How to survive in the most pessimistic country

-A short introduction to the Life of the Hungarian Young Greens-
In Hungary, if you belong to a green NGO, your going into politics is considered to be something strange and uncommon, partly because politics is seen by most people in the green movement as something rotten, something which makes you fall into discredit if you enter its realm, and partly because the notion of “politics” –according to their terms- mostly means so called professional practices, the activities of politicians in parliament, and does not cover the notion of active citizenship, civilians working and standing up for their rights in public.

In Hungary, we do not have the tradition of going out to the streets and giving voice to our opinion, speaking up for our rights. We are used to going into fierce political debates mostly in the kitchen at home, or in pubs with our friends {an inheritance of the communist era}. And by the end of the 1990s, most people ceased to look on parliamentary democracy as a system where everyday citizens can make real changes or decide about their fate.

In Hungary, there are several green parties, having only two things in common: none of them can be considered as really green, and all have been completely unsuccessful and uninfluential in the last decade. In Hungary, it is not a cool thing to be a green activist.

Here enter the scene a handful of enthusiastic young volunteers working hard for Zöfi (the abbreviation for Young Greens), one of the very few green organisations openly shouldering an explicit political role, as well as representing the green idea in the broad sense.
What do we do, you could ask. Well, we do all sorts of things, and most of the time are really overloaded, since we are so few. Our voice and influence in the movement, though, is growing, and is much bigger than one could expect from a “few” young people.
But by now, you must be really keen to know precisely what on earth do we deal with? . To satisfy your curiosity, I will make a short summary of our activities this year, and then write a few words about our future plans.

We regularly comment on events happening in the world and in our country by writing articles in newspapers, making actions and protests out in the streets. Actions like this were e.g. organising – together with two other NGOs- a peace protest against the planned war in Iraq, on 15th February in Budapest, where we managed to bring more than 3000 people out to the streets; We also held an Alternative Media Festival on 29-30th March, with one of our standard SOLIDARI-TEA round table discussions with activist organisations (other green organisations, human and minority rights, organisations, etc.) about how they “get into” and appear in mainstream and alternative media. SOLIDARI-TEA round-table discussions is an initiative we started last summer. We consider it a very good opportunity to enhance solidarity and networking, and promote the idea that environmental and social problems have their roots in the same stale soil, and can only be solved with a holistic approach, thus green for us means protection of environment as well as standing up for human rights and against social injustice, exploitation and the destructive mechanisms causing decay and suffering both in nature and society. (This idea is not at all evident in Eastern European societies.)

One of our most important events has been to go out to the gay-lesbian pride parade year after year, and march for the rights of people possessing different sexual identities and sexual preferences than the majority. We are the only green NGO in Hungary, which openly and officially supports the Gay and Lesbian Festival. This year was a breakthrough, since we not only supported but coorganised the festival, and thus had the chance to hold a round-table discussion with the participation of green politicians invited from Western European Countries. This too was without precedent in our country, and the gay and lesbian movement sincerely appreciated that we were the first nongay/lesbian organisation to openly cooperate with their movement. Perhaps our biggest project was the organisation of the so-called “Green Court ” at the Sziget, the Island Festival (the biggest music festival in all of Central Europe). For a week, the Green Court was home to more than a dozen green and near-green NGO’s, over forty programs were held including round tables, seminars, trainings, actions, etc

The successful organisation of such a mega-event earned the respect of the whole of the Green community.

We actively participated in the Stockholm Youth Exchange as well as the Sumava and the Jahorina Summer Camps of FYEG.

Since we took part in the European Social forum in Florence last November, we have been networking a lot with other Hungarian NGOs. Zöfi was instrumental in the establishment of the “Another World is Possible” Network, which brought together the most influential green NGOs, as well as many near-green organisations. This Network, which is built on the week-by-week active cooperation of many different activist groups holds amazing potential. Who knows what might grow out of it…!

Our ongoing projects include a demonstration against the WTO on 13th September, with lectures, workshops and concerts, which will finally bring the globalisation-critical movement into public eye. We are actively participating in the biggest subvertising contest (an open-air exhibition of over 70 giant-billboards – the only one of its kind in Europe)

We are planning to take over 300 people to the ESF in Paris in November. Zöfi has been entrusted with the Hungarian PR work for the ESF.
From this term on, we are planning a high school program, in which we will hold discussions with students, and create study circles dealing a variety of social issues. Our aim is to raise students’ ecological awareness, and help their sense of social criticism – which is very rarely encouraged in Hungarian high schools. In a joint project with the Hungarian Indymedia team we are also in the process creating an activist magazine and a workshop for activist filmmakers.

The next international FYEG events in Budapest will be Migration Study Session, from 1-8 December 2003, and Sustainable Solidarity Seminar (in European Youth Centre), from 22 to 28, March 2004.

Of course, carrying on a number of projects at the same time does not only mean a great deal of work, but a lot of fun and a great learning-process as well. Paradoxically, we gain the strength needed to fulfil our mission partly from the pessimism and disillusionment we experience in society, and the strong wish to make it different for the future generations, but also from the excitement coming from the activist way of life.

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