Old Story of Ugly Politics


Photo by sylvia ortiz domney — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

Here we go again.

When governments demand loyalty, be wary. When governments go after the arts, be very wary. When governments go after the “foreign” elements in the arts, sound the alarms.

As posted in KadmusArts Culture News this week, Helen Shaw writes in Time Out about the shifting landscape of free expression in Hungary. Fidesz, the political party currently in power, has demanded that all cultural institutions post a government authored public manifesto to show their support for the national interest. The government has also advocated content recommendations for the arts. Haven’t we been down this road before?

Hungary, of course, is one of the historical cradles of internationally significant culture. The Magyar identity extends far beyond Hungary’s borders. Bánffy, Bartók, Esterházy, Kertész (André and Imre), Korda, Ligeti, Molnár, Solti, Szabó, and Tabori, to name just a few, still inspire today’s Hungarian artists as well as the world’s cultural life.

However, it appears as though Hungarian nationalism is more about identifying enemies than about celebrating accomplishment.

Back in January 2008, the Hungarian Spectrum covered the selection of the multi-talented Robert Alföldi as director of the Pécs National Theater: “Tamás Balikó, who was also among the competitors, accused the [selection] committee of cheating. And if that wasn’t enough, he added: ‘I, as a fifty-year-old, Lutheran, taxpaying citizen with three diplomas, a heterosexual theater director and a man, can state that cheating is a sin.’ It is impossible to find out from Balikó what his Lutheranism and heterosexuality have to do with the case. Except, of course, if he thinks that there is something wrong with Alföldi’s religion and sexuality.”

Do we really live in a world where being Jewish and gay is still so problematic? Do we really live in a world where governments still feel the need to control artistic work?

Hungary’s Géza Csáth once wrote, “…I somewhere read that the greatest happiness is the one that doesn’t build on hope.” We don’t need to hope for governments to change; we only need to point out the historical consequences of what happens when they don’t.

- Bill Reichblum

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3 Responses to “Old Story of Ugly Politics”

  1. KadmusArts Culture News » Blog Archive » Hungary’s Fundraiser: Buy Commie Relics
    November 23rd, 2010 00:13

    [...] Associated Press Old Story of Ugly Politics [...]

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    December 6th, 2010 05:31

    [...] a follow-up to our post “Old Story of Ugly Politics,” this letter, issued by the Hungarian Critics’ Association, calls the attention of the [...]

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    [...] Welle Old Story of Ugly Politics Hungary’s Art of [...]

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