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By Anna

On Tuesday and Thursday I take the metro from Votosmarty U. to Battyany ter. No one makes extended eye contact with me, a quick glance and then look away. Barely an acknowledgement of your existence, just a concentration on going from A to B. I think my mom and sister would fit in here, I however, am extrinsic and feed off of smiles and friendly nods of hello.

The parliament building from castle hill

The parliament building from castle hill

As the escalator surfaces at Battyany ter. a church with green copper steeples emerges into view. You can turn around after stepping off of the escalator and see the magnificently gothic parliament building. I walk one block down, ring number 51 and say hello to Ilona, my language teacher. She let’s me in and I take the elevator to the fifth floor (though sixth for us in the United States because the first floor here is the ground level). The elevator doors are manual and this I forget everytime.

During my lesson we sit in chairs facing the parliament building. I ask Ilona why Hungarians do not make eye contact or say hello. She does not understand me initially. I explain further, that in the United States people may nod or say hello in passing. She nods and says it is a cultural difference and that it is only a surface thing and that young people are not like this. She tells me to go to Godot ter. where the young people are.

Though I understand the cultural difference, I still do not know why. That afternoon I learn about Hungary’s last 50 years while at The Terror Museum. The Nazis invaded, the Soviets invaded and they clashed in the middle of Hungary, who only wanted to remain neutral. But Hungary doesn’t joke about knowing how to bury their dead without reason—hundreds of thousands were killed and deported during WWII and for years after. 200,000 Jews left, 11,000 have returned since.

Faces of those who died from 1944-1967 from The Terror Museum

Faces of those who died from 1944-1967 from The Terror Museum

The Soviets won and during their occupation (1944-1991) if anyone made eye contact with a Soviet guard they could be under suspicion and would be taken away to the cellar prison of the Hungarian Arrow Cross Government (Communist) on Andrassy U.

Hungarians were trained to avoid eye contact for decades. I had guessed that the reason for avoiding eye contact was the fear of intimacy, but it was actually a cultured fear of abuse or death from a culture (the U.S.S.R.) that has had centuries of abuse itself.

Fear and internalization continues in Eastern Europe, but today, Hungarians celebrate 20 years of freedom from the Iron Curtain (1989) with passivity and pride.

By Ryan

I’ll admit that I’m an easily irritated person.  Little things annoy the hell out of me, and I have some bubbling rage issues that may need to be confronted at some point in time.  But I don’t think I’m alone on this one; we can all agree that the swine flu hullabaloo is reflective of the general stupidity of the masses.

Is this what the swine flu virus looks like? I'm not sure. Does this image come up when you Google 'swine flu'? You're damn right it does.

Is this what the swine flu virus looks like? I'm not sure. Does this image come up when you Google "swine flu"? You're damn right it does.

Look, I’m not gonna spend all day on this.  Swine flu is weak, and, probably, even more so than the normal flu, a virus that most people get at some point(s) in their lives and are better within a few days.  Yet I see folks on the subway with gas masks, hear about people quitting their gyms over swine flu fears, and have to deal with the onslaught of media coverage.  It’s like no one even paid attention the whole bird flu non-event of a few years ago; if something was actually a major threat to your health, cancelling high school sports won’t save you.

What really sticks in my craw—and it’s a damn sticky craw to begin with—is that the type of people who get all worked up over this crap are the ones we all wish would come down with it.  We all know these people, the ones who take every national news story personally.  We hate them, and if we don’t, we should.

That reminds me of an idea I once had to make America a better place.  It goes like this: every single week, theatres across the country release one “trick movie,” a movie that looks so stupid that no one would ever think of seeing it, and then, during each screening of the movie they gas the audience that was dumb enough to go see it.  We could start with just reusing Eddie Murphy movies, and then eventually we’d run out of them and have to move onto Rob Schneider and Tyler Perry stuff.  The caveat is that this would be a public plan, so people would know the risk when they went to a movie; if you’re not sure if you should see Christmas with the Kranks or Finding Neverland (a decision I actually heard a couple debating over dinner in late November 2004), just play it safe and stay home.  How does this not improve the general intelligence?

Furthermore, if you’re a terrorist—and Lord knows if you’re reading this blog, that’s a distinct possibility—what do you hate more: the hardworking folks in NYC financial offices or the tools who laugh at Carlos Mencia?  Which America is more disgusting to you?  Because I know which one I hate more, and I think if you looked into it, you would too.  So yeah, that twenty-five year old guy in a gas mask in line to see Dane Cook in Cleveland?  Go for it; you’ll do my blood pressure a favor.