Dictators love to adorn public (and not so public) places with their own image. They also tend to distribute in some form the leaders’ little thoughts. Orbán managed to combine the two.
A few weeks ago a baffling video appeared on Orbán’s all-important Facebook. It showed a mirror engraved with Orbán’s own quotes.
The post read “All matches last until we win”, referring to a European Council meeting that was ahead of him.
The hashtag reads #MirrorOfTheNation and it refers to a new piece of decoration in Orbán’s multi-billion palace in the Buda Castle, listing Orbán’s 7 laws to the nation. According to his press man it was a gift from the grateful members of his party on the 30th anniversary of Fidesz.
Soon after the mirror was introduced on Orbán’s Facebook, the original Fidesz founders were promised to get one, and one day soon all Fidesz members will – according to the spokesman.
Orbán’s 7 laws have been uttered at the 100th anniversary ceremony of the Versailles treaty (better known here as Trianon) in 2020and they are surprisingly candid:
- Homeland only exists as long as there is someone to love it!
- Every Hungarian child is a new watch post!
- Truth without power is not worth much!
- Only what we can defend is ours!
- Every match lasts until we win!
- Only a country has borders, a nation does not!
- No Hungarian is alone!
Number 6 is not only a tasteless quip at the 100th anniversary ceremony of the Trianon treaty that created Hungary’s current borders and trapped millions of ethnic Hungarians in today’s Serbia, Romania, Ukraine and Slovakia, it is also the perfect example of what I’ve been trying to explain to English-speakers: that “nation” in Hungarian doesn’t refer to a country. It refers to an ethnicity. You just think he is talking about the country. In truth, he is thinking in the entire Hungarian tribe, and smirking.
And numbers 3 through 5 are the perfect authoritarian manifesto: might over right, strength prevails, and disrespect to the rules of the game.
It wasn’t Orbán’s first attempt at getting into our living rooms either. In 2010 he wrote the Declaration of the National Cooperation (NER for short), his manifesto of how he was going to enrich a select few and those who are not with him are against him.
The NER-manifesto was a lot more verbose than this mirror, but it was also widely distributed – it was mandatory to display in every public building, government office and even many companies. Others were encouraged to hang it on their walls voluntarily if they wished to declare fealty and let their employees know where they are standing now.
Again, it was 2010. It was obvious who Orbán was as early as 2010, even to the blind.
A friend of mine showed me their copy hanging on their office wall (a private company) totally ironically. Also ironically it was put on a mini altar, complete with candles and flowers. As it usually is, irony turned into menacing intimidation and the grin disappeared from their faces in the coming years. Today he avoids me in the street but it didn’t get him a great career either. He had to learn the hard way that sucking up in an autocracy is mandatory – but it is not rewarded.
Another time Orbán wanted to leave his mark in every public building came when he rewrote the constitution into a Base Law. The text had to be displayed on little altars at every public building and had a proper, un-ironic shrine at the National Gallery, complete with candles, an altar, and a bunch or patriotic (read: pro-Orbán) paintings specially commissioned for the occasion.
Orbán’s 7 laws may be a perfectly open manifesto of an autocrat, but they are not to be confused with his 11th commandment that he declared before his party’s local election defeat in 2019, the iron law of gang loyalism.