True cosmopolitans love their own
Venomous pride and a provincial social scope turns Hungarian wannabe cosmopolitans into cancerous social media wrecks.
Hungary has a malicious expat — bottom shelf cosmopolitan — problem: people going abroad, by the thousands, spewing poison back at the locals, from their shoddy throne of recent escape to the lower class of Western society.
At its root it’s not a Hungarian problem, not even an Eastern European problem; it’s a symptom of a problem that we all have to deal with, even you, Westerners.
Hungarian expats and their shortcomings will be my primary target in this post, to provide an insight to something greater.
"by the 1920s the intelligentsia were more concerned with superiority over their own people, the less educated and sophisticated lumpen middle Americans they often despised.
These co-ethnics were the out-group, while the foreigners, with their ‘cosmopolitan note’, were the far-group; the out-groups it is permitted to dislike, to make the source of hostility or butt of one’s humour, but the far-group is to be protected and feted."1
By default, we measure ourselves to our environment, to other people.
We start our lives with a limited scope that extends over time. Some people’s expansion stops sooner, other’s later. The maximum extent of this scope is the true, global cosmopolitans’, who measure themselves to the World — an envied and celebrated individual circumstance in our times.
A high schooler’s world is their high school; both the top and the bottom of the social ladder, the one they see themselves on, is within the limits of their high school environment. They might chose to escape this by the internet, but few can credibly succeed. The internet is predominantly parasocial, if not bluntly antisocial. The metaverse is no substitute for IRL, yet.
The internet messes with a person’s scope a little bit, but ultimately, one’s true social domain is betrayed by the way they measure themselves, by their chosen targets of envy and aspiration. In fact, the internet can provide superior clarity on the matter, being a medium for venting one’s true feelings. Social media, especially one where the individual feels safe and encouraged to speak their true mind, helps to give away their actual position.
The internet provides an unprecedentedly intimate sociological/psychological insight into ones most closely guarded, — often dark — motivations, the way they actually view themselves in (against) society. Think about the rabidly malicious people you encounter online, who — sometimes literally — fly flags of care. Their promptly murderous hostility is excused by the softest of concerns. Their performative act and their true intent is evidently at odds. The internet, in this regard, is not only a catalyst to reveal such individuals’ true intent, but — the point of this post — also their true social scope.
Did a Hungarian expat, who went as far as New Zealand to start a new life, only to stay preoccupied with Hungarian politics, thanks to the internet, truly left us, rubes behind? Why is he so invested in proving to us, over and over again, restlessly, how amazing his new, chosen country is?
He might claim it’s paternalistic worry aimed back at his birth nation — if so, why is it so malicious, why does he, more often than not, celebrate our perceived misfortune with delight, from afar?
The Hungarian high schooler goes to university, to Budapest. A massive expansion of their social scope. This coincides with adulthood, so even people outside their age group are now suddenly models and competitors. It’s an explosion of liberty and opportunity, an expansion of their social domain so vast, that for many, this will also be the final extent of their scope, for life. At this stage, the parochial, high school prison years should seem ridiculously limited, in retrospect. But not necessarily so: some let the bygones be bygones, going for months without their past lives crossing their minds, while others still keep looking up old classmates, former acquittances now spread all over the country (and Allah forgive, abroad), and continue to do so daily. Which one, especially from an aspirational cosmopolitan perspective, seems like the healthier stance?
Which individual’s measure betrays success, and which one suggests failure?
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Pride, as a biblical sin (the greatest and the root of all, according to religion men), is the long standing problem in Hungarian society, especially the kind of pride where one feels accomplished by measuring themselves to the less fortunate. If your scope, as a Hungarian, is Hungary, then this pride will make you wish ill upon your fellow countrymen; the worse things are going, the better you feel about yourself. This cancerous sociopathy is exacerbated to its purest form when such a Hungarian becomes a geographical — but not mental — expat, mostly by moving to the West to do some menial job: freed from the material dependence on their home country, their malice becomes open and unabashed.
I’m no Bible man myself, but let me bravely present an innovation, the reduction of the deadly sins by one, making envy redundant, as it’s just the inverse of pride. Or, to be more precise, the inverse of malicious pride, so maybe I did not actually succeed at simplifying the word of God. Oh well, there’s only so much innovation that can fit into a Substack post. In pop-sociology terms: if the misfortune of others brings me happiness, the fortune of others brings me unhappiness. Both are the symptoms of the same phenomenon.
To demonstrate the pervasiveness of the latter kind in Hungarian society, let me quote our most esteemed slam poetry collective, Belga:
I lost my job
Feels like shit
I was the best at what I did
Feels like shit
My buddy lost his job too
That's a better feeling
But the woman next door got a job
That feels like shit again
They're going on holiday
Feels like shit
If anybody around me buys a car
Feels like shit
But if they just buys a new button cell for their watch
That's a shitty feeling too
Maybe this deadly sin is encoded in us, Hungarians. For the sake of the argument, for one short paragraph, let it be so: even if I assume it’s the case, an expat, a cosmopolitan’s extended scope should at least remove their exclusive focus from their homeland. Even if they can’t help but be vicious to others, at least a global scope should free us of their unwelcome attention to a great extent; yet it’s demonstrably not the case.
There are massive bubbles on the Hungarian internet where people reiterate their ill will upon their fellow Hungarians, daily, their bile occasionally splashing out into the public, making a nuisance for everyone. Any such festering viper’s nest is a truly revolting sight. Few are called out, though more and more lately. The envious are more numerous, the pride ones are more prominent; of the latter, the expats take the crown. To those, should one read this far, I have one message: you are not cosmopolitan.
I know this, because you’ve never escaped your provincial social scope. Had you done so, you would act differently. You would either leave us alone, or wish us the best.
A blunt, international/American example: when the hick moves to a coastal big city, becomes a neophyte über-liberal, and spends all day shitting on the rubes they left back home (including their very own family), did they successfully transcend their provincial scope, or are they still entrapped by it?
How does actual transcendence, in this example, look like? At least a healthy indifference to what goes on back home. And if the individual is truly as caring, as they often claim to be, any interest should materialize as paternalistic love towards those left below and behind. They are the downtrodden, who always, automatically deserve sympathy, right?
For a Hungarian, for whom the dusty hometown is our tiny nation, loving paternalism towards their birthplace and its people is the mark of a true cosmopolitan.
From Ed West’s substack: