians, force their own standards on others. More than that, it constitutes censorship. After all, there is such a thing as freedom of speech and by forcing people not to say certain things people are being restricted. How ridiculous that in the United States a coach got into trouble because he said something "innocent" about black players. In Hungary no such thing can happen. There was the case of a coach who announced after an African soccer team beat the Hungarians that it was a shame that such a thing could happen when these people not long ago were still up in the trees. No problem, it was just a turn of phrase. He didn't mean any harm.
Well, the first serious consequence of a transgression of political correctness may have taken place yesterday. The police chief of Miskolc, Albert Pásztor, gave a press conference (http://tinyurl.com/amhl4q) that is shocking to someone, like myself, who is accustomed to political correctness and who thinks that following the rules of PC might even have a beneficial effect on societal attitudes. The press conference was held in order to inform the public of the activities of the police force in the city. They investigated x number of murders, y number of thefts, z number of bank robberies, and so on. Why the police chief felt compelled to deliver a tirade against the Gypsy population of the city is a mystery to me, but he explained that one ought to tell the "truth." And the truth is that Gypsy children were responsible for eight attacks against elderly people (purse snatchings) and against youngsters with cell phones. He wanted to warn these people to look out for those Gypsies who might attack them the next time they step out on the street. "Many of those darling little Gypsy kids become ruthless criminals." But that wasn't enough. He continued: "We can state with certain assurance that all the robberies committed in public places are done by Gypsies. The truth is that Hungarians [meaning non-Gypsies] will perhaps rob a bank or a gas station, but all others are committed by them [the Gypsies]."
Well, even that would have been more than American public opinion would tolerate but what followed was off the charts. In Miskolc there is a hilly area (Avas) in which there are many large apartment buildings erected during the Kádár regime. From the police chief's speech it is clear that some Gypsy families purchased apartments in these complexes. In the police chief's opinion "these people don't even want to live in a place like that. They don't have any need for such apartments. It doesn't even occur to them that eventually the mortgage must be paid or that they will have to share with their neighbors the common expenses. It doesn't occur to them that here they have to conduct themselves in conformity with their surroundings…. Living together with them simply doesn't work. That's all." These were the closing sentences of his so-called press conference.
Well, this time the reaction was immediate. Tibor Draskovics, minister of justice also in charge of the police force, instructed József Bencze, chief of police of the country, to relieve Pásztor of his duties. As soon as the news of Pásztor's dismissal reached Miskolc, the whole city was outraged. The mayor is socialist, but he stood by the police chief, and all members of the city council followed suit. The people of Miskolc began organizing a demonstration against the dismissal of Pásztor. They demand the dismissal or resignation of Draskovics and Bencze instead. The socialist mayor went so far as to plan a trip to Budapest in order to convince Draskovics to change his mind. The socialist member of parliament from Miskolc is also on the side of Pásztor and against Draskovics. The MSZP caucus of the County of Borsod (Miskolc is the county seat) told the police chief to ignore the decision. Just go back to work on Monday as if nothing had happened. The socialist parliamentary member was certain that "by Monday night everything will be taken care of. If Tibor Draskovics wants to remain in his post he has no other choice" but to rescind his decision.
Albert Pásztor's supporters even include Attila Lakatos, the Gypsy "vajda" of the county. The vajda once had an important position in the Gypsy community, acting more or less as a judge. Whether today he speaks in anyone's name I really don't know. However, Lakatos announced that Pásztor is no racist. He was just telling the truth. The head of the Gypsy self-government of Mezőkövesd also stands by Pásztor. As for Draskovics, it is clear to me that he should not retreat, but apparently the minister is not very popular in socialist circles although he is a confidant of Ferenc Gyurcsány. Thus, Gyurcsány will be in a difficult position. On the one hand there might be an uprising within the party while his sense of justice is on the side of Draskovics.
This is apparently not the first racist statement of the Miskolc police chief. Last September he talked about the impossibility of integrating Gypsies into the mainstream. At another discussion he claimed that Gypsies are forcing out Hungarians from certain parts of Miskolc and that should not be permitted. But the police chief is quite popular because the crime rate in Miskolc has decreased by 30% since he took office. He even received on August 20th last year one of the highest orders of the Hungarian Republic. So this is where we stand now. A rather unfortunate situation at the time of heightened tensions between Gypsies and non-Gypsies.
The solid support behind Pásztor is telling. There is no difference between right or left when it comes to their opinion of the Gypsies. Socialist or Fidesz makes no difference. They want the head of the man who wouldn't tolerate this racist talk, and they stand solidly behind the man who told the "truth."