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17th September 2007
The day after
From Warsaw Business Journal
Poland is again after.
This time, after two years of rule by a nationalist-populist coalition which will go down in history as a streak of sex scandals, politically motivated arrests, broken promises, bungling foreign policy and ideological embarrassment in the salons of Europe, once more, the number one task is to clean up after all of this.
For years foreigners have been astonished by an unusual Polish trait - a constant looking back at the past. For Poles, the past is not only a bitter history, but also a never-ending reason for political and economic failures. The annals of modern Poland are a constant state of being after. Firstly Poland was after many years of partitions - politicians used this to explain the inter-war political and economic crises. Then Poland was after the destruction of World War II, which, again, was scrupulously exploited by the politicians of the communist regime - thanks to this they could explain away economic regression, poverty and the destructive central control of the economy.
Soon Poles entered a new after era, this time after the years of the Stalinist terror, and again they had to come to terms with it and clean up after it. At the beginning of the 1980s, the Solidarity movement tried to change the course of things, but a year and a half later General Jaruzelski declared martial law in order to clean up after Solidarity. Then followed a need to sort out the country after martial law and, since 1989, attempts to set things right after communism have been almost uninterrupted.
Almost uninterrupted, because the first non-communist Prime Minister of Poland, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, tried to draw Poland's eyes from its past and make it think long-term. It turned out that being after was so deeply ingrained in the Polish mentality, however, that Mazowiecki's term in office quickly came to an end, and subsequent governments have been convinced that the future could be built only after settling accounts with the past.
The long-suffering victim
Long ago, psychology described the victim complex. This comprises constant brooding upon the past, a deep conviction of being treated unfairly and suffering injustice, as well as paranoid feelings that the world is a dangerous and hostile place.
Sometimes this frustration in the victim turns into aggression and even violence. These traits can be found in Polish society on a macro scale and politicians, instead of courageously subjecting the nation to therapy, further strengthen this complex. Two years of the Kaczyńskis' rule has been long enough for national obsessions to become even more entrenched - anti-German and anti-Russian sentiment has been stirred, while more and more shocking information about communist agents who have hid out in the media and structures of power have been leaked to the press.
The "enemy" lies in wait around every corner, even deep within the ranks of the brothers' party. He treacherously got into the Kaczyńskis' circle in the form of Minister of Internal Affairs and Administration Janusz Kaczmarek. And although new technical equipment - bugs, recordings and GPS - allowed the Minister to be quickly unmasked and caught, the brothers recommend continued vigilance.
Recently the Kaczyńskis have been targeting the richest Poles. In doing so, the brothers have won another group of victims over to their cause - those who have not fared well in the socio-economic transformation and who see successful people who have managed to become wealthy as the root of their misfortunes.
To be before
Therapists recommend that a person who suffers from a victim complex should change his way of thinking to perceive another world, one which is friendly and safe, where he can develop his aspirations and passions, earn well, have good prospects, and be convinced that life has sense and provides happiness.
Unfortunately, such a vision has yet to appear in the Polish election campaign. No party says to the Polish people: "We are now before opportunities, before great chances which will stimulate economic growth. We are before the inflow of immense funding from the European Union, we are before a period of development of the education system and health service and a growth in GDP. We are before the fulfilment of our wishes, before an era in which Poles will live better." Is this from a lack of imagination or a conviction that it is easier to rule and manipulate a conflict-ridden society?
Joanna Wóycicka is the former head of the foreign section of the Życie Warszawy and Życie newspapers and the former head of the foreign department at the Polish Press Agency (PAP)
GREAT Article. I know some regulars dont like Wóycicka, but she hits the nail on the head.
Well Poland did go through a lot more than some other countries both pre and post war. I understand that the inter war economy had just got going before the war broke out. My father made it sound like pre war warsaw was a wonderful, thriving place. It's not surprising that Poland has a bit of a complex that every time it gets its act together all hard work gets ripped away from it. I'm not surprised people want to settle elsewhere as they probably think other countries are a safer bet with Poland having two such friendly neighbours as Germany and Russia.
One of the big problems is that Poles are being preached at by those people who robbed them blind or feathered their nest due to the former regime.
The following two spring to mind:
Michnik - arch-Commie
Kwaś - arch-Commie, Russian spy post 1990 and possible son of a mass murderer
Not to mention a couple of rich Poles with a 'colourful past' and more passports than I have ex-lovers!
It's tough to take for some.
"Kwaś - arch-Commie, Russian spy post 1990 and possible son of a mass murderer"
Cmon Varsovian…that’s taking it a little far.
He is an opportunist, just like any politician.
Still, I will take him over Ducks any day.
"We are now before opportunities, before great chances which will stimulate economic growth. We are before the inflow of immense funding from the European Union, we are before a period of development of the education system and health service and a growth in GDP. We are before the fulfilment of our wishes, before an era in which Poles will live better."
Certainly this admirable sentiment is not mutually exclusive to a principle of equity and justice that does not ignore the failings and criminal activities of the past. Ania has backed into a fundamental impediment in noting that “It's not surprising that Poland has a bit of a complex that every time it gets its act together all hard work gets ripped away from it.”
For Poles to embrace the full potential of their future opportunities they have to have confidence that the individuals and elements that have squandered and appropriated prior opportunities are not absolved and empowered to do so again.
MikeC - honestly, I'm not lying. This is why people find it tough to let go.
Collaborators and hoods get rich, then preach to normal people. Danuta Huebner is another classic example - her father was a famous torturer and she owed her rapid avance to her intelligence allied to top class contacts. So, I suppose she had that in common with Kwasniewski when she was his top civil servant.
Let's talk equivalents in the States for a moment ...
... after the madness of Prohibition, just imagine what the reaction would have been if the great American public had found out that they were being led by a bunch of crooks like the Kennedys!!
Damn, shot myself in the foot with that argument! But at least they were doing it solely out of an honest (??) love of money.
Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do your country for. (Errm)
"... after the madness of Prohibition, just imagine what the reaction would have been if the great American public had found out that they were being led by a bunch of crooks like the Kennedys!!
Damn, shot myself in the foot with that argument! But at least they were doing it solely out of an honest (??) love of money. "
Priceless. How accurate. You forgot to add how Joe Kennedy spent all that bootleg cash to get his baby boy elected. Only in America
Back to topic at hand, I think she was trying to stress the lack of positive messaging in Polish politics in general. Average Polish Joe Blo voter EXPECTS and responds only to negative messaging. Go positive and you get accused of being a 'zydomason', German lover, Russian spy, etc.
Yeah, I know what you mean