In the Smog We All Perish

We can’t see the road after the curve

The Introduction

Dear Reader, I wrote this blog post for a about a week. I’d imagine it would take about a week for you to read it. So don’t get discouraged by the length of it. Hidden somewhere there is a point to this; a point that could be about life and the universe – or perhaps the struggle of the Hungarian government to provide functional infrastructure for its people.

The Forbidden Road

I was banned from Budapest last week because I have to use my car to commute to work but it’s an old Fiat Punto MK1 (1997) and it is not environmental friendly enough to be allowed inside Budapest. This sounds reasonable – up until the point that it turns out: there is no other way for me to get to work.

So here is the “long story short” with only facts:

  1. By public transport my commute is 1 hour 30 minutes (one way), by car it’s 30 minutes
  2. There are no P+R possibilities around Budapest
  3. I have no money to buy a new(er) car
  4. 70% of the smog is caused by people burning garbage and cheap wood in winter

I understand why it is necessary not to suffocate due to the smog.

It’s a great portray about Hungary though. It shows that whenever we have an emergency, such as unexpected snow in winter, the decisions made by our “leaders” are based on no preparation and plagued by the lack of experience. I wish there were other days, when we don’t have a national emergency to prepare for emergencies. Oh wait… we do… 360 days to prepare for 5 days of emergency.

How would the Emperor deal with the smog?

The Importance of Having Power

I understand our “leaders”. They have no skills but want power. I want power too. Everyone wants it but only a few can have it. It’s the way the world works. I feel strange when I criticize whoever has the power because it’s easy for me to do that. I don’t know what I would do if I were in the position of deciding about anything. I haven’t done any deciding in my entire life. Okay, that’s not true. I’m an adult, I actually have the power to decide whether I want to buy cake or not. That’s about one step down from being a prime minister.

I have a problem with any given system that is based on politics rather than profession and experience. If you have a certain candidate that has no skills regarding real-world-problems but is popular, then what? What happens when problems appear that require skill? Should they ask experts and advisers? What if we cut out the “middle-man” by removing politicians and employ the professionals?

I’m sure democracy is awesome but I fail to see how we can allow certain unskilled people to have power.

This is something I’m concerned about on a daily basis. It’s fun to see how “strong” my government is when it is peace time. I know they are strong because they tell me they are, so I should “totally believe them yo”. However I’m afraid they would prove to be absolutely useless in war time. By war time I mean any sort of apocalyptic situation, such as a small increase in the smog level of Budapest.

Analogy time. I keep hearing the same complaints from company leads everywhere: it’s almost impossible to find strong candidates. It doesn’t matter if one finished “Hungarian Harvard” or didn’t even finish high school. They are equally weak when it comes to getting work done. Candidate after candidate fail to produce results for the company, only 5% of the workforce is good enough to live up to expectations.

Government is not a business but it consists of people. How could I expect it to be different than the private sector? There is one thing I have learnt during my travelings: “people are people everywhere”.

Thank the holy cow, this is not an article in some prestigious economics paper. I’m sure I’m wrong on so many levels. However my point is exactly this: I’m just an ordinary, boring citizen, being worried about his country and its incapability to solve serious problems.

I hope this post does not come off as a politically heated article about how I seem to hate the system. This is just a philosophical train of thoughts about what problems Hungary is facing at the moment – especially the part that affects me. Because I cannot write about what I don’t have experience in. Now I have plenty of experience in smog problems because of the above-mentioned ban.

This ban affected me because I love my car and I refuse to get rid of it, hell it’s even undergoing a complete engine refurbishment at the moment. My car is here to stay. I’m the 1% here. I’m the person that could afford a new car but doesn’t want it. The 99% percent consists of people not being able to afford a new car. Everyone I talk to wants new stuff. If they could, they would probably buy something like a Ferrari or a BMW SUV or similar. Nobody wants to have a cheap old car (except me but I’m a bit crazy, nuts, out of my mind, downright sick, you get the point…). Haha. Hahaha. Yet they can’t afford new, fancy stuff. They are stuck in limbo and now the government bans them…

Refugees marching in Slovenia after Hungary gracefully closes its borders

Leave the Poor Behind

I think it’s quite noble what modern people think about “not leaving others behind”. However in reality it doesn’t seem to work. It’s not he lack of money in my opinion, or the lack of resources, the main problem is this unwillingness of the whole.

I hear people in the US talking about not wanting poor Mexicans or Syrians coming to the promise-land. I hear the same things in Hungary. I hear the same from my friends in other countries. It’s not like my friends and I don’t want them. We truly believe we can let everyone in and process their cases in an orderly fashion.

I judge the EU for letting everyone in and then complaining about atrocities. I judge Hungary for letting refugees be stranded at the Hungarian-Serbian border for weeks without being process. Hungary was lazy to the extreme. After a while refugees just started marching towards Vienna on their own. It’s not like they wanted to break the law. It’s just that when one is running for one’s life, one tends to be a bit impatient and when weeks start to pass by. One might begin to think there is no help.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

The Long Talk

Woah… I know you have been reading for a while and it might even seem way too much but I haven’t even started yet. Or have I? I’m not sure where this is going either, just like you. So let’s take it slowly, one step at a time.

Information is key. In the age of the internet I’d think it’s easy to notify people of smog alerts and whatnot. That didn’t happen. I particularly liked the fact that as I was driving to a friend’s place outside the city on the surrounding M0 motorway, there was no indication of any smog alerts on the infotainment system of the motorway. Isn’t that supposed to be a modern invention, warning you about collisions, foggy sections and … drum roll … smog?

Yet despite all our human advancement, nobody thought of firing them displays up to show drivers they should avoid the city.

There was no information on either. I have a faint feeling there should have been. Perhaps it’s just me. Perhaps it’s just my mind coming up with stupid ideas. I’m only one person, viewing things from one perspective.

They say when you write, believe in yourself. I do. I do believe in myself damn it. I believe in providing a flood of information when it comes to emergencies. It’s not enough just give out one tiny mention on TV that I don’t watch. I’m a 21st century man. I demand at least one twitter post or big red warning signs on motorways.

I demand more information about government business in a way so it can be filtered, ready for making reports and of course free for everyone to browse.

I’m sure it’s hard to write and one could argue about not expecting a novel regarding warning messages but one must master at least one language to ask another whose job is to write said warning messages. I do love constructing long and complex sentences but in case I failed I would want to take this opportunity to give you the short version: I have just accused some politicians of not being able to transmit thoughts orally.

Why are politicians are the people dealing with emergencies anyway? Don’t they have other, less meaningful things to do? I could suggest them a couple: write more poorly-constructed laws, give speeches to their voters and sit in their chairs counting the days to be sacked.

I also feel I must insist again that this is not a politically heated article, I dislike politicians on an individual bases and I do not wish any of them to feel left out. There is no room here to list them by name so please forgive me and in case you are a politician just consider yourself hated.

Of course I also want to emphasize that I always exclude government sector professionals. So should you be an engineer or an architect or maybe an economist tasked with planning cities or counties, you’re clear. I have a feeling you know what you are doing. I also have a feeling you are there (hopefully) because you were not elected but employed.

I’m sure we need politicians. There must be a reason for their existence. They represent people and policies in our ideal world. However it seems that in Hungary they are representing themselves, hiding behind policies. Our beloved prime minister, Orbán Viktor, once said: “do not look at what I say, look at my actions”. I’m looking. It’s not looking good.

“It’s lookin’ real bad, yo mofo.”

The Good, the Bad and the Politician

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I’m sure you are expecting something like “I wish it was this easy to solve problems in Hungary”. I am not going to do that. That is not where we are going with this. We are going on a vacation. Far from the smog to this island.

I don’t think politicians are inherently bad people. Now that sounded something that could be said in a courtroom. I’m sure none would hire me as their lawyer, mostly because I don’t have the necessary qualifications but let’s play a game. Let’s imagine that we are one good looking politician. What are our options? There is fame in it for sure but what about money. Is it comparable to a visionary CEO? I think not. In Hungary salaries vary from 300 000 to 700 000 I believe for ministers. I think our prime minister earns around 1 500 000 a month (according to my research).

In euros that would be around 1 000, 2 500 and 5 000 respectively.

Now someone comes up to you and offers 100 000 euros if you let this teenie-tiny thing slip by you…

Should I continue, your honour? I believe this case is closed.

The Ice King of Hungary

While Hungarians often joke about the prime minister trying on the crown every evening for fun (because it’s in the Parliament while it should be in the National Museum with the rest of the coronation jewels and accessories) we often look towards one person for solutions rather than a party. Much like Russian people, Hungarian tend to give their trust in the hands of one person and blame them if things go wrong.

While I was writing this post, snow started falling. Cold, icy snow with some raindrops sticking to everything, creating a shell of ice. Now that you have read through my thoughts regarding emergencies, tell me: what do you think is going to happen?

Can the government of Hungary solve this new problem quickly and effectively?


photo by Fruzsina Wagner |

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About the Author: Chris Kovacs

Technical Consultant, Traveller, Filmmaker & Photographer
Much like most people, I like to be all sorts of things.

P.S.: some of articles are edited and co-written by a mysterious person called Tatjana. But I take all the credit.

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