Back to the Middle Ages: Viktor Orbán at the Christian Democratic International
I have been wondering for some time when it is that the media “experts” in the Prime Minister’s Office decide to publish his speeches in full on his own website and when they are satisfied with only a summary. Lately I’m coming to the conclusion that they opt for a summary when the exact words that were uttered are not really suitable for a wider audience. Or perhaps when the prime minister’s speech was delivered at a conference where others also had a chance to talk and might have voiced opinions that are not in line with those of Hungary’s prime minister.
I suspect the latter may have been the case with the speech delivered by Orbán at the conference (“On the Road to a Stronger Europe”) of the Christian Democratic International held in Budapest on October 11. At the core of the speech was Orbán’s belief that “the denial of work and prayer is the reason for the decline of Europe.” Or at least this is what the Prime Minister’s Office decided was worth promulgating.
According to the prime minister, Europe will be strong again if Europeans return to the path of Christianity and work. In fact, he talked about St. Benedict’s dictum “ora et labora” upon which medieval monasticism was based. In the early Middle Ages the Benedictine monasteries were indeed key centers of cultural life, perhaps the only centers. Church and state were one and the same, and the king, for example, Orbán’s idol, King Stephen I, could force his people to attend church every Sunday. But many centuries have passed since then and the world has changed a bit. Orbán, however, longs for the days of “ora et labora.” He went so far in this speech as to claim that the economic crisis that befell the world was caused by modern man’s abandonment of his inherited faith, which is the basis of all good in life: human dignity, freedom, duty, work, family, and nation. Including nation on this list is truly odd because, after all, the Catholic Church stands for universality as opposed to particularism.
Not only is it the case that Europeans in the western half of the continent are faithless but there is “today a veritable manhunt against those, mostly central-European politicians who dare to talk about the values of Christian Europe.” Surely, Orbán here is talking about himself. In this connection he mentioned the fact and called it a “gross falsification of history” that the European Constitution make no reference to the Christian heritage of Europe. But as Ferenc L. Lendvai, a philosopher, rightly pointed out, the EU Constitution doesn’t mention the humanism of antiquity either, although it is equally part of Europe’s heritage.
Orbán’s other complaint was that European countries, including naturally the European Union’s superstructure, have no leaders of quality. The institutions they head run on autopilot or, as he put it, they “resemble computers which work very nicely as long as the programs are good.” The world is still “waiting for the mathematicians with their new programs.” I suspect he now thinks of himself as a computer scientist of great mathematical skill. Europe needs leaders who can make brave decisions and who exhibit real commitment. He concluded with the pronouncement that “Europe must be liberated from the mistrust of the liberals and from the grips of greed.”
It looks as if other speakers didn’t quite agree with this not at all Christian Democratic speech. How could they when it is a commonplace by now that in Western European countries there is little difference between the left and the right when it comes to social policy? In this respect both the socialists and the Christian Democrats are “liberals.” So, attacking liberalism is not necessarily popular in parts west of Hungary.
Moreover, Viktor Orbán’s “teachings” have nothing to do with conservatism. He offers up hard right-national talk masked with fake religiosity in the belief that this will be enough for him (and Fidesz) to be accepted in the family of conservative European parties.
I’m almost certain that the majority of European politicians, including those sitting in the European People’s Party’s caucus, are sick and tired of the lectures Orbán frequently delivers. I also wonder what they think of his ill-disguised self-praise of his political abilities and the sharpness of his vision. As if he had the answers to all of today’s economic and social problems which others lack. This must be especially annoying to those who are familiar with the meager achievements of Orbán’s government. Starting with an inherited 1.5 percent economic growth, he led the country back into recession by 2012. Admittedly, if he keeps lying about economic figures abroad, just as he did in London only a few days ago, perhaps the truth can be hidden for a while. But not for ever.