The bizarre story of the day comes courtesy of Hungary, whose right-wing government (and by right-wing I mean in European terms, i.e. nationalist, populist, with slightly authoritarian tendencies) hasnâ€™t been happy for a while about columns of mostly Middle Eastern refugee claimants trampling across the country on the way to Germany and elsewhere.
According to a Hungarian journalist, in an effort to scare off migrants the authorities have been decorating their border fence with scarecrows, whose heads are made from grotesquely carved beetroots (yes, I kid you not; only in Europe):
According to the same journalist, the tactic seems to have been successful, in as much as there have not been any attempted crossings (presumably in that particular beetrooted sector of the border) for 4 weeks now.
If itâ€™s that easy, then I can offer a much less expensive alternative policy for the Trump fans concerned about the continuing illegal migration across the Mexican border:
Truth be told, we could also have scarecrows floating on buoys all along the northern sea approaches to Australia to scare off boats from Indonesia.
A more serious point: Hungary has been for a period of a few centuries a bulwark of the Christendom against the Ottoman Empire. Parts of it, including the capital, have been occupied by the Turks. If you are an average (though well-informed) Australian or American you will scoff at this ever-presence of the past in the European present, but then again itâ€™s likely your ancestors have left the Old World for the new ones in part to escape this stifling pressure of history thatâ€™s with you everywhere you turn. Europe sometimes forgives but it never forgets. If you want to understand what makes Europeans tick, you need to be able to walk a mile (or, in most of Europe, a kilometre) in a very old pair of shoes and be able to (combining the metaphors) look at everything through a prism of centuries of a very bloody and very turbulent history â€“ something that we in newer countries mercifully rarely do because we largely donâ€™t have to (this is more so in Australia and Canada than in the United States). This is not an apology for any particular point of view or a policy position (such as the Hungarian attitude to Muslim migrants) but an explanation.