All adult citizens received a questionnaire in the last few days concerning what should or shouldn’t be in the new constitution. A self-addressed, stamped envelope was provided so that citizens could easily send back their glorious thoughts on twelve questions. The questionnaire is appropriately printed in red, white and green. Here is the first question just to give you an idea:
Every question starts with “there are those according to whom…” which is pretty cumbersome, so I will dispense with it and replace it with the phrase “should the new constitution declare….”
(1) Should the new constitution declare only the rights or should it also declare the obligations of citizens (work, study, national defense, environment)? What do you think?
The possible answers: (a) The new constitution should declare only the rights of the citizens; (b) The new constitution should cover the obligations as well as the rights; (c) I can’t decide. The third or sometimes fourth possible answer is always “I can’t decide.”
(2) Should the new constitution restrict the extent of sovereign debt and thus accept responsibility for future generations?
Here those who answer can either opt for a maximum that should be adhered to under all circumstances or allow for the possibility of exceptions depending on the economic situation.
(3) Should the new constitution bring under its protection common values such as family, labor, home, order and health?
Here the answer is simple enough: yes or no.
(4) Should the new constitution grant voting rights to the parent of a minor on behalf of his/her child?
Here are four possible answers. First, the parents should have extra votes depending on the number of children; second, the parents should receive only one extra vote regardless of the number of children; third, there should be no extra vote on behalf of the children.
(5) Should the new constitution permit taxing the cost of raising children?
Again four answers: (a) the government should tax the expenses of child rearing; (b) the government should recognize the costs of bringing up children but shouldn’t forbid taxation; and (c) it is not necessary to recognize the expenses of child rearing.
(6) Should the new constitution undertake responsibility for future generations?
Answers: yes or no, but it sounds familiar to me. Didn’t they ask this question already?
(7) Should the constitution declare that only companies with a transparent ownership should have access to state funds?
Possible answers: yes or no.
(8) Should the new constitution express the value of national togetherness with Hungarians living beyond our borders?
Here there are three possible answers: (a) yes, and it should oblige the government for the defense of this value; (b) yes, but the government shouldn’t have any obligations; and (c) there is no necessity to express such value in the constitution.
(9) Should the new constitution provide protection for the biodiversity of the Carpathian Basin?
Well, I wonder what the other countries in the Carpathian Basin think of this particular question. According to Wikipedia the Carpathian Basin covers all of Hungary and Slovakia, as well as parts of Serbia, Croatia, Romania, Slovenia, Austria and Ukraine.
The answers to this question are interesting. The first possibility is that the Hungarian government should protect all plants and animals. The second that only “traditional Hungarian varieties” should be defended and, third, that the new constitution “should not defend biological diversity.”
(10) Should the new constitution provide special protection of national assets, especially arable land and water supplies?
Two possible answers: yes or no.
(11) Should the courts have powers to give life prison sentences that cannot be changed?
This question is an odd man out in this series. This is a legal question that belongs in the criminal code, but knowing the thinking of Viktor Orbán and his men they have some reason for posing this question here.
(12) Should the new constitution define sanctions for no-shows before a parliamentary committee for a hearing?
Three possible answers; (a) no-show would have legal consequences; (b) appearance would be compulsory without legal consequences; (c) everything would remain as it is now.
Under normal circumstances I would vote for (a) but considering the nature of these hearings I think that no one should be forced to appear at a “show trial.”
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And now to cheer up those who know Hungarian and who would like to read some Mór Jókai (1825-1904). We were told by one of our readers that today’s teenagers shouldn’t have any difficulty reading Jókai and that the only reason that I think that Jókai is hard to read is because I have been living abroad for a long time. So I went to one of his famous novels, A kőszívű ember fiai (The Heartless Man’s Sons), and picked the beginning of one of the chapters, “Tallérossy Zebulon.” I have to admit I picked this particular one because the name “Zebulon” always reminds me of one of my favorite childhood books about a bear called Dörmögő Dömötör and his nephew Zebulon.
Here are a few sentences: “A tor mindenképpen hasonlít más egyéb lakomákhoz, azzal a különbséggel, hogy nem tósztoznak benne.” I suspect that most children would have difficulty with the words “tor” (wake) and “tósztozni” (to toast). A few sentences later I found the following words: “bagósüveg” (I guess some kind of cap but don’t ask me what kind); “kandírozta” (crystallize like fruit but here it is about a face); “exorbitans” (I know it from Latin and English but I doubt that today’s ordinary Hungarian teenager has a clue); “Nem kaptam utolsó stáción forspontot” (I have an idea about the last station but for “forspont” one has to go to the Dictionary of Folklore to find out that it used to mean a change of horses); “Az a pap bizonyosan valami subscust ejtett!” (After some search I found that subscus in Latin means “dovetail connection” but what it means here is beyond me.) And at the end: “Citaltatnam consistorium elejbe.” Consistorium is the Sacred College of Cardinals. The rest?