Fiction

The Revolution May As Well Be Televised

We are in the home of the Szabó family, somewhere in Budapest. The television is on. It’s the news hour – so-called but referring in reality to a mere fifteen actual minutes of he-said-she-said BS, some of it political. Add in celebrity gossip, sports news and the weather info to stretch this out to half an hour.

András and Fruzsina are sitting in front of the TV screen. Their two children are playing with a tablet in the far corner of the living room.

The programme begins with the major developments flashing by in a quick taster of things to come.

Minister of Agriculture József Polgár denies any abuse of power in the so-called peasant-feeder scheme…

András slams his fist down on the tabletop where his regular evening beer is waiting to be drunk. He is slamming down hard and scary, but not too hard (routine helps). The liquid gold wobbles around and around in his glass for a while, in a magically regulated surge of anger.

Foreign minister Szangássy reiterates that Majaristan is committed to fight attacks on the country by the American billionaire…

„That son of a bitch, again!” Fruzsina is ever ready to voice her displeasure at the way some people just don’t know how to behave like decent human beings. Where were they when God handed out decency?

The Budapest public transport company is considering what sanction may be appropriate in the case involving the undervalue sale of five thousand monthly passes…

„So many idiots in this country,” András weighs in. He shifts uncomfortably in his chair, as though in great pain. Pain all in vain, the idiots are here to stay.

***

At the home of the Kovács family (also in Budapest), the television is on. Just like over at the Szabó residence, the news programme is being broadcast.

Gergely and Éva are sitting in front of the TV screen, as usual at this hour. The programme begins with the day’s developments flashing by in a quick taster of things to come…

Sound familiar?

Minister of Agriculture József Polgár denies any abuse of power in the so-called peasant-feeder scheme…

Gergely slams his fist down on the tabletop where his evening refreshment, strawberry juice with soda, is waiting to be drunk. Bubbles rise to the top in a hurry to commit suicide from fear of death.

Foreign minister Szangássy reiterates that Majaristan is committed to fight attacks on the country by the American billionaire…

„That son of a bitch, again!” Éva is ever ready to voice her displeasure at the way some people just don’t know how to behave – when to speak and when to shut up.

The Budapest public transport company is considering what sanction may be appropriate in the case involving the undervalue sale of five thousand monthly passes…

„So many idiots in this country,” Gergely is shifting uncomfortably in his chair, gasping for air. So little air with so many idiots around!

***

Time to fill in the details on the stories behind the quick headlines. The anchor proceeds to contextualise.

… According to revelations made by investigative portal MediaMonster.mjr, the company of Mr. Rózsás, the Minister’s half brother supplied almost all of the corn seeds for the scheme that saw…

„Your scheming liberal bolshevik whore of a mother’s cunt! Like there was no corruption when they were in power! Like they haven’t left the economy in ruins when they left!” András bursts out, shouting. It is hard to keep the lid on, with so much pressure from scheming liberal bolshevik mothers and their sons and daughters! The same people who fired him from the National School Textbook Publishing Company, statedly for the mistakes in that stupid high school history atlas. (This was back before 2010, and the current conservative government. They – the directorate – had the arrogance to use that shitty atlas as an excuse, as if sacking András would’ve had nothing to do with politics – when in fact it was obviously because of his personal political views. András often tells friends about how this is typical of libsheviks’ arrogance in general.)

Meanwhile, at the Kovács residence, Gergely feels compelled to make a statement: „These corrupt good-for-nothing turbo-Hungarians, that is all they do, they talk shit and steal money, they steal as much as they can… But when we apply for funding for the team, all of a sudden they start to care about the public impact! Suddenly that’s important to them! Just ’cause we don’t know the ultimate asshole in charge of the decision. Public impact, huh? So a sport that’s growing in popularity has no public impact? Perhaps because it’s not allowed to!” Gergely doesn’t really mind that his words drown out the rest of the report about the peasant-feeder scheme. Doesn’t he deserve vindication? Isn’t that more important? Politicians steal the money, money that good causes, such as the cause of American football in Hungary, cannot have. His team’s games are being seen by more and more people these days. So clearly there is interest in American football. Isn’t it self-evident that the state should financially support things that are in the public interest?

Fists slam down hard again, and, unnoticed to András and Gergely, beer mixes with strawberry juice in their glasses, even though there are several kilometres of physical distance between them – as the crow flies. Or as the ancient Hungarian Turul bird flies.

… Foreign minister Szangássy quoted the Prime Minister’s words in responding to an opinion-editorial by the American billionaire in which the latter outlined three possible scenarios for the European Union’s future, with a view to the ongoing migration crisis and a rise in populism in various European countries. „The future is in our sovereign hands, that is the only scenario that is acceptable for us,” declared Minister Szangássy, a statement criticised by opposition politicians …

„Fucking libsheviks, they would sell this country for nothing,” Fruzsina joins in the commentary, seeking her husband’s attention & approval, mostly unnoticed to him. „American billionaire? What sort of news programme is this? Journalists who speak like this should be fired. Fired, at least! As though we wouldn’t know where this so-called American is coming from… I want to be able to make decisions for my own children, I don’t want a big-nosed banker like this rottenface to make decisions for me. Like, that we should accept to live with fucking immigrant terrorists… And that our dark-skinned minorities are not criminals, every last one of them…” Fruzsina is not really sure if the American billionaire actually had anything to say about Romas (whom she refers to as „dark-skinned minorities” and thinks of as natural born criminals). But she is convinced that the man wants the worst possible things for the country, and so he must be on the wrong side of the Roma issue! Isn’t he sponsoring some kind of aid project in those cigány villages in BAZ county? She can vaguely recollect that. Of course he is. So he is on the side of the criminals then.

„Your sovereign fucking bank account is where all the money goes, we know that well!” Over at the Kovács family’s home, Éva is determined to fight back against Minister Szangássy’s demagoguery, rhetorically at least. „You know what’s up with Juli néni?” She is asking Gergely, only half-bothering to check if there is interest in the news she is about to share, about the old lady who lives in the neighbouring apartment. „Her cancer medication, the one that’s really working, is no longer financed by social security. They told her that today at the pharmacy. It’s off the list, just like that! They wrote her off too, with that! No wonder Isti is not coming home to this joke of a country.” With the last sentence, a reference to Gergely and Éva’s grown-up son, the dots are finally connected. Things are made sense of. Micro and macro, personal and political, are all part of the same impeccable continuum in this universe.

… According to the company’s press release, the employee accidentally changed a website setting that allowed customers to purchase monthly transport passes for as little as one-hundred forints, resulting in…

„The fucking idiot!” It’s the first time András smiles during the entire news programme. He smiles because, fortunately, the economy is alright (or will be an island of prosperity in a declining Europe in the very near future, anyway), and this is just an isolated case of incompetence. We are good enough to be able to afford this, he thinks. Paradoxically, he therefore finds this piece of news reassuring, even comforting somehow. Fruzsina eagerly joins in the unexpected outburst of happiness, with gurgling laughter.

„The fucking idiot! But then everything is already falling apart in this country,” concludes Gergely, a depressed expression on his face. Éva adds in confirmation that „Idiots like this should be fired and not allowed to work in a responsible position ever again. And his bosses too. All the way up to you-know-whom.”

***

Neither András, nor Fruzsina hears it when the reporter adds that the worker in question was not supposed to have access to the website settings, and that an Italian service-provider’s software glitch may be to blame for the malfunction… So speculates an unnamed IT expert quoted in the report… The settings may have been reconfigured entirely by accident, without the employee actually entering the changed parametre that led to the undervalue sales… Gergely and Éva don’t hear this, either.

TV-theend

This short fiction is the work of our guest author, Mr Peter Primer

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