On 6 March Zsolt Balogh, the former head manager of BKV ZRT, the Public Transport Company of Budapest, confessed to the press that in terms of the “slush fund rule” that had become a law within the company he had to regularly hand over huge sums to Socialist Deputy Mayor Miklós Hagyó: “Since then I know that in a Nokia box there is room for 15 million forints [about 57 thousand euro or 76 thousand USD] because once I had to hand over this sum in it”.

Image by Csela, from here

The term “Nokia box” has immediately become a meme of Hungarian web language and everyday communication. Its definition, given by Szlengblog is: Several dozens of millions of forints, illegally misappropriated by influential politicians from funds dedicated to public procurements by circumventing the law through the application of various tricks. The “N” has been proposed as a unit of measure for corruption. Photo blogs are dedicated to illustrate for what is there room in a Nokia box, also asking for the contributions of their readers. The video blog “indavideo” broadcasts a pseudo-BKV educational film on the correct (i.e. illegal) use of Nokia boxes, and pseudo news are being published announcing that due to the extensive corruption 47 times more Nokia boxes were bought in Hungary in the last year than Nokia mobiles. Even the Finnish news site of Nokia has reported about the phenomenon (here you can read its machine translation), and their readers urge Nokia to turn this unexpected popularity to advertisement purposes.

Image by Udo, from here and here

As a philologist I love such memes that condense a whole story, especially when their creators and spreaders try to overcome a miserable situation by way of good humor. As a translator, however, they are always torturing, for I either have to circumscribe them or explain them in footnote, and none of both has the same effect. But the Nokia box is an unexpected exception. This meme has its equivalent both in Spanish and Catalan. It translates as “Cola Cao”.

In Mallorca the corruption involving – similarly to Hungary – the whole political elite in power has been investigated for three years with remarkable success. Antònia Ordinas, the former director of the economic development council of the Balearic Island is also among those concerned, and she, in hope of a milder sentence, opted for collaborating with the authorities. Among others, she showed where she had hidden part of a slush-money, some 240 thousand euros – that is, about “4 N” –: buried in her garden in a box of Cola Cao cacao.

The Cola Cao box has immediately become a meme in Mallorca just like the Nokia box in Hungary. Jokes, cartoons, blog posts and even exhibitions have been dedicated to it in a row. The price of empty Cola Cao boxes has supposedly risen to three times as large as that of full ones. And the whole corruption scandal – during which those concerned hurry to bear witness against each other just like at us – has received the popular name “Cola Chaos”. A characteristic example of this meme is this short video entitled “Mallorkistan”, whose character speaks in the archaic Mallorcan dialect that is not even fully understood by continental Catalans, so we have to give a transcription as well.

Avui he vist als diaris que els interessos han tornat a devallar … tots els bancs són iguals Amb els collons d’un fan pagar a l’altre ¿Qué faig? Ara he copiat a na Ordinas mira-ho, hombre Fa vint anys tots el governs tenen la pella pel mànec fan anar s’oli cap on ells volen són tots iguals – I has tret tot els doblers? – Tot! Hombre! Ara veuràs qué faré, Tot. Tot en bitllets de cinquanta Perquè no n’hi ha molts, però si els hagués tret més petits no haguessin cabut. No és cap doi el que ha fet na Ordinas. Governs i putes governs. Au! Ja està!

Today I saw in the newspaper that interests decrease again … all the banks are the same … they pay to one with the other’s nuts … What should I do? I copy Ordinas … look, hombre … for twenty years … all the governments have kept the fryer by the handle … they pour the oil wherever they want … they are all the same … –
And have you taken out all the money? – All! Hombre! Now you will see what I do. All. All, in notes of fifty … for I do not have much, but had I taken it out in smaller notes, there would have been no room for it in the box. It is absolutely no stupidity what Ordinas did. Governments, son of a bitch governments. Well, that’s it. Ready!

“The corruption scandals following each other have already merged into each other in the minds of the people” – writes Matías Vallés in his article The fetishes of corruption – “but fortunately their protagonists have far-sightedly provided for the mnemotechnic tools preserving their memory. The astronomic bill of Casa Alfredo, the lobster dinner of the Matas government, the pony of Papa Hidalgo, the Cola Cao box of Ordinas make easily intelligible the meshes of these muddled affairs and firmly anchor them in the historical memory.”

Actually, it is comforting to know that today’s protagonists will be long off the theater, but the collective memory and language will still preserve the Nokia and Cola Cao boxes, the “silver ships”, “viaducts”, “Chile cherries”, “digital tablets” and “hedgehogs”, just to name some more of the memes for the corruption of our governments in the last twenty years. Nothing is eternal, except for dishonesty, as Yerofeev said. Even if he did not really mean it like this.

2 comentarios:

María Lía dijo...

Para agregar a la lista: en la Arentina se habla de "La Banelco" alusión a la tarjeta de débito que según parece se ha usado para retirar fondos depositados para pagar favores políticos.

Studiolum dijo...

Exacto como la tarjeta Visa en „Casa Alfredo” de Mallorca. ¡Muy bueno! Please if you know similar memes from any country of the world, do not spare us.