Ivan’s private site

August 20, 2007

Lost illusions…

Filed under: General,Hungary,Links — Ivan Herman @ 9:12

For me visiting Hungary is not a matter of tourism; it is rather an occasion to see friends and family but also and an attempt to take the pulse, so to say, of the country where I come from. I must say that the latter was not encouraging this time. The overall mood is not good, a certain elan, which did characterize the country a few years ago, seems to be lost, the political atmosphere is absolutely dreadful and hardships are increasing every day.

Talking to one of the leading politicians in a morning TV interview the term of lost illusions came to the fore. The fact of the matter is that the whole society had huge illusions when the former regime collapsed. Everybody believed that by creating, at last, a democratic system both in social and economic terms things will become wonderful by magic and people would live, at least more or less, like those “in the West”. It may sound naïve today, but essentially everybody believed that in the 80’s and when the changes came in 1990. I know. I was there. I had that illusion…

The bitter reality is that this was an illusion. It takes generations, not a few years. And in the meantime? For many life is hard. Sometimes life becomes even harder than before, because the social safety nets of the previous years had been torn apart and it takes years to create new ones. Because it takes many years for the economy to stand on its feet at last, to learn to compete and offer, eventually, decent living for more than a lucky few. Because democracy is not something that people naturally have in their genes, it is not something that only needs a regulatory environment to prosper; it is rather something that people must learn over several years. In the meantime corruption can also find its way, which contributes to the general mood.

And it is hard to accept that all this was an illusion. It is hard for individuals for whom it is increasingly difficult to make their ends meet. Hard for intellectuals to accept how wrong they (well, we) were. And hard for politicians for whom, even if they see realities, it would mean a political suicide to come with an election platform that promises more and increasing hardships rather than a happy future. Which means that most of them have never said the truth in the past 17 years, whether on power or in opposition…

As a result, people become bitter. Some have misplaced nostalgies for the previous system, some (in an increasing number) turn towards radical, nationalist, and, sometimes, outwright fascistic movements. There are riots on the streets, politicians of opposite parties are incapable of having any decent conversation with one another, let alone work together. A complete political deadlock which reinforces a disillusion in the complete political system.

A number of decent politicians have become so disillusioned that they left the field, the ones left behind do not really know (or do not dare to say for fear of being beaten at the next elections) how to move ahead. And even if they think to have plans for reforms (whether good or bad), nobody trusts them anyway, which means that even the best possible intentions are doomed to fail regardless of the possible objective values of those reforms…

This is, of course, not a Hungarian phenomenon. It is the case in almost all former Communist countries whether now part of the European Union or not. Democracy is not a magician’s wand, it just a start for a long and hard road. But, knowing this does not make life easier to bear… Sigh…

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