This article appeared today in Hungarian in HVG (World Economics Weekly), a Hungarian news magazine. I felt compelled to translate it into English and publish it here in my blog.
Belated message to former young democrats from a young democrat
March 29, 2013
Author: Nóra Köves
An essay about the quarter century old Fidesz [Alliance of Young Democrats] party by one of the student protest participants. The author was overcome by a strange sensation while standing in the courtyard of the party’s headquarters, with a copy of the party’s 1989 program pamphlet retrieved from the trash.
Fidesz and I are roughly of the same age. I barely learned to speak when Viktor Orban gave his memorable speech during the reburial ceremony of Imre Nagy [Hungary’s prime minister during the failed 1956 revolution, executed in 1958 and rehabilitated in 1989], in which he stated that “in the sixth coffin lies not just a murdered youth but our own next twenty or who knows how many years.” Back then nobody thought that nearly 25 years later the last nail in this very coffin will be hammered in by the same enthusiastically orating young man. On June 16, 1989, as my parents were listening to this young man in their small highrise flat in the town of Zalaegerszeg, they most certainly did not believe that nearly 25 years later their daughter would be fighting for that free and democratic Hungary which they thought was a done deal as they leaned back in their armchairs. They did not think that the very same young democrats who fought for the freedom of a country with many others back then will attempt to take it away a quarter century later.
A few years ago I would not have thought either that my knowledge of international human rights law, which I spent long nights studying, will be used not in Africa or the Middle East, but I will have to stand up for human rights in Hungary. It did not enter my mind that one day I’d reach the point where, within the rules of active civil disobedience, I’ll be using my own body to defend democracy and a lawful constitutional state, because no other means remain at my disposal. And I certainly would not have thought that one day I’d be protesting in the courtyard of the party headquarters of Fidesz, or that I’d be sitting in pouring snow on the stairs of Parliament, demanding a constitution, democracy, and rule of law, accepting the consequences of civil disobedience with both acts, because I see no other way to save the country in which I would like to live and raise children.
Because I dream of a Hungary in which the rule of law and human dignity are fundamental values, in which all people are created equal, in which families are tied by love and not by the government’s conceptual framework. Where our homeless neighbors receive compassion and real help, not police harassment and misdemeanor fines. Where disadvantaged children can look to the future with hope, knowing that they have a chance to become what they would like to be. That this is now only a dream is a result of the fact that those one-time young democrats who 25 years ago fought for similar values forgot it all by now, and wasted away our recently acquired freedom with their tyrannical lust for power.
As I was protesting as a young democrat in the courtyard of the one-time young democrats, carrying the party’s discarded 1989 pamphlet, it occurred to me that in their one-time party office Orban and others must have felt the same gratifying excitement that we did. They must have felt that they were doing something for the rule of law, for the country in which they wanted to live. I stood there and failed to understand how this feeling, which thoroughly permeates a person and leaves a lasting memory, could have disappeared so without a trace and what may have replaced it. I did not have to wait long for the answer: it suddenly appeared in the form of several large, muscular, especially intimidating “security guards”, who were exactly like the ones who hired them: demands for “constitution, democracy, and the rule of law” meant nothing for them because they only believed in force and brutality, and considered money more important than freedom.
But I know that I have nothing to fear. I need not fear from muscular security, from the stick-wielding participants of the “peace march” who frightened others with acid, from the threatening letters, or even from the groundless accusations of the government’s smear propaganda. I do not have to fear because my trust is infinite in my own generation, in those youth who already tasted freedom, and I know that even if sometimes they awake late, in the end they won’t allow freedom to be wasted away. In this country, we will not permit the strong to oppress the weak, or to dismiss as criminals those who are poor or are different from the majority. We will not permit our universities and cultural spaces to be subject to the state’s tyranny. We will not permit them to trample on our Constitutional Court, we will not permit them to steal our future! And let there be no misunderstanding. Given enough time, no generation permits this. Members of Fidesz think that freedom is not important to the people. I think they are wrong. Voters may not appreciate the significance of specific steps, but when they feel on their own skin the harmful effects of this government, the shackles of the fourth amendment of the constitution, their attention will no longer be diverted even by reduced utility bills.
Fidesz and I are approximately of the same age. We are of the same age as this fragile democracy, which they right now are doing their best to tear apart, just so that they can stay in their comfortable velvet chairs longer, forcing onto us their misguided fantasies. I repeat, our generation as democrats will not permit this. We will respond to the government’s infinitely violent and aggressive, exclusionary and legally depriving policies again and again with determined – ever more determined, but nonviolent – action and we will show that freedom, equality, solidarity, tolerance and love are the only way to lay down the foundation of a functioning, democratic, lawful state. In 1989, Fidesz also knew this. This is why I promise that we will continue showing them a mirror until the Hungarian people choose to replace them, or until they acknowledge their former selves and ideals, and the fact that they betrayed every single one of them.