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Hungary, Holdout Of Sanity

In 2020, Reuters found a Hungarian trans couple angry at Orban government for banning trans recognition (Source)

As  I was going through my morning Twitter and news feed, I came across a reference to this, from a major health information website’s article about how lesbians have sex:

Do you see what’s happening? These totalitarians are rewriting the script for reality, in the name of wokeness. This is nothing to laugh at! This is utterly serious. From my book Live Not By Lies, this from a conversation with a Polish professor:

What is harder for contemporary people to appreciate is how we are repeating the Marxist habit of falsifying language, hollowing out familiar words and replacing them with a new, highly ideological meaning. Propaganda not only changes the way we think about politics and contemporary life but it also conditions what a culture judges worth remembering.

I mention the way liberals today deploy neutral-sounding, or even positive, words like dialogue and tolerance to disarm and ultimately defeat unaware conservatives. And they imbue other words and phrases—hierarchy, for example, or traditional family—with negative connotations.

Recalling life under communism, the professor continues, “The people who lived only within such a linguistic sphere, who didn’t know any other way to speak, they could really start believing in this way of using of words. If a word carries with it negative baggage, it becomes impossible to have a discussion about the phenomenon.”

Teaching current generations of college students who grew up in the postcommunist era is challenging because they do not have a natural immunity to the ideological abuse of language. “For me, it’s obvious. I remember this false use of language. But for our students, it’s impossible to understand.”

How did people keep hold of reality under communist conditions? How do they know not only what to remember but how to remember it? The answer was to create distinct small communities—especially families and religious fellowships—in which it was possible both to speak truthfully and to embody truth.

“They had social spaces where the real meaning of words was preserved,” he says. “For me, it’s less important to argue with such a view of the world”—progressivism, he means—“than to describe reality as it is. For example, our task is to show people what a normal, monogamous family looks like.”

To paraphrase Orwell in Nineteen Eighty-Four, it is not by winning an argument but by keeping yourself grounded in reality that you carry on the human heritage.

Yeah, I have a book to sell, but seriously, if you haven’t read Live Not By Lies, it’s something you really have to get your hands on to understand what to do in this Brave New World. It’s all there. The people who lived through Soviet Communism have experience with this stuff.

Everybody’s asking me to respond to Andrew Sullivan’s Friday jeremiad against Hungary and Tucker Carlson, and I will, though you have been reading me this summer will have heard most of it. Let me say here something you will not have read from me as a reason Anglo-American conservatives are looking towards Hungary with renewed interest: it’s because Hungary shows that you can be a modern, cosmopolitan Western society without surrendering to the crackpot pseudo-reality of gender ideology. What’s more, Hungary has a government and a society that is not willing to surrender its youth to these malignant lies.

Here in the US, we do not have a state-run media — but when it comes to propaganda of the cultural left, we don’t need one. They’re all taking the same line. You will only see happy-clappy stories about transgenderism. You will not see things like this:

Look at this. Do you ever see this reality on network television, or in the major media? Women who want surgeons to create for them a pseudo-penis have to undergo a graft from a forearm to give doctors material from which to build the fake phallus. This young woman’s arm will be mutilated for life. Hungarians don’t want their children to have their minds colonized by the ideology that convinces healthy young women to submit to these ghoulish procedures.

I found that image in this very powerful 2020 essay by someone named Kamilla V., which was shared with me by a reader. It begins like this:

No one confessed the machine was out of hand. Year by year it was served with increased efficiency and decreased intelligence. The better a man knew his own duties upon it, the less he understood the duties of his neighbour, and in all the world there was not one who understood the monster as a whole.

E. M. Forster’s novella, The Machine Stops, was published in 1909. It is set in the distant future. The human race lives underground in pod-like dwellings, their lives mediated by what we would now recognize as a kind of Internet of Things. The history of the world is constantly refalsified, and the main occupation of the populace is the cultivation of ‘ideas,’ which has replaced all previous forms of human endeavour. A Central Committee oversees the entire system. There is a tiny minority of isolated dissenters who have held on to the memory of the world as it was long ago, but they are considered outcasts and live in danger of punishment, the worst being death by exposure to the toxic air at the surface of the earth.


Dissociation from the physical reality of one’s body, or any part of it, used to be recognized as a form of mental illness. Eccentric behaviour such as crossdressing in males was regarded as a more or less harmless fetish. Today ‘identities’ are proliferating, and they are publicly enforced and policed. Men declare themselves to be women, say that they always were women, and are rewarded with stylish photos of themselves on the covers of women’s fashion magazines. They may undergo chemical and surgical interventions that aim to create a ‘female’ body. But whether it is a male or a female body that is being tampered with, the manufactured pseudoparts do not work anything like the real ones. And Mother Nature recognizes them as wounds, and is constantly trying to heal them.

Trauma can drive us to take refuge in alternative, self-created worlds. It’s hard to cope with life in a society ruled by elites whose interests are served by keeping the masses in a state of confusion and anxiety, so that the latent possibilities of individual lives are not allowed to manifest. It’s easy to see why individual ‘identity’ has become a way of regaining some sense of power and control. Many of us know what it’s like to be confused and dissociated from our bodies. But the job of those who can help a person in such a state is to support them in healing from their trauma, to learn to love the body they have, and to reconnect and interact with their real environment. Instead, the whole world is expected to conform to the dictates of a mass delusion.

We are supposed to forget the historical record of what life has been like for women, and the real reasons they have to fear the invasion of male-bodied persons into their sex-specific spaces. Many of the sex-based rights and protections that women struggled for decades and even centuries to establish are now being annihilated with astonishing rapidity, as men and boys can declare themselves to be female, often without undergoing any form of body modification. Any suggestion that the danger to women and girls is real is likely to be met with accusations of bigotry or worse.

Kamilla talks about how language is being twisted and distorted to serve these lies. We are taught to ignore what is plainly in front of us:

It is no longer acceptable to believe our eyes, or the testimony of medical science, when it comes to the sex of a human being at birth. In order to avoid the trauma of being arbitrarily ‘assigned’ to the wrong gender, children are to be born as neither male nor female. Doctors and other health care professionals are supposed to ignore the evidence of their senses, to use ‘gender neutral’ words for what are clearly male and female body parts, or to pretend that the person they are treating is the opposite sex of the sex they actually are, if that is how they ‘identify’ themselves.

Organizations that used to represent women and mothers now refer to ‘menstruators,’ ‘uterus havers,’ and ‘birthing persons’. Women’s vaginas are called ‘front holes.’ It’s not breastfeeding, it’s ‘chestfeeding’.

History is blatantly falsified. Individuals who engaged in gender non-conforming behaviour are now regularly described as having been transgender. Women who wore ‘male’ clothing in order to survive in a hostile environment, or to follow a career that would otherwise have been closed to them, were “transmen.” Are we supposed to endorse the fate of such as Alan Turing, who was forcibly injected with artificial female hormones in an attempt to ‘cure’ him of his homosexuality?

I am told that I belong to a newly minted class of oppressors: the ‘cis,’ who enjoy some kind of privilege because they recognize that the sex they were born as is the sex they are. But I am not a ‘cis.’ My mother was not a ‘cis.’ My grandmothers were not ‘cis.’ There is no such thing as a ‘cis.’

Public criticism of these developments was permitted by the mass media for the equivalent of a nanosecond, and rapidly quashed around the time we were all told to call Bruce “Caitlyn.” One has to assume that the managers of the big media outlets got the memo from their bankrollers. And who are in the overwhelming majority of those now censored, banned from social media, ‘deplatformed,’ losing their friends and even their livelihoods, because they dissent from the new gender doctrine? Women. Actual, real women. Women who refuse to talk in UnicornRainbow Newspeak are doubleplusungood.

Kamilla goes on to show how transgender ideology is preparing us all to accept transhumanism, which is the end of man. She concludes:

The technologically sophisticated shadow play in which we are supposed to believe is less real than the dreams made visible in the early days of cinema. Transgenderism regards the human body, male and female, as the raw material of gender fantasies. Transhumanism turns the human body into a machine, and equates the measurable activity of the human brain with the human soul. Both are heavily promoted as a substitute for freedom, the kind of freedom that would enable human beings to fulfil their potential on earth.

When the fantasies of gender and of machine-humans both fail, where will the soul be? It is there, even if everyone forgets about it, in each individual and behind the universal human experience. Those who refuse to abandon reality will be here to pick up the pieces when the soul-denying dream dies.

Please read the whole thing — it will be the most important thing you’ve read all day. 

I’ve quoted in this space a couple of times something a young woman sharing a cab with me across Budapest said when I asked her why she was supporting Fidesz, Viktor Orban’s party, in spite of the corruption in its elite circles. She told me (I’m paraphrasing from memory) that all corruption is bad, but financial corruption is within the realm of the normal, and can be dealt with. But the kind of corruption evidenced by losing the cultural memory of what a family is, and what men and women are — that’s something far, far worse. Unlike the parties of the Left (and, she might have said, most parties of the Right in the West), Fidesz has not succumbed to this kind of corruption. This matters. 

She’s right: it does matter. I’ll get to Andrew’s passionate denunciation in due course (I really don’t look forward to starting another long Magyar apologia, but I will), but you should know that when he denounces the Orban government for hostility to LGBTs, you should not regard it as Western liberals (of right and left do): as nothing more than blind prejudice. These folks cannot understand why any conservative would reject their ideology regarding LGBT as anything other than bigotry. They are incapable of thinking beyond their rigid categories. Read Kamilla V. on the subject. For all I know, she is a lesbian; her complaint is not about homosexuality, but about the abuse of language to normalize transgenderism, and how this is preparing us for something even worse. One can be in favor of gay rights and the normalization of homosexuality and still oppose transgenderism (the TERFs are such people), but if one’s embrace of gay rights is on the basis that everyone has unlimited freedom to construct his or her identity, sexual and otherwise, then you have abandoned any ground from which you can criticize the trans phenomenon.

For now, a majority of Hungarians  — who, by the way, live in a country where gays can have civil partnerships — would prefer to keep this ideology out, having seen how it has corrupted the West. And people wonder why a certain kind of American conservative looks to Hungary as a holdout of sanity.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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