On the Floyd-Case and Beyond – The Weekly 12

Márton Gyöngyösi

19/06/2020

           

Let us be clear at the outset: it is entirely unacceptable when a police officer kneels on the neck of a defenceless person until they suffocate. However, it is equally revolting when some take advantage of the tragedy of George Floyd and use it for their political purposes to annihilate opponents.

Brutality of US police is a long overdue problem that roots deeply in American society. 

It did not start with the inauguration of Donald Trump as some would like to see it, and it is not only aimed at black people.

It is undisputedly related to the ultraliberal right to keep and bear arms or the enormous social inequalities characteristic of the US.      

Clearly, Mr Trump’s highly undiplomatic stint in office so far did not help ease the pain, to say the least. However, the liberal political elite and media can also be made responsible for aggravating an already difficult situation threatening with explosion.

Unfolding ideological battles will most certainly not contribute to eliminating social tensions.              

Victims of this battle will continue to be those marginalized and called into fight on either side. 

Unfortunately, it is the most symbolic element of this predominantly American social crisis that made its way to Europe, namely the vandalization of statues and historic monuments.

In Great Britain, statues of Cecil Rhodes became a target, who was not only a pioneer of British colonialism and supremacy in Africa, but also a generous sponsor of higher education. Statues of King Leopold II can be found all over Belgium, but certainly not because of the atrocities he conducted in the Congo but because of the development Belgium experienced during his reign. Some are calling now for the removal of his statues. Churchill’s statue was damaged and stained in my hometown Budapest.

Such developments are extremely distracting for several reasons. 

If the Western civilization has any real value and advantage compared to other cultures, it must be freedom and plurality of expression that allows for a nuanced, layered and complex set of opinions and interpretations of – inter alia – history.

Through functional institutions such as parlamentarism, free academic and scientific research, media or civil society the plurality of opinion has shaped the collective memory of entire societies whereby historical figures such as the ones named above received their place in a nation’s pantheon, with all their greatness but also their failures and sins.

Americans or Western Europeans, who have experienced a linear development of democratic pluralism in the past centuries, might not appreciate this as much as those raised in post-Communist reality, where there is a continuous attempt to re-write and re-interpret history according to the taste of prevailing elites. 

This mentality is a living legacy of Bolshevism, which is set to tailor everything to its own one-dimensional vision, eradicating everything that does not suit its beliefs. However, as Bolshevik-minded protagonists are visibly and abundantly present in Western elites, especially since the 1968 movement, developed democracies seem to be equally vulnerable to this tendency.     

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