Critical writings on Pál Schmitt’s constitutional ideas (II)

After Klára Sándor's hilarious article on Schmitt and language came Gábor Egry's piece that looked at Schmitt's "study" from the point of view of someone who teaches history at the university level. He gave his short note the title: "Is Rózsa Hoffmann Right?" As he said, he didn't expect anything better coming from the inhabitant of the Sándor Palota, but as he was reading it a feeling of familiarity came over him. Anyone who teaches encounters essays where is clear that the student didn't manage to digest the information he pieced together. He was just stringing sentences together one after the other without really understanding the connections. Or often the mediocre student goes into endless explanations of the obvious.

The president's "suggestions" combine both telltale signs of incomprehension. His "chapter" on Christianity seems like the work of a diligent but not too clever student. The work of someone who learned that at the beginning of each chapter it is advisable to summarize some of the essential elements he will spend time on. He also learned that one ought to mention sources. As a result come such awkward sentences as: "I would like to dwell on the connection between Christianity and the State through the ideas of Saint Augustine (345-430) and Saint Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274) that gives the essence of this chapter." Or someone who feels compelled to mention the commonplace: "Later the strained relationship between Rome and Constantinople led to schism in 1054." Or someone who finds some importance in this incredibly banal sentence: "At this time the conservative spirit of the Catholic Church found it difficult to adjust to the new demands of the Renaissance." This is someone who is not familiar with the subject, someone who doesn't know what is important and what is not. Or perhaps even more devastating, he doesn't know who his reader is.

But let's move on to the second chapter about the historical [unwritten] constitution. Gábor Egry picked only one sentence out of what the author calls the "study" because he suspected plagiarism. And indeed, the one sentence he selected about the unwritten constitution still being in force and that therefore the written constitution can be called only "basic laws" was plagiarized from, of all places, the far-right daily paper Magyar Hírlap. Although the "study" has footnotes, this particular sentence is not footnoted. The author undoubtedly wanted to hide his source, which he knew was inappropriate.

Surely, says Gábor Egry, the young men in Sándor Palota are recent graduates, and if this piece of "scholarly" garbage is typical, Hungarian higher education is in big trouble. Although, he adds, considering that the president finished university in the 60s it seems that Hungarian higher education had serious problems even then.

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The internet paper Hírszerző had real fun with Schmitt's "study." One of the articles about Schmitt's suggestions carries the headline: "Defeat the Land of Satan with Pál Schmitt." Another is "Defend the Hungarian Language from Pál Schmitt with Hírszerző." The journalists of the paper combed through the text for spelling and grammatical errors.

The president and his staff have problems with what is written as one word and what is written as two. Admittedly, this distinction is not always logical in Hungarian, but there is such a thing as a spell checker. In the "study" there are some grievous errors of this kind. Surely, any person who reads the daily papers should know that "extreme right" in Hungarian is written as one word and not two.

There are many also instances of using singular verbs with plural nouns. "The activities of the church is not antithetical to the constitution." Or "such conditions in a way is the common good." Then there are the endless, complicated, incomprehensible sentences. Altogether the writers are very sloppy. For example, they can't make up their minds how to write the Theory of the Holy Crown in Hungarian: "Szent Korona tan," "Szent Korona-tan" or "Szent korona-tan."

Apparently someone on Facebook marked up the document as a copy editor would; the result is that one can barely see the original. It's no wonder that the president's suggestions disappeared from the internet. I'm curious what the president and his staff are planning to do with their mocked effort. Rewrite it and submit it again? I doubt that they have the intellectual horsepower to improve significantly on the first try. My feeling is that the president's suggestions will end up in the wastepaper basket and be mercifully forgotten. Or at least the president should hope that they will be forgotten.