Thursday, August 12, 2010

Reasons to defend the Defenders of the Cross

Last week when it was expected that the authorities were going to move The Cross from outside the Presidential Palace to St Anne’s church - and as the Defenders of the Cross often screamed their disapproval - my little office filed up with people watching the scenes on TV.

As the pushing and shoving started with the cops (see previous post) and one deperado grabbed hold of the cross, the people in my office started taunting the Defenders of the Cross. “Idiots” and “Psychos” and “Burak (redneck)” ran the commentary.

And my toes curled, a little.

They curled further still - like week-old stale bread - when President Komorowski, church officials, city authorities backed down. The cops copped out. (latest in saga here and here)

So who is the villain here? The alienated Cross Defenders, often poor, uneducated, alienated from the last two decades of Poland Inc? Victims of events they feel is beyond their control. Or the Polish State not up for a fight in what it says it believes in?

The Polish State has always had an awkward and distant relationship with its citizens in Poland. This is a historical process - partition, Soviet-isation etc…that has left the State with a desperate need to connect with the Poles. Lech Kaczynski knew this. The big displays on Army Day, the Warsaw Rising museum, the emphasis on Historical Politics. These were his way - the Law and Justice way - of trying to create a mass behind a state.

That Kaczynski was/is trying to create a Poland simply out of what it was in the past, is revealing about the relationship that type of national-conservative politics has with The Future. They really have no idea of what that kind of Poland would be. And it’s bound to fail because of that.

Civic Platform - who, now that Komorowski is safely ensconced in the Presidential Palace have a monopoly of power - have a different problem. They have to present themselves as a modernising force, with normal centre-right christian democratic type politics. Poland should be a ‘normal’ country within Europe.

Yet, when they are challenged on this - to make a statement about the separation between symbols of church and state, which this conflict over the cross has provoked - they back down. They lose stomach for the fight.

So who is the villain of the Battle for the Cross? The comparatively weak desperados of the Defenders of the Cross? Or the hapless cowards of the Tusk-Komorowski-Church establishment who are failing to gain any respect from anyone in Poland - foe, and friend, alike?


jannowak57 said...

The state is not the issue, the political leadership is the issue, and in this cross fiasco the mechanisms of state did not fail but the political and religious leadership of the country failed. They failed to lead and unite the people, they also failed to maintain constitutional order. The villains are Poland’s political elites from both sides of the divide, these people are effectively products of the PRL and perform well below minimum expectations in running the nation. Lech Kaczynski’s attempt to create a “ mass behind the state” was a failure because from the very start it was exclusive by its focus on the old, backward and uneducated he was destined to failure. What will be the political dynamic when Komorowski and Tusk fail to deliver?

Poland is crying out in frustration for someone to take the helm and lead the nation forward.

As far “two decades of Poland Inc” forget the alternative this country has choked on socialism from 1944 to 1990 leaving it backward in every aspect of national life and human development.

Poland’s only hope for the future is the creation of a world-class modern economy and this goal must be attained at any cost.

beatroot said...

Yeah, but you have to try and make people feel included. There was a report last week showing that the vast majority of foreign investment is targeted at north, central and wesstern parts of Poland. That is where the Civic Platform vote is...or sometimes SLD. So the more secular voters live in the most developed parts of Poland.

So I would have thought the solution is obvious. Get some economic development into PiS-land...

ge'ez said...

The Church and state did not fail to stage a BIG Mass and public commememoration in Krakow.

Maybe you guys only think people are doing something right if they do it in Warsaw.

Busting yer chops aside, how many times and to what extent does the tragedy have to be commemorated this year to be sufficient? Every holiday, every Sunday, every day?

And how big is the group that is truly being supportive of the Defenders of the Cross? And how big is the group among the spectrum of fence sitters that is getting more and more disgusted by their antics.

Economic development: easier said than done, especially when roads and other modes of transportation can't get built on time or at all.

Anonymous said...

It is all about being afraid of the church - the only true power in Poland - omnipresent and omnipotent. Neither PIS nor PO nor even so called LEFT dare even twitch against the bishops. But some sparks of hope appeared wirh thousands of 'attackers' of the cross - they were not afraid to show the absurdity of the situation. So maybe one of their children will be the Polish Henry VIII or at least Zapatero...

ge'ez said...

That's just pure horseshit, Anonymous.

The official Church stand was to move the cross into St. Anne's Church. More than a few bishops spoke against the misuse of the cross for political purposes.

The protesters were a handful of twisted holier-than-God zealots, used by PiS for their own altogether crass political purposes.

There are many things for which the Church deserves criticism, this is not one of them.

jannowak57 said...

The relationship between Church and state are not exactly in balance even recognizing the special place the Catholic Church has in Polish society. I would say we do not have a healthy level of separation between church and state as required by most modern democracies. After 1989 the church was a bit over compensated for its role in aiding Solidarity.

It needs to be noted that the church speaks with many voices and not all of them represent reason and moderation. We have the Vatican’s position, the position of the Polish church and the position of extremist segments of the Polish church. What the flock get to hear from their local Priest is or may often be at variance to the Vatican’s intentions if not its actual policies.

There is not a tradition or history of the current church /state relationship in the past during the 1920-1939 period.

This imbalance will continue because contemporary politicians have nothing to gain in taking on the church to redress the imbalance.

beatroot said...

Anon - "the church - the only true power in Poland - omnipresent and omnipotent."

You see, my point is: the sources of power you would expect in Poland - church and state - are week, not strong.

Geez is right that PiS is ignoring the teaching of the church.

I agree with Jan that the seperation between church and state is not all it should be (although it is a lot better than it used to be in Ireland) but fundementally what you have in Poland is a lack of authority. Full stop. And that is not a GOOD THING in itself...a sociaty searching for an identity, like Poland is, needs a lead from it church or political party, or ideologies etc.

gay bikers on acid said...

I was in Warsaw at the weekend. The police were standing in front of the cross. Barriers separated the police from a crowd of people standing looking at police and cross. I did not see many cross defenders, or whatever. There were a few of them standing behind what were a majority of curious onlookers who were watching cross, police and defenders. It’s the main tourist attraction in town at the moment.

If this had been four or five years ago there would have been skinheads there, extreme nationalists there etc. But not now. It’s just a few old ladies with plastic bags. Nothing to be scared of.

ge'ez said...

@GBOA: Perhaps the reason you saw so few so-called defenders there was because early Satuday morning the police:

"removed protestors from the direct vicinity of the disputed Smolensk Cross outside the Presidential Palace in preparation for Army Day celebrations in Warsaw."

"at the request of Poland’s government protection unit (BOR)."

--> From

ge'ez said...

BTW, GBOA, maybe you can explain where the derogatory(?) term "pedal" or "pedaly" comes from? I could never quite figure it out. I assume your moniker is a play on the terminology.

Gavin Rae said...

I linked to your article in my blogpost here:

Hope you don't mind me putting it here.

beatroot said...

Absolutely not...and good to see you do some blogging about Poland...we need all we can get...and it's a good post, too.

beatroot said...

Geez - there used to be an expression for gays in the UK - "bikes" - as in "one who is ridden"...same thing I think.

But GBOA is right...I went for a little bike ride around the presidential alace on Sunday and there were few defenders left. They had been moved back by the cops several metres and there is now barriers around it. Initially it was something about a fireworks display on Sunday but it looks permenant to me. And I get the impression that the protest has become a little exhausted.

geez said...

Sorta. I guess. But Polish for bikes is rowery, no? Why the emphasis on the pedals?

And is "pedal/y" always derogatory?

I don't get the English bike thing either since there's gotta be a rider on the one who is ridden. And a biker is not a bike, nor is a bike a biker -- but either can be both? Much too confusing.

Dr. Detroit said...

Polish "pedal" comes from the French slang for gays, "pedale." Why they were called that I don't know, but that's the origin of the Polish term.