Friendly advice: “Leave culture alone! Not your thing”

It was unexpected, but Imre Kerényi’s notion of national culture is even too much for the saner members of the Hungarian right. Both Magyar Nemzet and Heti Válasz consider his activities outright injurious to the government and the reputation of Fidesz. Not just because of what he had to say about the repertoire of the National Theater but because of his untenable views on “national culture.” The piece by Bálint Ablonczy in Heti Válasz goes even further. He pretty well tells Fidesz and the government “to get off culture.” It is not their thing.

I wholeheartedly agree with Ablonczy. Viktor Orbán should stick with football. Culture is not his forte; if it were, he surely would not have picked Kerényi as his “cultural commissar.”

To backtrack a bit. The first reaction to Kerényi’s homophobic words came from members of the Hungarian theater world. János Kulka, a former member of the National Theater who agreed to play a part in Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull next season when Attila Vidnyánszky will be the director of the theater, led the charge. He wrote a sharply worded letter after he learned that Vidnyánszky had been present when Kerényi delivered his outrageous opinions about the repertoire of the theater under the directorship of Róbert Alföldi. The president of the University of Performing Arts followed suit. Then came the president of the Association of Theaters. And finally Ildikó Lendvai (MSZP) demanded an explanation from Viktor Orbán. She is expecting an answer in about two weeks.

Vidnyánszky, who is apparently a talented director, in order to get the job as head of the National Theater cast himself as an ideologically committed man, a man he thought this Christian, national regime would find desirable. Lately he has been wearing a white shirt and black vest, a kind of Hungarian folk costume or a more modern version of it, the uniform of the Hungarian Guard. He also announced that the new theater building is a sacred site and that he will have to find a way to consecrate it. People have been shaking their heads at the transformation of the man.

Although it seemed from the video of the encounter that Vidnyánszky considered Kerényi’s reference to faggots too much, he said nothing on the spot. Moreover, a day after the video became public he repeated on one of the commercial television stations that he also thinks that there were too many plays with homosexual themes in the National Theater’s repertoire. I did find one, the 1993 play of Tony Kushner, Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes. In fact, the play will open this weekend and will continue its run throughout June.

But then something happened. The very next day, Vidnyánszky suddenly apologized for not speaking up when he heard Kerényi’s homophobic remarks.

It is possible that Kerényi may be removed from his position. Or at least there are signs that someone may have convinced Viktor Orbán that Imre Kerényi is a burden. A few hours after Vidnyánszky’s apology an incredible statement entitled “Nine sentences about one Kerényi” appeared in Magyar Nemzet written by the editor-in-chief, Gábor Élő. He talked about the excrement that left Kerényi’s mouth that was spattered all over the national heroes. For a Christian and a nationalist (nemzeti) his behavior is especially disgusting. What he said is unacceptable to anyone who subscribes to the basic principles of human dignity.

As a media outlet from the other side of the political spectrum said, if an editorial like that can appear in Magyar Nemzet it means that Kerényi no longer enjoys the protection of Viktor Orbán.

But let’s move on to perhaps the most interesting article that appeared in the right-wing media, Bálint Ablonczy’s “The case of the lemony banana with orange which is actually a peach.” This title will need a bit of an explanation. “Banana” is used in Hungarian conversations for a case which may end in a disaster of sorts. Something someone can slip and fall on. “Orange” naturally is the symbol of Fidesz. Well, the “peach” is something new. Another atrocity the Hungarian government came up with. This time Tibor Navracsics’s Ministry of Public Administration and Justice is the culprit. They gave their blessing to a theme song for the Day of National Togetherness, June 4, the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Trianon in 1920.

But before Ablonczy gets to the Song of National Togetherness he expresses his total rejection of any kind of “national culture.” There is good and bad art, good and bad literature. He pretty well admits that on the right there are not too many first-rate artists, but the couple he can think of will be discredited by Kerényi and his ilk.

Dancing under the tree /Flickr

Dancing under the tree /Flickr

The Song of National Togetherness, according to Ablonczy, is “horror itself  … which after three years one can say unfortunately manifests the government’s utter confusion, its total misunderstanding of what culture is all about.” Here are a few lines from the “masterpiece.” “I dreamed of a peach tree under which everybody dances / I stood in a large circle with you, in the soft grass on a dewy field / Our hands touch, the soles of our feet step on each other / The light of happiness burns in our eyes./ Join the circle! / Dance as your blood dictates, feel the heart of the earth beating with you because we are all in one together.”

I guess I don’t have to point out how stupid and confused these lyrics are. I especially like the line about the soles of our feet stepping on each other. And then, of course, there’s the music. Ablonczy suggests that the government “leave that culture thing alone.”

Yes, there are signs that certain people even on the right, especially those with some artistic sensitivity, are starting to realize that this government, in addition to all its other sins, is becoming a laughingstock.

And speaking of laughingstocks, here is another brilliant government idea. Miklós Soltész, undersecretary in charge of social policy in Zoltán Balog’s Ministry of Human Resources, decided that young men and women have neither the time nor the opportunity to find spouses. The government ought to assist them in their quest. And so Soltész, a Christian Democrat who found his wife at a Catholic church function, decided that the ministry should organize “mixers.” In Budapest and in larger cities young adults can attend these events, called “Are you free for a dance? The first step toward each other.” They’re sure to be a roaring success.

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43 comments

  1. Eva: In Budapest and in larger cities young adults can attend these events, called “Are you free for a dance?

    I immediately had to think about Mr. Humphries (played by John Inham) in the comedy “Are you being served?” For fans of British comedy. You can find the entire series on youtube.

    The pilot episode: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ni3AT2M8YYc

  2. Barackfa – that is actually a pálinka advertisement. Isn’t it? That would explain the stepping on soles.

  3. To advertise the dance party in Budapest they paid a cool million to a company called Mahir Cityposter Ltd. Guess what. The owner of this company is the Mahir Zrt, owned by Lajos Simicska, oligarch extraordinair, Orban’s college roommate. Bingo.

    I’m sure there is going to be a big spike in the the birth rate 9 months from now. Or a big spike in condom sales.

  4. The production values of the Barackfa video are also circa 1987 Kazahkstan or like a kid show from 1983 Hungarian State Television. I guess they more embarrassing to a young Fidesznik like Ablonczy than the absurd text.

    The amateurish kitch is raging.

    Also note the crazy style of Magyar Nemzet: the op-ed denouncing Kerényi was also written in a sickening style (the writer actually talked about the “excrement that left Kerényi’s mouth”), which could not be printed in any decent paper in the EU. It has something very agressive, even abusive and repulsive in it, but this is the style Magyar Nemzet and Fidesz are comfortable with.

  5. Not only is the peach-tree song atrocious – it’s based on a stolen idea, see http://muvesz-ember.blog.hu/2013/05/23/a_nemzet_dala . In this blog, a musician called György Bolyki claims that actually it was his brother who first came up with the idea of a song which the whole nation could sing together and feel united. Whatever one thinks of this idea, Bolyki’s original concept seems to have been far less idiotic and kitschy. (The Bolyki brothers have continued developing their own concept and they also have some professional comments explaining why the peach-tree song simply isn’t fit for its alleged function.)

    But, in any case – Bolyki happened to tell Bálint Bársony (one of the guys behind the peach-tree song) about his idea, and after a few days Bársony found the occasion to step in front of the audience and present the idea as his own, inviting the Bolyki brothers and everybody else to join him.

    Somehow, this completes the picture…

  6. Peter H. :
    Barackfa – that is actually a pálinka advertisement. Isn’t it? That would explain the stepping on soles.

    Stepping on someone’s sole is hard even when one is sober. Unless the person whose sole one tries to step on is buried upside down into the ground and only his/her sole is visible. The other option is to perform a sort of a sole-operation, remove the person’s sole and place it on the ground upside down. The third option would be that the performers of this action are acrobats and they do it on a trapeze…

  7. ” the ministry should organize “mixers.”

    Why doesn’t the government go all the way and — like the Rev, Moon before him — have the Dear Leader Orban pick young, eligible men and women from snapshots, couple them up and marry all the new couples in a mass ceremony on Heroes’ Square? Those who reproduce fast enough can receive the title “National Heroes of Hungarian Togetherness and Fertility.”

  8. SenSan: such a spine-shivering, retro-communist idea, such an embarrassing song – and even that was stolen, bravo.

    The authors have also announced that they will sue anyone who dare to question the originality of the idea and the song.

  9. Will Fidesz introduce a Lebensborn program a few years down the road?

    Confiscate a castle, bring there fideszniks and fidesznitzas, and a new generation of faithful will be born.

  10. It will be difficult to pacify the torn Hungarian nation after the Orban era.
    The reservoir of decent Hungarians is getting very small.
    If already at breeding, the true objective should be to rehabilitate all mentally blocked loyalists of fidesz/jobbik.

  11. FYI – my friend Karl Pfeifer – ref. nepszava.com

    Szenzor 2013. május 25. szombat 13:24
    porszem
    2013. május 25. szombat 13:13
    “Túlmentünk azokon az időkön, amikor demokratikus úton leválthatóak lettek volna.
    Vagy ismét 10-40 év diktatúra erősen fasiszta mellékzöngével.”

    Transparent elections are the past in Hungary.
    Welcome to the prospect of 50 years of francoism.
    It will be another minor crime against humanity.
    Another honor badge to Hungary’s glory.

  12. The taste of this programme seems to be on a par with Orban Media and Fox Studios…

    de gustibus non est disputandum

  13. I think the “Heute Show” is good:

    Very political (!) and very aggressive, a bit in the tradition of US Saturday Night Live – which was my favourite show in the 80s!

    You have to listen very carefully – the pictures are not too important!

    The show very clearly critized Mrs Merkel for being too lenient with Orbán and also made fun of his reactions over that first children’s show on the Fidesz right wing politics.

  14. Karl Pfeifer :
    The taste of this programme seems to be on a par with Orban Media and Fox Studios…
    de gustibus non est disputandum

    Fox News not Fox Studios. Unless you dislike Star Wars for instance…

  15. 1.
    The head of the Calvinist Church, talking to Orban today quoted Kipling:
    “We be of one blood, ye and I”

    And answered Orban:
    “Now this is the Law of the Jungle — as old and as true as the sky;
    And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the Wolf that shall break it must die.”

    http://www.nepszava.hu/articles/article.php?id=648365

    So it is now officially proclaimed that Hungary is under the rule of the jungle.

    ———–
    2.
    Yesterday Orban and Ader appointed Orban’s chief advisor to be the election chief for 9 years. There was no debate about the appointment in Parliament or elsewhere. It took a day to nominate and appoint.

    She can reject or permit referendums to go ahead, she will declare which election is valid and which is not, who won – almost unlimited power for nine years.

    It is an outrage that not an independent personality will preside over the elections for 9 years.

    The opposition should raise hell in Brussels and elsewhere.

    http://www.nepszava.hu/articles/article.php?id=648260

  16. muttdamon :

    Karl Pfeifer :
    The taste of this programme seems to be on a par with Orban Media and Fox Studios…
    de gustibus non est disputandum

    Fox News not Fox Studios. Unless you dislike Star Wars for instance…

    I quoted St. Harnad, living in Austria I have no idea about Fox News or Fox Studios and I must confess, I never watched Star Wars.

    I agree of course with Wolfi. This satirical show is one of the best in Germany. I just did not wanted to discuss with St. Harnad about that. He is absolutely entitled to have a different opinion.

  17. 1.
    The head of the Calvinist Church, talking to Orban today quoted Kipling:
    “We be of one blood, ye and I”

    And answered Orban:
    “Now this is the Law of the Jungle — as old and as true as the sky;
    And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the Wolf that shall break it must die.”

    http://www.nepszava.hu/articles/article.php?id=648365

    So it is now officially proclaimed that Hungary is under the rule of the jungle.

    ———–
    2.
    Yesterday Orban and Ader appointed Orban’s chief advisor to be the election chief for 9 years. There was no debate about the appointment in Parliament or elsewhere. It took a day to nominate and appoint.

    She can reject or permit referendums to go ahead, she will declare which election is valid and which is not, who won – almost unlimited power for nine years.

    It is an outrage that not an independent personality will preside over the elections for 9 years.

    The opposition should raise hell in Brussels and elsewhere.

    see
    http://www.nepszava.hu/articles/article.php?id=648260

  18. Orban the 5th and culture is really like a bull in the china shop (or an elephant in Hungarian). Trashy kitsch is bubbling up in the Hungarian cultural life but that’s just the same trend – untalented people are having a great party everywhere.

    But we have talent and this is where the bull comes into the China shop.

    Interesting debate is forming about the a flashmob scandal in a ballet performance directed by Ivan Marko. Marko is probably the most famous Hungarian dancer and choreographer.

    At the and of the show, when the applause started and Marko was on the stage, Marton Gulyas, from the Kretakor (Chalk Circle) Theatre stood up with a loudspeaker and started to tell that Marko, that he received 155 million HUF support from Orban, roughly the same support as ALL the independent theaters in Hungary.

    Marko let Gulyas up the stage “to discuss”, but he was very rude. He told him “you shut the f* up” (maga kussoljon).

    There are a lot of things you can comment on, like Marko’s talent likely deserves more financial support. Even so, this is not the way to do it. Everything the Fidesz touches turns into crap.

    The video:

  19. @tappanch about Kipling and Orbán. I went to Orbán’s official website where a summary of the speech in Debrecen appeared which originally included a video of the actual speech. However, when I tried to listen to it I was told that the video had been removed by the user. They also removed it from YouTube. I wonder why.

  20. On the lighter side – and not too much OT:

    A joke I just heard from my wife’s son. Mrs Merkel comes to London to visit the football game and goes through border police where she’s asked the usual questions.

    Your name: Merkel
    Your country: Germany
    Occupation: No, no, just a short visit …

    Funnily enough, the joke might also work in French …

  21. Karl Pfeifer :

    muttdamon :

    Karl Pfeifer :
    The taste of this programme seems to be on a par with Orban Media and Fox Studios…
    de gustibus non est disputandum

    Fox News not Fox Studios. Unless you dislike Star Wars for instance…

    I quoted St. Harnad, living in Austria I have no idea about Fox News or Fox Studios and I must confess, I never watched Star Wars.

    Sorry, my bad. I clicked on the wrong link …

  22. Another scandal:
    The government destroys the submitted tender papers for state-owned agricultural land.

    With the destruction of the evidence, it will be impossible to prove Fidesz’s fraud in a future investigation. The decree was published yesterday, and destruction can start today.

    https://www.facebook.com/parbeszedmagyarorszagert

  23. wolfi :

    I think the “Heute Show” is good:

    Very political (!) and very aggressive, a bit in the tradition of US Saturday Night Live – which was my favourite show in the 80s!

    You have to listen very carefully – the pictures are not too important!

    The show very clearly critized Mrs Merkel for being too lenient with Orbán and also made fun of his reactions over that first children’s show on the Fidesz right wing politics.

    I just look at the clip. Very funny and the audience really appreciated it.

  24. Thank you Eva!

    There also has been a satirical series “Neues aus der Anstalt” (News from the institution) that is supposed to play in a mental health hospital featuring the director, the nurses and the patients …

    It allowed some of Germany’s best and very bitter stand -up comedians to freely criticise our German and EU/US politics – even my wife enjoyed it very much though she could only understand parts of it and I often had to explain the punch lines to her.

    PS: What do you think of that joke on Mrs Merkel ?

  25. @Wolfi, When at the very end he said something about that this is all Merkel’s fault I had to think of Fidesz’s mantra about Gyurcsány whose fault absolutely everything including the recession last year.

  26. Wolfi,

    the joke: haha, brilliant! 😀
    Heute: I understand very little German but I think it’s v funny!
    Maybe I have a German sense of humour?

  27. tappanch :
    Orban announced a 10 billion gift over 4 years to the Calvinist Church.

    Great! Instead of separation of church and state apparently they are working on uniting them. I wonder when will it become a requirement for the post of prime minister to be a priest.

    I have a question about this though: if the churches cannot survive from the moneys received from their members, how come the population does not revolt about the government forcibly taking their money – through taxation – and giving it to the churches?

  28. gdfxx :

    I have a question about this though: if the churches cannot survive from the moneys received from their members, how come the population does not revolt about the government forcibly taking their money – through taxation – and giving it to the churches?

    Because they are dumb!

  29. Eva S. Balogh :

    gdfxx :
    I have a question about this though: if the churches cannot survive from the moneys received from their members, how come the population does not revolt about the government forcibly taking their money – through taxation – and giving it to the churches?

    Because they are dumb!

    Assuming dumb; they are stupid.
    No, because they do not know and nobody is informing them.

  30. Ron, yes, in a way you are right. MSZP and Együtt 2014 are simply afraid to tackle the churches. Gyurcsány’s DK is the only party that outright tells that they wouldn’t support the churches and renegotiate the agreement with the Vatican. But their voice doesn’t get too far.

  31. @Eva – Did you reailze that the woman singing the Peach Tree song is none other than Eva Gergely, wife of State Secretary Andras Doncsev at the Human Resources Ministry? Why do you think the song won the honor being the 2013 Trianon song? Do the math!

  32. Found this on youtube from ATV regarding the dancing nights last Sunday. I wonder how much money was spent?

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