Real existing Orbánism

Do divisive leaders still represent their nations?

Orbán is aggressively rubbing himself to Katalin Karikó’s reputation. 

The pandemic made me happy not having gone to med school.

For years and years I have asked myself the question whether I should have studied something useful, like math or medicine. At the mature age of 18 I made the decision to go for the prestige and making the world a better place – only to realize that politics is the opposite of doing good.

During the pandemic, however, that choice proved to be lucky. Had I gone to med school, I would have been enlisted to fight Covid and banned from leaving the country. Make no mistake, I would have wanted to help, but voluntarily. Forcing someone to serve is a different matter entirely and I still can’t get over Orbán’s move to enslave healthcare workers during the pandemic, and then choosing exactly this time to make them sign a hugely disadvantageous new contract.

But there was another way my education in politics has protected me: I am skeptical about politicians. There is no way in hell I would ever regard a state award or a politician’s praise as a good thing. And should I ever become famous or accomplish something meaningful, I would never use that reputation to campaign for a politician – not even the one I vote for. Not even if he tried to rub himself to me unilaterally. (Ironically, having studied politics made sure I would never accomplish anything meaningful, so the hypothetical moral conundrum had solved itself in more than one way.)

I thought about that when Orbán first called Katalin Karikó on the phone and posted about it on Facebook. I felt the cringe that you feel when something dirty is crawling up on something good. Sure enough, Orbán has been his usual, disgusting self when he referred to Karikó as “asszonyság” (which is Hungarian for a fat, tedious housewife) in his radio monologue on the following Friday, triggering, like clockwork, everyone who has a sense of decency in this country.

But Karikó forgave him and seemingly rose above it. So he continued rubbing himself to her like Jabba the Hutt to Princess Leia.

Karikó has strong ties with Hungary and visits often. She is now doing the rounds accepting awards and giving interviews. The victory laps are warranted and Karikó is taking them with grace and humility, visibly keen on sharing the limelight and making a new generation going into science.

But she also accepted a personal invitation from Orbán and and award from the public media that is an Orbánist propaganda hellhole. Of course, she may not want to snub Orbán. Or she may believe that a prime minister is a prime minister – he represents the country and is thus always an honor to meet. But we have reached the point (a long time ago, actually) where state medals are no longer accepted by independent artists and scholars on principle. (Not that they are offered to them.)

The reason for that is simple: Once a politician chooses to divide the nation in order to get elected, once he explicitly only represents the ones who voted for him, he no longer represents the country – only himself. And Orbán did exactly that, knowingly and forcefully: he divided Hungarians into his followers and those who don’t want him in power, and then pitted them against one another. The first group he calls “Hungarians” or the nation. His opponents are called traitors or enemy. At this point in time an Orbánist voter considers an opposition voter a biggest threat than the Russian and the Chinese autocracy exports combined.

Do these politicians even deserve to call themselves leaders? Do they represent the whole of a country even when they explicitly refuse to?

A lot of people are wondering whether Karikó is just that naïve. After all, scientists spend more time on reality than following the inane and vile affairs of lesser humans like politicians. But maybe she just doesn’t want to antagonize them. After all, she has family here. At any rate, the inventor of the mRNA vaccines is about to learn a lesson about the worthlessness of politicians’ tap on the back.

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