Miklos Vamos at PostGlobal

Miklos Vamos

Budapest, Hungary

Miklós Vámos is a Hungarian novelist, screenwriter and talk show host. He is one of the most read and respected writers in his native Hungary. He has taught at Yale University on a Fulbright fellowship, served as The Nation’s East European correspondent, worked as consultant on the Oscar-winning film Mephisto, and presented Hungary’s most-watched cultural television show. Vámos has received numerous awards for his plays, screenplays, novels and short stories, including the Hungarian Merit Award for lifetime achievement. The Book of Fathers is considered his most accomplished novel and has sold 200,000 copies in Hungary. Close.

Miklos Vamos

Budapest, Hungary

Miklós Vámos is a Hungarian novelist, screenwriter and talk show host. more »

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The Ease of Misunderstanding

I think people hate and kill each other simply because they do not know each other. The root of ethnic hatred is always a lack of understanding. Palestinians accuse Jews of committing many wrongs, and vice versa. I am sure that if a Jew and a Palestinian had to work together to achieve something they both required and could not do so effectively without the other, they would quickly grow to empathize with each other.

Historically, when Serbs killed Croats or Croats killed Serbs, they simply did not recognize that they hated each other because hatred of other tribes or nations was a tradition they had inherited. Everyone encounters offenses and crimes one cannot forget. But when we reflect deeply enough upon the past, we find that the initial wrong was committed because one party did not perceive and correct the other’s misunderstanding. Take, for instance, a Palestinian who believes that a Jew has drunk the blood of his daughter. Those who know Jews well have no doubt that they drink kosher whiskey, not blood.

Similarly, those who knew well the pre-war state of Iraq and its neighborhood would have had no doubt that even if the whole country were destroyed, Al Qaeda would not disappear, and the world would not be a safer place. But no one made a serious effort to understand Iraq and its people in depth before attacking them.

The same is true of the latent tensions in such regions as Eastern Europe. Many Hungarians refuse to trust the Gypsies (ethnic Slovaks, Romanians, and others) because they are afraid of them. Remaining afraid and therefore distant is much easier than trying to get to know and understand them -- or anybody else.

I think most people who believe that any war can solve a problem should be sent to the country they oppose and obliged to live there for at least a year. President Bush, for instance, should pack his belongings for a one-year sabbatical in Baghdad. Let us talk about the nature and purpose of the war in Iraq after those twelve months have elapsed. On the fifth anniversary, that is, when we would be just about due for another discussion.

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