Although it sounds better in Hungarian because it quasi-rhymes: “Egy koca, egy porta.” This brilliant idea comes straight from Viktor Orbán whom lately more and more people call “The Dear Leader.” And the dear leader seems to be the fountainhead of all knowledge. No joke. Practically nothing can be decided without him. If a minister decides on the director of the Budapest Opera House, a decision which should be his, and the prime minister doesn’t like it, he can be overruled and publicly embarrassed. Or, a decision is made about the fate of a number of universities which looks pretty final but then the mayor of the city where a university that didn’t make the cut is located goes straight to the all-mighty prime minister who on his very own reverses the decision. It must a joy to work with Viktor Orbán in a subordinate position.
Lately hardly a day goes by without yet another “revolutionary” Orbán idea. He is currently a vocal proponent of healthful country living. His ideal seems to be a return to the land and to the good old days when the woman of the house baked bread and the peasant households–meaning the better-off kind–were self-sufficient. Then people consumed only food grown in their backyards and not the “garbage” that nowadays comes from abroad. This what we hear day in and day out from the prime minister.
By the way, a widely held misconception in Hungary is that agriculture before the change of regime was “world famous.” Admittedly, within the Soviet bloc Hungarian agriculture did better than its competition in the other socialist countries, mainly due to the reforms of the 1960s. But Hungarian agricultural products were sold mostly to other Warsaw Pact countries, especially to the Soviet Union where practically anything was acceptable due to the constant shortages of edible goods. As someone jokingly said the other day, there are many products that are “countrywide world famous”!
Today the state of Hungarian agricultural production is pretty dire. On small plots, carved out at the time of the change of regime, farmers simply cannot produce agricultural goods profitably and effectively. In other words, they cannot compete in price with products coming from other countries. But even if the structure of the industry were different, agriculture would make up only about 4-5% of the country’s GDP. So Viktor Orbán is wrong when he claims–as he did the other day–that Hungary is still an agricultural country.
For one reason or other the leadership at the Ministry of Agriculture with the blessing of the prime minister is embarking on a new program called “egy koca–egy porta” (one sow, one household). We have known for some time that Viktor Orbán likes village life where he spent his first fourteen years. The Orbán family in those days was poor, and even as a young child he had to work in the fields. There was no running water and hence no bathroom in the house where they lived, and he fondly recalled the day when the Orbáns moved into town to a small apartment with a bathroom. Yet by now it seems all this has been forgotten. He returned to the village of his childhood where he built a house with most likely more than one bathroom. And there the family kills a pig or two every year with the active participation of the man of the house:
So, the idea of “one sow, one household” obviously appeals to him. He wants more and more pigs. If all goes well, thanks to this project 600-800,000 pigs could be added to the present family of 220,000 Hungarian pigs. Naturally, the government would come to the assistance of those who would like to try to keep a pig or two in their backyards. For some strange reason those in the ministry who were told to work out the details of the prime minister’s pet project think that “keeping a pig will enhance the tidiness of the yard. It will also add to its usefulness because some of the feed could be grown there. Moreover, it would help the physical fitness of those attending the pigs.” Somehow my memories of pig sties are not associated with “tidiness” but with smell, dirt, and constant work for those who were in charge of them.
The Orbán government decided to organize an exhibition of the agricultural and food processing industry (Országos Mezőgazdasági és Élelmiszeripari Kiállítás) which was opened by the prime minister himself. He announced that “after the regulation of the financial world, agriculture must also be regulated.” God save us! According to him the decades of the dictatorship and the last twenty years, the “age of the bankers,” caused “terrible damage to the farmers.” I am trying to figure out the meaning of this sentence but I don’t get too far. “The financial world lost touch with reality. However, agricultural production teaches people to respect reality.”
According to Orbán the eurocrisis that periodically flares up causes terrible damage but it is good for something: “it opens our eyes.” People realize that one cannot eat electronic knick-knacks or stocks and bonds and therefore the value of agricultural land has grown. And in this respect Hungary is in an enviable position. It has plenty of good agricultural land whose protection found its way into the new constitution. Here Orbán was referring to the ban on selling agricultural land to foreigners because, after all, “what kind of man would sell his own mother.” Mother Earth (anyaföld), you get it?
This latest brainchild of Viktor Orbán reminds me of an old conversation between József Orosz, then a reporter on a program called Kontra on KlubRádió, and Gábor Náray-Szabó, professor of chemistry at ELTE, a member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and an ardent supporter of Viktor Orbán. I entitled the piece “Raising chickens in times of trouble.” If you want to have a good laugh, please read the English translation of the conversation. Nothing is new under the sun, especially since this administration has a limited number of often harebrained ideas.