The Land of Conspiracy Theories

The ‘season’ at Lake Balaton, is coming to an end. People say that after August 20,  which is St Stephen’s Day in Hungary, the weather unerringly changes for the worse. The hot, dry months of summer quickly give way to the chiller, rainier conditions of autumn. Well, this year autumn may have begun a few days early. For two days now we have experienced intermittent storms and heavy rainfall, with claps of thunder that sound terrifyingly close. Even Harry Windsor, the stray dog whom I adopted a little over a year ago, has decided to abandon the garden, which he loves,  and move back into the cottage, at least at night.

Talking with acquaintances a few days ago, as we sat at the beach, I was startled by their reaction to the current influx of asylum seekers to Hungary. Of course, the overwhelming majority of asylum seekers have no interest in remaining in Hungary, with its unfathomable Finno-Ugric language and net average monthly wages of a little under £400. The refugees coming to Hungary, mostly from Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, are simply passing through. They have their sights set on German, Sweden or Britain.

Even though these transient asylum seekers constitute a minimal economic burden for Hungary - and do not threaten the jobs or livelihoods of ordinary Hungarians - I was shocked by the views of some of the kind, normally hospitable people whom I spoke to on the beach. My friends seemed convinced that there was some malign, invisible hand behind this sudden influx of refugees seeking asylum in Europe. They brushed aside my arguments, centred on  chronic civil conflicts in the refugees’ countries of origin, as hopelessly naive. Although they were hesitant to spell out their suspicions, I think some of them saw the increase in the volume of asylum seekers as part of a plot to weaken and Islamicise Europe. Some of my acquaintances seemed to discern the influence of the United States and possibly of other elements in this strategy. Once again, I realised I was living in a society where conspiracy theories thrive, mutate and multiply, seemingly endlessly.

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