Fill-In-the-Blanks Travelogue Sixty Years Out

I’m not even going to comment on this, apart from adding some highlights to the following excerpt from the script for the “Budapest: The Best of Hungary” episode from the Rick Steves’ Europe series, which I watched with my folks at lunch today.

To keep dissent to a minimum, the secret police of both the Nazis and Communists imprisoned, deported or executed anyone suspected of being an enemy of the state. Rooms feature the many bleak dimensions of life in Hungary before freedom. Gulag life — countless writers, artists and dissidents spent their best years breaking rocks in quarries. Propaganda preached wave the flag, trust your leaders…and you’ll enjoy the material fruits of your obedience.

Both Nazism and Communism celebrated a sham justice… and a sham democracy. Behind the banners were all the domestic spy tools governments use to keep a people in line. Joining the Church was a way to express dissent, and a people’s faith was one thing the totalitarian governments could not control. The basement was the grim scene of torture and executions.

At Statue Park, you’ll see the Communist All-Stars: Marx, local wannabe Stalins and Lenin in his favorite “hailing a cab” pose. In a kind demagogue’s hell, they’re left with no one to preach to but each other and stony Socialist symbols — the heroic soldier, the obedient worker, the tireless mother.

Under Soviet Communism, censorship was taken to extremes. Art was acceptable only if it promoted the ideology. The only sanctioned art form in the Eastern Block was Social Realism.

This is Social Realism. Leaders were portrayed with unquestioned authority. Individuals were idealized as cogs in the machine — strong, stoic, doing their job well and proudly for the good of the people. Distinguishing features were unimportant. People all looked the same. Unquestioning patriots trusting and serving their nation.