Zsófia Mihancsik: What is the answer, dear Hungarians?

Zsófia Mihancsik is currently editor-in-chief of Galamus. Although she finished law school, she spent her adult years as a journalist, working for Magyar Rádió between 1977 and 1993. Since then she has been a free-lancer. She published several books of her own and since the late 1980s has translated about twenty books from French to Hungarian. She is the recipient of the Pulitzer Memorial, the Tolerance, the Katalin Bossák, and the Freedom of the Press prizes. The writing below, in Hungarian, appeared in Galamus on January 10, 2010.

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I'm writing an outraged article today. Not because I like it but because I am ashamed for those authors of the more moderate daily of the right-wing media empire who accuse philosophers of fraud, embezzlement, and theft. In brief, that public money has been fraudulently acquired. Among the philosophers mentioned is Ágnes Heller, an internationally respected philosopher who taught at universities all over the world and who is the recipient of several Hungarian and international prizes. To make this writing more personal, they attacked that same Ágnes Heller from whom I learned most among our contemporaries about ethics and systematic thinking. Whose works ever since I was a university student have been among my basic readings. In my opinion she is exceptional not just because of her talent, her knowledge, her career, her work, and her behavior but because of her incomparable personality. All this makes her tower above the slough in which people like Gyula Budai [Orbán's political inquisitor] and Szabolcs Szerető [one of the editors of Magyar Nemzet], people who shouldn't even be allowed to utter her name, live and into which they want to drag her.

Even if Ágnes Heller had received 500 million forints from the Hungarian state on whatever grounds, even if simply for enabling her at the age of eighty-one to buy herself a castle found only in fairy tales, even if she never wrote another sentence in her life, even then we should applaud this decision and we could be proud that we Hungarians and our elected representatives realize that certain exceptional accomplishments are priceless. Because Ágnes Heller, in addition to being first and foremost herself, is one of the outstanding representatives of the intellectual accomplishment of Hungarians at home and abroad. The same way János Kornai is. Or Péter Nádas is. Who, by the way, were attacked in the same boorish and unacceptable manner by professional Fidesz slanderers disguised as philosophers, historians, and journalists.

Executors of party orders talk about sovereign people. People without intellectual power talk about real talent. Amoral people about people of integrity. People without accomplishments about people of exceptional attainments. They think that they can drag these people down in the dirt right next to themselves because they were told that they could and should do so. All this because no institution, no person should remain free from that disgusting slime that was spewn on everything they want to dominate.

I'm sorry for the brutal wording, but one is incapable of finding the appropriate words.

Up to now we have tolerated the destruction of institutions that are guarantees of our individual freedom. We have tolerated the destruction of principles that might be abstract for the ordinary citizen but that are necessary for our security. We have tolerated the fact that the powers-to-be frighten large groups of people–people with savings, civil servants, journalists–into submissiveness. We have tolerated the fact that well known but easily forgettable characters don't recognize us, their fellow countrymen, Hungarian citizens as people of consequence or partners in negotiation. If they yield, they yield only as a result of foreign pressure. For the love of God, at least we shouldn't stand by passively when they want to defile the most illustrious among Hungarian citizens. The defense of their honor is the business of our own self-respect.

Hungary is not Belorus where journalists get killed. Here they just try to silence them. And Hungary is not Iran where philosophers are put in jail. Here they are only methodically discredited, their credence, their veracity, their moral integrity taken away. And we who tolerate that, what are we? Where do we live? What are we good for, if not for defending what is important to us over and above our daily bread? What is the answer, dear Hungarians?

 

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John T
Guest

Eva – While I can understand the points being made
“Even if Ágnes Heller had received 500 million forints from the Hungarian state on whatever grounds, even if simply for enabling her at the age of eighty-one to buy herself a castle found only in fairy tales, even if she never wrote another sentence in her life, even then we should applaud this decision and we could be proud that we Hungarians and our elected representatives realize that certain exceptional accomplishments are priceless. Because Ágnes Heller, in addition to being first and foremost herself, is one of the outstanding representatives of the intellectual accomplishment of Hungarians at home and abroad”
this part is absolutely ridiculous and to my mind undermines the real message.

Sophist
Guest

Why ridiculous? Because Intellectual achievement should not be rewarded financially (cf Nobel Prize), or because Heller hasn’t really achieved?

Sophist
Guest

First freedom of the press, now academic freedom, really looking forward to the Education reform act slated fot the early summer. What treats await us, disacreditation of my UK degree, abandonment of bilingual secondary education?

Mutt Damon
Guest

OK, this isn’t the end of the world ..
At least Vic doesn’t tax the philosophers retroactively. The courts will decide.

John G
Guest

Thank you for translating the article into English.
Attack on the intellectual elite of the nation says more about the mind-set of Fidesz than they would like to admit to.
In the long run it will probably cause them more grief than the media law. Subtly, indirectly,not like the upheaval caused by the media law, but grief it will cause them.

Kirsten
Guest

@John G : I thought about that too but if it was written in sheer desperation, perhaps this passage does not weaken the point. You could equally question why the assault on Agnes Heller is so much worse than “the destruction of institutions that are guarantees of our individual freedom”. But I like the text and its force, it’s refreshing after the many declarations of eternal faith to anti-semitism, OV and the Kadar regime.

Kirsten
Guest

I meant John T, sorry…

Gabriella
Guest

The situation is similar for Kertesz, who received the literary Nobel prize a few years ago, he has to be put down, in this case because he is Jewish.
According to the brother of my childhood friend, Kertesz received the Nobel Prize because the Jews in the comittee gave it to him, and they are taking care of him financially ever since in Germany.
He read 20 pages of Kertesz’s book, and found it utterly boring.

Kormos
Guest

I wonder if any of the bloggers had a chance to read a book from Rudolf Vrba “44070: The Conspiracy of the Twentieth Century”. Originally published in 1963.
I was surprised by the similarity to Kertesz’s book.

Peter K.
Guest

It is perhaps not clear from Miahncsik’s writing, the claim is that Hungarian philosphers received in 2004 and 2005 huge grants (2m dollars) with incorrect and illegal applications of the rules. It is impossible, at this stage, to see what, if any, part of this claim is true.
I find, however, Mihancsik’s argument, very unfortunate. What she essnetially says that Heller is so great, world famous, etc, that the general rules do not apply in her case.
I feel that the only possible answer could have been: all right, let;s have a fully open, meticulous investigation, until it is finished, we should not state opinion in either direction.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Peter K: “It is perhaps not clear from Miahncsik’s writing, the claim is that Hungarian philosphers received in 2004 and 2005 huge grants (2m dollars) with incorrect and illegal applications of the rules.”
It is certainly not clear because it is not true.

Leo
Guest

@Peter K: Your point of view might seem reasonable, but alas, throwing mud is the standard treatment for anyone not appreciated by Fidesz. It is therefore foolish to give these accusations any credence.
Ágnes Heller is anyway a very unlikely ´criminal´. Although I don´t care much for philosophy and certainly not for Lukács´ thinking, I did enjoy reading Heller’s biography (written by or with Janos Kobanyai).
It seems however that there´s no English translation, while the German version is out of print: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Affe-auf-dem-Fahrrad/dp/3825701395/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1294744395&sr=1-1
For a compatriot who may reading this, the Dutch version is still available: http://www.bol.com/nl/p/nederlandse-boeken/agnes-heller/1001004001464577/index.html#product_description

Odin's Lost Eye
Guest

The ‘Mighty One and Fidesz have manufactured the external enemies they need for the Hungarians to ‘HATE’. These are the IMF and the ECB. They have in reserve the Rating Agencies and the old Communist bête-noirs ‘The Wall Street Journal’, ‘the Economist’.
Now they are manufacturing the ‘Enemy Within’. This will be one that they can punish. This starts with the ‘philosophers’ and will end up with anyone who can do joined up writing. Fidesz do not need philosophy they have the ‘Dearest Leader’ (OV). He thinks for all of us.
Next they will need to find ‘spies’ so watch out we may all be accused.

Öcsi
Guest

“Not because I like it but because I am ashamed for those authors of the more moderate daily of the right-wing media empire who accuse philosophers of fraud, embezzlement, and theft. In brief, that public money has been fraudulently acquired.”
It may be the translation or perhaps I’m a bit pedantic, but I wouldn’t call them “authors.” They are hacks, pure and simple. They contribute nothing but tripe.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Öcsi: “It may be the translation or perhaps I’m a bit pedantic, but I wouldn’t call them “authors.” They are hacks, pure and simple. They contribute nothing but tripe.”
It is not the translation. Mihancsik used the word “szerzők.” But I agree with you.

Kevin Moore
Guest

This whole article is ridiculous. This is nothing else than a ferocious display of the feeling of superiority of an inferior hater.
She, in her pathological frustration, labels the whole set of right-wing intellectuals an inferior slough while failing to counter any of the charges brought up against the left-lib Heller.
Who, given her intellect and accomplishments, is untouchable and must be acquitted of law.

Mutt Damon
Guest

@OK, Kev, back to your cage … 🙂 because if the philosopher mafia get acquitted, like Gyurcsany, you will be the fool of the blog (again).

Joseph Simon
Guest

This is the kind of good news this Blog should concentrate on. Five thousand applications for dual citizenship in the first week. The largest number of persons applying are in Kolozsvár, Csikszereda és Szabadka.
The Spectrum should monitor as to how many people would be interested to become Hungarian citizens in addition to their American citizenship. It would be nice to know the postion of this Spectrum on this issue.

An
Guest

@Joseph Simon: Just curious, is there any statistics on how many people are leaving the country?

Member

@ Joseph S: THis question came up a few times already. In any case the Washington Post covers this very well: http://blogs.wsj.com/new-europe/2011/01/06/hungarian-dual-citizenship-kicks-in-with-view-to-voting-right/
I agree with the Post also about “Fidesz expects that by providing voting rights for all Hungarian citizens, it will gain further voters”. I think the real reason Orban dealt with this so fast (and all of his other doing) is to cement his leadership and to create the ultimate autocracy. Just my two cents.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

someone: “I think the real reason Orban dealt with this so fast (and all of his other doing) is to cement his leadership and to create the ultimate autocracy. Just my two cents.”
In 2006 István Mikola spilled the beans. If the Hungarians in the neighboring country get citizenship and voting rights, Fidesz ill be in power for twenty years! This unfortunate announcement might have added to the reasons why Fidesz didn’t win the elections.
By now they are not even hiding the fact that voting rights will be granted to the new citizens. The talk about the unification of the nation is just talk. The aim is quite cynical: to increase the number of Fidesz voters.

John T
Guest

“Why ridiculous? Because Intellectual achievement should not be rewarded financially (cf Nobel Prize), or because Heller hasn’t really achieved?”
Sophist – My comment was to some extent for the reason outlined by Peter K. Bearing in mind the poor state of Hungary’s finances, it seemed a rather flippant comment. And bearing in mind the accusations being made, it seemed a rather carefree comment too. I certainly think that achievement should be celebrated, but its not the role of Government to dish out sums of money.
Maybe I’m being harsh, but I don’t think it helps draw support for a cause.

John T
Guest

opps – The sentence should have said “its not the role of Government to dish out sums of money in the way the paragraph described.

Joseph Simon
Guest

It is very cynical to say that granting dual citizenship is all FIDESz politics. I was in Erdély when Gyurcsány defeated the idea. People were literally agahst. Where is that gallant Magyar nation, they kept asking me. For them it meant much, much more than mere politics. Granted, there is politics in everything that a political party does, but this was good politics.

Kirsten
Guest

In the EU presidency welcome film (“A world of potentials”), Hungarian intellectuals and inventors of any background are praised:


Paul
Guest

First they came for the philosophers…

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Paul: “First they came for the philosophers…”
Since yesterday I learned a few details. Ágnes Heller didn’t receive a penny from the grant. She was just coordinating a project that was about Nietzsche, Heidegger and Lukács. Accoring to Zsófia Mihancsik, she lives in a tiny apartment downtown Pest and if she didn’t receive any money from abroad–after all, she worked for more than twenty years in Australia and the United States and received innumerable prizes with nice sums attached to them–she would be close to starving. As Mihancsik added, as Péter Nádas is at times. Mihancsik should know because she had extended interviews with the writer which was published in book form.

Kevin Moore
Guest

“Ágnes Heller didn’t receive a penny from the grant.”
Then what are you so afraid of? If she was not involved in it, she will not be punished.
Except, of course, if she, despite not getting money from it, actively participated in the theft.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Kevin Moore: “Ágnes Heller didn’t receive a penny from the grant.” Then what are you so afraid of? If she was not involved in it, she will not be punished.”
Afraid of? Who on earth is afraid of anything? I’m outraged, not afraid! Punish? Don’t you get it into your head that these are trumped-up charges?

Kevin Moore
Guest

“Don’t you get it into your head that these are trumped-up charges?”
Ok, now tell me exactly which part of the charges is untrue.
Will you?
Others look here, the mighty intellectual Ágnes Heller in person, at her best:
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