Poland, a dear Polish friend of mine recently said, needs a daddy. The United States currently fills this role, or hole. If so, then we are dealing with a serious Oedipus Complex, as it so now seems the Polish national psyche wants to kill and become its father, and sleep and be-come its erstwhile malevolent maternal occupier, Russia. How did Poland arrive in such a place? What terrible traumas were unleashed upon the nation that have left it without a decently functioning intelligentsia or artistic avant-garde? Well, the Nazi invasion of 1939 destroyed most of nation’s Jewish population, eviscerated its intellectuals, condemned its leftists, and killed off or sent its avant-garde abroad. The the cold, stultifying dead hand of Stalinism planted itself over the nation from 1945 to 1953. Afterwards, the grey, increasingly xenophobic and creaky USSR ground out what was left of the thinking population. In 1968, most of the remaining Jews, a very, very small group, were forced out. Intellectuals fled to the West.
After the fall of the USSR, and the advent of democracy, the newly elected Solidarity-backed government instituted a series of neoliberal ‘shock doctrine’ policies in the early 1990s. This led to rampant insecurity, naturally, and a feeling, once again, of social breakdown. The urban middle-classes began to blossom under the aegis of privatizations, pauperization of the rural populations, and Western aspirational ‘professionalization.’ Out of this already desperately aspirational, new middle-class came a deep inferiority / superiority complex. Inferior to their Western counterparts, yet superior to city paupers and their rural fellows, these anxious urban petit bourgeoisie and their children would largely come to be the ‘center-left.’ Ingratiating themselves to Western companies, ideals and money, they lacked the social or cultural will to challenge the changes of neoliberalism. And the poor, more Catholic, rural masses would eventually strike back.
From 1989 until Poland’s entry into the European Union in 2004, this situation described above continued: privatizations, pauperizations, Western ingratiation, NATO membership, and the Pole’s American daddy’s protective missile(s) deployed throughout the nation. American phallic ‘missile defense’ is a hot topic in contemporary Polish discourse, for reasons some stemming from military practicality and some from more psychological, protective desires. Post-EU Poland is the recipient of quite of bit Western aid, leading an EU vice commissioner to say that the EU is a community of nations, not just a ‘cash cow’ to be ‘milked’,
“First and foremost, there’s the cash: the country received £56bn in development funds between 2007 and 2013, money that was used to build hundreds of kilometres of highways and express roads as well as youth sports facilities, modern sewerage systems, kindergartens and pre-schools.
Add to that the £60bn earmarked for Warsaw in the EU’s 2014-20 budget and the country will have enjoyed a windfall equivalent to roughly double the value of the Marshall Plan, calculated in today’s dollar figures. And that does not take into account the tens of billions of pounds that Polish farmers continue to receive in agricultural subsidies from Brussels. What we are witnessing is, without doubt, one of the largest wealth transfers between nations in modern history.” (How the EU transformed Poland, Remi Adekoya, The Guardian, 2014)
Despite these massive inflows of cash, jobs, record unemployment and so on, the aspirational liberal urban classes cannot seem to catch a break. I mean, two ski holidays a year just aren’t enough, don’t the Swedes get four? Poland’s national identity has no real artistic or intellectual response to its contemporary crises, namely the rise of far-right nationalism. In fact, the very people and institutions one would expect to be unsettling the racist, xenophobic status quo are, in fact, just as bad. From a well-known, somewhat respected (in Poland) feminist artist performing Blackface (and other atrocities against art) for adoring audiences over Chianti and Cabernet, to a drag queen performing the same odious practice (and complaining that ‘they [the makeup people] didn’t get the n***** color right’]. That person was – to my surprise – defended by an erstwhile socialist, and the first transgender MP, and most of the Polish LGBTQ community.
Yes, I will be called a US imperialist. My observations of Poland’s sickly state have been compared to the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq; surely this is a bit of a, shall we say, overreaction? I suppose several missives and articles going ‘viral’ is akin to being bombed, invaded, raped, pillaged and occupied for decades, but who I am to judge? In any case, the Polish artistic, activist and intellectual milieus can no longer claim national ignorance, although everything is run through the locus of national grievance and any criticism ‘from the outside’ is met with a circling of the proverbial wagons, regardless of what said criticism actually is. This intentional, willful idiocy is drag on the Polish psyche, one that wishes – and this can never be enunciated – to be as rich as America (daddy) but as a ideologically stultifying as mother Russia. Yet, even Russia with its troubling nationalism has managed to give birth to likes of Pytor Pavlensky. No such figure exists here in Poland, where the most ‘radical’ art is a white woman painted in Black or kitsch drag queen complaining that the n***** color of their make-up isn’t ‘right.’ One wonders where all of this will lead a nation so deeply in need of a sexual and cultural evolution? Without a real avant-garde in the arts criticizing a nation’s deepest fears, tropes and unconscious biases, a sort of collective brain-death sets in, and it has.
Yesterday, I was told to leave, at the threat of being removed by the police, from a pro-LGBTQ dance party and demonstration in the center of Warsaw. I came, in solidarity, as a gay man with a Rainbown flag during Pride month, to be, with my kin. But someone recognized me as the person who’d penned an article that stated that pedophilia is a sexual orientation, and this purple-haired, crypto-authoritarian said she knew what I stood for, without answering the question, what do I stand for? I was told to leave at threat of arrest. Yes, I have written, based on numerous scientific studies and the growing scientific consensus that pedophilia is a sexual orientation, just like heterosexuality or bisexuality, etc. I also condemned all forms of child sex abuse. It was a nuanced article, rooted in neuroscience. Despite this, purple-hair was having none of it. I left, only after saying she was just as bad as the people who hate her.
I was wrong, she is far worse.
. . .