The to only penalise their act as vandalism.

Topic: CrimeChild Abuse
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Last updated: August 22, 2019

The collective memory of HungaryAnalysis of two examples: World War Iand Collective Punishment of Roma Collective memories influence a great deal how people of agiven country view themselves as a nation and their history in general. In thisshort analysis, we will look at how World War I (‘The Great War’) and theongoing hostility toward Roma minorities in Hungary have been recorded in ourcollective national memory, based on two studies published in ‘Fundamentum’ and’Tempevölgy’. First, we will briefly outline the second issue, namely theissue of collective punishment of the Roma minority in Hungary. According tothe article of Jovánovics and Pap (2013), in 2013 there were two very differentcourt sentences on two different crimes involving Roma perpetrators. In one ofthe cases, 8 members of the Roma community were sentenced mainly because oftheir alleged hate of Hungarians as a nation, rather than because of the actualconsequences of their crime. The authors point out that this case clearly demonstratesa strong feeling of collective victimhood on the part of Hungarians and eventhe Court of First Instance.

In the second case, however, the Court ruled thatthere was no well-founded evidence for the perpetrators acting out of extremistanti-Hungarian feelings, and decided to only penalise their act as vandalism.Both cases happened one after the other, and both in the country ofBorsod-Abaúj-Zemplén. The article also highlights that both crimes were committedin the same year and shortly after the traumatic events of racist serial murderdirected against various Roma families. In addition, in the first case theaccused had attacked a car that was circulating continuously and at an oddlyslow pace around Muszka, a village mostly inhabited by Gypsies. The assailantsclaimed that they had acted out of fear that there might be skinheads in thecar about to endanger their families. In the second case, the conflict aroseout of a heated event organized by Jobbik and its then still functioning MagyarGárda. The authors of the article call their readers’ attention tothe fact that based on the situational contexts outlined above, there was noreasonable justification to accuse the defendants of acting out of extremeanti-Hungarian sentiments, ie.

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that they were committing a so-called hatecrime. Furthermore, both groups of Roma were collectively punished, withouttaking into account their individual responsibility and actions. Jovánovics and Pap go so far as to qualify the outcomes ofthe first trial as a 21th century ‘witch hunt’. In fact, even some human rightsrelated organizations called the attention to the biased nature of the courtsentence.

As for the authors of the article, they question the validity ofportaying any crime against the national majority of a country as a hate crime(in this writer’s view, quite rightly). In other words, since the legalcategory of ‘hate crimes’ has been established to protect the rights ofvulnerable and underprivileged groups, it cannot be applied to the vast majorityin a given country, even if at an individual level we can ascertain that oneparticular minority member (in this case, a Roma) is or was indeed prejudicedand even hostile towards Hungarians because of their nationality.After briefly looking at the collective victimisation ofHungarians in the context of ethnic conflicts, let us now shift our attentionto another interesting example of the collective Hungarian mindset: ourmemories of World War I, or, as it was referred to in Hungary as well as other partsof Europe, ‘The Great War’.

According to Szarka (2015), any significant eventusually  only remains part of thecollective memory of the families that experienced it for no longer than 60-70years. However, it seems that for some reason ‘The Great War’ is an exceptionto this rule, as even today we hear of long-lost diaries and photos ofgreat-great-grandparents and other instances of reliving the trauma of thistragic conflict and its consequences. According to the article, the nationaltrauma of Trianon, although an important factor, was not nearly the only reasonfor the depth and sheer force of these memories.

 World War I brought an enormous change for Hungary evenbefore Trianon or the massive losses of human lives. In the period of peace andprosperity right before the war, Hungary had begun an almost unprecedentedprocess of urbanization and modernization. It seemed that the average Europeanwages and standard of living were no longer out of reach for the nation as awhole, even if urbanisation often brought along its own set of problems on asocial level. When the armed conflicts began, Hungary, as many other countries,welcomed it at first with a wave of idealistic euphory. However, the massiverecruitment disturbed the established daily routines and processes of theemerging cities. Trade rates soon dwindled as the number of the employeddecreased with the recruitment of each soldier. This in turn led to increasedunemployment, unpaid taxes and even less spending.

 The article also calls attention to the observations of TiborSzenti, an etnography expert who, upon reading hundreds of letters written bysoldiers of the time, came to the conclusion that the very sense of timechanged during the war period. Time sometimes seemed to stand still for months,and other times seemed to accelerate to an unbearable stream of events. On theone hand, soldiers on the fronts often didn’t notice for as long as 2-3 daysthat they hadn’t eaten at all, being completely engulfed in the life-or-deathsituation surrounding them. On the other hand, at times the same soldiers wereidle at camp, unable to reach their families, for whom the daily toil andpoverty that the loss of male workforce meant also decelerated and unified timeas an endless, monotonous state of agony with no possible escape route. In conclusion, both articles call our attention to how thecollective mindset of our community can influence either the way we view others(as in the first article), or how (and why) we remember major historicalevents. Therefore, it is of huge importance that we do not forget what asubstantial effect the larger community can have on our cognitive and affectiveideas.

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