I was planning to write about this subject before but postponed it in favor of more current subjects in previous weeks.
As the Hungarian political climate is becoming increasingly polarized it is becoming ever more obvious that the number of people ready and willing to maintain their democratic principles, willing to speak out for them, is rapidly dwindling.
The once “mighty” liberal elite, the professors, philosophers and trendsetters are mostly gone. They have already withdrawn years ago to their professional nooks and crannies or are so disgusted that they gave up all together sounding their opinions. The slightly boring, but always rock solid János Kis, the prolific and invariably brilliant TGM (Miklós Tamás Gáspár) and the storied Miklós Haraszti are all gone from the scene. Their refined methods of argument and assumptions of civilized public discourse are all in ruins, the scrappy public forum has no longer tolerance for them, or vice versa, perhaps they lost tolerance for the rough mud wrestling that public life has become. Times like these are calling for people like these and there just are not that many people left who can stomach the fight.
But there are a few left, a very few.
One of the best and certainly the most fearless and most effective is Dr. Péter Kende. In the eyes of the Right this man is the very devil incarnate. He has all the attributes that the primitive right-wing masses cannot match and cannot understand and besides his writing is effective enough to make the powerful quake in their boots.
Dr. Kende was born in 1952 and graduated as a sociologist and as a lawyer. He has the formidable intellectual arsenal and capacity to research and then expose how things work in today’s Hungary. To boot, he respects nobody; if they deserve it he will expose them. Further to his advantage is the fact that he is not beholden to anyone, he is completely independent. In fact he is so independent that even his books are published on the internet, free of charge, because he doesn’t even depend on the income the book sales would earn for him. In today’s Hungary Dr. Kende is the epitome of the investigative journalist.
He started publishing in the late 1980s first about the Jewish question, but soon graduated to the most burning topics of the times.
He examined and unmasked the shenanigans of the medical establishment, worked over the commercial fraud of fake medicine and mercilessly exposed the fraud perpetrated in collusion by the Orban government and the Posta Bank.
In the 1990s the matter of the secret service became the festering wound of society that it still is today and Dr. Kende tackled the subject with gusto.
But he is not satisfied with simple exposure; he aims to effect change. This of course is just wishful thinking at most times, but in 2002 his book, The Viktor (Budapest: KendeArt Kft) was very effective in influencing the electorate just enough to help Viktor Orbán’s defeat at the polls. This book revealed many unsavory aspects of the protagonist as well as the Fidesz well enough to sway the voters.
Although he long ceased practicing as a lawyer, two years ago he returned to the Supreme Court. This august body has for years continued to exonerate war criminals, overturning their convictions, and when one of the gendarmes who was convicted after the war for murder and torture was up for the same, Dr. Kende took up the case of an elderly victim of the torturer. By this time 95% of all cases were disposed of in favor of the war criminals and our man had enough of this obvious miscarriage of justice. The Court, however, ignored all the facts of the case and the elderly victim was humiliated again in her defeat. But not Kende. He gained a new wind to go after the judicial system.
In his book, Védtelen igazság: Röpirat bírókról, ítéletekről (Defenceless justice: About judges and verdicts), he systematically examined the justice system and found it to be corrupt, one way or another, to the core. He took a great deal of risk by doing this, because he was facing the prospect of being eventually sued by some of the most prominent lawyers and judges of the country. But never fear for Dr. Kende. The guy is impermeable: not a peep was heard from the judicial community, his facts, his analyses and his conclusions were unassailable. He went as far as getting into the hide of the chief justice of the Supreme Court, showing him off as a solipsistic jerk and as an opportunistic baboon.
Since then he has published a volume every year, continuing his work on the justice system, rife with waste, incompetence, corruption and collusion.
As a reward for his work, Dr. Kende is frequently subject to death threats, hate mail and anti-Semitic attacks. He relishes them. Although he would have reason to fear that one of these days one of those extremists may carry out those threats, Kende practices what he preaches: as a democrat, he cannot afford fear, nor can he retreat. Because there are damned few left, it is up to him to hold the fort for as long as possible and he is doing a brilliant job indeed.