I have been known to get a little paranoid at times. Not too often, mind you, but enough to make me question my reality on occasion. It’s particularly strong if I’ve had a week of reading back-to-back spy novels or watching old movies featuring the great conspiracies of our time. But I’m nowhere near Chicago comic, Emo Phillips who ‘was walking home one night and a guy hammering on a roof called [him] a paranoid little weirdo. In morse code.’
I consider myself to be a rational, intelligent human being with a healthy inquisitive nature and a mind that’s open to exploring all sides of a debate before taking a stance. I know first-hand what it’s like to be judged; I’ve been on the receiving end of bigotry and racism; and I know the harm a lemming mentality can do.
As I write, I’m in shock. My heart is thumping and my knees are shaking. I am taking deep breaths and trying to convince myself that this country, my adopted home, is not going to hell in the proverbial hand basket.
I’ve just heard about the flashmob that convened outside László Csatáry’s home last week (I’m a little behind the times not having a TV – if it even made the TV). I’ve watched some of the videos shot that day and it seems to have been a peaceful protest against the crimes of man who was allegedly instrumental in sending 300 so-called alien Jews to their death in Kamenetz-Podolsk in Ukraine in 1941. A long time ago, admittedly, but as William Shakespeare put it so succinctly, time is the justice that examines all offenders.
Apparently, Csatáry has lived in Hungary for the last 15 years, and for the latter 6, with the knowledge of the Hungarian government. That scares me. Justice is one of the cornerstones of democracy and if the government (our elected guardians) turns a blind eye, what hope have we? But on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being slightly disturbed and 10 being terrified to the extreme, I rated a 3 in this instance. I’ve become used to this government and although upsetting, it didn’t surprise me that they knew he was here and chose to do nothing about it.
What has me quaking in my bare feet right now is that the day after the flashmob, the right-wing website kuruc.info enlisted the help of its readers to identify those who exercised their democratic right to protest and to stand up against what they believe to be wrong. Kuruc.info even offered a reward of 100 000 forints (about €350) for the most useable information. Word has it that within just 48 hours, more than 90 000 readers had managed to identify most of the participants, so-called anti-Hungarian Jews, who are now being harassed via phone and Internet. Ye gods – we are turning on each other!
Brian Whelan recently did a piece in the Irish Times on the return of anti-Irish prejudice to the UK. Irish emigrants heading to the UK these days differ from those of yore in that they are almost completely unaware of past lives, with no real sense of history. Since the collapse of the Celtic Tiger, more and more young Irish people are seeking their fortune abroad. Reminiscent of the mass exodus of the 1980s, this wave of emigration comes on the back of a relatively stable Ireland, in political terms. The Troubles have, for the most part, been relegated to the distant past and the Protestant-Catholic divide has narrowed to the point where it can be stepped across with relative ease.
Admittedly, according to Whelan, there are signs in the UK of the previous tension: a total stranger might approach you in the pub upon hearing your accent to let you know their relative was killed while serving in the North, as if you were to blame or should apologise. But it was the BBC3 documentary about Irish rappers (who knew!) that drew quite a commentary recently on Twitter.
I read some of the Tweets and found them to be racist, bigoted, and downright nasty. Yet Whelan makes an interesting point: Similar Tweets about any other nationality could potentially get the person arrested or fired from their job, but when the jokes are aimed at the Irish it is written off as ‘banter’. This is, in most part, probably down to our own innate self-deprecation. We like a laugh and we’re well able to laugh at ourselves. Yet the day is dawning when this type of rhetoric needs to stop.
Why can’t we all just get along? Why the persecution, the harassment, the singling out of individuals? Why not peace, justice, and freedom for all? At the end of the day, we are all part of the one race – the human race. Or is someone not telling me something?
First published in the Budapest Times 27 July 2012.