“Fascism is no laughing matter to Germans. If I had not seen with my own eyes how all major and violent demonstrations were dispersed with water cannons, blunt sides of swords and nightsticks in a matter of minutes, I would not have believed that I live in a country that is set as an example of democracy in Europe. The Germans react in a lawful and legal manner, but without hesitation, with the determination that knows no tolerance. If it is necessary to use force at a certain time at certain place, then they will. They also take garbage accumulation very seriously."
My dear homeland simply cannot bring itself to treat the waste it creates properly. But this problem still remains of key importance: in relation to this, as a public house philosopher I would dare to say you are worth as much as you are capable of treating your garbage, my dear Hungarian. Garbage is not accumulated waste, anything redundant that we chose to dispose of, a mass of useless objects, but a character test. What, when and where we throw something away: such things are far from some boring topic, but one of the gravest moral issues of the era.
During the five years that I spent in Germany, I realized that the country is so tidy and effective for two reasons: firstly, because it found the courage to face its past, and secondly, because it treats garbage in the modern, European way. I am not saying that both issues are equally important; they are clearly incomparable, but despite that, both definitely belong to a country’s barometers on the ethical state. The manner in which the Germans processed their Nazi history is all the more interesting and informative up close than if set in a historical context. The point here is not how they unveiled all the details of the past in a calming manner and made sure that past chapters could be closed, but how they keep watch of the present with the attention of a spider so that such atrocities would never be done again. If the web so much as twitches, the spider is there in a heartbeat. What means are used to respond to unexpected dangerous ideas depends on the societal sense of justice and the situation, but a response in one or another way is guaranteed. Germans use the media, law and the public as their choice of weapon whenever they can, but if the situation calls for drastic measures then the police uses force without hesitation. Fascism is no laughing matter to the German nation. If I had not seen with my own eyes how all major and violent demonstrations were dispersed with water cannons, blunt sides of swords and nightsticks in a matter of minutes, I would not have believed that I live in a country that is set as an example of democracy in Europe. The Germans react in a lawful and legal manner, but without hesitation, with the determination that knows no tolerance. If it is necessary to use force at a certain time and in a certain place, then they will.
They also take garbage accumulation very seriously. In the beginning of 2006 we arrived in Stuttgart, where we took over our apartment and where I settled. There was not a single piece of furniture in it, not one glass, absolutely nothing save for a booklet in the form of a guide or map. The owner had left it on the kitchen counter, the most visible place in the apartment, next to the spare keys. I had talked to him in person for not much more than five minutes, but he spent almost all of the time warning, almost threatening me, to at least study this booklet. When we moved in, I started working on the booklet diligently. It had many pages full of text; some looked like models, others like charts and colored maps, which seemed to follow some mysterious system. It took me three whole weeks to go over it and somewhat, I repeat, somewhat understood the local version of the system how separated collection of waste works. What can be discarded with what, what can be collected with what in which color bag or bin, which time of the day, in what order the trash must be put in front of the door and on which days, and on which odd or even week it would be taken away.
Anyone that comes from the East is at first astounded, and then he begins to resist and sulk with all his might out of habit, saying that this is impossible to remember, to learn it, to keep to it—above all, who has the time for such a thing? And then every time when he goes shopping he notices a long queue in front of the recycling bins for plastic bottles. He automatically presumes that something is being handed out for free there because what person with a sound mind would stand in a line for twenty minutes for any other reason; then he realizes that this is not the case. Nothing is being given out, the opposite in fact: people give future a chance by recycling empty mineral water bottles. The Easterner stares in amazement and after seeing the patient and determined faces of the people standing in the long queue he is impressed. In the end he finds himself at the end of the line and does not really understand how he got there. Then he does the same thing every Saturday, for five years long. While he is doing that he stares at the trash bin two steps away for half an hour and curses, thinking: “I’m out of my mind, spending the weekend like this. To hell with it!”
Everything stands or collapses on this cycle. To not step out of the line. To remain there. Even though you are not bound by law and no one will take you to court, you keep doing this: a good example is the best sermon. Voluntarily, because you feel like it. Because you are a good citizen. Knowing that this city, this country will be the kind of place that you yourself create. Well, my dear Hungarians lag far behind in that area. The same way a country does not understand what is the harm if half-fascist military formations maintain order in villages that are mostly inhabited by Gypsies, the same way citizens do not realize that responsibility is also a personal matter. It is indeed true that politics has done absolutely nothing in the past twenty years to introduce any ecological awareness. That is why every evening when I run through the forest on the outskirts of Budapest I always find something new on my usual route. In one place I trip over a dumped refrigerator, in another over a tractor tire, then over a sofa, a can of old oil, an old television set. What is truly sad it that delivery points for such objects have existed for quite some time. We just dump something in the woods or a meadow because nothing is more tiresome than taking it somewhere else, no way.
Not a chance. No means no. A battery in the forest, but we make no exceptions, we do not judge, no way, only Gypsies are criminals and they have no jobs, every now and then they need to be taught a lesson. For their own good, of course.