How I see current authoritarian political changes in Hungary appearing in people's everyday life
Everyday Life in Socialist Hungary
Hausarbeit 2018 15 Seiten
Table of contents
2. Current politics in Hungary
3. Definition of Sociologies of everyday life
8.1 Growing resentment against foreigners
8.2 Growing antiziganism
8.3 Growing antisemitism
8.4 Radicalization in the example of the football community
Spending my semester abroad in Hungary is more due to chance than it was a personal decision. Originally I wanted to go to Istanbul in Turkey. In addition to Western culture, one thing that interested me most about this country was the lack of press freedom. I wanted to know what it's like to live in a country where press freedom and freedom of expression are not self-evident. However, at a relatively short notice, a student from the Netherlands was jailed in prison and my university ended its cooperation with Istanbul. There were only a few countries to choose from, one of which was Hungary. And since the situation of freedom of the press and freedom of expression are not exactly the same but similar to Turkey, I decided to spend my semester abroad in Budapest. After living in Budapest for the past few months, I got an insight into daily life in Hungary. During my time here, the elections took place (8.04.2018) and I found myself in the midst of a political change that, of course, also influenced everyday life. In the time period before the election, the country was obviously in a tense atmosphere. Election posters lined every street, every path. Fidesz pens were distributed in the pedestrian zone, Fidesz advertisement was in the mailboxes. No one talked about their own political opinions in the street, but it became visible: at the partys’ electoral posts in Budapest, the post of Momentum party at Deak Ferenc Square was almost unremarkable, while the Fidesz or Jobbik posts were well under pressure, or in bars, in left autonomous centers like the Golya or Aurora, Orban was mocked, and elsewhere, right-wing people tried to intimidate other-minded people. The elections on 8. April 2018 were a great victory for Viktor Orban and the Fidesz party. Fidesz reached a two-thirds majority, although the opposition has received more votes thanks to the Hungarian electoral system, Viktor Orban is now in power for a another four years and his policies will of course have an impact on citizens' everyday lives.
On the fallowing pages I will outline the current political situation, define everyday life and then talk about the consequences of change.
2. Current politics in Hungary
Viktor Orban won the parliamentary elections in Hungary on April 8, 2018. His right-wing national ruling party Fidesz can rule alone in the coming years. It will be his third continuous term in a row. Critics accuse him of dismantling democracy and disrespecting media freedom (PELINKA, 2018). At European level, Orban is positioning himself as an opponent of migration, which rejects EU binding quotas for accepting asylum seekers. Orban says that Hungary's democracy does not have to be "liberal". After he got criticized by the EU Parliament for this point of view, he rowed back to using the term “old-fashioned” - which proves to be only another term for the same thing. Again and again he finds praising words for rulers like Putin and Erdogan. The Prime Minister is fighting against any deepening influence of the European Union. If the majority of EU countries decide to sanction Poland, Hungary will eventually block them (PELINKA, 2018). According to Mr. Traubner (2018) from The Economist, “the fallout among Hungary’s fractured opposition is likely to continue. They failed to focus on a consistent message". Several small liberal or left-wing parties insisted on running their own slates in local constituencies where the failure to reach consensus on a single anti-government candidate cost it numerous seats (TRAUBNER, 2018). Orban’s victory will cause dismay in Brussels, where he is regarded as a difficult customer, but was widely welcomed by nationalist and populist leaders across Europe. Furthermore, his tactics will now be copied by populists elsewhere, as Geert Wilders of the Dutch Party for Freedom already tweeted that the result was “a well deserved victory”.
3. Definition of Sociologies of everyday life
According to the Dictionary of Sociology the Sociologies of everyday life are defined as following: “The branches of sociology that investigate the organization and meaning of everyday life, usually (but not exclusively) identified with microsociology and with qualitative research into everyday experiences as diverse as pedestrian behaviour, sleep, telephones, work experiences, talk, and time” (LYNSKEY, 1998).
After the election tens of thousands of people protested the Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his right-wing national government (in Budapest). Among other things, the participants demanded that the votes of the parliamentary elections should be recalculated, the right to vote be changed and the freedom of the press be secured. Under the slogan "We are the majority", the demonstrators ran through the city center to the parliament. Viktor Gyetai, organizer of one of the demonstrations, said: "We want to live in a constitutional state. We want to live in a true democracy” (ZEIT ONLINE, 2018). Weekly people are going out on the street to protest against the government, those who don’t live in Budapest travel to the capital to participate. This marks a change in people's everyday life. “In this collective form of participation, political activism is aimed at enriching the individual with new experiences by executing a so-called experience project [...]. Experience-led activism is connected to the anesthetization of everyday life, and also touches on various forms of self-expression in addition to politics, such as art, entertainment, culture and sport. (SZABO, 2017).” The most characteristic features of this type of activism are solidarity protests, altruistic actions and culturally rooted means of self-expression. This activism is mostly manifested at locations connected to activist subcultures and other free communal and cultural premises that are not under surveillance by the government or any other authority (POLLETTA, 1999).
After Orban’s election victories in 2010 hundreds of thousands of Hungarians left the country. Most young Hungarians I know want to leave the country. Péther Németh, a young Hungarian, says: “Everybody in my generation wants to move away”. Irén Godri from the Statistics Office in Budapest presented a study in 2017, according to which around 680,000 Hungarians aged 14 and 40 dream of emigration, and 380,000 have concrete plans for doing so (LAUER, 2018). Almost all Hungarians I know have friends or family members abroad. I assume that the wave of migration will not diminish, but rather increase.
An important focus of Orban's politics is nationalism. Among other things, the memory of the past and the mediation of the glorious history and identity belong to the care of the national ideas. This maintenance often happens in the form of rituals such as commemoration. “Functionally, rituals are means of addressing change, breaches in the order of everyday life. [... These] rituals are tightly controlled spheres of activity in the everyday life, reinforced through controlled participation and symbolic communication” (CASH, 2011). Political groups make use of rituals and festive peripheries to frame their messages and to increase their symbolic power (KERTZER, 1988; STOELTJE, 1993). Commemorations reveal the discourse of power, mediate messages of memory and identity, and tell us about the communities which generate them. The production of a commemoration can involve many members of a community in a controlled partnership (TURNER, 1968). For Hungary mediation as part of politics, it is shown by commemorations of 15 March 1848, the anniversary of the start of the 1848-49 war of independence (CASH, 2011). At the commemoration of the 15 of March in 2018 I was attending a speech of Orban. There he spoke of several NGOs, cultural institutions and journalists as enemies. Very shortly after that a newspaper and spokesman of the government, published several black lists with those so called enemies. According to Jens Preissler, Press Secretary of the German Embassy, very shortly after the publication of the black lists, several NGOs received calls and letters in which they were accused of treason. This shows how Orbans politics as displayed in a commemoration manifests an enemy image and immediately attracts actions who impair people’s everyday lifes.
Hungarians mainly receive their information through TV programs. RTL, TV2 and the state channels are the main sources of information. The government channels and also TV2, since the change of the ownership, broadcast government propaganda. RTL Klub has remained the only independent medium among the largest sources of information. Together with the media law, the government installed its people in the media authority. They assign licenses, punish critical media and impose fines (OSZVATH, 2017). Media researcher Agnes Urbán points out: "There is freedom of the press in the sense that not all media have been closed, there is not this 'party-certain-all-order' as it was before the turnaround, but most media users only have access to a very controlled and manipulated media offer" (VERSECK, 2018). The closure of independent newspapers such as "Népszabadság" and "Magyar Nemzet" was a shock to the population and a slap in the face of press freedom. Now "Lanchid Radio" and "Magyar Narancs" are threatened with closure. Both media companies have already had to cut jobs (GRUSKA, 2018, LEONHARD, 2018). Hungary researcher Vetter even calls press freedom in Hungary "canceled" (VETTER, 2012). This has a big impact on the daily lives of all citizens, because nobody can inform themselves freely anymore. All that remains are state press such as "Magyar Idok" or opposition press. Through the state press Orbán and Fidesz can exercise their power and influence readers. This happens on a private level, Orbán said in his speech against migrants, but for the old-fashioned family, on 15 March. Shortly thereafter, "Magyar Idok" published a blacklist of NGOs and later foreign Hungarian correspondents. It states, that the "slave labor" of thesejournalists consists in "transmitting the most disgusting lies of the ultraliberal opposition to tens of millions anywhere in the world without any filter" (VERSECK, 2018). Black lists should increase the psychological pressure on unwelcome media. It's not the first blacklist ofjournalists to appear in Hungary in recent history. For example, the entire editorial board of the Hungarian Investigative Portal “Direkt36” is listed in the "Soros Mercenaries" directory of "Figyeló". Fidesz shows, that it can utilize its power and thus massively influence the values and opinions of the people. The country is becoming increasingly frightened and intimidated. According to Reporters Without Borders (2018), the Hungarian press index ranks 73 out of 108 places worldwide this year. This is a drop by two places and I am afraid that Hungary's press index in the coming years will continue to decline under Orban. Everyday life with independent journalism is almost impossible in Hungary and over the next four years of Orban and Fiedez rule the oppositional and independent media companies will either gradually close or will be bought up. Thus everyday life of the people will be further influenced by government press.