I will cover two topics today. First, the Pew Research Institute’s recent work on political and civic participation, where Hungarians are shown to be apathetic. And second, for fun, a prayer chain for Viktor Orbán, who is responsible in large part for the lethargy Hungarians exhibit nowadays.
Pew Research on political participation
A few days ago I read about a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center that showed an abysmal lack of political participation among Hungarians. The news intrigued me, so I decided to go to the actual study. In reality, it turned out there were two studies.
The first covered only four European countries: Greece, Italy, Poland, and Hungary. The result? Of the four nations surveyed, the Greeks and Italians are the most politically engaged; the Hungarians, the least. Even the gap between Hungary and Poland is dishearteningly large. For example, only 9% of the Hungarian population has ever attended a campaign event. In Poland that figure is 21%. The situation is nearly the same when it comes to participation in a volunteer organization. And it’s no wonder that recent demonstrations organized by opposition forces are so poorly attended. Only 7% of Hungarians have ever bothered to go to a demonstration. In Poland the situation is better (12%), but both pale in comparison to the enthusiasm of the Greeks (29%) and Italians (25%).
Hungarians demonstrated their apathy when confronted with the proposition: “Likely to take political action, such as contact an elected official or participate in a demonstration on ….” followed by the following issues: poor health care, poverty, poor-quality schools, government corruption, police misconduct, and discrimination against disadvantaged groups. In none of the above categories would the majority of Hungarians be prompted to act. Healthcare is the one issue that seems to interest Hungarians: 44% would be willing to demonstrate or complain. But on other issues–like poverty, education, government corruption–only about 30% would be willing to do anything. When it comes to police misconduct or discrimination, their enthusiasm is a very low 20-22%.
The study also found that 67% of Hungarians think that “the government is run for the benefit of only a few groups of people.” The Greeks (80%) and Italians (73%) are a lot more skeptical. Moreover, 61% of Hungarians believe that “ordinary citizens cannot do much to influence the government.” These findings are especially interesting in light of Polish responses to the same questions. In Poland 54% of the population think their government serves only the privileged and 48% think it is worth making an effort to change the status quo. The Hungarian case is typical of a society where people grumble but only a small minority ever bothers to do anything about the state of affairs.
The low participation of Hungarians between the ages of 18 and 34 in the political process is perhaps even more depressing. Here I am relying on a nine-country Pew study that compared political activism in Greece, Italy, Poland, Hungary, Kenya, South Africa, India, and the United States. The study calculated the gap between the political activities of those aged 18 to 34 and those over 50. For instance, in Greece, Poland, and Italy, the young-old gap, as measured by having voted in an election, was -13%, -9%, and -5%. In Hungary the gap was -18%. (Soon Hungary may catch up to the United States, where the gap is a staggering -26%.)
The situation is no better when it comes to 18- to 34-year-old Hungarians sharing their political views online. Here the United States leads the way with almost 50% participation in this age group. And in the U.S. almost 30% of people over 50 are busy expressing political opinions on social media. Hungary, sandwiched between Poland and India at the bottom of the list, has a gap of only 4% between young and old, but that’s because participation overall is so low. Only 11% of the 18-34 group and 7% of the 50+ group have posted their own thoughts or comments about political or social issues online.
All in all, there is nothing to be cheerful about.
But now, something to put a smile on your face.
Prayer-Chain for Viktor Orbán
On October 31 Új Szó, a Slovak-Hungarian newspaper, reported that a Hungarian Benedictine monk who lives in Rome had written a prayer for Viktor Orbán. Those who receive it should spend at least five minutes a day repeating the short prayer. The chain letter was started in Slovakia by a parish priest from Ipolybalog/Balog nad Ipl’om. He apparently received the letter from a sender in Austria.
Someone who had already re-sent the prayer-chain to 150 of his friends and acquaintances said he believes that “Viktor Orbán is an exceptional politician who has so many enemies because he is defending Christian Europe against the liberals, freemasons, and the Union. He needs our prayers in order for the Lord to give him strength in his struggle for our real values.”
The Slovak Catholic Church considers the issue a private affair.
For the sake of accuracy, I should report that the alleged author of the prayer, although a Benedictine monk, was a teacher in the Benedictine gymnasium in Pannonhalma and has never lived in Rome.
And now for the text:
The Lord be before thee to show thee the way!
The Lord be beside thee to embrace thee and save thee from peril!
The Lord be behind thee to defend thee from evil deceits!
The Lord be beneath thee to hold thee if thou fall!
The Lord be with thee to comfort thee when thou art sad!
The Lord be around thee to protect thee when others assail thee!
The Lord be over thee to bless thee!
God the merciful bless thee today, tomorrow, and at all times!
Many of us pray for you, Mr. Prime Minister. God help you!
It seems that this prayer-chain is a variation of the so-called Saint Anthony chain letter, which the Catholic Church disapproves of. So much so, in fact, that a Hungarian Catholic priest, writing on Keresztény Élet, a Catholic internet site, called these chain letters “the work of the devil.” What’s a devout Orbán supporter to do?