Hungary: A Dangerous Precedent for an Uncertain Future

If you have read the news recently, you may have come across a headline so preposterous, it seemed like something from the Onion, however, it’s true, Hungary has introduced a legislation that would effectively ban Gender Studies as a degree option from public universities. Specifically, they would drop its accreditation and all financial support for the program. This triggered a thought in me that sees how dangerous the implications from a move like this could really be.

What I’m thinking of exactly, is a word that could describe much of the political movements in Europe during the 20th century; Ideology, or rather, forced ideology.  This is actually much larger than the sudden banning of one particular major for “economic” reasons. This is a targeted attack on the very idea of free and open thought.  What makes academic institutions partially what they are? It is the allowance, and also tolerance of an open exchange of ideas and perspectives on whatever subject you may be interested in.  

Since Hungary’s departure from the clutches of the Soviet Union in 1989, they have always maintained a level of political understanding and even agreeance with their former occupiers.  Viktor Orban, the current head of state for the Eastern European nation, has set a dangerous precedent. Political ideology has wreathed its way into his administration's position on the open exchange of ideas.  In this case, I will be rather blunt with you regardless of your political or religious leanings, a Christian Nationalist government platform that seeks to regulate academic thought is both a dangerous and scary reality.

It isn’t about barring a controversial major from public education, it's about regulating the “message” colleges give to their students.  To anyone who understands the history of the last century, this should be raising a TON of red flags. The Hungarian government's stance of “illiberal democracy” chillingly echoes anti-democratic themes of 1920’s Italy, where Benito Mussolini was introducing Fascism to Europe, or even with earlier far left ideologies of Bolshevism. It’s about conforming to a style of collectivism that promotes only one line of thinking.  The line of whatever those in power deem you are allowed to think, and that outliers not only deserve to be identified but also punished publicly.

While I would not be interested in getting a degree in Gender Studies, it’s about having the choice.  Barring any academic field simply because it conflicts with government ideologies is wrong in any context, plain and simple.  It’s authoritarian in nature, and rather oppressive in its execution. Imagine if such a regression occurred in the United States--a country founded on principles of religious freedom and freedom of thought, I would probably guess such changes would not last very long.

A second big issue I have with this is the growing trend among Eastern Europe to be sympathetic towards these generally far right wing pushes for limiting thought.  For more information on what I mean, try reading up on nearby Russia or Poland, you may be surprised by what you see (especially with Poland, damn).

I see similarities between the anti-immigrant, anti-liberal democracy stances of today with right reactionary and left radical sentiments of 100 years ago.  Hungary has a set a precedent for a modern attack of free thought for other European nations to follow suit. If you read up on your history, that didn't end so well for Europe and I don’t believe I nor anyone else want to see it happen again.