Tuesday, 24 January 2012

It's a conspiracy!

An incident on the way to work got me thinking. A guy sitting opposite me on the train commented on my US Army parka and fur hat; he told me that he collected militaria and pointed to his 1960s Red Army-issue boots. The man, in his early 30s, dressed like a manual labourer, then went on to talk quite knowledgeably, about his collection of military bits and pieces he'd dug up around Magnuszew, (where the Red Army established a bridgehead on the west bank of the Vistula and fought off a German counter-attacks in 1944).

He told me that he'd had a stash of 160 WWII hand grenades that he'd kept in his basement. When these were found by the police (his neighbours, he said, were always complaining about the explosions he was setting off) he was imprisoned for six and half years. At this stage, I began having doubts as to the veracity of the man's tale.

He then told of how he'd often recruit local drunks from Warka to dig for military remains, paying them 100 złotys for a day's work. “Two of them blew themselves sky-high”, he told me. "Fantasist," I thought. His grandfather was a German, he said, who had fought with the SS on the Eastern Front. “The things he'd seen...” His grandfather, who he said died when he was 12 or 13, said “they should have liquidated all the Jews.” By now, alarm bells started ringing. The guy's not only nuts but quite probably psychopathic. “The Jews are running Poland!” he said, drawing attention from other commuters. “Even this railway is owned by the Jews!” Without saying a word, I stood up and moved to another carriage.

This encounter – most untypical, I must add - got me thinking about the role of Conspiracy in politics. At the weekend, reading KGB – The Inside Story by Christopher Andrew and Oleg Gordievsky – the link between mental illness, paranoia and conspiracy all fitted together. Poland is still emerging from a dark period in its history – the direct result of the madness that fuelled the minds of two men – Hitler and Stalin.

Both were obsessed with conspiracies – one was convinced of a Jewish plot to run the world. The other – of a capitalist plot to run the world. The mental flexibility that allowed their ill minds to find plots and sub-plots that simply did not exist is staggering. During the Spanish Civil War, when Stalin was supporting the Republican side – his NKVD henchmen spent more energy chasing Trotskyites than they did fighting Fascists – which, ostensibly, was what they were there for.

Both Hitler and Stalin's secret services were in the business of torturing the truth out of innocent people in order to prove the existence of a given conspiracy. Stalin was so much more effective. His secret services effectively spread disinformation, they found useful dupes to do good propaganda for them, they were so much better at getting their victims to volunteer information to them. Hitler's propaganda had no room for shades of grey. Stalin's propaganda could make white look like black.

Destroying the bonds of human trust are a prerequisite for a New Order to step in, replacing centuries-old institutions with The Party. In the 20th C., this happened right across much of the Eurasian continent. It deeply affected the psyches (and indeed mental health) of those who lived through it.

To finally kill off the evil effects of totalitarianism in Poland – and other post-communist countries – what is needed is the rebuilding of social trust. Good must arise out of bad - not sinking back into a world of plots, counter-plots and counter-counter-plots.

One of my students, Marzena, who has just returned from her first trip to the UK, noticed how low the walls surrounding English houses were compared to the elaborate security measures that defend Polish houses. Despite (or because of) this, burglary rates in Warsaw are actually lower than in London. Three times lower, in fact. And yet, fear of crime is far greater here.

Paranoia – the fear that someone's out to get me – is at the heart of many populist political movements. Russia's Putin cannot accept, for example, that non-governmental organisations (NGOs) – voluntary bodies set up from the grass roots – can exist or even spring up without the careful planning and support of foreign powers intent on using them to take over Russia.

Populist parties around the world use conspiracy theory to boost support among the disaffected. Those who believe that the fact that life has been less than fair them is the fault of some vast conspiracy. They will vote for anyone who can put their minds at ease by convincing them of that fact.

I'm not going to make any direct references to today's press conference by Antoni Macierewicz; I shall let readers make their own conclusion.

This time last year:
A Dream Too Far - short story

This time two years ago:
Compositions in white, blue and gold

This time three years ago:
Dobra and the road

This time four years ago:
Polish air force plane full of VIPs crashes on landing

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

And whose interests does this blog serve?
Ha !

toyah said...

@Mike
Wasn't it you who told me stories - and most seriously, too - about the ones who run the world? Yes it was you. And much too many times.
I jeszcze jedno. Tym razem po polsku, bo sprawa jest poważna. Któregoś dnia - a możliwe, że uda nam się obu tego dnia dożyć - dowiesz się, że 10 kwietnia 2010 roku kpt. Protasiuk i jego koledzy wykonali swoje zadanie najbardziej profesjonalnie. Że zrobili wszystko co w ludzkiej mocy, by ten samolot uratować. Niestety na przeciwko siebie mieli siły, którym nie sprostaliby nawet najbardziej znakomici piloci brytyjscy. A Ty już do końca swoich dni będziesz wiedział, że wtedy, gdy się wszystko rozstrzygało, z niezrozumiałego zupełnie powodu, z jakiegoś niezwykłego opętania, stanąłeś po stronie tych, którzy potrafili tylko szydzić.
A ja dziś mam tylko nadzieję, że nie będziesz miał zbyt dużych wyrzutów sumienia. Bo w takiej sytuacji, trudno by Ci było je znieść.

Stefan Kubiak said...

Michael, the problem is that you never know. Nothing more, nothing less! I don't believe in a New World Order conspiracy, because I don't believe the organisational skills of the most intelligent guys can achieve such a level of cooperation, I don't believe in a world-wide Jewish conspiracy, which is a pure paranoia. However, there are still quite limited-scale conspiracies, which seems quite normal. There are gangs, mafias, intelligence services, which by definition are conspiracies. The problem with conspiracies is that we never know whether something was a coincidence or a result of someone's plot. The mysteries of General Sikorski's death as well as JF Kennedy's assasination are still unsolved. Sometimes thinking about conspiracies is a sing of paranoia, sometimes not. Nothing else, nothing more.

Anonymous said...

For Toyah, the one with his bank account number on his blog: lamentably, I will never be reimbursed or compensated for the time I wasted reading the total and utter horseshit you wrote here.

adthelad said...

@Anonymous - so what, you only get paid for writing obnoxious replies? Piece rate obviously, common sense when you think about it. I wonder what needs of yours aren't being met? - see below:)

@MD - been looking for a reason to post this for your attention and since you're talking about human trust we nee to start from communication and the actions required to achieve it
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XBGlF7-MPFI
p.s. every time I open this video it starts 6 mins in so drag to start in case this happens.

Andrzej K said...

Toyah, if you subscribe to conspiracy theory then you need to identify qui bono. In the case of Smolenski this was not the Russians unless of course you assumed they wanted the whole world to hear about Katyn. And who in their right mind would assume that the pilots would be so suicidal as to attempt a landing in such conditions? Because to believe in a conspiracy theory requires two factors to interplay: dense fog and pilot bravura. The second you might just assume following the CASA incident. The first?

On the whole question of social trust and social capital there was an interesting survey across Europe showing that Protestant countries have a far higher level of social responsability. The Polish national church faction identofy solely with the family and with some archaic notion of the nation (vide missinism) and an all powerfil conspiracy theory. Intelligent Catholicism (Kosciol Lagiewnicki as opposed to Torun) follows the Protestant work ethic and that we are all responsable for our own lives, our local communities and ultimately the nation and the world. Which is why in Poland the management boards of, for instance blocks of flats are filled not with volunteers but paid (very well paid) self chosen individuals.

When I hear Radio Maryja castigating both work shy employees and exploitative employers I will eat my hat.

And in case anyone has a problem with the Protestant work ethic I suggest having a look at the difference in the care and attention to the environment in the towns and villages around Opole compared to the utter "syf" in Warsaw (Michal's piece on rat runs yesterday is but an example).

toyah said...

@Anonymous
Good you have somehow managed to unglue your tongue from that.
By the way, what's so notable about the account number? Haven't you ever given out yours? Are you paid for what you do with money, or some other stuff maybe?

toyah said...

@Andrzej K.
If I know shit - and I do know shit - I can speculate, I can argue, but the last thing I am going to do is to jeer at people who can't even respond. The people who died in the crash have been killed again and again, almost ritually, with thousands of cuts by people who, like Mike and you, do know shit, and the only thing you have is your hatred.

Andrzej K said...

Toyah, what I love about people like you is the fact that you impute your own petty foibles onto others. Where is the hatred in what Mike or I have said? Please bear in mind that as a direct result of the combined arrogance and stupidity of the Kaczynski twins, gen Blasik and the pilots at least 4 people I knew personally died completely needlesly. Why was it imperative that the plane should land? Loss of face and that is all.

And bear in mind that it was the Kaczynski who divided Poland into two nations. I suggest that you read amongst others Jerzy Giedroyc on the subject of the utter folly of trying to define what is a true Pole. Poland used to be tolerant country which gave shelter to the persecuted. May it once more become such a place. Maybe a good starting point would be to look at the borderlands of Germany and France where the alegiance is to the locality above any nationalistic concepts.

And the repeated death of the victims is entirely due to Macierewicz raking up the ashes. Will his actions bring back the dead. But then in Poland someone has to be guilty. Just to remind you the purpose of the investigations is to establish what happened and why so as to ensure enhanced air safety. The pilots were told at Okecie that conditions were bad yet they decided to fly. The control tower at Smolensk issued a standard statement which translated to everyday language means that any attempt to land is folly and the decision is that of the pilots solely. Whether Blasik was in the cockpit is incidental.

And finally when will Kaczynski kindly let us know what it was that he disussed with his brother?

I do not suppose you will ever answer my question as to exactly who benefitted from the tradegy and how that person engineered the fog.

orjan said...

@Michael

Ja też po polsku wobec powagi sprawy tego związku ogrodzeń z poziomem paranoi. Obawiam się bowiem, że nie czujesz istotnej różnicy.

Dla porządku: Pomijam tu funkcje osłony dla intymności (parawan), ochrony przed hałasem, itd., jeśli to one podwyższają ogrodzenie. Pomijam też sytuacje szczególne, jak np. u mnie, gdzie na sporej działce swobodnie żyją dwa duże psy. Pies potrafi skakać (!), zatem moje ogrodzenie jest wysokie na minimum 1,8 m (6 stóp), aby osoby postronne nie odczuwały obawy, obojętnie, czy moje psy w ogóle mają ochotę wyskakiwać.

Mówimy zatem wyłącznie o ogrodzeniu jako o środku przeciwko wejściu z zewnątrz. Jednak funkcją ogrodzenia nie jest uniemożliwienie wtargnięcia z zewnątrz. Mówimy przecież o ogrodzeniu, a nie o murach berlińskich, czy innych fortecznych. Zewnętrzną funkcją ogrodzenia jest komunikat: dalej proszę nie wchodzić.

Polsko-angielska różnica kulturowa polega tutaj na zakresie poczucia wolności i swobody osobistej, a nie na żadnej tam paranoi. Wyobrażam sobie (ewentualnie zweryfikuj), że w Anglii za skuteczny komunikat proszę nie wchodzić może wystarczyć byle płotek. Odkąd za byle co wysyłano z Anglii do Australii, albo nawet na szubienicę, nikt tam z takimi komunikatami nie dyskutuje (co się, podobno, zmienia).

W kulturze polskiej jest natomiast znacznie szersze pojęcie wolności osobistej, także w jej odniesieniu do cudzej przestrzeni. Obok cudzego zakazu wstępu istnieje przecież moja własna potrzeba wstępu, nieprawdaż? Stąd, niski płotek kulturowo nie jest interpretowany jako: proszę nie wchodzić, lecz jako: proszę raczej nie wchodzić, czyli: nie wolno, ale można. Natomiast wyższe ogrodzenie daje tutaj komunikat prawny zintegrowany z przeszkodą faktyczną: nie wolno i nie można.

Możesz to łatwo sprawdzić u siebie w Jeziorkach, jeśli przyjdzie do Ciebie osoba postronna, a Ty wezwiesz policję. Zakładając, że w międzyczasie nie doszło do żadnej przemocy, prawie na pewno policjant zachowa się dość neutralnie wobec przybysza, bo może on miał swoją, uzasadnioną potrzebę wejścia, a skoro fizycznie nic nie stało mu na przeszkodzie...

Co dotyczy obawy przed obcymi, możemy także porównać doświadczenia z dzieciństwa. Ja bowiem pamiętam, że gdy ktoś był w domu, to z zasady domów i mieszkań nie zamykało się tutaj na klucz. Na wsi takiej jak Jeziorki, czy moja wieś, raczej nie zamykało się na klucz nawet wychodząc z domu. Ewentualnie klucz kładło się obok. Czy w Anglii też funkcjonowało podobnie paranoiczne poczucie ufności względem innych?

Nawiązuję do dzieciństwa, bo obaj obserwujemy postępy postępu i ich wpływ na zjawiska kulturowe już z perspektywy jakichś 50 lat, a to już jest perspektywa całkiem historyczna, uprawniająca do pogłębionego wnioskowania.

Czyż takie konfuzje kulturowe nie są interesujące i inspirujące?

orjan said...

@Andrzej K

As long as loos of face is not imperative, anybody may write anything also.

toyah said...

@Andrzej K
You guys never cease to amaze me. Take someone who says something about hatred, and you go nuts. What are you afraid of? Why is it so important for you to be considered such princes? Look at your comment. Is that supposed to be your love song? Come on!
I hate all right. My heart is full of contempt. I will admit it. But I will never dare to hurt the memory of those who have been killed. Especially when I have no idea who killed them and why.
As I have said, I don't know what happened on that Saturday afternoon. I only know questions. So many of them. You on the other hand seem to have just one problem: who, whom and why. Unless you know the answer to this, you will stick to the most recent official messages.
So this is how it is. And now you dare to be coming here and ask me "who" and "why"? Sorry man, but I don't believe you. I know you know the answer. And I know where you have got it from. Yours hatefully.

Andrzej K said...

Toyah, I have many friends who are pilots who have made instrument landings in fog. They all confirm that this is a very very frightening experience even for airline pilots with thousands of hourse of experience. And something which is only undertaken with suitable ground navigation systems which Smolensk does not have. Any sane pilot (or if you prefer one who is not subject to pressure from a lunatic) having sufficient fuel will fly on to another airfield.

Discussions about Blasik, helium, the tensile strenght of birch trees etc are incidental. The bottom line is that the pilot should not have attempted to land. End of story. If you do not believe me talk to ANY commercial pilot (interesntingly none have appeared as witnesses for Maciarewicz).

Lastly have a look in a decent dictionary for a definition of hate. I do not hate Kaczynski, I just happen to find him absurd. So long as he does not try to harm me in any way I do not give a monkey's cuss.

toyah said...

@Andrzej K
There is a very clear possibility that they never tried to land. They did whatever they could to get off... but they were not allowed. Mind you. I am not saying this is what happened. I'm just turning your attention to a chance. And this is the chance that sooner or later might make your life a nightmare. I can't imagine you are so careless about it.

Andrzej K said...

Toyah, the pilots were well below the decision height so what do you mean that there is a possibility they did not try to land. Maybe they were trying out low altitude flying to avoid radar detection having mistaken the Presidental flight for an F16 low altitude training session? What do you mean they were not allowed to get off? Little green men from Mars intervened? And life was a nightmare when Kaczynski was President. Or at least any attempt to get foreign companies to take an interest in Poland was turning into a bit of a nightmare.

The last is not a hate statement but a statement of utter contempt. There is a fundamental difference. Hate is what Rydzyk practices from Torun.

Michael Dembinski said...

@ Orjan re: fences.

The other side of the coin that I describe here is the fact that land is not enclosed in Poland whereas it is in the UK. The UK is criss-crossed by public footpaths but one is not to trespass on private land. In Poland - as long as you're not trampling crops - it's quite OK to stroll over someone else's land.

I like your distinction between 'nie można' and 'nie wolno'.

If someone 'postronny' = third party, outsider, were to be trespassing in my garden, I'd call my security firm, not the police. They'd be round like a shot, and would frankly be more effective.

Michael Dembinski said...

@ Anyone mentioning the "S" word... This post was not meant to be about Smolensk. The last paragraph about Macierewicz was not intended to be part of the post, I added it only because he was on TV news last night. And the Polish air force plane full of VIPs that crashed on landing? Well, that happened exactly four years ago yesterday.

Coincidence? Or Conspiracy?

toyah said...

@Andrzej K
As I have said, you know nothing at all.
The problem is that you think you do. And you don't. And this makes each of the comment you have made here and the whole debate... pointless.
And so much for the pathos.

orjan said...

@Michael

This distinction sounds even more attractive (with this sense of Polish enthusiasm for personal freedom):

Wszystko można, co nie można, byle z wolna i z ostrożna.

:)))

Andrzej K said...

Toyah. If what I say is pointless why do you bother replying. Wild horses will not turn me into a PiS supporter!!!