‘Why Hungary?’ The New Yorker Asked Me
The New Yorker noticed my interest in Hungary, and sent Ben Wallace-Wells to Baton Rouge to interview me about it. Excerpts from his piece (which I thought fair):
His time in Hungary was interrupted by book events across Europe. Last week, he tweeted that he had met Pope Francis, briefly, in the Vatican. “I said, ‘Holy Father, I wrote “The Benedict Option.” ’ He took my name tag in his hand, looked at it, then gave me a blank expression. His team trashed the book when it came out in Italy in 2018. C’est la vie.” The depth and sincerity of Dreher’s retreatism has, paradoxically, brought him very close to real power.
That tweet brought me a lot of crap. Most people aren’t aware that when I went to Italy for the Benedict Option book tour in 2018, someone in the Vatican — my publisher did not tell me who — called around to various Italian dioceses asking them not to give me a platform because my book was allegedly against Pope Francis. As far as I know, none agreed to the request. My guess is that it was the Jesuit loudmouth Antonio Spadaro, at the time a close adviser to Francis, and a vocal opponent of my book. Spadaro denounced the book in a 2017 speech at Notre Dame. As editor of the Jesuit journal La Civilta Cattolica, Spadaro published an essay denouncing the Benedict Option as “Donatism.”
And if none of that brought the Benedict Option to the attention of the Pope, the 9/11/2018 Rome speech by Archbishop Georg Gänswein, private secretary of Benedict XVI, praising the book, certainly did. After Monsignor Gänswein delivered it, Vatican journalists in attendance told me that that was going to go off like a bombshell in Francis’s inner circle.
Anyway, I have no doubt that Francis knows what the Benedict Option is, nor do the Vaticanisti who messaged me after that tweet to say they would have loved to have seen his face. I was hoping to have a laugh with the Holy Father about it, but that didn’t happen. So what! That’s the back story. Whether Francis was aware of it or not — and I doubt he was — someone close to him tried to spoil my book tour in Italy. That’s why I took mischievous pleasure in identifying myself to Francis when I met him. As I said at the time: c’est la vie.
More from the NYer piece:
When I asked Dreher whether he was concerned by such complaints, he told me he was, but that “we expect too much of these post-Communist countries if we judge them by Western standards of clean government.”
This is an accurate quote, but I explained at length that corruption is quite common in all the post-communist countries. It doesn’t justify it, but we should recognize that all of them are struggling with a legacy of the communist past.
I think this is an interesting segment of the piece:
Since Dreher’s return from Hungary, he told me, he had been thinking about Orbán in terms of Huey P. Long, the famed Depression-era governor of Louisiana who denounced the oil companies, fired hundreds of bureaucrats, and replaced them with patronage appointments—another corrupt populist. Having met in downtown Baton Rouge, and spent a little while talking while looking out at the unvegetated Mississippi River, we eventually drove a few minutes to Long’s monumental tombstone, on the grounds of the Louisiana statehouse, which was built by Long himself. The statehouse is the tallest building in Baton Rouge surrounded by twenty-seven acres of well-tended but mostly empty gardens; it’s still probably the most interesting-looking structure in the city. We were looking at a monument to a pre-liberal politics while considering a post-liberal future.
Dreher recalled the memories that his late father, raised poor in Depression-era Louisiana, had of Long. “He said, ‘When I was a kid, the only reason we had schoolbooks, new schoolbooks, was because of Huey Long. And so what if Long skimmed a lot off the top? I didn’t care because Long was someone who tamed the oil companies, and broke the oligarchy’s hold on Louisiana’s politics.’ ” There was, Dreher admitted, a “downside” to Long’s governance, in the institutional corruption that he bequeathed to the state. “But you can’t understand why Huey Long got into power until you understand why people voted for him. Same thing with Orbán.”
American conservatives, Dreher went on, were just beginning to intuit how deep this soft totalitarianism ran. “You might not be that political, you might not even be that religious, but you know that your kids, in order to gain access to élite circles in business or anywhere else, are going to have to disavow the things you taught them,” he said. “That’s where you see the parallel between that and what the Romanians are thinking—that your way of life, your traditions, your religion, it’s all unworthy.” Dreher said that he was struck by “how much more clear-eyed the European Christians are about what we’re facing than the American Christians. American Christians are so lost in past glory, and the idea that we’re only one election away from winning America back for Christ, but just not aware of how shallow and fragile the faith is here. Over there, they have lived through generations of de-Christianization.” He talked it through for a little while longer. “America is about ten years away from being where they are, I think.”
The longer we talked about Hungary, the more Dreher returned to the analogy with America, as if by describing Orbán’s struggle in terms of the culture war he might encourage American conservatives to see themselves as more existentially threatened. “I don’t believe anybody is coming to kill us social and religious conservatives,” Dreher said. “But it is beyond clear to me now that the woke left, which controls all the major institutions of American life, will use the power it has to push people like me to the margins, and congratulate itself for its righteousness in doing so.” When I asked why he’d reached out to Carlson, he said, “I’ll tell you exactly what it was. I wanted to move the Overton window.” Dreher said that he believed Orbánism couldn’t work in the United States—we were simply too multicultural a society to rally around an explicit cultural nationalism—but he thought there were elements that American conservatives ought to learn from. (Carlson, in his broadcast, had emphasized the same point.) “Trump fights like a drunk falling off a barstool,” Dreher said. “Orbán fights like people say Trump fights.”
Read the whole thing — and be there when my son Matthew makes his appearance at the bar where we were drinking and talking. None of this is going to be news to regular readers of this blog, but it’s still interesting to see it reflected through a New Yorker writer’s eyes. I thought the piece was fair and accurate, which is the best one can hope for. I do wish that he had indicated that my concern about wokeness is not just over LGBT matters, but also about racial identity politics. LGBT is the neuralgic point on religious liberty, though, because that’s where the clash is. And I wish Wallace-Wells had mentioned my point that the actual racist party in Hungary, Jobbik, is formally allied with the anti-Orban left — a fact that never seems to make it into the Western media’s coverage of Hungary.
Most of the interview took place over the course of a long afternoon, but Wallace-Wells tried to reach me by phone for a follow up interview. I was in the Tuscan hill town of Montalcino that day, and had bad phone service, plus no WiFi at the hotel. Wallace-Wells sent the questions by e-mail, and I answered them, and sent them back to him the next day when we stopped in another town to eat, and found a WiFi signal. Below is what I sent. You should appreciate that a journalist catches a whale of an answer like this in his net, and has to pare it down to sashimi size:
About the structural changes: Yes, I have heard these complaints, and yes, they do somewhat undermine my support for the Orban government, but don’t negate it, or even close. In my writing about it this summer, I repeatedly cited the fact that even Fidesz supporters I would ask about it would complain to me about the party’s tolerance for corruption. Not knowing the Hungarian language, I couldn’t investigate this on my own, but I heard it often enough – even from those who voted for Fidesz before, and will vote for them again – that I accepted it, or most of it, as true.
What troubles people the most, I found, is the money issue – Orban’s crony capitalism. Nobody likes it at all, and I can’t blame them. The mitigating factors, according to the many people I talked to about it, are these:
- The economy is doing much better overall under Fidesz than under the previous Socialist government, which makes the corruption easier to tolerate. Over and over, whether talking to business executives or baristas, I heard some version of: yeah, Fidesz is way too easy on corruption, but the opposition will destroy the economy. The last time I heard this in Hungary was from the old cab driver who took me to the airport to leave the country. He went on for a while about how Westerners like me only see the relative wealthy parts of the country, like Budapest, but never see the intense poverty in Hungary’s East. His anger at the Orban government for not addressing this surpassed his abilities to express it adequately in English, which was almost comic at times. And yet, when I asked him who he was going to vote for next year, he said Fidesz, without hesitation, because he was afraid that if the Left regained power, they would end up wrecking the country. This line of thinking reminded me of why so many American social conservatives I know ended up voting for Donald Trump in 2020, despite having little confidence in him: because the Left would be worse.
- Hungarians accept government corruption as part of life. An American diplomat stationed in the region told me that both the Left and the Right in the US only understand Hungary and Central Europe through American political categories. In truth, he said, by far the biggest problem in all these countries is corruption, which is a legacy of the Communist years. Indeed, talking to Hungarians about this, both pro-Fidesz and anti-Fidesz, nearly all of them told me that the previous Left government was spectacularly corrupt, and they expect the next Left government to be corrupt as well. The people seem to have accepted corruption as a political fact of life, to a degree that shocks me as a Westerner. Nevertheless, given that reality, it does kind of even out in the wash. I shared a cab with a young woman across Budapest once, and got into a discussion with her about her country’s politics. I asked her about the corruption issue. She readily admitted that the Fidesz government had far too much tolerance for corruption, and that it bothered her a lot. But, she said, there’s a kind of corruption that’s worse than financial corruption – and she brought up gender ideology, which is to say, the idea that gender is fluid, and that transgenderism should be protected in law, and so forth. She told me something to the effect that a country can survive financial corruption, but if it becomes morally corrupted, it’s all over. I agree with her on that.
I had an anguished conversation with a middle-aged Catholic woman in Hungary. She told me that her 19-year-old son had asked her recently if she had ever kissed a girl. When she expressed shock that he would dare to ask his mother a question like that, he explained that same-sex experimentation was common in his peer group. The woman told me that her son only reads and watches English-language media, including entertainment media. She blames Netflix (by name) and others for socializing and acculturating her son’s generation to debased American standards of sexual morality. She’s right about that. Funnily enough, traveling through Italy these past ten days on my book tour, I’ve met a surprising number of Italian conservatives – not think-tank intellectuals, who are my usual crowd here, but normies – who startled me with their anti-Americanism. It’s the same kind of thing: they blame American pop culture for debasing their kids. They’re right to, in my judgment. What startled me, though, was how this sometimes went hand in hand with sympathy for Vladimir Putin’s government. The argument seemed to be that whatever Putin’s faults, at least he won’t force us to be woke. This was the same thing I heard from some Hungarians when I expressed concern about Orban’s flirting with the Chinese. Personally, I am far more worried about Orban and the Chinese than I am about Orban and anything else. I do note, however, that many ordinary Hungarians seem to be open to the Chinese for the same reason that Italians are open to the Russians: because they fear American cultural hegemony more than they fear whatever Russia and China stand for.
This is not something I had imagined before going to Hungary. And frankly, it blows my mind that this kind of thing is never reported on in the US media. The American people have no idea how much our country’s progressivist pop culture disgusts people in other countries, even European countries. Of course, the Hungarian woman I spoke to ended up conceding that her son’s generation may well be lost on these questions – which, if true, means that Hungary, as a democracy, will eventually become a Magyar Sweden. That might be inevitable, but I certainly understand why people like her – and she’s a Fidesz supporter – are angry about it.
Also, I became friends with a former European Union official – not a Hungarian, but a Western European – who now works in Budapest. He spoke at length, and with real anger, about the corruption he dealt with in Brussels, but which was widely tolerated because the Eurocrats think that they are on the side of righteousness. He believes them to be quite hypocritical, employing double standards constantly against the former Soviet bloc members of the EU, and justifying it because they believe these countries are backwards and need to be tutored in how to be proper European liberals.
- It matters to them that Orban re-nationalized some companies that had been bought by foreigners after Communism’s fall. Hungarians are fierce about their sovereignty. They believed – correctly, I think, as a matter of principle – that if their major industries are owned by foreigners, that they have much less say over the direction of their country. One woman told me that yes, the corruption bothers her a lot, but this is something that can be dealt with through reform legislation, if the Hungarian people push parliament to do so. But if major industries are owned by foreigners, Hungarians are at the mercy of people who may not have their national interest at heart.
Again, you’ll find in my writing, and in the interviews I gave to Hungarian media this past summer, I often brought up corruption as a black mark against Fidesz. That said, I left Hungary agreeing with the consensus that as bad as the corruption is, it is on balance better to have Fidesz in power than the opposition – which I came to believe would do nothing about the corruption problem, other than change the beneficiaries, and who would introduce forms of corruption that Fidesz rejects. Corruption comes in forms other than stealing, you know.
About the judges situation, I talked to a number of Hungarians about this, and had similar conversations with conservative Poles when I was in Warsaw; as you may know, the ruling party in Poland carried out a similar purge of the judiciary, and received similar criticism. The answer I got was that so many of these judges were holdovers from the Communist period, and were seen (by my conservative interlocutors) as corrupt. I do wonder how many such judges could have been holding on for thirty years after the demise of Communism, but I heard this explanation so often, and from some very smart people, that I assumed there must be truth to it. But again, I really don’t know for sure.
The bottom line: whatever the truth is on the details of any of this, corruption does indeed dampen my enthusiasm for the Orban model, and I don’t see at all that it is central to it. I spoke to enough Hungarians this summer to know that corruption is the Fidesz Achilles heel, and that only the perceived incompetence of the opposition, and their perceived vulnerability to corruption, will win Orban the votes of dissatisfied Hungarians. That said, I sense that we in the West expect too much of those post-communist countries if we judge them by Western standards of clean government.
Did you read “The Light That Failed,” by Stephen Holmes and Ivan Krastev? They’re two Western liberals who analyze in that book why liberal democracy and free markets didn’t take off as the West hoped in the post-communist countries. They brought up a widespread tolerance in all those countries for corruption. You simply couldn’t get anything done in the Communist era without engaging in it. This is a lasting legacy, they lament. This is not to say that corruption is good, or even benign, but it is to say that it’s an unfortunate fact of life that has to be taken into account when judging any and all government in the region. I believe we talked about this re: Huey Long in Louisiana. He was massively corrupt, but he did a hell of a lot of good for the state in his day. But he saddled the state with a system that accepted corruption as part of life in government.
The bottom line for me is that I would prefer a liberal democracy based generally on Christian principles, and that tolerated a wide range of free expression and practice. In other words, I would prefer the flawed liberal democracy that we had in our country until about thirty years ago, to the illiberal secularist democracy now coming into existence. John Adams famously said that our constitution is made for a moral and religious people, but would be inadequate to govern any other. We now are beginning to see the truth of that observation, as liberalism outside the boundaries set by the Judeo-Christian tradition degenerates into illiberalism – an illiberalism that renders people like me into enemies of the people, to use the old Communist phrase. This is the situation that we’re all in now, and we had better recognize it. I believe that the United States is entering into a period like Spain in the early 1930s. If I were a Spaniard of that era, I would prefer that we lived in a normal liberal democracy. But Spaniards of Left, Right, and Center were eventually not given that choice. If I had been a Spaniard then, I would have had to have chosen between the unsavory Nationalists, and people on the Left who hailed Stalin, burned churches, and threw priests down wells. There’s not much choice there, is it?
Viktor Orban is not Francisco Franco, nor is the Euro-positive Hungarian Left like the Spanish Communists. But the dynamic is quite similar. And it’s true in America as well. We all seem to be barreling towards a future that is not liberal and democratic, but is going to be either left illiberalism, or right illiberalism. If that’s true, then I know which side I’m on: the side that isn’t going to persecute me and my people. In Rome recently, I met a Syrian Catholic who fled to Europe to escape persecution back home. “Do you think we love Assad?” he said, speaking of Christians like him. “No. We support him because he is the only thing standing between us and the radical Muslims who want to kill us.”
We’re in a much less fraught, but still related, drama here in the West. I don’t believe anybody is coming to kill us social and religious conservatives. But it is beyond clear to me now that the woke left, which controls all the major institutions of American life, will use the power it has to push people like me to the margins, and congratulate itself for its righteousness in so doing. I say that as someone who does not at all want to do that to gays, racial minorities, and others. I don’t know a single American conservative who wants to push gays back in the closet, reinstitute racial discrimination against minorities, or anything else. If I did, I would oppose those conservatives. But the left doesn’t feel that way about us.
No matter how strenuously American and Western European liberals deny it. We have never had an honest conversation in America about the irreconcilability of gay rights with religious liberty for traditional Christians, Jews, Muslims, and others who do not fully endorse the gay rights agenda. I remember back in the 2000s, when the gay marriage fight went national in a big way. The standard line one heard was something like, “How does my neighbor’s gay marriage hurt me?” – the idea being that obviously it does not, therefore opposition to gay marriage can only come from irrational hatred. That was never true, but the media ignored it, preferring the narrative that would lead to the outcome they desired.
In 2006, Maggie Gallagher published in the Weekly Standard a really interesting article about same-sex marriage, based on a bunch of interviews she did with legal scholars on both sides of the issue. They all agreed that there was no way to reconcile the two claims, at least when religious liberty conflicts with gay rights. The most interesting interview was with Chai Feldblum, then a Georgetown Law professor, and an advocate of gay rights. Feldblum had grown up in an Orthodox Jewish home, and had later, as an out lesbian, advocated for gay rights. But she understood the religious objections, and took them seriously. She told Gallagher that in the end, we cannot fully protect religious liberty and fully protect gay rights – and when the two conflict, said Feldblum, religious liberty has to give way.
I appreciated her honesty. This honesty was non-existent in the media at the time, no doubt because they understood that to investigate this conflict would result in making it plain to the American people the kind of trade-offs they faced – and that this might hurt the gay rights cause.
During this period, there were a number of state referendums in which voters rejected same-sex marriage. The same liberals who denounce Viktor Orban for anti-democratic practices had no regard for democracy back then, when voters produced a result they didn’t like. (Similarly, regarding the judiciary in Hungary, you will recall that some prominent liberal thinkers in recent years have floated the idea of expanding the Supreme Court to weaken court conservatives, who came to power by following our system.) How much regard to the woke corporations have for the democratic decisions made by elected state legislators that go against what wokeness proclaims to be just and right? They set out to punish those states. These corporations, who are accountable to no one in our democracy, behave like lawless oligarchs to push their woke social agenda. Where are the liberal defenders of democracy then?
When I hear liberals today complain about Orban subverting democracy, I know perfectly well that this is a “who, whom?” matter, not one of principle. It’s “who, whom?” all the way down.
Similarly on the question of race, I was educated and formed morally in the post-Civil Rights period. Kids of my generation, even in the Deep South, where I grew up, were taught that what Martin Luther King stood for was true and correct, and in fact profoundly Christian. This is true! I still believe it’s true. But now we are told by the American left that that’s not true, that in fact what the old segregationists believed – in race essentialism – is actually the case. I find this profoundly illiberal, and profoundly anti-Christian.
But this is how it is with the Western left: they sacralize certain people as victims, removing them from normal politics. It’s highly illiberal, but this is what passes for liberal democracy in the United States. This parasitic, illiberal leftism has come to exist within the institutions, structures, and practices of liberal democracy.
So, when American liberals complain about what Orban is doing to minorities they favor, I roll my eyes. They complain that academics are being forced out. First of all, I don’t know that I believe that, but even if it were true, have you seen what the campus left, including the administration, is doing to Joshua Katz at Princeton. They’re trying to drive this distinguished Classics professor – a liberal! – out because he dissents from the woke race ideology that has conquered the university. It’s an ideology that has conquered the Classics department, and has one of Katz’s onetime protegés, Dan-el Padilla Peralta, recently saying on a video Princeton put out for incoming freshmen, that he believes in free speech only in the case of advancing social justice causes, and that he thinks Princeton students should be taught to tear down the university.
It is almost funny the degree to which woke liberals are blind to their own manic illiberalism, and how their actions look to anyone to the right of them. I’m supposed to be grieved over how Viktor Orban is being mean to CEU, when back in my own country, leftist professors and leftist administrators are making it all but impossible for any non-woke professor or student to thrive on campus, or even to exist peaceably? Please.
I don’t know what Viktor Orban’s motives were for sending CEU packing, but if it was to prevent wokeness from gaining a foothold in Hungary and corrupting Hungarian elites, then I think he has done a service to his country. The woke are destroying American higher education. That is perfectly clear. And liberal democracy, as we understand it, is doing nothing to stop them.
About the Roma, I don’t know much, to be honest. I was surprised by the first meeting I had with a state official on my fellowship, a leading parliamentarian. He talked in our conversation about Fidesz’s programs to help the Roma. I was new in the country, and assumed that he was just putting a happy face on it. But I talked to others outside the government, and they told me that many of the Roma actually support Fidesz.
There is an openly racist, anti-Roma, anti-Semitic party in Hungary, and it’s called Jobbik. It is truly a far-right party. Last December, it formally united with the leftist opposition, in an effort to drive Orban from office. You don’t read that in the Western media, do you? It would complicate the narrative. Again, it’s the hypocrisy of the thing. Look at the discourse among American elites about “whiteness”. Anti-white racism is everywhere among elites, especially woke white elites, so I take nothing they say about Orban seriously.
About Muslims, I don’t know how many Muslims are in Hungary, but there’s no doubt that the Orban government is anti-Muslim, and doesn’t want Muslim migrants. I think this is a wise position for a European country to take, given the evidence in other European countries. In the US, we have been able to assimilate Muslim immigrants, but for whatever reasons, that has not been true in Europe. When I was in France this summer, I was unnerved by how frightened the French are by the prospect of intense and widespread violence emerging from the immigrant suburbs. There was talk of civil war. This was the summer when Israeli-Palestinian violence sparked anti-Semitic attacks in many Western European capitals, and in New York and Los Angeles. There were none of those in Hungary. I walked through the Jewish quarter to and from work every day. There were no police guarding synagogues or Jewish businesses. There didn’t have to be. It’s obvious why not. Multiculturalist ideologues don’t want to hear this, but it’s true.
Look, I don’t think Orban or the Hungarians are models of cosmopolitan liberalism. But they seem to understand that the lands of Europe were made by the peoples who settled there, and they can be unmade if enough different people settle there. If they kept Americans like me from settling there, because they considered me and my values to be a threat to Magyarness, I wouldn’t blame them at all. George Soros promotes open borders liberalism and globalized capitalism. Viktor Orban knows well that both things are a threat to the integrity and sovereignty of his country. He also has said in the past that Hungary’s national identity is inextricably tied to the Christian religion, and that he wants to protect that, even as he is notably — and correctly — pro-Jewish. I think people on the left are so wedded to the narrative of Christians-as-oppressors that they never once think about the restraint that Christianity puts, however imperfectly, on our worst impulses. If Orban fails to ground Hungarian democracy in Christian thought and practice, then something quite ugly and racist may well arise. I think often about Ross Douthat’s great line: if you don’t like the Religious Right, wait till you see the Post-Religious Right.
I don’t know anything about the thing you bring up about Orban kicking out a bunch of other churches. I would have to look it up to have an opinion on it, and I don’t think I have time before your deadline. Nevertheless, if it’s true as you report, then of course that troubles me. It also troubles me that in Russia, Evangelicals and Jehovah’s Witnesses lack the religious liberty that Orthodox Christians like me have. That’s wrong! However, we are moving quickly to a de facto situation here in the US in which the religious liberty of traditionalist Christians – that is, non-woke Christians – is going to diminish greatly. If the Equality Act passes, all churches and religious institutions that hold to the Biblical view of homosexuality will be treated as pariahs in law and culture, reduced to the same level as the Ku Klux Klan. Do progressives and liberals not see that? We on the Right do.
One of the key facts of what I call “soft totalitarianism” in my recent book is that this ideology is taking power within the structures of liberal democracy. Take Amazon’s decision earlier this year to stop selling books that present transgenderism as a pathology. Amazon has the right to sell, or to not sell, whatever it wants. But Amazon controls so much of the US retail book market that if it decides not to sell books that take a particular moral or political position, then Amazon will have effectively exiled that debate from the public square. No publisher can afford to take the risk of coming out with a book that Amazon won’t sell. All of this is happening within liberal democracy, which is one reason why this totalitarianism is treading softly into dominance.
Another thought: This is all really about what Alasdair MacIntyre saw in ‘After Virtue,’ which is forty years old now. We in the West have lost our common frame of reference – Christianity, and its liberal democratic successor — which binds us and gives us a framework for reasoning together. This is only becoming clear as actual Christian practice and identification fades away. This is why the Civil Rights Movement was led by black pastors, who advocated in Biblical language and concepts, and it succeeded. No such movement could happen today. America is post-Christian. But lacking any kind of common referent in transcendent values, politics becomes a struggle of power, and only power. What we’re living with now is only going to get more intense, and nasty.
In the end, whatever his faults as a politician and statesman, Viktor Orban seems almost alone on the Western stage as recognizing that we are living through the dissolution of the West as a cohesive, comprehensible civilization. Mass immigration, the end of Christianity and the rise of militant laïcité throughout the West, sexual radicalism, the woke hatred of Western history, and so forth – all of these are coalescing in a storm that is going to wipe out the West as we have known it. Orban might lose. He probably will lose. But at least he will go down fighting.
Come to think of it, two eminent Hungarians – George Soros and Viktor Orban – offer conflicting visions of what it means to be Western in the 21st century. One of them has to win. Sides have to be taken. Orban is no saint, but I know whose side I’m on. I know whose side I have to be on.
That was the end of my e-mail to Ben Wallace-Wells. I think that Soros vs. Orban conflict, with each Hungarian man symbolizing a conflicting vision of what it means to be Western in the 21st century, is pretty good, actually.