It seems that when it comes to Polish-Israeli relations, the Polish government have decided to come with Final Solution – that is, they are willing to destroy any good relations we had with Israel and Jewish diaspora. It has to be said, the Jewish right is trying to keep with us in that contest of stupidity – for example Polish Embassy in Israel was attacked and there was a mediocre successful attempt to draw swastikas at the gate (despite several tries, the perpetrator failed to draw it correctly. Apparently, unlike in Poland, this is not the popular motif for the right wing “graffiti artists”). But no matter how hard they would try, if they try to show the world that they are stupid, then standing against PiS they found themselves a worthy adversary. And so far, we are way ahead in lead.
But of course while we won’t take a step back, proving that we are not only stupid, but also stubborn, there is some damage to the perception of Poland and it has to be tackled. PiS Politicians bend backwards to explain, that Prime Minister Morawiecki did not meant what he said, yet still, despite using the word “dialogue” all the time, they seem to be unable to understand that “dialogue” does not mean that we keep pushing our point of view, and then explain to the others that if they dont’ understand it, then there was some misunderstanding, propably because they are stupid, or are given false information. Polish foreign politics looks now like that blonde from a joke, who claimed that motorways are very dangerous, because when she was driving on it, everyone else was driving in the wrong direction…
But PiS is not that stupid to be not aware, that some talking heads won’t make it to the average people. Therefore they try to salvage the perception of Poland by influencing foreign media to write positive things about Poland. For example Reflex.cz has recently published three pieces about Poland authored by Viliam Buchert: “Vibrující Varšava”, “10 věcí, které byste měli vědět o Polácích” and “Polsko je jiné, než si většina Čechů myslí. Je modernější a vyspělejší, ukazuje speciální příloha Reflexu”. So far Britske Listy was unable to officially confirm, that those pieces were sponsored, but it seems that mr Buchert has not been writing anything about Poland for at least 6 months, and then, suddenly, on 15th of February he published three pieces on the subject. Even more strange coincidence is today’s news item, in which Reflex’ Tereza Stonišová informs that there has been a book published in Poland. It is a diary of Renia Spieglova, dubbed “Polish Ann Frank”. The texts goes very far to ensure that the message about that it was Nazi who killed this little girl is made very clearly.
I tend to read comments under Czech articles about Polish matters to see what people think. This time my attention was drawn to (deleted now) comment by a reader, Lenka Navratilova, who wrote: “I would like to ask the author of that piece to use better Czech and take care with grammar. Sometimes I cannot even understand it! Thank you”. I have to say, that being not a native speaker of Czech can’t say nothing about the quality of the language myself, but would it be possible, that the text was in fact written by some other non-native speaker of Czech? Like, I don’t know, a PR agency hired by the Polish government and tasked with repairing perception of Poland? Because, of course, we can assume, that sloppy language might happen even to a journalism graduate from Karlov University like Stonisova, but there is still one question remaining: does Reflex usually reports of the books published in foreign languages in foreign countries? And if it does, does it usually waits for two years after the book was published to inform about it and then places this information on the main page? Because it’s the case here: Renia Spiegel’s diary has been published in January 2016.
It seems that Polish government tries to learn from the best when it comes to information war. Recently they have hired a popular youtber to make a movie trying to scare people from investing in cryptocurrencies. But this is not enough and since we cannot count, like Putin, on the teams of internet trolls to influence the internet, we have to deal with what there is: TVP.Info just recently hired Radosław Poszwiński, known in the Twittersphere as Bogdan 607. After being offered a job, he sat down to the gargantuan task to delete nearly 200 000 of tweets. Apparently vulgar abuse of Donald Tusk (or Poszwiński’s ex-wife) are not in line with the picture of professional media worker, but he could at least leave those, in which they claim that “Jews are responsible for the Holocaust, because they did nothing to stop it”. That seems to be roughly in line with the current government propaganda…
But there are those, who can talk whatever they want, and those who cannot. Jaś Kapela, a left wing poet and publicist, published an youtube clip, on which accompanied by some friends sings (badly) a Polish national anthem with some changes to it’s lyrics.
Poland has not yet perished,
So long as we still live.
Our perils have ended, so
We shall take migrants in
March, march, refugees
From the Italian land to Poland.
Under our command
You shall join our nation.
…and so on. He has been sentenced to pay a fixed penalty. The irony here is that some time ago Jaś Kapela has reported the T-Shirt with the slogan “Kill Leftist for Jesus Christs” (we wrote about so called “patriotic clothing” in this series here), but the case was dropped. Jaś Kapela comments: “Apparently calling to kill leftists is OK, and inviting refugees to Poland is to be punished”.
But the problem with Poland being so strongly bend to the right does not end with the political topics like refugees or abortion. It seems that many Poles also struggle to understand the idea of the nation as the community – they would welcome Jaś Kapela being sentenced for “offending the nation” by changing the words of national anthem, but “the nations” seems to be just some abstract idea, as when it comes to the economy, they would rather leave in some form of anarcho-capitalism. A huge bomb was dropped last week when an anonymous blogger posted his observation from working in one of the biggest trade centres for clothing industry: C.H. Ptak in Rzgów. This gigantic hall hosts over 2500 stands, where wholesalers and importers sell their products to retailers. According to the author of the blog, that was since removed (but I do managed to get a copy of it), avoiding paying taxes in this place is a norm: everything is cash-in-hand, nobody pays VAT, the books are falsified to show, that the company owners barely cover their costs, the trade centre warns the traders when fiscal officers enter the building and the regular workers, like the author himself, are working in grey economy and their worker’s rights are abused on a daily basis. On the top of that there has emerged the whole market of retailers, who unofficially sell clothing on Facebook and Instagram, thus driving regular retail shops to the ground, as with no taxes and other costs to pay, they can offer the same product at half price.
I was not surprised to find that, the rumours were circulating for some time, and I know very well how pathological Polish transport industry is (you can read my piece on the subject in Polish on my blog) so I can’t see the reason, why the other industries would be different. But what never stops to amaze me is the comments: and I don’t even mean the threats received by the author. For me the saddest comments are like those:
“why do you even pick the subject? Everyone is happy, merchant is making money, retailer is making money, client has the product cheaper, what’s the problem?”
“Delete it, you scum! It’s not your fucking business how I make my money! You fucktard! It’s my decission if I want to pay taxes or not! It’s my choice! If you can’t deal with it, then open your own business and pay to those bastards all the money you earn”.
There were tens of comments along those lines. And this exactly is why we cannot have nice life in Poland. How we are supposed to build our country’s future together if the entrepreneur thinks that it is his decision if he wants to pay taxes or not…
Some of the commenters said that they are not willing to pay taxes as the politicians steal them. While I don’t find it to be sufficient for the excuse, I have to say, they might have the point here. It has emerged (yet again) that the ministers of the government are paying themselves a hefty bonuses. Ranging from 50 000 to 75 000 zł, the total sum amounted to over 2 100 000 zł… And remember, this is the government that came to power after illegally obtained recordings of private meetings of previous government were published. Back then I predicted that what has been said on those recordings contain nothing that could damage PO, and I was right. But I haven’t predicted that they will then drum up the fact, that Radosław Sikorski paid for his dinner with the government credit cards and ordered calamari and that it will sufficient to stir anger against PO against many voters. Sikorski’s calamari dinner became almost a symbol of the alleged corruption of the previous government. So yeah, good job, PiS voters, we just paid biggest bonuses ever to the most incompetent government ever, but at least Radek Sikorski has to pay this 100 zł for the calamari dinner from his own pocket now…
But let’s come back to this C.H Ptak scandal. Many people ask how it is possible, that this pathological situation was going there for years, and the tax services did nothing about it for years. Some suspect it will end in bigger corruption scandal, but I am leaning to the diagnosis that was expressed by former minister Sienkiewicz on one of this illegal recordings: “Polish state exists only in theory. In practice, it is not, because it works only in fragments, unable to understand that the state should work as a whole”. It can be seen everywhere, and I will pick a case study literally from my own back yard to prove it.
As it has been reported by local media, there was a parent’s meeting in a primary school I used to attend. Many parents arrived by car and parked with the complete disregard to others. As a result the bus terminal, that is located just in front of the school has been blocked, as the buses were unable to squeeze by. What the city does? Perhaps it sends an army of the tow trucks to clear the road for the buses? Or perhaps at least an army of municipal police is deployed with the mandate block in order to issue penalties to the drivers? No. The bus dispatcher sends the line 119 on diversion until the meeting is over and the cars are gone. Wrocław’s public transport company says that this is a regular occurrence that is taking place for years now, and since my parents still live in this area I can confirm that this happens around both schools that are located within the housing estate. If the state is unable to sort such a simple problem as a bunch of people, who park like knobs, because they don’t care about others, how can we expect anything bigger to be dealt with?
PiS came to power on the promise that they will change it and make the state strong. But in their clumsiness they only managed to create some more fictional mechanisms, just like the new law prohibiting trading on Sunday. They have forgot that during the long decades of living in theoretical state divided randomly by the barbed wire of the ill-considered law, Poles have developed an unique skills of finding the loopholes. And so retailers have already came up with the solution: the new law says, that trade is not allowed, but it does not say that shops have to be closed. Therefore on Sundays the shop are to be changed into product exhibitions, and after looking at the products you like, you will be then allowed to use the touchscreen provided to order your shopping online and then almost instantly collect it in the showroom you happen to be in. The laws also fails to achieve it’s aim – to improve quality of life of the retail workers. Supermarkets, who decide to observe sunday ban of trading have already announced that to be able to have a stock of fresh products ready for their customers on Monday morning, their employees will have to start working at midnight.
But at least they will get some overtime, right? Well, they will, but…
In the new reform of the employment law, the wages for overtime will not be paid to the employees, but instead they will be stored at the trust account controlled by the employer. Employees might be able to get that money at the later date, or it can be used by the employeer to pay them for when the buisness will be going slower and they will not be required to work even their regular hours. In other words, extra hours of work will not provide extra income for the employee, but it will instead de facto go as a free credit line for his employer. Yeah, strenghening position of the employees on the workmarket was almost as great success, as the recent developments in Polish foreign politics.
But at least one thing remains unchanged in Poland – hate towards foreigners. Last week a Turkish restaurant in Gniezno has been attacked by two men with airguns, who shouted “Poland for Poles” and threatened its Moroccan workers with death unless they leave Poland. The restaurant team managed to flee, locking the attackers inside. They turned to be men in their thirties who lived in the neighbourhood.
Jaś Kapela imagines Poland as a country, where all people, Polish and not, live their lives in peace… I know you are a dreamer, Jaś, and I know, that you are not the only one. I hope someday this will happen… But I don’t think it will any time soon.
This piece was published in Britske Listy.
Illustration: screenshot from Reflex.cz