After today’s open letter, the full-time agitators on the governing party side – without seeing or getting the point – will, as usual, call me a treasonous and spit at me, while a part of the opposition camp will call me a traitor and a Fidesz collaborator. I am, in fact, neither. As it goes, I am just trying to draw attention to the infinitely sad situation of how destructive it is to the nation to see everything in a black and white matrix.
As a result of the ‘political incitement’ of the last decade, we relate to almost everything according to the political side we suspect is behind it. It is a Hungarian peculiarity that everything has a party affiliation, even the weather. If the goalkeeper of the national football team stands up for the rainbow families, then even his hitherto admired sporting achievements are suddenly called into question in the Fidesz bubbles. Those government supporters who, in their moments of liberation, proudly sing the legendary lyrics of ‘Stephen the King’, while at the same time considering the lyricist János Bródy to be a talentless liberal, after he had the courage to sing about the powers that be that ‘they are the same guys.’ But let’s not be unfair, we can tell the same thing vice versa: in the opposition bubble, we must even hate Marcsi Borbás’s recipes just because she openly admitted to being pro-government, just as we confidently criticise Attila Vidnyánszky’s directing, while we refuse to go and see a play at the National Theatre since Róbert Alföldi is no longer running it.
Clearly, behind all the resentments and all the bitter aftertaste there is much truth, and a part of our counter-culture is certainly even justified and inescapable. However, it would be good sometimes, while not giving up our necessary and justified opposing stance, to rise above the attitudes generated by the political group.
Take, for example, the World Athletics Championships, which ended this week in Budapest. I am immensely proud that this world event ended on such a high note and with such success, and whenever I could, I was in front of the TV screen cheering for the Hungarian athletes, rejoicing with them when they broke their own individual records.
Yes, I am extremely proud that the World Athletics Championships were held in Budapest, and I am extremely sad that it was not possible to make it a real nation unifying celebration. Of course, we could go on at length about who started the whole political shambles (yes, Fidesz deliberately divided our nation into squabbling factions) and who has a bigger duty and chance to improve the situation (yes, Fidesz, as the control free holder of power, should be the first to make meaningful gestures), but that will not get us anywhere. We should learn to get over our own egos and not subordinate all our utterances to short-term political gain.
Yes, I continue to believe that Balázs Németh has been an active protagonist and facilitator in the past in the mockery of public service and in the use of fake news, deliberately distorted and manipulated information to serve the interests of Fidesz in the publicly funded public media. This is a crime of his that will never expire, and I personally will neither forgive him for it nor forget it.
We can also argue about whether it was his professionalism that landed him in the CEO’s chair of the company that organised the World Athletics Championships or his connections to the government, but despite not knowing every little detail of his work in recent times – and here comes the point – I must raise my hat to the organisers for the way they have run the World Championships. What I have seen and experienced as a mere spectator has been professional, commendable and a credit to our common country. It does not hurt to say it. Why should it hurt?
Of course, the question of how and from what it was achieved will have to be answered in detail and with credibility. After all, we know the government’s very generous and loose management of public money when it comes to sports: for example, the costs of the otherwise also successful World Aquatics Championships were initially planned by the state at 25 billion but ended up costing taxpayers 120 billion; and overpricing of investments in the budget is at least as much of a problem as the organisational costs. Moreover, it has still not been accounted for in an honest manner.
(Dear Fidesz commentators: in connection with the Olympics planned for Budapest, too, it was a perfectly legitimate expectation (not ‘dream killing’) that the Hungarian people, who generate public money, should be able to decide whether they want it or not, with transparent planning and budgeting.)
And yes, I strongly despise and find damaging the way Orbán tried to arrange a peculiar diplomatic summit for the Athletics World Championships; while reluctant international press was forced to show members of the illiberal gang, who in many places are considered unacceptable figures.
In terms of national image, less would have been more here, or at least the applause of a few invited European leaders for their national team athletes would have pushed the Hungarian prestige, which had been shattered by our democratic alliance system, into positive range. And yes, for all my praise, I also think it is utterly disgusting, petty gangsterism for the Fidesz government to break every promise it made to the capital in connection with the Athletics World Championships; this cannot remain without a substantive political response.
But this must be kept within the political ring and played out there. We can applaud and root for the Hungarian heroes together, even if we are fighting for our own causes before and after the World Championships.
I am infinitely bored and frustrated that, since Fidesz itself wants to decide who is a real Hungarian and who is not, even my right to shed tears when the anthem is sung for a victorious Hungarian athlete is now being questioned. That I get frothing comments when I cheer for the Hungarian football team in national colours painted on my face during the European Championship parade. Why do you want to take that away, too? Why not let us be proud, too? A group that calls itself nationalist is kicking down an important experience of national unity.
For me, it was a pleasure to see Hungarian athletes competing at the Budapest venue. It was a pleasure to see how much the loud support of tens of thousands of Hungarian fans added to their performance. It was a pleasure to see the professionalism and organisation. At the same time, there is infinite anger that the political war of nerves fuelled by the powers-that-be is denying even the possibility of shared joy. And it is sad that not everyone in the hard core of the opposition is capable of elevation in certain situations. Let’s change ourselves, so that the system can change!
dr. István Ujhelyi
Member of the European Parliament
Founder of the Community of Chance