Good Friday (nagypéntek)

Because Hungary is, via its constitution, a Christian country, Good Friday (as of this year) and (traditionally) the Monday following Easter are national and bank holidays. So most stores, regardless of their size, will be closed those days as well as Easter Sunday.

There are pagan traditions – mostly dealing with fertility and the arrival of the planting season – that were incorporated into Christianity and I’ll post some videos of the continuation of those traditions. Decorating Easter eggs is taken seriously here and many (mostly amateurs) may work with paints and lacquers (including nail polish) instead of dyes.

I’ve made and unmade my decision to continue to teach here a number of times.  The most recent unmaking was prompted by a high school friend’s asking me about the political situation in Hungary, of which I’d been blissfully unaware, as I’m blitzed with info about the US situation by San Miguelians, so I asked my students and they informed me about the Orban-Central European University-Soros tiff and that led me to online discussions of Hungary leaving the EU either on its own or being kicked out (along with Poland) for not doing its share with regard to the refugee crisis.  The EU doesn’t like what it considers human rights violations and anti-democratic activity and the Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, is proud of his “illiberal” policies. Hungary uses the forint, not the Euro, which is an indication that someone somewhere has been thinking all along that this might be a temporary marriage.

I might be able to understand Hungary’s reluctance to accept the refugees if the refugees could be seen as yet another form of invader, something which Hungarians have had to deal with for centuries, if not millennia: but I doubt one can classify them in the same way one looks at the capitalist, communist, Soviet, Russian, Austrian, Nazi, Prussian, Mongol, and Ottoman invasions and takeovers. Yet it was just over 60 years ago that Hungarians who rebelled against the Communists sought asylum as they fled their country.  It’s possible, too, Hungarians might just want to have their land to themselves for awhile. There’s also dark thinking that goes into the emotions, but I’ll let it go at “we’re tired of entertaining.” Last October, according to the Guardian,

98% of those who took to the polls in Sunday’s referendum voted to close the door to refugees. However more than half of the electorate didn’t vote rendering the process constitutionally null and void.

Hungary teetered on the verge of economic collapse in 2008 and had to be bailed out by the EU/IMF/World Bank (the IMF loan was repaid by 2014).  Teachers have told me they had their private retirement funds seized by the government. (Hear that, those of you reading in the U.S.? The Hungarian government claimed the money belonged to it.  Those were private pension funds, not government funds. I’ve read where Trump likes Prime Minister Orban.)  Furthermore, with the advent of capitalism, many individuals lost their entire savings to schemes such as buying Swiss Francs, which collapsed.  So, I understand if the Hungarian people don’t feel generous.

However, it’s the government that trips me up. In recent news Orban’s government passed a law (the details of which are unimportant as it’s the goal of the Prime Minister that is important) that is punitive only to the university that Soros helped fund and launch. There have been street demonstrations in Budapest in support of the university, which is likely what my friend had seen. The university is viewed by the Fidesz government as liberal, meddlesome and interfering — the conservative ruling parties here, Fidesz and Jobbik, would like nothing more for it to be disbanded.  So the new law has me concerned about the future of liberal education and whether I should stay.

Last year the liberal newspaper Népszabadság closed down; some say it was due to pressure from Orban’s government, others say it was a business decision, and the far right party Jobbik, always looking to steal votes from Orban’s Fidesz party, claimed the closure was due to “Viktor’s Orbán’s megalomania.”

Kodály/Weöres, Öregek


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