Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Beatroot’s Pole of the Year

Yes, it’s that time of the year, when magazines, TV programmes, and blogs, name the person most unforgettable in 2008.

Normally, when editors, etc, name their person of the year people agree or disagree and then that’s the end of it. When Time magazine named “You”, as their person of the year - titter, titter - there was some derision, but nobody was sacked, nobody died, and wars they broke out, not.

Well, not, that is, unless you are the award show shown on TVP this November, the annual Roze Gali (Gala Roses) that is. The event was sponsored by Gala magazine - Polish Hello-type drivel - one of those excruciatingly awful rags, full of beautiful celebrities showing us their beautiful wives/husbands/children/homes/pet parrots/white teeth, all in glorious photographic yukky-colour.

The award show was proceeding as award shows usually do - full of beautiful celebs thanking other beautiful celebs for being such beautiful celebs. So far, so beautiful.

And then…oh, dear! The award for Most Beautiful Couple - it’s true, they have such a category (pass the bucket when you are finished with it) - was given to film critic and journalist Tomasz Raczek and his partner, graphic designer, journalist and writer…Marcin Szczygielski!

Aaaarrgh! Gurgle.

A gay couple gets award for most beautiful couple on public television award show shock!

Cue scandal and outrage by the lay governing board which oversees TVP and full of nominees fromLaw and Justice, League of Polish Families and the Self defence party. Yes, you thought the Fourth Republic government was given the boot by voters over a year ago. But no. This coalition - a fractious coalition, as always - still controls large parts of public media. And the terms of these governing bodies, like the umbrella watchdog and controller the Radio and Television Council, overlap and outlast terms of government.

So conflict is actually built in to the Polish Constitution.

And folk scratch their heads wondering why there is so much chaos in Polish governance!

Anyway, back at TVP, the program makers claimed that Gala magazine had kept from them that a gay relationship was going to be endorsed by Polish public TV. The Board of Directors (who are in day-today control of the all the public television stations) was sacked, for this and other alleged incompetence. A new board was hastily put in place.

But the old board said that their dismissal was unconstitutional and refused to stand down and are still trying to administer cash-strapped TVP.

You have to feel sorry for TVP. Chaos as usual. And its financial situation is dire - people have all but given up paying the licence fee after Donald Tusk announced he wants to ditch it and fund the place via direct taxation, at the same time arguing that public TV has got to be de-politicised! Um…

So, the choice of Most/Best person/couple thing is not without its dangers, its consequences. But who to choose for Beatroot’s Most Unforgettable Pole of the Year?

It’s got to be one of the world's top goalkeepers, Our Artur Boruc.

Not for what he does in goal - he’s good but inconsistent. He has trouble concentrating, you see, probably since he started getting death threats after he was photographed in Warsaw with a new chick - ex-gangland moll, allegedly - getting pissed when he was on the injury list at Glasgow Celtic and only days after his wife and kid left him and headed back to Poland. That’s one beautiful couple who will no longer be gracing the glossy pages of Gala magazine.

But Boruc’s main talent is for winding people up and, being a favourite trait of this blog’s, then for that the Beatroot nominates him for Pole of the Year.

But then again, you might disagree…

Monday, December 15, 2008

Why is the West so fascinated by a Buddhist monk?

He came (for a week), he saw, he talked quite a lot of harmless nonsense. But he conquered a few hearts in the process. So just what is it about the Dalai Lama that makes westerners turn so gooey-eyed?

Poland was part of the Dalai Lama’s extensive European tour. He was guest of honour at Lech Walesa’s Nobel Peace Prize anniversary bash last weekend; he was in Wroclaw receiving honorary citizenship; he was in Warsaw for an impromptu meeting with President Lech Kaczynski and then wowed an audience of a thousand or so, where he gave a rambling lecture about compassion. And he giggled a lot. He giggled for the whole seven days.

He’s an outwardly nice, old man, just like your slightly daft great uncle.

But the power he has over young westerners and older media hacks is awesome to behold. You would think he was…well, divine - a strange choice of hero in a godless Europe.

So there must be more to the Dalai Lama phenomenon than his Buddha-like qualities. Why is a man who was elected by nobody, who is in control of a semi-state which is run like some medieval religious fiefdom, able to draw such awe from the otherwise cynical, liberal westerner?

I mean, he is not even that keen on gays...surly the barometer of who is cool and who is not, these days? He is the arch-pacifist who thinks that the Iraq war could have been justified!

Maybe he is just a silly old man?

He’s probably much more popular in the West than he is in his own “country”, where many see him as an antiquated old man from a different age.

And what is it about the Tibet struggle for some autonomy from China that excites liberals like many other political struggles do not? Why Free Tibet and not Free China? Why not free themselves?

Maybe the fascination with Tibet and the Lama tells us more about us in the West than it does about the politics of China. Maybe westerners have got this romantic view of Tibet…unspoilt by industrialisation (otherwise known as “progress”); Tibet seems so pure whereas those nasty Chinese have turned into US - consumed by consumerism, building an economy, maximising progress? Tibet is juxtaposed with our own self-hatred.

“They seem so happy,” thinks the westerner as he sees the Dalai Lama go into another fit of the giggles.

The reality of life in Tibet is probably very different from that. It’s a traditional backwater, where most of the labour is backbreakingly antiquated and where the young are yearning for what we have in the West but have learnt, from somewhere, to have contempt for.

I think that having the Dalai Lama as your top political hero is rather sad. It means that we cannot draw inspiration any longer from what we have achieved here, in Europe and America and in many parts of Asia, but only from an elderly man in an orange robe, with a twinkle is his eye.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Confessions of a Dyskopatia sufferer

The doctor told me I had dykopatia - discopathy, today. No, it’s not an irrational aversion to disco dancing - or even the Bee Gees - but it does explain why it feels like a hippopotamus has been kicking me in the back recently.

So sitting and writing long posts is just too tiring at the moment. Back when the pills start working.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Poznan climate conference denial

Hundreds of delegates have descended on Poznan in the west of Poland for the United Nations climate conference, ostensibly to “discuss” a global response to global warming. But the last thing that the environmental movement, and many governments, want is a “discussion” about anything at all.

The 12 day climate catastrophe shindig started yesterday with Poland’s environmental minister taking the chair, and Prime Minister Donald Tusk making the opening speech. He said the correct, soothing things; he kept to the script. “No human activity should disturb the symbiosis between man and nature…”

The Poznan summit is but a prelude to a deal, which every country on Earth must sign up to, seemingly, which will be made in Copenhagen next December. Before then a lot of talking will be talked, a lot of carbon miles will be burnt up in diplomatic travel, a lot of hot air will be aired.

The climax of this year’s event - which picks up the Bali baton of last year - will be the arrival of the Climate Catastrophist Superstars, in the bulky shape of Al Gore and even more bulky Arnold Schwarzenegger . Mikhail Gorbachev and Lech Walesa will also be attendees, but where they fit in is anybody’s guess.

You get the feeling that the Polish government just loves having the UN on its patch to talk climate change. Status! Ping! You also get the impression that Poland is an unlikely host to such a thing.

You see, Poland, aided by Italy and supported by at least six other EU countries, are challenging the targets of the EU - which are even more strict than the UN proposals, to cut carbon emissions by 20 percent of 1990 levels by 2020. Poland is - according to Greenpeace - among the top 20 twenty carbon emitters in the world, due to its jolly old fashioned reliance on coal for 90 percent of its energy needs.

PM Tusk has led the charge in Brussels saying that if he does not get concessions on the targets he is going to veto the whole thing. This will not please Brussels. With its constitution/reform treaty thing put in cold storage by those pesky Irish, the climate deal is the next main chance to show us how relevant they are and how the world needs them so, very much.

So Poland is the host of the climate change summit while at the same time being an arch enemy of climate renewal, or whatever Greenpeace et al term such a position.

Taking the peace out of green

So Poland has become a target for Greenpeace and other groups. It has launched its usual media savvy protests (who needs a mass movement of greens behind you when you can simply turn up regularly on the Six O’clock news?) aimed at the coal industry in Poland. Two weeks ago it blocked an open face coal mine in Konin, on the way to Warsaw from the west, causing, say owners, a 100,000 euro loss of production. Miners, understandably, got a little annoyed with this mixture of Polish greens and climate change tourists, and fisty-cuffs was the result.

The new liberal/left seemingly has little support for the working class and trade unionists - how dare they want to protect their jobs, and even want more in general, when we have to 'save the planet'? Or not.

I heard a Polish Greenpeace activist saying on the radio yesterday that, “we have no choice” but to cut carbon emissions… “The Science” supports us…etc, etc.

Whether the science supports the global warming thesis is still open to some question - and the debate within science goes on, although you would never believe it. But it does - one of my favourite web sites is this one, and you can read for yourself both, and many, sides of the argument and judge for yourself.

But why do environmentalists stoop to use words like “denier” for anyone that dares disagree with them? And why do some of them say climate change denial is morally and socially unacceptable? And don’t they think that is a little, tiny-winy bit …authoritarian?

Compare the reaction to two documentaries. The first, Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth - the other, by climate-change denier, Martin Durkin and his The Great Global Warming Swindle (see documentary here).

Both films have some inaccuracies in them, in fact. But one won an Oscar and led to a Nobel Prize, the other director was frequently deemed in “climate change denial.”

“In denial”, a phrase associated with a psychological disorder or, even, Holocaust denial? George Monbiot, in the Guardian: “Almost everywhere, climate change denial now looks as stupid and as unacceptable as Holocaust denial.”

So, according to the new thought crime, to descent from the path of holy climate change - i.e. to question the amount of warming and/or that the only way to combat such a warming is to cut back on economic growth (even for counties like Poland that never had that much growth in the first place) is the moral equivalent of being…well,… David Irving!

I find that disgusting. Climate change is a political issue. And what is a political issue without political debate? Authoritarianism. Nasty.