“Having encountered the effects of fighting in Syria not only in the evening world news but also at Baross tér and Astoria in Budapest and the border villages of Röszke, Illocska and Babócsa personally and with our own eyes, we are opening up to the world. The world has also opened up to us”, Hungarian journalist Gellért Rajcsányi writes.
If there’s one welcome development in the migration crisis – of which, despite the suppositions of those pursuing head-in-the-sand politics and other hooray optimists, we’re still amply heading into instead of emerging out of it -, it must be the sudden opening of Hungarian public life – what’s more: the entire society – towards the wide world. We’ve started gaining interest in foreign policy and stuck our head out of “Planet Hungary”.
Sitting at the hairdresser’s the other day, I noticed that every single hairdresser was discussing migration with every client, including ourselves. On another occasion, I was heading to Lánchíd Rádió’s studio to talk about migration – what were two local ladies talking about on the suburban tram? Migration, of course. What’s mentioned when I go home or visit relatives? Migration. Of course, this is a bit too much of a “good” thing. But let’s take a look at the positive side of the story!
Although we’re now over the first great shock and the deplorable conditions that evolved in front of the Keleti railway station have come to an end – and will hopefully never develop again -; the subject remains with us because, in any case, more people are arriving to Hungary each day than during the great fuss as the summer came to an end. The difference is that the problem is now faced by small villages in Southern Transdanubia and not the population of the capital at one of Budapest’s main squares. Consequently, the Budapest-centred media does not devote as much detail to the issue as it did earlier.
However, everyone has an opinion on migration. And as the story evolved, as we became familiar with more and more aspects of it and gained increasingly in-depth knowledge of the narrative, so did Hungarians’ eyes upen up to the world, and this is more a welcome development than a problem. Who could have guessed that Hungarian masses will read and share the results of a state election in Upper Austria, a bulletin from Finland, an article by a former Israeli foreign minister or the thoughts of a Rhineland politician on immigration?
Perhaps from now on, our knowledge of the world will extend beyond being aware of the existence of the EU, the Americans, the Russians, Israel and the Arabs. We are discovering how much more complex the world is than we ever so. This is the case also if we have already had some knowledge of the world; but it is all the more so if, in reality, we knew nothing of what is happening beyond our borders. We can now learn that the Arab world is not homogenous but rather pulled apart by severe – what is more, murderous – internal tensions; that Islam as a religion is far from being unified. That a whole bunch of actors with opposing interests, strong words and hard firsts are playing out the game in the Middle East.
Just as we can also learn that there is no such things as “The” West or “The” EU. European states are divided by severe internal tensions, only that over a thousand years and at the price of bloody experiences, we have learn to debate our common affairs at the negotation table. For the time being, at least, it seems that we are able to.
We can also draw the lesson that, contrary to children’s stories and ultra-liberal/ultra-right beliefs, the world is not witnessing a struggle between the Good and the Evil but rather simply a struggle, an eternal struggle, all against all; and amidst this struggle, the only choice is often bad and worse. Let us rejoice if we are momentarily spared the choice because what there is, what we are existing in exactly suits us.
We have learnt that instead of the Good and the Evil, the story is more about Us and Them; if things go fortunately, we manage to preserve and earnestly enrich our identity, floundering in peace and tranquility on the margins of civilisational conflicts.
Because a generation that is able to live in peace and relative well-being somewhere in a corner of the world can claim to be lucky. They are the exception, the lucky privilege who are spared of living through the everyday suffering and misery of their ancestors or a large part of their contemporaries living on Earth.
Us and even our parents’ generation can claim to be so here in Hungary. It is our sincere hope that the generation of our children and grandchildren can also make this claim, and it is no problem if ongoing world events draw our attention to all this.
Having encountered the effects of fighting in Syria not only in the evening world news but also at Baross tér and Astoria in Budapest and the border villages of Röszke, Illocska and Babócsa personally and with our own eyes, we are opening up to the world. The world has also opened up to us.
It is no problem if intellectual debates following migration result in new cleavages between identitarians and internationalists up in Hungarian public life, overarching the old trenches – this too will serve to close the gap with contemporary European public discourse. For example, there is even a chance of an increasingly large chunk of the Hungarian Right, even the radical Right, siding with Israel and the Jews against Muslim pressure, while the leading intellectual allies and supporters of their immigration will be radically liberal and far-left activists, just like in the West. Reasoned, sober realism could even gain ground against idealism, chasing imaginary foes, the compulsive repetition of clichés and long-outdated mantras.
Thinking things over a bit, some reassortment and new buzz never does any harm; without it, we can all go back to name-calling according to which side one took in the political hustle and bustle.
Migration has made us Hungarians better informed and improved our skills of self-reflection and being reasonable. It shook us up, compelled us to think things over and enhanced our sense of realism. And this is good. May it continue to be so!
Gellért Rajcsányi (b. 1981), Hungarian journalist and blogger, deputy editor-in-chief of the conservative news portal Mandiner.hu
translated from Gellért Rajcsányi’s article on Mandiner.hu