Grateful 10

I’m quite partial to a good speech and regularly complain about those who preside over religious ceremonies and fail to deliver, fail to captivate, fail to engage their congregations. And it’s not just in churches and temples that we see podiums. Politicians, too, have their moments – and their speeches get far more playtime than your average orator. One of my all time favourites is a speech given by Daniel Hannan MEP in 2009 when he calls Gordon Browne the devalued prime minister of a devalued government. I don’t know the man from Adam, and know even less about his politics, but I like the way he talks.

On the movie screen, my vote goes to Jack Nicholson’s 1992 speech in a Few Good Men. My young orator award goes to  12-year-old  Severn Suzuki’s 1992 speech to the United Nations. And for those that will stand the test of time, there’s Vaclav Havel’s New Year’s address in 1990 or  one I’ve interpreted myself (and enjoyed doing so immensely) – Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s 1868 speech The Destructive Male.

In Hungary this week, speakers of all sorts took to their podiums to commemorate the 56th anniversary of the 1956 uprising. While all were in Hungarian and I’m relying on translations, my vote goes to Gordon Bajnai. His speech is one that I hope will mark a change in direction: he frankly admitted that he had said before he was not a politician – but times have changed. He used the familiar with the people, and he recognised from the outset the key element of any country’s future – its young people: we don’t want a country to which our emigrated children will perhaps be willing to return one day – instead, we want a country they will have no reason to leave in the first place.

I’m used to politics where there is no discernible difference between the parties – every one of them being slightly left or right of centre. In Hungary, there are extremes – extremes that have me worried. This week, the Alliance of European National Movements (AENM) met in Hédervár. Jobbik, the British National Party (BNP), Italy’s Tricolour Flame, Sweden’s National Democrats, Belgium’s National Front and others sat around a table. Speaking (rather poorly) at the conference, Jack Buckby outlined his plans to rebrand nationalism as national culturalism (opposite to multiculturalism) –  and thereby to defy accusations from the Left of being racist. This speech won’t be making my list of favourites any time soon.

In a week which saw the Israeli flag  burned outside the synagogue on Dohány utca; a week that heard Jobbik repeating its call for a special ‘gendarmerie’ to keep order in the countryside (i.e. police the Roma); and a week where party activists allegedly bussed in supporters from other countries to swell the ranks of the PM’s audience, I am grateful that at least one voice of reason could be heard. 2014 and the general election are a long way away – it’s good to see some opposition finally mobilising and the helm being taken by someone who seems to have at least an element of nous and the ability to relate to the people. Methinks that Gordan Bajnai’s speech of 23 October 2012 will mark the turning point in this country’s history. Fundamentally, we must ascertain that patriotism and progress – upholding national traditions and rejuvenating the country – are not contradictory, nor mutually exclusive terms.

Eva Balogh, in her blog post, notes that a politician was born… and I, for one, am grateful.

Note: For a reminder of what the Grateful series is about, check out Grateful 52


7 Responses

  1. Just curious: do you think in principle Jobbik (or BNP, True finns etc) have right to their opinions? Shall we defend their right to speech or not, even if the opinions are crazy? In Hungary neither government, previous socialist one (during which Jobbik was created thanks to mainly Gyurcsany being so hated character) nor current have done anything really to stop them, beside leaving them outside of any serious decision making. Should they or even more so can they stop them? Would it be more like adding petrol to fire?

    Seeing what is happening in Greece, Finland, France (where ultra right is way stronger political movement than in Hungary – and where instead of burning flats, jewish people are attacked regularly), Holland (ultra right wing was even in government), Austria (very strong ultra right wing party) is there a way Europe can stop the rise of ultra nationalistic parties? After all, in Northern Ireland the nationalist movements are still barely controlled and how long Basque are will stay peaceful if Spanish economy will collapse even more?

    Seems to me that first casualty of economical downturn is common sense, i hope we are not repeating 30’s Germany around Europe.

    1. I’m all for free speech, Tomas – it’s hate speech that I have an issue with. I wonder, too, if it is the government’s duty to do anything other than exclude the the AENM from serious decision-making – and whether society as a whole needs to be accountable and say ‘enough’. I read an interesting article recently on the Russ-Limbaugh-type of free speech and it’s in this bracket that I lobb Jobbik and its counterparts. I’m currently reading Judy Orringer’s The Invisible Bridge – and Jobbik and the AENM keep coming to mind. More so than common sense being a casualty of a change in economic fortune, what kicks in is people’s individual need to survive at the expense of the greater good. When it starts being ‘all about me’ then we are really in trouble. I can’t see how Europe (as a governance entity) can stop the rise of ultra nationalistic parties – the more they are subdued ‘officially’, the more popular they appear to be. I think it’s up to the people to stand up and be held accountable. I was talking to a football coach lately who led his players off the pitch until the crowd stopped slinging racial slurs at one of his players. He gave them a choice – silence the abusers or we will go home. It worked. Those who wanted to see the game played, made it clear to the minority that their racist inventions would not be tolerated. The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that the enemy is apathy.

  2. In return of a historically thought grateful December of 1989 back in Romania, people there (including my own humble hemisphere) celebrated the “end of something” rather than the beginning of something “else”. I know this exactly, because I was one of those who were crying at my thirties together with my mom on her fifties: for happiness of hearing those news on the radio. Those days, while celebrating the fall of an era, we had in the same manner underestimating the birth of a necessarily following one. It was the symptom of release, I think: the euphoria of relief equaled the amphitheatre of our existence in its most equivocal way – we felt it is certain for us to exist above “zero” from now on.
    Yet, this epical description is not why I take charge of a comment here (wish I’d have a chance to). Rather, it is the “speech factory” movement, which- in the end – will certainly overcome, if we TALK about it…
    I remember of some basic rules set by Vincent T. Covello in terms of Health Risk Communication, talking about “trusted” and “less trusted” media spokes persons. Accepting those terms, it looks like politicians and salesman rule the bottom of the trustful spokesperson’s list, seconded by lawyers while physicians, recognized academic faces, nurses would take the lead on trustfulness.
    Now, I just wonder if in this our unexpected “new world” mentioned above, parliament delegates, politicians, decision makers would be let’s say half of them… physicians or other doctors – how would TRUST look like in terms of speakers?! Is it really the content of speech we are listening to when exposing ourselves to an informed “game change”, or we are only looking to find a download personality for all we are not supposed, or eager to do?
    To my extent, I would be extremely prudent and cautious when talking. Much, much more then when listening.
    Now.. How does this sound?

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