Stories

The Cold Reality of a Dictatorship

“The cold reality of dictatorship grinds up human dignity, saps your life force and leaves only capitulation and emptiness behind.”

–Viktor Orbán, October 2016

Funny, I’ve been trying to illustrate exactly that and have been looking for someone, anyone who could talk to me about the everydays of emerging authoritarianism – but I’ve been running into the same obstacle every time. No one dares to speak up. Requests for anonymity abound the moment I ask for their story to be shared and no one would ever consider saying things in front of a camera. Not on this side of the border.

No wonder. Even obscure researchers have been threatened with losing their jobs if they dare as much as to like something on social  media that goes against the will of government.

Expats are a different story. I guess their dignity grew back after they’ve left the cold reality of Hungary. But even they get surprised sometimes.

So without further ado I give you a few stories that never happened because of paranoid caution not to be accidentally outed:

  • Someone wrote us to meanwhileinbudapest (at) mail.com that we should stop using the ‘Name‘ field in the newsletter subscription form at the bottom of our posts because “it makes one wondering whether it is just a trap collecting names“. According to the (very eloquent) reader “it kicks in the paranoid instinct when someone asks your name, like when police intimidates you just by asking your name“. We removed the field, so now you don’t even have to give us a nickname if you feel like subscribing to our newsletter. (Please do below.)
  • A lady told me the story of some minor bureaucratic abuse of position. It was just a bureaucrat standing in the way of getting her IUD after 5 children because said bureaucrat was pro-population and didn’t care if they have already to little to eat. “There must be more Hungarians!” Again, the story is not even worth an anecdote, there are jerks everywhere, but when I asked her whether we may use it to illustrate administrative burden, she visibly panicked. She said she thought it was just small talk for research. Then she accused us of spying on people to get their secrets out. Then she begged that we refer to her as a guy (requesting permission for an IUD…). And then she asked us to name another town. And another type of official. And that we say she had three children instead of five – because five is a dead giveaway. She feared bureaucratic retribution by a Hungarian public official if said official happens to read this blog and recognizes himself or herself.
  • A New Year’s Eve party with twenty-somethings working for a ministry. Some commotion in the kitchen. Host arrives to soothe people and apologizes to all the ladies for the behaviour of a male guest. The guy drank himself Trump and walked around grabbing lady parts. But the host didn’t dare to expel him from the party because “he is the state secretary, after all”. And the ladies in question, instead of being offended, agreed with him. He was the state secretary, after all.
  • Distant relatives by the same, rare name called a friend to stop sharing NGOs posts on social media because he now works at the ministry and his bosses have nothing better to do than stalking employees and employees’ relatives on Facebook for compliance with the government’s line.
  • And don’t forget the threats to lose their jobs if unruly academic accidentally like some anti-Olympics content on Facebook.

As of the cold reality of Orbán – the irony is not lost on him. Some people don’t read ‘1984’ with the intention to avoid it happening, but as a manual.

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One thought on “The Cold Reality of a Dictatorship

  1. Pingback: How To Be A Useful Idiot – Part 2. | Meanwhile in Budapest

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