Tuesday, 29 July 2014


I do most sincerely hope not
A month or so ago a relative of mine took a package tour to Budapest, her first visit to Hungary. Before she went she asked me what she might see and do in her few days there. As I talked to her I could not but reveal just how vividly the city and the society are burned into my mind.
'Why don't you come with us?' she asked 'You obviously love the place.'

How lame it sounded that bright summer's day in Middle England to tell someone about to have the break of a lifetime – in the middle of Europe – that I could not bear the idea of setting foot in Hungary ever again while the current regime remains in power. As she pointed out, I am hardly known to be a 'man of principle'. Quite right, I never boycotted South African grapefruit during Apartheit. But those who did might understand something of how I feel about Hungary under Fidesz.

My not wishing to go to Hungary is not a boycott – though it will be interesting to see whether liberal opinion in the West does eventually spot the nature and direction of the present Hungarian regime and looks as it often does to boycott weapons, financial and economic, cultural and academic, to express its disapproval. At the moment I have no reason not to continue such contacts that I have over matters to do with Conductive Education.

No, this is something more emotional. A mix of revulsion and fear.

Self-indugant and over the top? Perhaps. But try this for size, excerpted from an article by Zoltan Simon for Bloomberg News

Orban says he seeks to end liberal democracy in Hungary

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said he wants to abandon liberal democracy in favor of an 'illiberal state', citing Russia and Turkey as examples. 'The global financial crisis in 2008 showed that liberal democratic states can’t remain globally competitive,' Orban said on July 26 at a retreat of ethnic Hungarian leaders in Baile Tusnad, Romania. 'I don’t think that our European Union membership precludes us from building an illiberal new state based on national foundations,' Orban said... He listed Russia, Turkey and China as examples of 'successful' nations, 'none of which is liberal and some of which aren’t even democracies.'...

The Hungarian prime minister is distancing himself from values shared by most EU nations even as his government relies on funds from the bloc for almost all infrastructure-development financing in the country. Orban said civil society organizations receiving funding from abroad need to be monitored as he considers those to be agents of foreign powers. 'We’re not dealing with civil society members but paid political activists who are trying to help foreign interests here'…

Orban said his 'illiberal democracy' won’t deny the 'fundamental values' of liberalism, such as 'freedom.'

'The point of the future is that anything can happen,' Orban said. 'That means it could easily be that our time will come.

Revulsion? Either you understand what I mean or I cannot explain it. 

Fear? Nothing direct or specific that affects me personally here and now. For the future, however, something less direct, spreading and affecting many, many more than just me. That chilling phrase, 'Our time will come', carries too many raw associations.

For the future

From 1 September the Pető Institute will no longer be an NGO but nationalised under the direct control of the state. One of its apparent intentions is to have greater contact with Conductive Education outside Hungary. Look out for it. And even if it does not come to you, don't forget that the next World Congress is promised to be in Budapest.

Meanwhile my relative had a wonderful time in Budapest. She hopes to get back there soon, to see some of the things that she knows that she missed. I really envy her. Such a wonderful country. Such a paradox.


Simon, Z. (2014) Orban says he seeks to end liberal democracy in Hungary, Bloomberg News, 28 July


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