joanne richardson on Sat, 3 Aug 2002 22:45:00 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> (border texts) miklos erhardt - crossing the gap


hi,

im forwarding a couple of texts solicited for the strasbourg border camp
newspaper - the paper unfortunately didn't happen, but i thought i'd send
some of them along anyway. if you have replies, please send directly to
the writers.

Miklos Erhardt, miklulu@freemail.hu

Crossing the Gap?

Questions about globalisation, the meaning of borders, the definitions of
'Europe,' are very complex -- they are not only political, but strongly
existential. So I would prefer to limit myself to making only a few
disordered observations, from the point of view of a gap, resulting from
40 years of 'difference', that now seems to be closing. In the post-
communist period, eastern european countries have made many attempts at
constructing new national identities, which in the end have only further
confused our national/political landscape. Embarking on a serious process
of self-definition at the same time as embracing a greater European
identity gives rise to many problems and contradictions. If we assume our
task to be how to create a common Europe without its previous identities,
not having any identity from the outset would seem to be an ideal
position. But being without a consistent identity creates the need for so
much soul searching that we donít seem to have any energy left to
participate in, and to add anything to, the anti-corporate, anti-
capitalist, anti-fascist, pro-globalisation movement (since this movement
is not against globalization, but calling for another form of
globalization).

As far as I can see, the new right wing in Europe draws its appeal by
focusing on a European rather than a national identity, a European
identity threatened on one side by the US controlled wave of economical
and cultural globalisation, and on the other by large scale immigration
from the Third World. From our point of view in the other europe, the
situation is a lot simpler: we perceive a bipolar world order, split into
the First and the Third World. And despite all of our 'particularity' and
our 'expertise' of not having an identity, we have to decide whether we
want to join the abusive or the abused part of the world, and therefore to
know clearly from which direction we can expect sympathy, from which one
we have to expect animosity, because we are confused about the fragmented
animosity and the fragmented sympathy thrown towards us from various
directions now, and we are disappointed about the fact that neither the
sympathy nor the animosity is strong enough to make us feel that we are
'somebody'.

In reality, on the level of everyday life, Hungary's situation is
apparently not that desperate. We have our passports, we don't need visas
to enter EU countries, we don't produce emigrants and don't attract
immigrants, we are free to choose between our sufficiently awful political
parties, we must have enough money to pay for the highest telephone rates
in all of Europe while on the other hand cigarettes and food are still
relatively cheap, we have magical, ever changing dates of when we will
finally be allowed to enter the EU, and can boast having dozens of TV
programs publicising 'European' life-styles. So, what am I talking about?

Today, it seems Third World countries are only referred to as 'developing'
in patronising statements made by the global powers. The notion of
development is also irrelevant when it comes to the First World: since its
greatest concern today is maintaining its wealth, not any new plan for
development or progress. The only part of the world where 'development'
has a positive meaning seems to be our other (eastern) europe, although
this development doesn't aspire towards any new, never before experienced
reality either. Our target is already well defined, we are aware of the
routes leading there, and of the objectives we want to reach. Our target
is to enter the Europe.

Now nothing is more humiliating than being 'developing', as this positions
you in the middle of the street, it deprives you of every code, it makes
you young in the sense of not being fully mature, it implies the terror of
learning, of having tasks, new homework to do every day. Until now, for
example, we have supposedly been learning what a representative democracy
means. It took more than ten years to learn it. It took more than ten
years to transform our traditional separations within society into
separations between left and right wing parties. And people enjoy this
novelty very much: during the last elections, Hungarians were on the verge
of killing each other in their political fervour - hundreds of thousands
gathered in the streets to express their will in a country where an
average demonstration used to attract 30 - 40 people.

Being young also makes you the target of the most offensive manipulation Ė
the manipulation that creates consumers. As things stand, the basic
functions of the market economy, like planning, production, and
consumption are increasingly being divided between different parts of the
world. The First World plans, manages businesses, and earns money. The
Third World is responsible for production (even though to fulfill their
duty, a part of the workers have to move into the houses of the global
powers). And our other europe consumes.

Hungarians and other east european nations are spending much more money in
proportion to their GDP than all their Western counterparts. Beyond this
fact, which is not insignificant, consumption is the most appropriate
metaphor for our attitude towards everything -- we consume in the
unquestioning manner that makes children the best consumers. We have sold
all our local industries just so the joy of consuming their products isnít
spoilt, we are consuming fast food, fruit yogurts, behavioral, political
and cultural patterns, even fears and frustrations that previously we
didnít have any reason to experience. To be sure, even radical militancy
will be glamourous as soon as it becomes another part of the range of
Western goods thrown in the consumption addicted east european market.

Since conclusions only come at the end of a process of development, and as
children we are still somewhere in between, there are no conclusions to be
drawn. Instead, and without being nostalgic about any part of my past, Iíd
like to say how much I miss those times when I could be more philosophical
and maybe more virtual, in a very natural way, in contrast to how
political I have to become today, when even the smallest decision - say
between fruit yogurts or plain - is a serious political choice.

Budapest, July 2002





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