A letter to Viktor Orbán: An Austrian in Hungary who isn’t afraid

One of the first items I read this morning was a letter to Viktor Orbán published in Népszava and written by Clemens Prinz who in the printed version is identified as "Austrian, folklorist, translator." Then thanks to the blessings of the Internet I found out that he was born in 1973 and finished his university studies at the University of Vienna. In the last fifteen years he has been living in Hungary where he teaches folklore at the Technical University of Budapest.

While searching for details on Mr. Prinz I found an article that appeared in Népszabadság on November 28, 2009, that bears the title "Ki mossa le a gyalázatot?" (Who will clean off the shame?), a reference to Sándor Petőfi's poem that is associated with March 15, 1848. The story is about the Roma Holocaust Memorial at the Nehru Pier in Ferencváros. Someone smeared feces on it, which remained there for weeks. I remembered the story but didn't remember that it was Clemens Prinz who reported it and asked the authorities to clean it off. Promises he got but no more than that. So Prinz organized a session with his Hungarian and non-Hungarian friends: with buckets of water and sponges they cleaned the memorial.

Well, the the same man now decided to write a letter to Viktor Orbán. I liked the letter so much that I decided to translate it in its entirety for those of you who can't handle Hungarian.

Dear Mr. Orbán:

I decided to write you a letter as a father to a father. I was thinking, I was taking notes on topics I would like to cover. However, sitting down at my desk I came to the conclusion: I wouldn't really want to say anything to you after all. Well intentioned words make no impression on you. You only laugh at them. You are convinced that you're always right due to some divine revelation that authorized you to do anything and everything under the sun. God, if he exists, certainly didn't authorize you to liquidate the Republic or commit 100,000 idiotic actions, some of which will also be included in the new constitution. Idiotic, yes. It seems to me that you got rid of all people with a modicum of intelligence and surrounded yourself with sycophants and boot lickers as is becoming a weak statesman without ideas. I'm a real idegenszívű*, an Austrian who ended up in Hungary fifteen years ago for good, learned the language, taught at a university, established a family, had a child, and shares the fate of Hungarians.

I remember the student demonstration against the Bokros austerity package in 1995 when we came to Budapest from Debrecen to demonstrate. Everybody trusted Fidesz then. Even three years later when they won the elections I was hopeful and kept telling myself "Fidesz will create a wonderful little country from Hungary." Indeed, that's exactly what Fidesz did: they created a country for themselves. Shortly after the elections the general mood was glummer than I had ever experienced before. And things only got worse.

You know, Mr. Orbán, you didn't lose the elections because Fidesz didn't do anything and instead manufactured purple clouds of dreams but because everybody had enough of the fear and dread you created. I would like to remind you that I, the idegenszívű, quarrelled with friends with whom I don't talk to this day. You're responsible for that and my ire is forever because of this. The next government also did a lot of stupid things but at least one didn't have to be afraid. There was no fear or hate as there is now. Those governments didn't fire people because they were independent thinkers.

I would like to know one thing from you. How will you explain to your children all these lies, all this arrogance, all this disdain, and the assumed infallibility once their eyes open? I can easily explain to my children why we have a pink Toyota (nobody wanted to buy it, that's why it was cheap), or that we have only 52m2  of living space (we couldn't afford more), why I don't wear suits (because outward appearance is not what is important), why my father doesn't have a mine (because he learned the trade of carpentry and I wasn't a politician), and why I wrote this letter (because I refuse to be afraid).

But you, Mr. Orbán, how are you going to explain to your children that you behaved like an arbitrary operetta king, brought stupid laws, lied, ruined people just because they were unwilling to submit to your will? What will you say if they ask "Dad, why did you behave like a Hottentot dictator?" Or you will just slap them around and send them away?

Clemens Prinz

Austrian, folklorist, translator

*The adjective idegenszívű is very difficult to translate.It is a Fidesz creation and describes someone with a "foreign heart." Someone who cannot identify with true Hungarian feelings and aspirations. This person can be a Hungarian by birth and on paper but he/she isn't quite part of the nation. And since Orbán often described his followers as the only ones who represent the nation, everybody who is not a Fidesz voter and admirer is by definition an "idegenszívű."

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Paul
Guest

A brave man. I hope his bravery doesn’t cost him his job, or worse.

johng
Guest

What a sad letter. Sad that there was a need to write it and even sadder that he is only preaching to the converted. No need for him to be afraid. Nobody who should will read the letter, or if they do then it will be dismissed as that of no consequence. Perhaps 30 years from now it may re-appear after the fact and people will nod…ah yes….But today…nothing. People buried their head in the sand and hope that when they re-emerge the storm will have passed.
From today’s St. Petersburg Times (Russia):
“This system of political alienation is accepted by an overwhelming majority of Russians. Both the masses and the best and the brightest alike show no interest in political participation. Political opposition groups do not attract public support, which makes it easy for the government to suppress them.
Indeed, in the absence of political participation, the government enjoys easy dominance over society. The perennial Russian order — the dominant state and a powerless, fragmented society — remains largely in place.”
Applies to Hungary equally today. Contrary to the claim of 2/3 majority Hungary today is indeed a very fragmented society.

Ron
Guest

Here a video of Clemens Prinz cleaning the monument. Btw he is also working for Tilos Radio. A busy boy.
http://www.sosinet.hu/2010/03/16/lemostak-a-gyalazatot/

Ron
Guest

Apparently, there was another Jobbik march on April2, 2011.
http://www.sosinet.hu/2011/04/04/hejoszalontan-vonult-a-jobbik/

Ron
Guest

Off topic. It seems that during the meeting tomorrow and and Saturday in Godollo the EU finance ministers have something to talk about.
http://www.euractiv.com/en/euro-finance/portugal-seeks-bailout-amid-political-crisis-news-503863

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Ron: “Here a video of Clemens Prinz cleaning the monument”
I didn’t realize that it happened at least three times. I really don’t know anymore what to think of a certain segment of Hungarian society.

Member

The Hejoszalonta Jobbik march really looks like a KKK rally. All those torches. And the flags look like white cone shaped hoods.
If you don’t speak Hungarian here is the “story”: two junkies got high and murdered their land lady. The guys weren’t even residents of the town.
When the major asked the Jobbik organizers why is this needed, they went: “It’s an order from above”.
Thank you Gabor Vona!

Johnny Boy
Guest

Tell me what is the purpose of this letter.
Other than personal insults, it doesn’t contain anything at all.
Congratulations, super “bravery” is needed to write this, it is obvious he won’t get anything in return, not even one single reaction from the Orbán government. And it is perfectly good this way.

Ron
Guest

Mutt Damon: When the major asked the Jobbik organizers why is this needed, they went: “It’s an order from above”.
Thank you Gabor Vona!
Conspiracy modus on: I do not thing this coming from Gabor Vona, but from VO he is kiraly and God, he foresaw that Fidesz could not get extreme right, and therefore, he created Jobbik, and made them more powerful by having them joined during one election on the Fidesz list.
Once Jobbik wins the next election he will switch party and becomes the official Jobbik leader. Fidesz will disappear, and Jobbik will rule the Puszta. Conspiracy modus off.

Rainer Knipp
Guest

Thank you Mr. Clemens, you write what i’m thinking. I’m German and live since 8 month also in hungaria and can not believe what going on here.
Gruss Rainer Knipp

Member

@Ron Maybe I’m missing the irony here … but I do think this openly racist rally was organized by the higher ops of the biggest Hungarian coalition party, the Jobbik.

Ron
Guest

@Ron Maybe I’m missing the irony here … but I do think this openly racist rally was organized by the higher ops of the biggest Hungarian coalition party, the Jobbik.
Sorry for missing the irony, perhaps i was not very clear. You thanked Vona, well you should thank VO, as he in the first place made sure that Jobbik get actually to Parliament, because during the previous elections they rally together in certain jurisdictions.

Member

And OV probably already doubled the Jobbik voters since the elections ..

Ron
Guest

Mutt Damon it started, and perhaps you remember this with the socalled “Polgari Kor”. Please find some of their member during their first meeting:
http://www.gondola.hu/hirek/2996

Member

On an aside, I have a strong suspicion that Jobbik is funded by Putin. It is noticeable that the far right are very enamoured with an anti-western (ie pro-Russian) foreign policy. They are likely to make Hungary a Russian satellite again, all in the name of Hungarian nationalism of course.

Ron
Guest

Johnny Boy: Tell me what is the purpose of this letter.
Other than personal insults, it doesn’t contain anything at all.
“I decided to write you a letter as a father to a father.”
“But you, Mr. Orbán, how are you going to explain to your children that you behaved like an arbitrary operetta king, brought stupid laws, lied, ruined people just because they were unwilling to submit to your will?”
Basically, how you are going to explain your (non-)actions to your children.
Congratulations, super “bravery” is needed to write this, it is obvious he won’t get anything in return, not even one single reaction from the Orbán government. And it is perfectly good this way.
First it is not written for the Orban kormany, but to Viktor Orban, and Clemens will not get a response, because Vicky is too busy travelling with the Hungarian National team.
Secondly, he is really brave by cleaning this monument and writing this letter, as he put attention to him, which is never good in Hungary.

Ron
Guest

off topic:
http://www.realdeal.hu/20110407/state-to-buy-hungarian-television-headquarters-from-wallis-unit
I cannot see the benefit of this purchase. And where did they get the money from? Or is this another whitewash operation.

Johnny Boy
Guest

Ron: this letter is so low standard it completely fits your style of argumentation. Not surprising you don’t have one bit of criticism towards these 5 paragraphs of lunacy. Apart from the facts that it contains nothing more than spits of MSZP propaganda (see “Republic”, of what MSZP and followers don’t have any idea whatsoever), it is nothing better than if I’d write to you a letter in this manner:
“Look Ron. Many years ago, I had high hopes for you. But now I’m completely disappointed. Tell me, what good was it for you to kill all those pregnant women on the streets? The first time you f00ked my dog in our backyard, I thought OK, he’s gonna outgrow it. But how can you explain to your future children that you ate my hamster and set my little girl’s hair on fire? I have nothing more to say right now, tschüss.”

GW
Guest

David wrote:
“They are likely to make Hungary a Russian satellite again, all in the name of Hungarian nationalism of course.”
This is the tragic irony of Fidesz today, a betrayal of its own liberal democratic origins. In pursuit of its own brand of populism-nationalism, Fidesz is now firmly rejecting almost anything associated with the market-oriented liberal democracies of Western Europe and the Victor Orban who once demanded the withdrawal of Soviet Military from Hungarian soil pursues economic and political cooperation with Russia and the still-CP-run PRC, nationalizing private pension savings, stiffing private investors (especially foreigners), shutting down liberalization of health care, putting officials into long office tenures without effective future parliamentary oversight, and subjecting the press to unprecedented government-friendly libel laws and official content distribution.
The MSZP and SZDSZ certainly had their bad apples and their incompetents, and they were duly voted out of office for it, but neither party was so intent on moving real policy back into the Soviet-block era the way Fidesz is now.

Ron
Guest

Johnny Boy: You asked some questions in your previous post. I answered them for you. I am happy to do that. What you think about this article whether you like it or not that is up to you.
Irony modus on:
Tell me, what good was it for you to kill all those pregnant women on the streets?
Yeah the alimony was going to kill me.
The first time you f00ked my dog in our backyard, I thought OK, he’s gonna outgrow it.
Well it was a nice bitch.
But how can you explain to your future children that you ate my hamster and set my little girl’s hair on fire? I have nothing more to say right now, tschüss.”
Well eating hamsters that is what they do in Mongolia, I though Hungarians decended from the Mongols, I just try to adapt to the Hungarian culture.
Ohh that was your girl’s hair I thought it was a bush to be burned down.
Irony modus off.

Member

I love the style of the letter, as it came from someone, and represent those who originally supported Fidesz. It came from a man who believed in Orban and believed that he meant what he said. He is disappointed (like many) that it is not the quest for democracy that fuels Orban, but his desire to reshape Hungary for his liking at a whim. (Orban started as a liberal, and now he is a nationalist/conservative). The letter does not require detailed listing of all Orban’s actions with date, and time, as Orban’s actions are well known in Hungary, in the EU and in the UN. Clemens Prinz does not try to insult the readers of this letter by providing a list of all the actions and non-actions, as he assumes that the readers are already familiar with the issues and can connect the dots. (Well, he is certainly mistaken here, as there are many people who cannot see the forest from the tree.) Great letter!

Ron
Guest

someone: I agree with your conclusions, and more or less I had similar experiences. Although I was never a real FIDESZ fan.
I came in 1995, and a year thereafter the Bokros package was introduced. It was necessary. I had high hopes for Hungary and its people.
However, since 1998 things went bad and by 2002 the country was split in 2 camps. This was noticable on the workfloor and affected the motivation and the quality of the workforce.
I longed for this period of 1995-1998. But I am afraid it will never return to Hungary.

Paul
Guest

“argumentation”??