Thursday, June 04, 2009

Make June 4 Freedom Day!


The media have gone wall-to-wall here in Poland celebrating, remembering, analysing the first round of the elections in 1989 that eventually brought about the first government led by non-communists for decades. A good chance to declare a national holiday! (phot0 - 20th Anniversary of Polish People's Republic Street crossed out)

But no. While prime ministers and presidents from ex-communist countries plus Angela Merkel were in Krakow and Gdansk trying to give profound speeches and meaningful handshakes to each other, the rest of us was stuck at work. It was a normal day for the masses, as our leaders got a chance to look good on CNN et al.

So, no Freedom Day for us. But last Sunday - I learned last Sunday - was a national holiday: meaning all the supermarkets were shut! That came as a shock. It was Zielone Swiatki - Pentecost, which commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus as described in the Book of Acts... apparently.

Problem with national days that fall on a Sunday, is that I wasn’t at work, anyway. So it wasn’t a holiday for most people, except people who work in big shops. Zielone Swiatki should be called Tesco is the Anti-Christ Day.

But wouldn’t June 4 make more sense as a national holiday? That was a day that symbolises something both local - to Poles - and universal, to all of us.

The media has gone nuts about it. The TVN 24 hour round the clock news channel has been going round the clock with the story. They even had one of those ‘virtual studios’ that I first saw CNN do on election day in the US. The entire studio was decked out like the Dziennik news programme on the old TVP state channel, circa 1989. Correspondents - and this was a daft trick borrowed from CNN - that were in Gdansk or Krakow would be beamed down into the studio in Warsaw. Which was meant to impressive - except for the fact that the whole point of having a correspondent in Gdansk is that you can see him or her on the spot in Gdansk.

But the media have gone for this in such a big way because it genuinely is a day that moves people. To think of how it was then and how far Poland, and themselves, have come since.

Of course, the deal that Solidarity struck with the communists back then at the Round Table talks - effectively allowing them to become part of the governing process, even though virtually all of the seats contested in that election would be won by opposition candidates - has come to plague politics in Poland even since. It was a compromise to maintain stability, while radical economic shocks were put in place. But the compromise had a cost - and the Law and Justice party under the Kaczynskis are basically a creation of it. With no communist conspiracies and cliques to rage against, Jaroslaw Kaczynski would have to invent some.

But even so...This day seems a good time for a national holiday, to me. Make June 4 Freedom Day in Poland!

38 comments:

ge'ez said...

Sure you ain't just bitchin' about Zielone Swiatki coz it sounds like something in English translation like an organization Al Gore would be sponsoring?

beatroot said...

Gaia Day?

varus said...

Br said
But no. While prime ministers and presidents from ex-communist countries plus Angela Merkel were in Krakow and Gdansk

Why plus Merkel? She is after all East German and therefore also representing the DDR, is she not?

I must admit i was also surprised at the shops being closed last Sunday. I live in a village and actually had to drive to our local town to discover this 'holiday'. However, as Poland is already at the top of the National Holidays League, perhaps another would be taking the **** a bit.

beatroot said...

Merkel is an eastern German person...so therefor the owner of the iconic image of the wall coming down while Poland has...a two figered salute?

and I was thinking of ditching one of the other holidays...like Penticostal thingy..

Mark VA said...

Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul II, Margaret Thatcher, and Mikhail Gorbachev - and of course, the main Player in this drama, the third Person of the Holy Trinity - a lot to reflect on here.

It is my personal conviction that the unexpected and overwhelmingly peacefull collapse of the Soviet evil was a miracle, granted to the world by Heaven. It changed how I view mundane things like politics and economic concerns, yet also made me more melancholy about our capacity to see beyond mere appearances.

varus said...

Mark VA said:
It is my personal conviction that the unexpected and overwhelmingly peacefull collapse of the Soviet evil was a miracle, granted to the world by Heaven. It changed how I view mundane things like politics and economic concerns, yet also made me more melancholy about our capacity to see beyond mere appearances.


Granted God mocves in mesterious ways and undoubtely bilieve in him gave people strength. However, your theory takes away the work of the many people who battled against communism. This was not just a miracle that occurred independanly of human action.

beatroot said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
beatroot said...

Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul II, Margaret Thatcher, and Mikhail Gorbachev and ...the Holy Spirit!?!

now that really is a mottley crew!

but it's not a historical or political argument. So, consequently, undebatable.

It also leaves out the main actors in the drama of 1989...and that is the people - ordinary but often brave, people of Poland.

Poles brought down the communists. June 4 is there day. Nobody elses...and certainly not phantoms.

ge'ez said...

I believe God intervened in history once and the rest is up to us.

Czarny Kot said...

To be honest, I've seen more of a fuss made on CNN than by any Poles.

There was a bit of build up but the day itself-- absolutely nothing. Granted, I am busy on Thursdays but no-one I saw that day mentioned it at all.

While Polish politicians play games with the past it seems the rest of the country just tries to get by in the here and now.

Mark VA said...

There were many brave "ordinary" men and women, whose names will not be known to history, who sacrificed, often with their lives, to defeat this evil. Thank you all for this correction.

When I think about this, the more I'm convinced that if any of the human actors played his or her role slightly differently, or if timing was off - say, if Ronald Reagan took a softer line on the communists (as the leftist media constantly harped on), if Gorbachev was less clear about his repudiation of the Brezhnev doctrine just when clarity was needed, or if Solidarity was successfully "delaminated" into warring factions- then the outcome would have been much different. Yet it all worked like a precision time piece to produce this extraordinary result - peaceful collapse of communism.

You're absolutely right, Beatroot, this is a religious argument at heart - seeing the mundane thru the religious lens. It may not come naturally to some to think in these terms (phantoms, really?), but it's not an exclusively Catholic thing.

For example: do you think that the current political mood in England among the ordinary folk (even if it remains unarticulated), may have anything to do with the commandment "Thou shall not steal"? If there is no hidden religious component in this situation, then what's all this outrage about? I think there is more here than some leftover bourgeois sentimentality.

beatroot said...

No...it's not about the decalogue....unless one of the ten comaments is: Though shalt not be a vacious, careerist, clueless politician.

the crisis in the UK is nothing to do with politics, really. Big scandal about MP's expences...and voters are pissed about the economic crisis...but the general feeling about politicians is dicussed with the political class in general...and as such, is not really a political issue, in the normal meaning...it's just a de-politicisation, in general.

That's not so great and a victory for nobody...

jannowak57 said...

You people are too poor to afford additional days off. So get rid of the 1 May holiday and by all means replace it with June 4 Freedom Day in Poland! Or better yet Liberation from Communism Day.

I would make it an annual event of marching on the Soviet Embassy, oops the Russian Embassy (just a Freudian slip) to demand an apology and reparations for their occupation of Poland from 1944 to 1989.

beatroot said...

I live by that embassy. It's HUGE. Building, grounds...monumental...it would make a nice museum, but they won't give it back and move into more appropriate accomodation.

ge'ez said...

Both days off as paid would be democratically sanctioned no doubt.

As far as Reagan's impact on the Solidarity movement goes, I've read, I think in Luxmoore and Babiuch's _The Vatican and the Red Flag: The Struggle for the Soul of Eastern Europe_ that many Solidarity leaders were miffed by what they saw as all talk and no $$$ in support of their efforts.

Indeed, most of the money that came in for ink, printing equipment and all the other odds and ends (what's the Polish equivalent of pizza in terms of feeding folks involved in political activity?)came from the AFL-CIO and European trade unions.

ge'ez said...

As a sidenote to Mark VA and perhaps others, when looking for the title of the book noted above, I came across what I think is a nifty refuation of Richard Dawkins' pap, also by Jonathan Luxmoore. You might find it interesting, Mark, but then again, you might wind up burning in hell if you read something that appears in Commonweal.

ge'ez said...

Ooops. And it can be found at:

http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/article.php3?id_article=1914

Mark VA said...

Thanks for the link, Ge'ez - a good article from the Commonweal (I hope the fact that I read Commonweal won't come up at my particular judgement).

One interesting observation this article makes:

"Hostility to religion has a long tradition in the United Kingdom, where “organized religion” often sits uncomfortably alongside Anglo-Saxon empiricism and individualism, and anticlerical sentiment reflects the impatience of an antireligious elite that resents alternatives to its own way of thinking. "

I tend to view the antics of Mr. Dawkins as clownish rubbish - this man is not an intellectual heavy weight. I'm much more concerned about the tactics of men like Saul Alinsky, who didn't waste time on atheism, but clearly sided with the forces that oppose God. In his own words, the dedication to the original issue of his "Rules for Radicals" reads:

"Lest we forget at least an over-the-shoulder acknowledgment to the very first radical: from all our legends, mythology, and history (and who is to know where mythology leaves off and history begins -- or which is which), the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom—Lucifer."

ge'ez said...

That was just silly sixties' shock hyperbole, Mark. I am much more concerned with the tactics of men like Karl Rove.

What did you find so problematic about Saul Alinsky's tactics (means) or his ends?

Finally, I don't think it's wise to too easily or cavalierly dismiss Dawkins and his allies who are multiplying like mushrooms in manure.

Mark VA said...

Let me throw the question back at you, Ge'ez:

What is it that you find appealing about the methods and goals of Saul Alinsky?

ge'ez said...

Without Saul Alinsky, there may have never been a Cesar Chavez, a saintly man if ever there was one.

Mark VA said...

That's a very oblique answer, Ge'ez.

ge'ez said...

Well, an oblique answer seemed better than no answer at all, especially when I initially posed the question of what you found so problematic about Alinsky's means and ends.

There are some problems, I think in terms of what he's *written* as to means, but I think that was largely reflective of the tenor of the times, a too combative warring mentality much like the culture wars initiated these days by the likes of Carl Rove, Charles Dobson, et. al.

Czarny Kot said...

More holidays, less religion please.

ge'ez said...

Michnik Day?

Plutocrat said...

Poland is not especially generous with public holidays. Check here: Wikipedia Then get back to work, slave.

Anonymous said...

Plutocrat you lazy pig are you on public assistance and therefore not sympathetic to those who work for a leaving.

Parasites should be exterminated as a public health measure.

Plutocrat said...

Anonymous: This is an English language blog. To help you out I've included this link.

ge'ez said...

Jeez, how many days are you going to take off for the Adam Michnik holiday, BR?

beatroot said...

Back soon...sorry...but work is very difficult at the moment...all sorts of crap going on...I work for the state and they are not the best managers of the tax payers hard earned....will tell all...one day.

ge'ez said...

As long as you didn't overcelebrate the twins' b-day.

Amanda Crowe said...

A reassessment of June 4 will be the start of political reform, and nobody knows what the result will be, and nobody wants to take this risk.

poker said...

There are some problems, I think in terms of what he's *written* as to means, but I think that was largely reflective of the tenor of the times, a too combative warring mentality much like the culture wars initiated these days by the likes of Carl Rove, Charles Dobson, et. al.

Anonymous said...

Poland's current voivodeships (provinces) are largely based on the country's historic regions, whereas those of the past two decades (to 1998) had been centred on and named for individual cities.

rolling razor

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