Family Values

Budapest, 1956. Photo via

Budapest, 1956. Photo via

Budapest, March 20

Dear people,

I could write something amazing about this, and call it ‘the tragic story of a second rate porn star’. It’s about my roommate. It really is tragic.

He told a me bit about the scene, about the characters that dominate this world. The actors/directors/producers who made it big. Like Rocco Sifredi, the ‘Italian stallion’, and Riccardo Schicchi, the godfather of porn. There’s a few more. And there’s the girls of course. Most famous is Cicciolina, a Hungarian born girl who got voted into the Italian parliament, as member of the ‘Love Party’ somewhere in the 90s.

Until a few years ago, this business was big. Just outside of Budapest there is an enormous porn castle, actually just a warehouse, where many European producers come to shoot. It’s divided into different sets. An office, a bathroom with jacuzzi, a living room with fireplace, a kitchen, hospital room, even a bedroom.

Yesterday, my roommate had a gig, he had to play doctor and patient with a French girl. Many of the girls are from the East, Russia, barely adult. They get coked up before the scene and fucked in all imaginable holes for 500 euro.

After having heard all this, by contrast, my other roommate took me to a queer-feminist hideout, called ‘KLIT’. I must say I was afraid that the ladies might bite, but they were actually very kind. They told me a bit about the current political situation here.

It may sound familiar. In Hungary, one single party controls enough seats in parliament to change the constitution at will. The party is conservative and nationalist, it’s called Fidesz. After one and a half years of preparation, they left a heavy party-political mark on the nation’s democratic institutions with a vote on Monday.

The power of the constitutional court will be limited, the family is officially defined as father, mother and kids, leaving no room for gay marriage. Poverty and homelessness will be outlawed. Political propaganda will be limited to the state television. There will be restrictions for university graduates who want to emigrate.

Aside from all this, the girls at the feminist cove also said that right wing groups have been targeting immigrants and gypsies in the country side, as well as gays and lesbians in the cities.

People in Hungary and abroad have been critciizing the changes in the constitution and demonstrating against them, especially the students. But it seems that even the student movement itself is infiltrated by the nationalists.

Another feature of the new constitution is the limitation of free speech where it touches ‘the dignity of the Hungarian nation’.

Like in Turkey. It’s typical for nations with an inferiority complex to feel the need to punish people who insult or poke fun of the national identity.

So at the risk of having the secret police pounding on my door, I will say that the Hungarians, like the rest of us, are bastards. Their culture is a mix of Turkish, Germanic and Slavic influences. It’s a country of barbarians, a river valley that used to be Atilla’s base camp when he ravaged Europe with his horde of wild Huns. After Atilla came the Magyars, the Hungarians proper, who ravaged Europe again, in a similar way. Then came the Mongols. You can still vaguely see their traits in the faces on the street.

The Hungarian language is incomprehensible to anyone else in Europe, except maybe the Finns. Their nation would later be absorbed by the Ottomans, then the Austrians. During the revolutionary year 1848 the liberals rose up against their overlord, the Habsburg emperor, a feat that was celebrated here last Friday.

The revolution was ultimately crushed with the help of the Russians. As part of the Habsburg empire, Hungary was on the losing side in WW1, and saw many of its countrymen fall outside its shrunken borders after the humiliating peace. As a nazi satellite, Hungary was also on the losing side in WW2. It was invaded by Soviets and rose up once more, unsuccessfully, in 1956.

Finally the country embraced liberal capitalism. So you see the same familiar brands you encounter in the rest of the world. You also see people sleeping in the streets and looking through the trash.

And now, by law, Hungarians are special. And their dignity not to be tread upon.

Many people fear that the Fidesz party is installing a dictatorship. Even from Brussels, EU leaders openly voice their concerns. And all I could think was: why have I never heard these concerns when Berlusconi made a mockery of the Italian justice system?

At the cove of KLIT, there was a small exhibition about the history of feminism in Hungary. Mostly photo’s, not much English. The first woman laureate, the first woman doctor, the first woman pilot etc. There was one image in particular that struck me, dated 4 December 1956.

Six weeks earlier the Hungarian revolution had swept away the communist government. It looked like the country might break away from the Eastern bloc.

For Moscow, this was a problem. The Soviet Union had been morally bankrupt since Stalin’s purges in the 1930s, but now Khrushchev had started a process of destalinization, maybe even reform. The Hungarian revolution forced him to make a decision. If he allowed Budapest to go its own way, then all the other satellites would likely rise up as well, and maybe even the Soviet republics.

So finally, he ordered the Red army to invade Hungary. By November 10th, the uprising had been crushed. The arrests and the persecutions would go on for a long time after that.

So what struck me in the photo, was the sight of these Hungarian women, mothers and daughters, who braved the Russian soldiers a month after the crackdown. They waved Hungarian flags, without the red star. They marched in silence, first to the Hero’s Square, then to the American embassy.

Famous Hungarian poet Endre Ady once said that Hungary is like a ferry boat, it goes back and forth from East to West.


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