Meanwhile in Cuckooland 214

The Poles still discuss the new laws that are to tighten the “protection of religious feelings” (see more in last week’s piece). People keep wondering how such laws would work in practice, and some historical case studies are brought in. For example, if the bishops allow a priest, who was sending his dickpicks to his 13-15 years old pupils to get back to work, is that offensive to members of the church – or to Jesus – or not?

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

But there might be more complicated cases in the future. Let’s look at this case from 2019. In Warsaw, an artist placed a shrine in which a figurine of the Holy Mary, dressed in black, had been surrounded by hallucinogenic mushrooms. Some man vandalized this installation with his cane. Apparently, he was outraged with that portrayal of the religious figure, but on the other hand he assaulted a shrine. Who, under the new laws, would be guilty of offending religious feelings? An artist who showed a religious idol in an uncommon way as an artistic take on her life experiences? Or a man who smashed Holy Mary with his cane?

And what if the attack is aimed not at a figurine, but at the priest? Is he an extension of the church? As God’s representative on earth, is an attack on him an attack on church as well, and as such can it offend someone’s religious feelings? And what if one priest has been attacked by another priest, like recently in Poznań where the Salesian Jacek Bielski smashed father Michał Woźnicki (which whom Salesians have a long-going conflict regarding Woźnicki occupying a flat in a monastery despite being removed from the Salesian order)? And if the whole affair ended up in a monty-pythonesque scene in which two priests were handbagging each other using the handbags of the female bystanders is that offensive for the church or not? Incidentally, the attacked priest went to the Police station to report the assault, and then got mad at a policewoman who addressed him as “sir”, not “father”, so he began abusing her for wearing trousers and calling her a harlot… We already know, that, unlike religious feelings, the womanly feelings are not protected, but luckily this woman happened to be a police officer so the priest will answer for that. But I wonder if he is an official representative of the church, can his behavior be classed as offensive for one’s religious feelings?

But if it was just some priests arguing with their faithful about who offended who’s feelings, we should not worry. The problem is that some people can be offended by literally anything. A popular pop singer Sanah recently issued a new album. She was met with a torrent of abuse and negative comments because the album was released on Good Friday, which many Poles for some reason found offensive… Would she be severely punished for that under that new law?

But at least the politicians are now free to occupy themselves with what is really important for Poles. Just like the Podlaskie district government that teamed up with the office of the President and flew to Jerusalem on a government jet to bring the Holy Fire from Jerusalem for the local orthodox Christians…

There is also another competition for school pupils. It was organized by the Polish Association of Defenders of the Human Life and the students are encouraged to “reflect on the value of life and human dignity” and compete for the Blessed Father Jerzy Popiełuszko award. The agenda of the Association is pretty clear, it’s enough to quote its chairman’s letter to the president, in which he wrote, that “no social group, especially children, can’t be put under eugenic pressure. As a society shaped by the Latin civilization and Christian values, we should keep in mind the good of the future nations and dignity of every human being and strongly oppose all tendentious to turn a woman’s womb into little Auschwitz”, so I think we can all know what would be expected from the participants to get good results. And again, just like with those priests smashing each other with women’s handbags, we could say “who cares what the religious people are doing with their time”, but this is an official competition under the patronage of the Minister of Education, and successful participation in that gives students extra points which can decide about if they will get a place in a good high school or not…

The participants can compete in literary, multimedia, or artistic fields, which, of course, resulted in plenty of works depicting fetuses and scary stories about “killing unborn children”. Judging from the existing body of work of Polish abortionists, I would expect a lot of them to be pretty gruesome. To prove that “unborn children” are just as valid as adults, the special subcommission for the investigation of the Smoleńsk plane crash (again, check the last week’s piece) had published its report – and, with it, an appendix containing uncensored pictures of the massacred corpses of the victims of the crash. So an aborted fetus or a president Lech Kaczyński – for the PiS government they are all the same and it will strive to get their ghastly pictures published.

But nobody cares about that commission anymore. Now the public media has a new thing to be excited about: apparently, a speeding biker died after losing control over his motorcycle when he swerved trying to avoid a car that was changing lanes on the motorway in order to let the lorry join the traffic from the slip road. The car driver left the scene and now claims he never noticed the accident. Road incident like many others, but this time there is a twist: Małgorzata Gersdorf, the former chairwoman of the High Court, was a passenger and the car was driven by her husband Bohdan Zdziennicki, former chairman of the Constitutional Tribunal, and they are both fierce critics of PiS’ demolition of the judicial system in Poland so the PiS propaganda will squeeze every last drop from it.

And how the aforementioned “reform” of the judicial system is going? We can observe it in action on the example of a 21 old student from Poznań, who had a misfortune to be standing next to a group of masked people who threw stones at police officers during women’s strike in October 2020. He was then arrested by the police, who tried to frame him into being one of them – I wonder if the fact, that he is a local activist of a left-wing party could have anything to do with this. He was initially found guilty but then acquitted on appeal after the judge ruled that testimonies of the police officers are not reliable, as they could be politically motivated. The student has also been granted 3000 zł compensation for unlawful arrest. But the newly reformed legal system provides some extraordinary measures for tackling the court rulings one is unhappy with. Allegedly it was supposed to give wrongly sentenced citizens a last-resort lifebuoy, but as we can see in that example, it is usually used by PiS to ensure that the opposition activist won’t escape the punishment. And so the deputy general prosecutor – Zbigniew Ziobro’s right hand – brought a motion for the “extraordinary cassation”, which, basically, means that the court ruling is to be voided and the matter will be looked into the highly politicized board of judges from the High Court. Like in that old Polish comedy “Sami Swoi” when one of the characters goes to court and is given a hand grenade by his mom, who says “the courts are courts, but the justice has to be on our side”.

Sadly the government seems not to be that interested when important issues need urgent attention. Like where the newly introduced (and, in my private view, completely unnecessary) computer system turned out to be faulty, making it impossible for truck drivers to renew their Certificates of Professional Competence. If the problem persists, Poland will have its own HGV driver shortage, as on average 5 000 drivers need to renew their qualifications every month.

But now to some other news. Good and bad. I give you the good one first: the Polish government is on its way to creating a No-Fly-Zone president Zelensky is calling for so much. The bad news is, that this zone will be over Poland. The long-going conflict between Air Traffic Controllers and the government (see chapter 170 of this series) in which not only government allowed for only one of them to be present at the control tower (which they consider a major safety risk) but is also now trying to reduce their salaries. Those people in highly responsible work have enough and many of them decided to hand their notices, which resulted in temporary paralysis of the air traffic over some regions of Poland. The government, as usual when some professional group (be that doctors, teachers, or whoever) is on strike, accuses them of being greedy and lazy and threatens that the air control will be taken over by the military, or that the safety requirements will be further relaxed.

And how are the international relations going? It’s hard to say. The PiS position in relations to Russia is unclear. On paper, they condemn Russia’s actions and their words are one of the most radical among European countries. Their actions, though, prove otherwise. For example, a 30 years old man, a refugee from Dagestan who settled in Ukraine and married a Ukrainian woman had been deported to Russia after he ended up as a refugee in Poland. When it comes to helping Ukrainians, the bulk of the work still relies on the shoulder of volunteers and NGOs who, quite understandably, are losing steam and exhausted their resources after two months of intensive, tolling work. I can see desperate appeals for material, financial and personal help coming left and right from all my contacts in Poland involved in Ukraine’s relief activities. Meanwhile, government is too busy bragging about how Poland is the best in helping refugees and giving grants to help Ukrainians to their neo-nazi allies.

But the PR is going well. Mateusz Morawiecki organized a billboard action “Stop Russia Now”. Trailers with billboards showing Russian crimes in Ukraine will travel all across Europe in the hope of “moving the conscience of Western politicians” and encouraging them to instantly cut all relations with Russia, including purchases of oil. During the press conference, only the trailers were shown, without vehicles that are supposed to tow them to the most remote corners of the EU – surely Morawiecki didn’t plan on Russian oil and he just waits for the delivery of the first ones of the millions of electric cars he promised us several years ago?

Still, Russians are not amused with Poland and a column of construction vehicles drove to the cemetery in Katyń, where Polish officers and intellectuals murdered by NKVD during the first years of the World War 2 are buried and threatened to demolish it, only to say – in a propaganda clip – that they won’t do it, because they are not Nazis and drive off. An old saying comes to mind: “if a woman is really a true lady, she doesn’t need to walk around telling everyone that she is not a prostitute”.

Meanwhile, Ukrainians also got themselves busy with Polish cemeteries. In Vohlyn, a region that has seen some of the most difficult times in the history of Polish-Ukrainian relations, a group of volunteers decided to clean Polish cemeteries as a show of gratitude to the Polish help for the Ukrainian nation during those difficult times. Similar actions took place in Poland, where Ukrainians gather around and help to clear parks and brownfield areas of the litter as a thank you for the Polish hospitality. In Wrocław one of those actions took a form of a Polish-Ukrainian picnic, where Poles and their guests had a chance to meet each other.

And even a diplomatic crisis between Poland and the Czech Republic had been avoided after one Czech Twitter user apologized for calling Poles “neskuteční frajeři”, which has quite opposite meaning in Czech and Polish, and some of my fellow Polish folk got offended. Still, it could get worse: my friend once told some Czech lady in Prague: “Szukałem dzieci w sklepie przez 10 minut, a teraz znowu mi uciekły”…

This piece was written for Britské Listy
Collage uses cover of the new album of the singer Sanah and a priest icon by  Adriana Coqueta (creative commons).



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