Orbán called young doctors servants, children “public goods” and Katalin Karikó, the inventor of the mRNA vaccines “a Hungarian housewife”. And that’s just last week.
It is usually impossible to translate why, but Orbán’s choice of words is always divisive. Women have been called so many degrading things under his regime, it is now how they think of themselves. But other groups have also received his ire. And the sickest thing is that he may think it is somehow endearing to them.
Not a single Friday passes without yet another insult being thrown at us during Orbán’s weekly radio sermons.
Take the “Hungarian housewife” comment, for instance. Putting aside the fact that this country pushed out Karikó like it did with virtually every Nobel winner that was ever born in its geographical area, it is still distasteful trying to own Karikó’s accomplishment on an ethnic basis. But what can you expect from a man whose idea of success is pouring public money into football until the morons finally win a match – and then it will be great I guess.
The word he used for Karikó was “asszonyság”, which refers to something worse than a housewife – although that would be bad enough when he is talking about a person who accomplished more than he ever will. “Asszonyság” refers to an ageing housewife, who is probably fat but definitely not fuckable anymore, so basically useless. But she has some status because she has borne the children. She is also a pain for her poor husband, plus add any degrading stereotype against older women: probably gossipy, talkative or nagging. No one would call a woman “asszonyság” and have any respect for her. Even if the word’s slightly tempered version, “asszony” is nasty enough for a woman to avoid marriage, lest she would be called that.
And yet, Orbán may seriously think it was a compliment to refer to a highly accomplished researcher who is in line to win the Nobel prize and who had saved countless lives as a “housewife” because it expresses that even though she is outside the kitchen now, she was good enough to catch a husband. That’s what matters for him. That’s the function of a woman in Orbán’s world, and it is not implicit or between-the-lines. This is full-blown policy.
Or take his last speech calling newly graduated doctors something akin to “prentices” but with a word that mostly refers to servants. He praised his spineless loyalists whom he put in charge of hospitals to lie about the state of the pandemic as “seasoned professionals” who know what they are doing, and then moved on to “conscripting” fresh med school graduates and non-graduates in his war on the pandemic. And called them servants. The Chamber of Doctors quickly reacted that to them, they are “colleagues” and the Alliance of Residents also spoke up against the choice of words. Because it is degrading. Not to mention that they have just issued a call for volunteers, even without medical training to help in Covid wards. A fresh medical graduate will be an expert compared to the volunteers who might get conscripted from now on.
And finally, just from last week’s crop, Orbán managed to refer to children as “public goods”, which would be bad enough, but the Hungarian word for the singular of “goods” is the same word as “livestock”. And the connotation is just as bad. And he meant it.
Orbán’s world view is that of a 19h century, feudal landlord with his own servants, peasants, vassals and the right to the first night. And it shines through his language. Either that, or this is all just an elaborate trolling exercise by his PR people to keep everyone outraged all the time, and to force Orbánist to sink deeper and deeper into his stale, fart-warm feudalism by defending him.
And it adds to the toxic mental state of the country, where hatred is mandatory, where the government points out the hate target of the day and where every single social group that is not Orbánist, rich, non-Gypsy, married couples with three children is a pest that is legitimate to attack. Politicians do it verbally – and they will be so, so surprised when someone takes it from there.