Viktor Orbán normally gives “interviews” on Magyar Rádió on Friday mornings. Why did I put the word interview in quotation marks? Because these weekly performances are not really interviews. I’m convinced that the questions posed are not new to the prime minister. I wouldn’t be surprised if his office supplied the radio station with the material ahead of time. So, the reporter’s questions simply serve as a vehicle for Orbán’s messages to the nation on any given week.
Some of these weekly orations are not worth spending time on. They are just rehashes of government propaganda. But there are always some that are worth dissecting. Yesterday’s was one of the more memorable ones because there were so many false numbers, illogical statements, and highly controversial word usage.
Let me start with the last item. Yesterday I must have gotten at least a dozen letters from my friends in Hungary and elsewhere expressing their dismay at Viktor Orbán’s reference to Hungarians as a special kind of people. And now I have to bore you with the meaning of a Hungarian word that Orbán used twice during this interview. The word is “fajta.” “Faj” means race or species and “fajta” is a subgroup within it. But it can also mean “kind” or “sort.” So, for example, you might ask at the farmers’ market “what kind of apples” the farmer is selling. Or, you might be curious about the kind of dogs the Obamas have. Some dictionaries also translate the word as “race.” You could also translate the word as “stock,” meaning blood relations or inherited characteristics. In any case, Orbán talked about the Hungarian “fajta” twice during his interview.
Pusztaranger, the foremost German-language blog on Hungarian politics, devoted two posts to the question. In the first article, the blogger used the word “Rasse” which later was changed to “Spezies.” In either case, as we can see, “race” and “species” can in certain instances be interchangeable, and Viktor Orbán is a master of this kind of double talk. On the one hand, using a word with an ambiguous meaning allows him to claim total innocence of the charge of racist motives while, on the other hand, he can please his right-wing followers by pointing out the special, superior attributes of Hungarians that distinguish them from the rest of mankind.
The topics Orbán covered Friday are wide-ranging and I can’t cover them all. Therefore I will concentrate on two related topics, the specific values that distinguish Hungarians from other nationalities and how these values translate into the alleged economic success of the Orbán government.
This subject came up at the very beginning of the interview after the reporter inquired about the secret of the “surprisingly good economic results” achieved in the third quarter of the year. Did they have something to do with increased agricultural yields thanks to the good weather or were they perhaps due to the economic policies of the government?
And here is the modest and totally illogical answer. No, the good numbers have nothing to do with either. We must thank “the people who want to work.” Four or five years ago “we were a country where many thought they would rather live on the dole than work…. It is a cultural change, a change in mentality, that is behind our achievement–what I mean, behind the country’s achievement.” I assume I don’t have to dwell on the absurdity of this claim. The first problem is that the economy is not better than it was four or five years ago; it is worse. And the explanation for economic growth as simply the willingness of people to work is total nonsense. The serious economic crises in the 1930s or in the 2008-20012 period had nothing to do with lazy people who refused to get out of bed.
I suspect, however, that Orbán truly believes this absurdity because later he returned to the theme: “There is growth in Hungary if the people want to work harder. And people want to work more if they see a reason to do so.” Here, of course, he is alluding to the very unjust flat tax introduced by the Orbán government, what Gordon Bajnai called Viktor Orbán’s “original sin.” As if people’s well-being depended solely on the number of hours they work or how hard they work. We know that, thanks to the flat tax, the rich have grown richer and the poor and middling sort are doing worse financially. Naturally, this income disparity is not a result of the rich working harder and the rest of society slacking off.
Yet Orbán repeats this nonsense ad nauseam and couples it with a paean to the virtues of Hungarians. “The Hungarian is an industrious kind [fajta]. There are groups of people where this is not so unequivocal, but in Hungary if an opportunity presents itself and if the people see that with more work one can prosper then they will be willing to work harder and longer hours…. In my opinion this is the engine of economic growth in Hungary. This new public spirit, this new mentality, the vital instinct, this Hungarian vital instinct.” One could ask which groups of people or nations Orbán had in mind when he alluded to societies whose members are slothful. Moreover, today there are almost half a million people who cannot find work in Hungary. Another half a million have already left Hungary to try their luck abroad. What are we talking about?
And finally about half way through the interview Orbán again used the controversial word “fajta.” “We are an endangered species. Our numbers continually decrease. There are more burials than christenings. Consequently, as long as we don’t turn this tendency around, it doesn’t matter how well we might live; in reality, the Hungarian nation, individually and collectively, cannot feel secure. In fact, we will be in a serious life threatening situation.”
Since when do we talk about burials and christenings instead of the birth rate and mortality rate? I guess since Orbán discovered his religious soul. First of all, not all inhabitants of Hungary are Christians. Second, I know that a lot of parents don’t bother to have their children baptized, especially since the churches are unwilling to baptize a child whose parents themselves were not baptized or whose marriage was not blessed by the church. As for having a church wedding, the “pagan” couple must undergo extensive religious education prior to the wedding ceremony. Not too many people will go to all that trouble. So, I suspect that there are many children who never get baptized, especially since about 25% of the adult population describe themselves as atheists. As for the burials. More and more people dispense with burials and opt for scattering the ashes of their loved ones in their favorite forests or in the Danube.
Viktor Orbán sees a Hungary that doesn’t exist; it is a figment of his imagination. I’m convinced that by now he cannot distinguish between the imagined and the real. But yes, I agree with him that Hungarians are in grave danger–as long as they are led by someone like Viktor Orbán.
Hungarians were the 10th most suffering people in 2011 and the 5th most suffering in 2012.
“Hungary is doing better” – is the government’s slogan.
Yes, Hungarians feel better than Bulgarians, Armenians, Cambodians, Haitians, but feel worse than all others.
Scandinavians and citizens of oil-rich countries are the happiest.
Not as if I would assume that Orban know anything about it, but as it happens the Brits also have a tendency to speak of themselves as a race. In fact a “special race.” Perhaps Shakespeare is not the best one to quote here, but for instance, Noel Coward also used the expression in one of his war-time songs.
Nobody should construe this note as any apology on behalf of the Toad of the Carpatians.
Re: “We are a special species [or race]”
“We study at home”, i.e. in Hungary.
I would like to tell the government that I am NOT from the insect race.
Orban is completely deluded, but people also desperately want to believe, so it is a fantastic pairing. He delivers to the demand. And with his delusions and madness, he is still much more concentrated and focused when it comes to party strategy than anybody on the Left.
– Wouldn’t you miss those extra pairs of feet?
By the other hand, one should appreciate the special respect when treated as a member of the agile society of the ants…
That’s the sole purpose of the average citizens in Orbanistan anyway, it became quite clear: no brains, no integrity, work and serve the almighty Ruler, no question about it.
Be glad and stay in the line!
Otherwise, in my opinion this whole attitude and the vocabulary what comes with, nothing else, but an instrument of social engineering, manipulating the people into a delusion of grandeur – simply being Hungarian gives the right to behave differently, demand a special treatment and so on.
A dangerous game with a predictable outcome.
Well, the Pied Piper had followers too…
Horthy understood horses and tennis.
Every time Orban and his cohorts.make a point, my mind says: this is manipulation, this is distortion, this is turning the facts upside down, this is appealing to the listeners vanity, patriotism, or blaming an easy target (eg minority). At other time he is manipulating words evidently using coded double-meaning words, language and concepts, and manipulating and brainwashing minds.
Sometimes his targets are intended to delude and cajole those using emotional strings of attachment or targeting the child in us, or those who more easily manipulated.
Behind this is the thirst for power over others, sometimes expressed as if a father were chiding an unruly or underperforming child. The weak react with an “I promise to work harder or more diligently. At the same time this talk takes the pressure off the government to perform and puts the onus of perfromance where a worker ultimately understands it belongs. On s/he who is supposed to do the task.
Consequently the listener stops feeling his own pain of not earning enough to make ends meet and instead transfers this anger at the government to his neighbor or a minority group or groups or segments of the social fabric.
The human propensity to seeing the grass as greener on the other side helps in this process. Thus the average Joe will begin to see these segments of society as being responsible for his lack of funds or of success. It’s an easier target and its closer by and messages are sent first via frowns and then via more apprent signs. The notion of ganging up, groups against one another is an attractive alternative to fair individual competition.
Is Orban’s approach conscious or unconscious? I am convinced it is very conscious manipulation of the truth and he is aware of it it full well. , He has always operated on shifting principles on the basis of what is in his best interest at the time.
He was anti-communist and pro-democratic principles in the late 80s and early 90s. However when success began to elude him in 2002 he became even more hard-line to assure himself of the success he longed for. His manipulative nature showed up evidently when Fidesz re-drew electoral territories in order to be sure to try to assure himself of another 4 + years in power or via manipulating the constitution to his advantage, redestributing power in the government hierarcy as well as the crude steps to get rid of a large number of previously appointed judges in order to get more sub-servient courts and a supreme court that he could count on to make decisions according to his wishes.
Theres little question in my mind that one of the reasons he has brought in the top electoral advisor Mr Arthur Finkestein to advise him on tactical procedures may not only to assure himself that he is doing right but to, in his mind, if needed, to be able to say: so and so told me to do this or that — that I have advisors who also ‘think’ alike — that is, to shulder some of the emotional burden in the process.
The talk and particularly the logic of the Hungarian race (faj) is Hitlerian (Germanic and Aryan race) with a good dash of Machiavelli thrown in. I bet Orban applies the teachings of Mao’s little Red book, as well as Mussolini, Ho Chi Minh and Fidel Castro among other dictators of his choosing.
My conclusion is that Orban knows deliberately well what and why he is doing and saying what he is, with an intention not to suffer the painful defeat to his ego that occurred about 10 years when he was replaced via the elctions by the Socialists.
His kowingly deceiptful populist messages are intended to shock and cajole his slightest sympathisers into following suit.
These messages are intended to obfuscate the truth and they are extremely dangerous. It is like carrying a big automatic weapon and you the audience never know when he is going to pull it out and start wildly shooting… This sense of putting all at a ‘malaise’ and into an insecure position is how he keeps “kontrol”.
I’m one of those people who was “manipulated into delusion of grandeur” (re: spectator) and I’ve written three books this year and published it on Amazon.com/kindle. So far I had about 400 free downloads and hardly any sales. My latest masterpiece: The Gresham Symphony is standing still. I’d truly appreciate a few reviews (only 54 pages), be it kind or nasty – anything would do….just a kind help…. one Hungarian helping the other….Also, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all the very best for 2014.
latefor: Only Amazon? http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/sell-ebooks/
Btw I google Gresham Symphony I found it only via Amazon. You may want to try another websites or even publishing an actual book (Books are not death yet). when you have no money for this. You may want to consider crowd funding.
“Burials and christenings” — a bit heavy-handed to criticise that phrase, Prof Balogh. Even OV should be allowed to deploy metonymy now and again.
@Sandor. The British also refer to themselves as a “race”.
Do we really??? That’s news to me. Care to list any examples not from 60 years ago?
@Wondercat: The expression “more burials than christenings” is an example of reshaping the language to fit the Christian-Magyar ideology. It emphasizes that we are talking only about the “true Hungarians”. It is a shame and a scandal that a prime minister does not use the inclusive expression “birth rate and mortality”.
Out of interest, are there any audience data for Orban’s weekly words of wisdom? I mean, does this program get good ratings? Do people really tune in to hear what the great man has to say?
Even if the vast majority don’t bother tuning in, I can still imagine that the Fidesz-controlled media re-package Orban’s sound-bites as ‘news’ for every other radio/TV program, so one way or another, there is no escaping him.
@ Ron – Thanks for the link, I’m aware of them. New industry for the editors, cover designers etc. etc. I know of a few authors who tried them all, but if you are with Amazon/kindle, you are legally under contract, you can not venture out unless you go with Smashwords only. “Only the guy who is not rowing has time to rock the boat”…I’m “rowing” like crazy, writing the second part of The Gresham Symphony…I still have about 120 pages to go. Cheers.
Disclaimer: No. It’s not form the Onion. It’s Hungary.
We are a Christian nation. That’s why the Bible was written in Hungarian.
Actually the correct sentence by Orban should have been something like “the burials plus the ambassadors of the Hungarian greatness abroad are more than the christenings”. That is the half million who left Mary’s Country for good. I bet they still count them to the “nation” even though they will never come back. The Trianon of the 21st century. The last leaving please switch off the the lights. Or break the bulb if the switch was stolen.
This christian country reference is especially tasteless in a country where half million perished not so long ago for preferring other rituals at child birth.
I’m wondering if the Christening of Orban the Fifth’s children counts in the statistics. Two of them were baptized by father Ivanyi, who’s church Orban and the Holy Joes recently outlawed. By the way Ivanyi’s church submitted a request for the recognition in October. Now the government experts are examining the rituals of the church to see if it is indeed a religious organization. Even though Ivanyi married Orban and baptized his children.
Mutt: “I’m wondering if the Christening of Orban the Fifth’s children counts in the statistics. Two of them were baptized by father Ivanyi, who’s church Orban and the Holy Joes recently outlawed. By the way Ivanyi’s church submitted a request for the recognition in October. Now the government experts are examining the rituals of the church to see if it is indeed a religious organization. Even though Ivanyi married Orban and baptized his children.”
I think they have rectified this mistake since. I don’t know whether they got remarried but I know that Mrs. went to Iványi and asked the two kids to be “released.” The girl became a Catholic and the boy allegedly a Calvinist.
Great! The Orban’s went on church hopping … Next year. Buddhism! No! Say what?… How many votes?
Apropos religion. I just saw somewhere that religious ed teachers in Hungary make twice as much as ordinary teachers.
It’s hard to believe that you’d fell for the orbanist rewritten history and all that crap – be a good girl and confess it, please!
Otherwise I guess you need a somewhat better promotion regarding the books.
Your primary target-groups are the English speaking Hungarians, particularly the expats – I would start from here.
Have you ever considered to translate it to Hungarian?
@Spectator -“It’s hard to believe that you’d fell for the orbanist rewritten history and all that crap – be a good girl and confess it, please!”
My true confession is all in my first book: Arty, Crafty, Nasty – and I have two 5* reviews, believe it or not, but no sales in the last two months…..I need more reviews….. (Horror or Erotica is what people are willing to pay for these days)
Re: translate it to Hungarian. I never considered it…..very small market. Thanks for your advice.
A couple of thoughts on population ‘growth’:
First, Orbán is quite right to worry about the shrinking population and the negative birth to death ratio. Many European countries have the same problem – in fact I suspect that should be ‘most’ or even ‘all’, as in the few cases where countries have a growing population, it is due to immigration, rather than a healthy birth to death ratio amongst the native population.
But Hungary, especially under Orbán, has a double problem. Not only are a large number of people also leaving the country, but these are young people – the very people who Orbán hopes will start to replenish the population. They may indeed start to have a ‘healthy’ number of children, but those children will grow up in the UK, the US, Germany and Austria, not in Hungary.
What sort of an insane population policy is it where you create an environment whereby the very people you need to stay behind and have babies, are the ones you are ‘encouraging’ to leave?
And secondly, many years ago I knew a biologist/ecologist (when ecology was such a new science that we weren’t even sure how to pronounce it) who considered Western Europeans an ‘endangered species’ – simply on the basis that the birth rate was so low that the population could not sustain itself. Ultimately, a species that has less babies than deaths dies out.
I don’t know about erotica, but there’ll be plenty of horror for you to write about in Hungary in the near future.
Sorry Paul, politics is not a marketable genre…ha…ha….I’ve been advised by some other authors to write more marketable stuff and make my blurb more catching in order to catch the “right” market.. I’m re-working the blurb (The Gresham Symphony) at the moment….I’m not into writing about zombies and Horror, but I’ve come up with something like the following for my next book:
“Sorom and Kommorah are well know twin towns, about 50 miles from F.F. City. Sorom is known for its innocent perverts and Kommorah is the place for recently released jail birds with cannibalistic inclinations. The guys in Commorah are true romantics, flowers and all…..not only they eat their love interest after the first date, but they even write about it and email their masterpiece to the town’s newspaper, to the delight of the local sadists.
The love story of John and Jenna is NOT your average romance. The lovers in this book are NOT listening to Paganini, oh NO, my friends….. they’re into other things….”.
May be I should have a catching title: Loved her to death ??? How about that…you have to give them what they are willing to pay for…….this could be more marketable than writing about Hungarian issues, I think…..ha…ha….ha…Mad, mad world, I tell you…ha..ha..ha…(Where are all the Sociologists and Churches???)
Thanks for the link, Eva.
“I guess since Orbán discovered his religious soul. (…) Viktor Orbán sees a Hungary that doesn’t exist; it is a figment of his imagination.”
I think it’s actually a long term government strategy to propagate the idea of “1000 years of Hungary” (“Country of Mary”, “country of the Holy Crown”, what’s the last 93 years compared to 1000 years of history, God gave us this land 1000 years ago, today’s borders are just a phase etc.), to legitimize future territorial claims. Sounds totally mad, but let’s just wait and see what happens until 2020. I don’t like the way the Defense ministry’s KatonaSuli-program trains 9th graders in the use of firearms as part of the school curriculum – at specific schools only and optional, but increasingly popular with boys and girls – to prepare them for army or police careers, and that military training is offered as optional subject for high school degrees. And I don’t like how the new army and police officers coming out of the University of Public Administration (with a Jobbik-friendly Historian vice-rector in charge of the curriculum) have to swear their oath on the “Holy Crown”.
And the Vatican is actually a perfect international longterm ally for Orbán, because it’s rich and stable, there won’t be any elections and changes of government.
I hope I’m wrong, of course.
Emmi Pikler is/was Hungarian and is the premier child psychologist of the 20th century.
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