Translated by Eszter Somogyi
Edited by Réka Eszter Szabó
I cannot be the only one feeling royally knocked out by life. I am not talking about big or small disappointments now, but things we do not even realise because we are right in them. Just like that frog in the water heated up slowly.
It wasn’t the first nor the tenth time such messages found us but somehow we failed to see the whole picture. Possibly a last piece was missing. All those messages from people saying how glad they are that we wrote about this and that, but they are afraid to share it. Because they are being watched or maybe not watched but a friend told them to be careful; that it was dangerous. Another friend warned they shouldn’t like this; they should not read such things publicly. Others would love to support us but want to pay cash only as that is untraceable. And again someone told someone else not to share such things. It means trouble. There can be trouble.
Yes, there is a shitload of trouble. I did not learn to be afraid under the Kádár-regime because I missed that show. The younger generation did not learn to be afraid having been born into democracy. Or so I thought. I asked my colleges and friends if they had known fear before. Yes, before. Yes, growing up in Romania they had learned how to be afraid. As children, they learned not to speak Hungarian in the street. It was dangerous. This happened not so long ago. The tide turned, the world has changed. Now you do not have to be afraid in Romania, but in Hungary you do. As a Hungarian from Transylvania you have twice the reason to be afraid, because if a Hungarian from Transylvania does not agree with the politics of Fidesz then he or she is a double traitor. And, lo and behold, the Hungarian brother suddenly turns into a stinking Romanian.
Here in Hungary, we learned to shut up, to hide our thoughts; learned how not to discuss, not to share, not to take responsibility. In Romania, you were not allowed to speak Hungarian, in Hungary it is advisable not to speak against the government’s ideology. Oh, no, you will not be imprisoned, only you can lose your job, you can get turned out into the street, you can get kicked out of university, you will be refused a job. Moreover, you are contaminated, you can put your loved ones and friends into jeopardy. You are like a leper, if you do not support the government.
Only members of full-time opposition parties can openly (or seemingly) criticise the government without trouble. For anybody else it is dangerous. Anybody not living abroad but trying to get on in life here is at the mercy of the system. Never in my life have I seen or could have imagined a society so full of fear.
Even if Fidesz had done no other damage beyond reviving or generating the atmosphere of fear, they would have committed an unpardonable sin. Even if the regime did everything correctly, the economy worked, corruption was reduced successfully; if health care was all right, the social safety net was in place and education was excellent but fear was present, it would still be enough reason for me to hate this government. Well, if everything worked, there would be no need to generate fear, of course.
But nothing works, only this clammy fear that chokes everything. And there is always a volunteer warning you, looking out for you, out of the goodness of his heart . Telling you not to read this, not to say that, not to share that. Or tells somebody else what you have read, said, shared. Slowly it becomes second nature that we have to watch out, keep our wits about; we learn to give hints, read between the lines. Learn to be careful. Or to say nothing at all. That is the best, saying nothing at all. Best if we shut up.
How can this be happening? How can anyone damage a country like this? Is it normal to be afraid because of our political views? In the middle of Europe? Where do the voluntary well-wishers come from? What are their motives? Why do we believe that this is normal? Why do we accept that it is a sin to criticise the government or the politicians? That it is some dark and dangerous thing that should be punished? Like blasphemy or high treason.
We should return to reason very quickly before it is too late. Who is any politician that he cannot be criticised? Why not? Why not call the person who steals a thief? Why cannot we say it to the liar’s face that he is lying? But he is. Why, from what, from whom should we be afraid of? How can a whole country be poisoned like this? This is a very, very sick thing. It is neither natural, nor normal and it cannot be accepted.
Only we can do something about it, nobody else. They have no leverage; they can only turn our fear against us. But we should be aware of what they are doing and object each and every time the machinery of propaganda, members of the regime, well-wisher friends and strangers want to smear us slyly with clammy fear. There is nothing and nobody to be afraid of. Let the ones who steal, cheat, lie and loot our country be afraid. Let the ones who serve the dictatorship, who take part in its construction and conservation be afraid. Let them dread – not only justice, but their own conscience.
We, who do not steal, do not cheat, do not lie, only think about the world and politics differently, have nothing to be afraid of. We must not be afraid. Not we.