Let us be second!
The Second World has one huge competitive advantage right now, and Hungary is making full use of it.
The West is the First World. Eastern Europe, to the West, is second at best. The Second World. There’s unilateral consensus over this. We view ourselves as less, they view themselves as more.
Cultural export is free, so we get plenty. Many locals, mostly in the parochial elite, like to run wild with these, as they’re too lazy and conformist to have original ideas.
They and their Western masters like to paint us, Hungarians, as the Worst Korea on this side of the Urals for our backwards, bigoted ideas, ideas that were mainstream in 1999’s Western Europe.
As if we’re the very last, the black sheep, a failed democracy and so on.
We’re not. We’re merely second. Just a step behind. One short step. And it’s good. In fact, us being just a bit behind is a competitive advantage, given all the crazy experiments our betters in the West, out of boredom or decadence are proposing lately.
Let them do those experiments, and let us stay behind, just one short step behind! See how they go. In this post I will demonstrate this advantage without making a value judgement on the Western experiments themselves; the value I will focus on is the flexibility that being second, under these circumstances, allows one.
Neoliberal Individual Working Units
Hungarians love to own their own homes.
Homeownership rate in Hungary among highest in EU
In 2020, some 91% of Hungarians lived in a household that owned their home, according to data by statistical agency Eurostat.
The ownership rate in Hungary was the joint third-highest among member states, only behind Romania (96%) and Slovakia (92%).
At the other end of the spectrum, half of Germany's population lived in a household owning their home and the other half in a rented home.
We also detest being in debt:
This goes against the broader neoliberal utopia’s proposal, where you have no property, and the rest of the cabin-bag-full-of-credit-cards lifestyle that it advocates for; where you’re a rootless, flexible, individual working unit.
This presents us two extremes that are at odds with each other:
A: you own your home, you own your car, you work the same job for decades where you live, and you have no debt
B: you rent your “place”, own no car, do gigs everywhere (both physically and virtually), and you’re full of debt (student loans, consuming on credit, etc.)
Some of our local elites tell us that we should aspire for B. They might be right, might be wrong. However, lucky for us, many Western nations are way ahead with option B, so all we need to do is wait and see.
Here comes the (spoiler: overarching) catch though: if B turns out to be the key to happiness, one can always switch from A to B. Just sell your house, your car. Or just set them on fire! Then max out a few credit cards, and hop on a budget airliner to get a job abroad that earns enough to keep the creditors off your back, in perpetuity. The choice will always be there!
It’s much harder, if not impossible, to go from B to A. Once a society goes B, it takes a revolution to reestablish the conditions required for A. Take the property market: if properties become predominantly an instrument of capital investment, the little people, the “middle class”, themselves not capitalists, merely wage slave consumers, will forever be priced out.
Pointing to individual excellence as a way of going A in an environment that favours B is a very cruel troll (“just earn 7 figures and buy an apartment, bucko”).
Option A, for Hungarians, for now, is fine. We can always follow the West to B. In the mean time, let us be second!
Universal Basic Income
This idea is great! Or it’s disastrous. Who knows? Well, some of our local elites, totally not demagogues believe that Hungary should have UBI.
Maybe they’re right. However, being second, just one cautious, short step behind is the safest choice. You know, just wait for the Finns, or the Croatians, someone our size to do it, and if it works out, we can totally adopt it! But not a day sooner.
Any politician pushing UBI in a Second World country should be dismissed with the “Let us be second!” argument. Preferably politely, “It’s a great idea, but maybe we should wait for others to try”, or in the more Hungarian way, “Go social experiment on you mother’s vagina, not on us, you *ethnic/sexual slur*!”
Transition to renewable energy
It’s great, on paper. Clean. Renewable. Green. It’s ethical, unlike hydrocarbon energy. It stops the end of the World.
But it costs a lot, and if you do it wrong, it can cripple you. The Germans went ahead, and they did it, well, one way, a very German way. For one, they nuked their nukes, for no rational reason, other than radiation is scary to a kindergartener.
Once you close a nuclear plant, a big, sophisticated machine, and let all those people go, destroy all that institutional knowledge, there’s no easy way of going back.
Backing renewable energy on Russian hydrocarbons also wasn’t the best combo, as it turns out. Many laugh at the Germans, and let them feel a well-earned schadenfreude; the Germans went ahead, went first. Most nations, even in the West, stayed a careful second. If the German strategy worked, they’d be following it. We would be following it.
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Renewable energy is expensive, although it is becoming cheaper; massive R&D is being put into making it more competitive. Us, in the Second World, by definition, are less guilty of murdering Little Greta with our carbons and plastic wraps. We consume less, we’re poor! We’re not as guilt-free as the Bushmen, but we’re no Texans either. So let us be second, to stay just one step behind!
We can always close our nuclear plants down. That’s the easy part. When B becomes irresistible, we’ll ditch A in an instant. In the mean time, let us be second!
Yet another recent invention that seems to be all the rage over there. 10 years ago Westerners still laughed at “man in skirt”, now they use it as a semi-religious shit test of pretend concern to destroy each other.
Is transsexualism a blissful upgrade to society? I don’t know. The cynics over here see mentally deranged perverted men, and parents and kids going all in on fashionable body modifications that will have an impact on the rest of their lives.
If the cynics are right, this failed experiment will be very costly; if they’re wrong, Hungarians, I can promise you, will eventually follow.
This is a very recent trend; if Hungarian society could do without it for more that 1100 years, we can wait a few more, to see how this works out for you. Maybe it’s a fashion that passes, leaving wrecked millions behind. Maybe it’s a revolution whose benefits we’re too obtuse to see, yet. If the latter is true, you just have to keep going at it, show us the enviable results, over and over, and it will eventually get through our thick skulls, I promise!
Our primary worry is that going from A to B is a lot easier than reverting from B to A. Now you’re at B. I hope it works out for you, because if it doesn’t, “shoveling this shit back into the horse“, as we say it in Hungary, won’t be an easy task.
Just give us, idk, 6 more years to watch how transsexualism goes over in the West, so we can properly make up our minds. Let us be second!
Here I’ll be very generous by keeping the outcome undecided: historically, multicultural societies always failed, disastrously so (1990s Yugoslavia, for one).
But it’s entirely possible that some cure has been developed that makes our modern life capable of finally pulling multicultural coexistence off. (Developed since the late 80s, as late 80s tech demonstrably did not prevent Yugoslavia from becoming a Slavic cousin genocide.) Smartphones, maybe. Or vape pens. Some chemical in the water that turns tribal frogs cooperative.
So here we have two choices that are at odds with each other:
A: monocultural, homogeneous nation state: same language, same culture, bland food, boring music
B: multicultural, vibrant “place”: all the over-advertised stuff that you’re familiar with
B sounds wonderful, and one day it might turn out to be. In its current state, it looks a bit wonky. All those historic failures make this gamble seem risky, a proposal that might be a bit irrationally optimistic. But it might eventually turn out to be an upgrade, who knows?
I don’t, but I do know one thing: should multiculturalism succeed, all those, like Hungarians, who bet on A, can always open their borders and follow the West in becoming B.
Once you’ve gone B though, and it turns out your society is worse off, it’s very hard to revert back to A. It’s rivers of bloody hard. See: 1990s Yugoslavia.
So let us stay one step behind, let us watch your experiment, oh mighty West, and if it’s irresistibly successful, we will follow, I guarantee you! In the mean time, let us be second!
with a grain of paprika, as always
What's the ownership of precious metals and Bitcoin in Hungary?
Because if they save in the right money, they'll end up having to deal with a resource curse. That will be interesting!