Friday, July 10, 2015

Increasing Sway of Racism Across Hungary

As a Hungarian who's been educated in English, I try my best to do outside reading whenever I can.

And so this Friday, I found myself perusing Hungarian wikipedia articles. I attend a private institution in America and started wanting to know about the history of private education - what better time to do some reading in Hungarian.

It wasn't anything with reference to education in America that jolted me as I started reading the article, it was a single word. Almost as quickly as I clicked on the page, it sprang into plain sight, the "n-word". Of course, it was in Hungarian. But it was still "the n-word".

To my dismay, the article featured an especially disturbing subheading titled, "characteristics", which reminded me of former medical studies conducted on Jews by the Nazis during the Holocaust. This scientific approach to race, after Hungary's history as an Axis power, had me ripping my hair out.

It also reminded me about the rising sentiment of xenophobia that's swept across the country I visit twice a year. Usually, I'm greeted by familiar sights, sounds and smells, all of which I appreciate as a Hungarian.

But even in my experience, Hungary doesn't quite know whether to accept or renounce foreigners. When two of my close friends visited from the UK a few years ago, we went to one of Hungary's most popular destinations: Lake Balaton. We left our hotel sometime during the early evening. A group of youths immediately started mocking us for talking in English. Unbeknownst to both my friends (neither of whom speak the language) and that group, I was already hatching a plan to shame their intolerance.

After their insults about the English, I turned around and imparted, "I'm Hungarian, what about me?" The group became increasingly anxious not knowing what to say. One of the clods remarked "it's not bad to be foreign", to which I replied "then too bad I'm not". I ashamedly told one of my two friends who asked what had happened that they had just witnessed one of Hungary's darker sides.


While Hungary is nestled in the heart of Europe, its ideals are becoming increasingly distant from modern European ones. For this, Hungarians can thank its leader, the Nigel Farage of Hungary.

This nation has always had a case of the color cold. Its history, from Kingdom, to Nazism, to Communism has involved persecution every step of the way. Someone has always been dealt the short straw. Violence against the minority gypsies is only the most recent type of persecution. Actions to solve discrimination remain largely limited and insubstantial.

The nation's Prime Minister has made international news most recently for his planned physical boarder intended to separate Hungary from Serbia.

The plan comes amid increasing migration from crisis-ridden countries like Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. What policymakers don't seem to understand, a case of not thinking into the future, is that even if a boarder were erected, Serbia is bound to join the European Union within the coming years and with it comes the formidable chance it will ultimately join the Schengen Zone. At that point Hungary would be forced to open its border. The steady flow of refugees it would stop now would likely occur once more probably in larger numbers.

As this tiny nation of 10 million becomes increasingly isolated, there is no sign its fear of the outside and the unknown will ever truly let up. What triggered the presence of this mentality is something that should be the subject of research abroad. It would be an ironic situation if such research were conducted at a private research institution, as the topic I've discussed at some length is one prompted by what I discovered when reading about their history.


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