Meanwhile in Cuckooland 182

One of the readers, Mr Marek Benes, asked me: “Will your writing be equally critical of Poland when PiS will be no longer in charge there”? Well, how am I supposed to know? Polish politics is pretty unpredictable and we cannot really say today who will be in charge when PiS finally be removed from power. With the recent announcement of Donald Tusk returning to Polish politics his party may regain power and everything will be back to how things were before. Of course, there will be still plenty of things to criticize, no doubt, but nowhere near to what we have now. The nepotism, corruption, and destruction of the state’s most important institutions under PiS progress at an unprecedented scale.

Click HERE to read the previous part of the series
Click HERE to see all chapters of the series so far.

But of course, some say that the erosion of the democratic mechanisms under PiS went so far, that it is too late, and Poland will plunge into the arms of the Russia-loving neofascist extreme right. Mr Benes is willing to bet my writing will be much less critical. I am not that optimistic. But I hope he’s right, and I will be able to write my pieces after PiS in a much less dramatic way.

Meanwhile, to satisfy Mr Benes’ hunger for negative news about the opposition, for now, I am happy to announce that this time I can write about completely moronic driving performed by a politician from the opposition. The truck’s dashcam filmed a car that brake-checked the articulated lorry, then the driver got out of his vehicle to argue with the driver. After the footage has been posted online, he was quickly recognized as Olgierd Geblewicz, one of the leading politicians of Civic Platform from the Western Pomerania district. And so there you have it, Mr Benes. I can write about idiots behind the wheel from the ruling party and those from the opposition. But please don’t blame me for the fact, that the count of such occurrences on one side vastly outnumbers their numbers on the other.

Mr Benes seems like a man who in Poland would be called “a symmetrist”. Such people to each example of the failures of the ruling parties have the one answer: “what about the opposition? Where were you when they were doing wrong things? Will you be brave enough to attack the future governments to the same scale when PiS is no longer in power?”. As if all of the parties were pretty much the same.

But the problem is: there is no symmetry. The scale of PiS wrongdoings is enormous compared to the sins of the previous ruling party. It’s hard to imagine any government capable of being worse in destroying democracy until our next prime minister will be someone like Alexandr Lukashenko, and even then someone like Lukashenko is in the most recent times.

But, as I said, Donald Tusk may become a major player again. You can like him, you can not like him, but you cannot deny that he is a well-weathered, intelligent and classy politician, with a lot of international contact and respect. There is no second player of his statute in Poland, and you can see that PiS is already shitting their pants in panic, as they know very well that what can work against inexperienced politicians from younger parties, or the current elites from Civic Platform, who lost the clue and are incapable to take initiative for some time now, they will be having a hard time with intelligent and witty Tusk who, while they were splashing in their home pond, was hardening his political skill on the international stage. The propaganda machine is now spinning at full power, just check this short clip made by one of the internet users just from 30 minutes worth of news in TVP:

Look also at the way the camera is placed and the picture is framed when Tusk is filmed by the TVP crew:

There was also some unexpected glitch that looks as if Tusk was transforming into some kind of daemon from hell:


But those who see Tusk differently, as the saviour riding into Polish politics on the white horse the reality might be also not exactly to their expectations. The return of Tusk is not exactly the Deux Ex Machina type of solution to political problems. He is still a hated figure amongst PiS voters and amongst those on the right from PiS, so no chance of gaining a new electorate there. But also Poland is not the same as it was a decade ago. The politics of “warm water in the tap”, as he was describing his rule, is no longer enough. Especially the younger generation demands changes and radical reforms of the country. They are old enough to remember that it was Tusk, who relaxed employment laws, thus making thousands of young people to have lived from day to day with no job security. They have enough of that, they want stability, and economically liberal Tusk might not be able to draw them back from their positions on the left. Especially that his party is not known to be exactly progressive when it comes to things such as women’s rights or LGBT issues. For decades politicians such as Tusk were saying “it’s not the time” to deal with those matters. But the milk has already spilt, Kaczyński had opened that Pandora’s box and it will not be possible just to tuck all those issues back into where they were before. Poles expect change. Will Tusk be able to meet their expectations?

Meanwhile, the things in Poland are running as they were before. A wife of PiS’ MP had been found guilty of plagiarism by the court of the first instance. She needed to become a PhD to become a dean at the university run by her husband, but since she “had no clue” how to write a PhD dissertation, she largely rewrote someone’s else’s one in her own words. It can be a problem for her, as recently a congress of PiS took place. There (what a surprise!) Jarosław Kaczyński has been re-elected as a party leader, but also a new rule was introduced. According to it, family members of PiS politicians won’t be allowed to have cosy jobs in state-controlled companies. It might be a bit late for that, as over the last 6 years many of them earned enough to be set for life, but it’s a step in the good direction. But of course, there will be exceptions from this rule where there are extraordinary circumstances. Will the fact that MP’s wife is unable to get a job in academia because she stole someone’s else work be classed as an extraordinary circumstance sufficient to grant her a chair on the board of some oil or energy company? We’ll see.

There was apparently nothing extraordinary in the scandal with the respiratory machines: in the height of Covid the ministry made a deal with a shady weapon’s dealer and for 200 000 000 zł purchased overpriced respiratory machines from him. So far nobody saw those machines, the 150 000 000 advance payment is somehow nowhere to be seen anymore too, yet the prosecutors just dropped the case, finding nothing out of the extraordinary there. The purchase of other overpriced PPE equipment from the minister’s ski instructor, or the fake ones imported from China by a chartered Antonov plane were also found to be perfectly valid actions and, according to the prosecutors, do not require further investigation. The most recent news is the result of the audit by the Highest Audit Office, which found that the government’s propaganda action with sending planes to bring Poles stranded abroad by the pandemic home was also an example of gross mismanagement, with LOT being paid hefty sums without proper control for the flights, that charged the passengers crazy money anyway.

But worry not, the real criminals can feel the rebuking hand of authority. A group of teenagers who desecrated Andrzej Duda’s electoral poster and shouted: “Fuck Duda” has been sentenced to 40 hours of unpaid work each. They are not real criminals, so I would not expect Andrzej Duda to pardon them. I doubt as well that they will be offered a dinner with the minister of justice and his wife by a former PiS MP to “talk the things through”, as, allegedly, was offered to a businessman who was arrested and accused of financial fraud after refusing to pay 1.5 mln of bribe.

The interview with him was not the only one that shocked Poles recently. The other one was published by Gazeta Wyborcza and in it, general Pytel, former chief of counter-intelligence, warned about Russian influences in the ruling party and the appalling condition of the Polish intelligence after Antoni Macierewicz’s rule as Minister of Defence. By the way, the interview touches on the subject about which many Poles wonder for years: Is Macierewicz a Russian agent, or just crazy? General Pytel points out, that as a trained psychologist he can say, that Macierewicz’a actions are too consequent and he plans well ahead. Your typical loony is incapable of such things.

And when it comes to more down-to-earth, everyday matters, there is no major change there as well. The system of collecting tolls for the trucks on the Polish roads, which has been criticized for so long, has now been replaced by the mobile phone app. This seems to be a total disaster, judging from the reviews in AppStore, but the problem is much serious than just user experience: the app keeps crashing and stop tracking vehicle movements, which can incur hefty fines. The drivers were advised to constantly monitor if it is working properly… “So should we drive safely, or keep fiddling with our smartphones” – ask truckers?

The paramedics went on strike when they learned that after over a year of working their arses off at the first line of the pandemic effort, the newly introduced rules mean that their salaries – already laughable (provided that they are salaried and not forced into self-employment, as it is a rule) – will be even lower. For the privilege of saving lives for 300, or even 400 hours per month, and often being on duty for longer than 24 hours nonstop, many of them will now earn less than 2000 zł… This is not just bad, it’s simply humiliating.

But there is no shortage of money for the “renovations” of public spaces. Which, in Poland, in most cases means removing all greenery and trees from market squares and other plazas in towns and replacing them with concrete, often against the will of the local residents who like to sit in the shadow of the existing trees rather than on concrete benches. Such renovations make public spaces unbearable, especially on hot days, of which we could expect more and more, as has been demonstrated by a teenager who fried some eggs at the newly renovated market square in Krzeszowice by placing a frying pan on the hot concrete.

MP Joanna Scheuring-Wielgus is also in a hot place for taking part in women strike – she was, allegedly, offending religious feelings, but she has MP’s immunity so she cannot be dragged to the court so easily. Immunity could be removed, but why would anyone bother, if the prosecutors can simply go after her husband, who was there with her, and seize their home “to secure funding for eventual penalties”?

Meanwhile, it has emerged that we almost had a second tragedy like that in Smoleńsk. If we are to believe leaks that have been published in some media, during the presidential campaign last summer the pilots of the presidential plane ignored all safety standards and procedures to, basically, “land at all price”. And only to save 10 minutes they would need to break the landing and make another circle…

One could think that the safety of the head of the state should be paramount and everything should be done to minimize the risk when such an important VIP is on board. But perhaps those pilots, and their superiors, quietly share that criminal opinion expressed by those teenage criminals: “fuck Duda”?

This piece was written for Britske Listy
Main picture: screenshot from TVP



Leave a Reply