Sometimes when I read the news from Poland, I am not sure if I should laugh or weep. Like this reportage about a woman driver, who went on a crazy driving rampage around the town, writing off three cars and badly damaging 5 other ones, putting several lives at risk. Total damages to just one of the victims have been estimated at around 100 000 zł. The driver was a psychiatric patient who decided not to take her drugs, so the court ruled that she cannot be responsible, as at the moment she was legally insane. Her vehicle was also uninsured, so under normal circumstances, the compensation would be paid from a special fund covering losses caused by uninsured drivers, but the fund refused to pay, pointing out that they only cover losses incurred by drivers, who were found guilty, and as the court ruled that being insane, she cannot be blamed for her actions, there will be no compensation from there either, as there is no guilty party identified. So, basically, the victims won’t get a single penny. And they might not be the last ones, as the court also ruled, that “it’s very unlikely that this will happen again” and the woman “poses no risk to the other road users and can’t be discriminated just because she’s a psychiatric patient”, so she was allowed to keep her licence.
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I wonder if the tractor driver, who tried to run over environmental activists defending the forest from being chopped down is also crazy?
The activists block the logging works in the ancient Carpathian forest and demand for the national park to be created there. And they are not alone, the experts – from Polish academics (who point out that the nature in that area is more valuable than in several existing National Parks) to WWF (who consider this area to be one of the most 200 environmentally valuable areas IN THE WORLD!) – agree, that the area should be under strict protection, and the idea is not new: it was first discussed in the 1930s. In 1993 a widely supported petition called for the government to establish Turnicki Park Narodowy there, but the government postponed this due to lack of money. Nothing happened since, and the current ruling party has other priorities: PiS politicians just established a parliamentary commission against “ideological decarbonisation”. They are going to defend Polish coal from the environmental attacks…
Meanwhile, in planned Turnicki Park Narodowy the State Forests were for some years already sharpening their teeth thinking about chopping those ancient trees there (we wrote about it 3 years ago) and now, when the logging started, the environmental activists set their camp there, intending to save the woods.
Apart from the ancient forest covering the area of 18 000 hectares, also Daniel Obajtek (who might be an owner of a similar land area) is under attack again. This time by a Rzeczpospolita journalist, during what was obviously to be a friendly interview! As if he had not suffered enough after all of his properties have been published by reporters asking naughty questions like “where he got money to buy all of them” or “how it is that they were sold to him so cheaply”, now this guy. But let me just quote the fragment that was the most curious one:
“Do you like luxury?
How many properties you have?
See? Yet another lie!
I just asked a question, where is the lie in this?
What do you understand by “property?”
How many houses and flats you have?
I have already made this data available!”
Speaking of lies, the right-wing, pro-PiS media, still spins anti-vaccine narration, along with the pro-Russian point of views. The pro-epidemic community calls online to sabotage the vaccination program by booking the vaccination slots and never turning up. The levels of anti-vaccinationists and conspiracy theory believers are scary… Obviously, Polish education leaves a lot to be desired.
But at least we know what is the best way to fix it. And we owe that knowledge to Przemysław Czarnek, minister of education. With the pupils and students suffering after a year of online schooling, he thought that the best way to put them back on track is to make an “education for family life” a priority in the oncoming school year. Its teachers will finally get the recognition that they deserve, “even higher rank and even higher importance because the future of our society and our state relies on it!”.
But some say that this is just another way to pump more Catholic propaganda. Even the name should be a give-away: “education for family life” takes the place occupied by sex education in other countries. In Poland, this is a never-ending struggle, where right-wing groups oppose for educators to teach their students about things such as homosexualism or contraception. In many schools, the subject is taught by religious education teachers (which, in Polish conditions, means almost exclusively Catholic Catechism teachers).
This seems to be another attempt to catch the young generation that slips away from the grasp of the church. The other one is another proposition of Ordo Iuris, an influential ultra-Catholic organisation (apparently backed by the Kremlin). As things stand now, the children (or students themselves, if they are over 18) can decide for themselves: they can choose to attend religious education, ethics, or none of the two. Ordo Iuris proposes to scrap that third option, making one of the two choices mandatory. They say it’s due to their concern about lack of ethical education for the growing number of students, but everybody knows that this is, in fact, their attempt to stop the outflow of the students that receive Catholic religious education in school – the numbers of resignations in recent years are record high. Why? Because the choice is just illusory. Ethics classes are virtually non-existent in most Polish schools due to a lack of qualified teachers, which leads to that when those classes are organized, are often taking places late in the afternoon, or even are joined for pupils from different schools. So the parents, or the older students themselves, forced to make a choice will probably choose to go back to religious classes, that are available in virtually every school in Poland, and in many of the students are enrolled by default, and the laws, such like those that say that religious education should always be the first or the last class in the day are commonly ignored.
Minister Czarnek’s ideological direction is clearly visible. After a headteacher of one of the lyceums in Łódź has been suspended for punishing students, who displayed symbol of the women’s strike in their online-learning avatars. Despite that lawyers agree that his actions were illegal, as the school has no right to suppress student’s right to express their beliefs, minister Czarnek described the teacher’s actions as “perfect” and awarded him with a high medal for “exceptional achievement in education and great courage”.
This is, as regular readers know, normal in Poland. Gazeta Wyborcza published a reportage about police officers. They openly say how their superiors order them to tolerate lawbreaking when it comes to ultra-Catholic events or football hooligans, but show no mercy when it comes to women strike or other opposition movements. And if you don’t believe what they say, just look at the recent events: even the smallest anti-government protests are disbanded by force, people are brutally beaten and held for hours at remote police stations without access to their lawyers, or sometimes even drinking water. All because of the alleged breach of COVID regulations. But when thousands of motorbikes take part in their annual pilgrimage to Jasna Góra sanctuary, the police warmly welcomes them and express their happiness that despite the situation in the country they have gathered in such large numbers (see more here). And they are consequent at that: nearly 2000 bikers gathered in Licheń sanctuary at the annual opening of the biking season. They were obviously aware that they are in the wrong – some of them attacked journalists, trying to take their cameras of them – yet the police were nowhere to be seen…
At Jasna Góra there was also an attack: a man, who was asked by the guards to leave after he refused to put his mask on, assaulted one of the guards just seconds after he finished his prayers and got up from his knees. Catholics are a very strange bunch, when it comes to COVID they sometimes get pretty aggressive. But their feelings are still very easily offended.
There was a big scandal recently after the traditional triangular-shaped chocolate wafers were advertised with a question “do we like triangles?”. In Polish, one of the meanings of the word triangle is a threesome, so OBVIOUSLY, the advertisement was promoting sexual orgies and thus was deemed unacceptable, especially since the wafers are manufactured in Wadowice, the home town of the Pope (THE Pope, not that leftie from Argentina). The producer quickly disconnected itself with the advertisement and the promotion quickly disappeared from the internet.
The current Pope himself also can offend the religious feelings of the Poles. Remember when Pope told a gay man and a victim of a paedophile priest “It does not matter that you’re gay. God loves you as you are”? Well, two men in Poland placed this quote on an LGBT flag. Now the prosecutors from Warsaw have to investigate if they might be guilty of the crime of offending religious feelings. The matter is serious: this crime might be punished by up to two years in prison.
Yes, in XXI century Poland you might, in theory, go to jail for quoting Pope’s words that God loves everyone.
This piece was written for Britské Listy
Picture of the Pope: Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk via Flickr (CC 2.0)