So it seems everyone is equal in the face of law! Or so the judge said, when sentencing Jurek Owsiak, a charismatic leader of the charity organization Wielka Orkiestra Świątecznej Pomocy, for swearing from the stage during a music festival. Owsiak defended himself by arguing, that his rant against hypocrisy of the politicians was just an artistic form, kind of rap song. To no avail, he has to pay 100 zł penalty + 30 zł of the court proceedings costs. So is it really true, are everyone equal now? Can we expect that Krystyna Pawłowicz from PiS will pay for shouting “spierdalaj” (“fuck off”) to another MP? Will Jarosław Kaczyński be fined for forcing his way into the Sejm rostrum to call his political opponents “scroundels and traitors”?
This is of course rhetorical question. Owsiak, hated by the right wing, had to travel half way across the country to stand trial in a provincial court for some petty misdemeanour’s not because PiS suddenly become interested in chasing all the crimes. It’s just a part of a wider strategy of dragging people who dare to protest PiS politics through the courts for petty reasons to show them who’s in charge.
For example activist of Black Protests has been accused of “violating environmental laws” for using megaphone during their protest. Activists of the protest movement Obywatele RP (Citizens of Republic of Poland) are now being harassed en masse. Today, two activists accused of “violating of domestic peace” after they crossed a lawn to protest in the parliamentary car park were cleared from the charges by the court of second instance. The PiS controlled police and prosecution probably is well aware, that they have no chance to achieve anything with such absurd charges (well, at least until PiS would not take over the courts as well), but it is not the point. The point is to harass people, forcing them to take time of work, or travel half way across the country to pay small fine, as in case of Jurek Owsiak.
But of course some petty protesters are not the most important thing when Satan tries to get influence on the country. This time, of course, in the form of Halloween parties. Growing popularity of such form of fun, foreign to Polish and Christian culture, leads to a steep raise in the number of possessed children – warn exorcists (yes, exorcisms are actually a thing in Poland, there is even a popular monthly magazine Egzorcysta, according to various sources it prints 10 000 to 30 000 copies every month…). As usual, the Catholic Church decided, that if it’s unable to fight it, it has to incorporate it into it’s own traditions under different flags, so the school children are now encouraged to take part in “All Saints Balls”, in which they are to be dressed as a Catholic saint of their choice, as flirting with daemons, even for fun, might put them in the domain of Satan. I wonder, if they dress as tortured martyrs of the Catholic Church will that be accepted or not?
The importance of the appropriate costumes seems to be one of the main topic for PiS as well. One of the first decisions of Antoni Macierewicz as a minister of defence (apart from scrapping a deal with France for a new helicopters for the army) was to design an uniform for so called “cursed soldiers” – those who refuse to observe Home Army orders to cease fighting after end of WW2. In turn, uniforms of the new Territorial Army designed by Macierewicz are going to be inspired by those of the cursed soldiers. Other uniformed formations will also have their outfits inspired by the past: the Parliamentary Guard is going to be issued with sabres and riding boots. Does it mean that in the future those naughty protesters that dare to enter parliamentary grounds might expect to have much worse outcome than just being dragged around the courts for a couple of months?
This pursuit of the historical references leads to absurdities of the massive scale: a couple of dozens of guards in Polish Manufacture of Securities (Państwowa Wytwórnia Papierów Wartościowych) were treated to the new uniforms that look as if they were designed for a C.K Postman from Austro-Hungarian empire or something. Male guards have to wear riding boots again (as we all know, such boots are the best to be worn during a long shift indoors), but women guards have been issued with stilettos, which renders the idea of a guard being able to chase thieves quite useless. But who cares, apparently mentality came back a century as well and women are there only as a decoration. To top all of this, the guards wear red-and-white armband that mimic that of the one of the units from Warsaw Uprising. Despite that this uniform loaded with national-patriotic references costs over 8000 zł (to compare it, a full gala outfit for a Navy Officer can be obtained for less than 3000) those ungrateful guards dare to complain, that it is uncomfortable…
So maybe this is the plan? To uniform Polish army and security services in such manner, that the enemy would die of laughter? I can tell that for sure, but Antoni Macierewicz said, that in 10 years Polish army will be able to stop any enemy. And surely it would not do it in conventional ways. There are no helicopters, our tanks are mostly second hand vehicles from Bundeswehr, many vehicles and weapons remember times of Warsaw Pact and somehow I can’t see that Poland is to build any new ships, not to mention submarines. The never finished Gawron-class corvette, build in the Navy Shipyards since 2001 was abandoned after the project went over budget, and after the hull was blocking the shipyard’s slipway for a long time, it has been decided, that it will be completed as a lightly armed patrol ship. By summer 2016. Or so they said.
And when it comes to submarines, I am afraid that cocky words of our defence minister about Poland building its own fleet of submarines (we wrote about it here) are yet another baloney. They cannot even service existing ones properly – our most modern submarine remains in shipyard since 2014, when it arrived there for a refurbishment works that were supposed to take 9 months. I guess you are already spotted the pattern, so it would not be a surprise for you to know, that it still remains in dock. Recently there was significant fire on board in a battery section, luckily without any causalities, but in the process of putting the fire out, the internal installations were damaged beyond repair. Now it is not known, if it will be worth to try and bring it back to service, as being 31 years old, it was not top of it’s class anyway. That would leave us with just a few Kobben-class submarines from 1960’s, which, in the world of a modern warfare technology, would place Polish naval submarine power just slightly above that of Czech republic.
It seems that the only group that is properly armed and ready to fight are hunters. And they just happen to have some spare capacity, as they won’t be able to shoot another protected species. Minister of Environment wanted to let them shoot Moose again, after it was put under special protection in 2001 when it was brought at the brink of extinction by them. But this change in law caused outrage and it was stopped in last moment, allegedly by Jarosław Kaczyński himself. Poor hunters did not managed to shoot much of the animals in the annual killing rampage known as Hubertus – their bloody fun was spoiled by the environmental activists. They obstructed the hunt, pointing out the flaws in health and safety measurements. They were also holding banners reminding the hunters that their patron saint became saint only after his revelation that made him stop hunting: a deer with a glowing cross between its antlers lectured him to hold animals into higher regards and have compassion to them as God’s creatures. “Unless thou turnest to the Lord, and leadest a holy life, thou shalt quickly go down into hell” – heard Saint Hubert. Apparently father Duszkiewicz, a priest, a keen hunter and a personal friend of minister Szyszko, wasn’t paying attention during that class in theological seminary, as his reaction to the protesters can be called, to put it mildly, quite unpriestly…
But even if the hunters failed to achieve success in this year’s Hubertus and did not managed to cover the whole lawn with the dead bodies of the animals they killed for fun, as they used to do in previous years, Minister Szyszko can rest assured that they are still of the strong spirit. During the event, he himself took a hunter’s oath from his own daughter (that’s what environmental ministers do, you know). And there are still some hunters who not only do not protest against his decission to kill most of the wild boars under pretext of some wild pig disease, but are actually ready to go extra mile to kill them, like this hunter from Jaworzno, who was shooting wild boars in bright day in the middle of the town – you can see a short video footage of it here.
And we might need such a brave heroes ready to defend Poles from a bloodthirsty monsters, as the Jagiellonian University opens it’s doors to Beelzebub himself. That is according to the Education Ombudsman for Lesser Poland Voyvodship, Barbara Nowak. The rest of the world knows invited guest as professor Daniel Dennet, one of the leading philosophers and science educators in the world. Barbara Nowak, along with some Catholic academics, petitioned the university arguing, that “as one of the activist of so called New Atheism, for years he conducts fanatical, radically intolerant and backward assault on religious people”. According to her, it is highly improper for such a guest to be invited by the university, that awarded Honoris Causa doctorate to Pope John Paul II himself. “Do Catholic have no say in Poland any more”? – cried Ms Nowak on Twitter. Oh God, Flying Spaghetti Monster or any other deity, if you exist, please have pity for the students in the schools supervised by Ms Nowak.
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Now on a more serious note.
Last Sunday the man, who set himself on fire on 19th of October has passed away.
His action was not a precipitate move. He planned it well – the analysis of his computer showed, that he first begun writing his letter over six months ago, and the file was opened and edited for more than 300 hours in total, and remains one of the best analysis of all the breaches of the basic democratic values committed by the Law and Justice so far. This man took all the measures to ensure that his family will not be harassed by the media after his move, so we only know him as Piotr S. and that only because his family decided to speak up. He could not stand the fact, that PiS destroying everything that Poland has achieved since 1980’s strikes – and he knows, what we are facing, if we tumble back to authoritarian state, as he himself, being over 50 years old, is told to be a former Solidarity activist and dissident. While his family seems to have hard time to get to terms about his decision to take his own life in such dramatic way, they seem to be fully understanding his concerns, just as a large proportion of the Polish nation as a whole.
But will his death change anything? PiS has already summed him up as a person with mental difficulties (he has been treated for depression) that fell victim to the opposition brainwashing. So keen to blame Donald Tusk for everything when he was in power, including another suicide by fire in 2011, this time they see nothing wrong with their actions. People who oppose PiS consider his manifesto to be a very good analysis of the situation and a strong case against PiS changing Poland into another authoritarian state. His message was spot on, regardless of if you agree that situation in Poland justified such drastic measures or not. Meanwhile on the other side of the wall that divides today’s Poland it fell onto deaf ears.
Before setting himself on fire, he placed a guitar amplifier on the pavement and played a song of a 1990 band “Chłopcy z placu broni”, that thanks to it’s chorus lines “Freedom I love and understand, Freedom, I can’t give it up” became an anthem for a recent anti-government protest. Yet, he might have failed to shake the nation as he hoped for. Poland of today is divided so deeply, that even such dramatic act could not penetrate the bubble that surrounds the other half of the society. In a bitter irony his sacrifice might be of the kind praised by right wing poet Wojciech Wencel: a nonsensical and futile death, driven by patriotism and love of his country.
Perhaps history will re-evaluate his sacrifice, just as it found a place for Ryszard Siwiec, who set himself on fire in protest against Warsaw Pact’s invasion on Czechoslovakia in 1968, or Walenty Badylak, who burned himself to death in Kraków Market Sq in 1980 in protest of concealment of Katyń massacre by communists.
But for now, Rest in Peace, Piotr S. “I had so little, I have not much. I can loose everything and be left alone” says one of the verses of the song he has chosen. Let’s hope that Poland changes it’s course before your fears become a reality.
This piece was written for Britske Listy.
Picture: Pixabay (royalty free).