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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

National sentiment and European Myth(s)

In a previous post I already talked about national sentiment. In the European Voice Tim King argues that the big disadvantage of Europe to the U.S. is the lack of common myths. His point is that even the rise of Europe from the second World War which he likens to the rise of the U.S. from the Civil War, is interpreted differently by different groups of European people. Nothing illustrates his point more than the debate (or I could rather call it non-debate) about the pre-war years in Hungary. In the Basic Law (replacing the Constitution) the ruling FIDESZ fixed that Hungary was not independent (using a term which suggests the exclusion of all responsibility) from the 19th March 1944 till the first democratic elections in 1990. The time before the German occupation is depicted as the ideal world. I.e. all responsibility for what happened to the Jews, the Roma, the political enemies, is declined. On the other hand, squares and streets are named after Horthy and statues are erected. In the abbey of Pannonhalma a bust of prime minister Teleki, the promoter of the first "Jews' law", the "numerus clausus" in universities, was erected. Horthy and the system is even credited with protecting the Jews and introducing the limitations, their expropriation as necessary to protect their lives. Some simply only talk about the period under the prime ministership of István Bethlen, who consolidated the country by taking a loan from the League of Nations (as the IMF is a specialised organ of the U.N., practically the legal predecessor of IMF), although the scandal of a large-scale French franc forgery also was in this period. The centre operating the schools now, a huge administrative organisation, is named after Kuno Klebelsberg, whose ambition was to overtake the neighbouring nations by educating the people better. He had a concept but this is somewhat antiquated in the 21st century. And these are the softer variations. However, these are the really dangerous ones as it is more difficult to counter their half-truths. In particular as these false myths are set up to feed national pride while it is much more difficult to present the complex reality in a way that it should also be emotionally appealing. A balanced narrative about what happened, how the treaties closing the first World War contributed to the second and how Europe was able to get over its divisions, would already be a big achievement. Maybe this could over time give rise also to a myth...

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