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On Intolerance In Poland


Because some people don't know what they're spray-painting

On Intolerance in Poland

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The graffiti

[Content note: citing of Wikipedia, unreliable sources, violent crime statistics]

Here’s a “graffiti” from a railway station in the town I’m staying in. It depicts a mosque in a “forbidden” sign, and the caption says “No to the islamisation of Poland”.

First of all, what islamisation. While there are Muslims in Poland, they don’t even add up to a 0.1% of the population according to the 2011 census (seriously, there’s more self-reported Buddhists). That’s hardly an unstoppable horde. And they’ve been here for a very long time, since the 16th century they’ve been recognised by the king of the day. Here’s a Wikipedia article.

Second of all, WHAT islamisation. One of the main worries is that there will be an increase in violent crime and rape - but we already have that in spades, thanks to GOOD CHRISTIAN TRADITIONS promoting TRADITIONAL VALUES of men treating their wives as property rather than people. Alcohol is also a big factor in criminal behaviour. If those who denounce “islamisation” do it on the grounds of it promoting violent crime, they need to look at their own behaviour as well. In 2009, there were 1816 rape cases opened by the police. This is when the incident was reported and actually accepted for investigation. 288 of perps were drunk and/or on drugs during the act (ibid.), and crucially, out of 1530 cases where they decided a crime did indeed take placr, in 1244 of them the perpetrator was Polish, and only in 15 cases it was a foreigner (ibid.). While this is not comparing like with like, it gives the outsiders a great track record.

II.

The Polish young Right is not entirely self-selecting. They’re what’s left after all the smart ones leave. Coincidentally, the Polish young expat Right is essentially a giant PR campaign that faces both the hate campaign of the tabloids (warning: Daily Mail) and the insanity of those left in the country. It is also numerous. A recent Anti-Facist Action (an extreme-left group) march in Wrocław was estimated to have had over a thousand participants. An Independence March organised by an extreme-right organisation (“All-Polish Youth”) had some 70 times that. It is difficult to be a liberal or even gasp to the left in Poland, as the Right establishment and the All-Polish Youth are actively hostile to anyone who does not share their belief and brands them as gay, Jews, German, Russian, and other “names” that somehow manage to insult multiple (and sometimes disjoint!) groups of people at the same time.

The All-Polish Youth is also scarily like Daesh. They wish to create a Catholic State of Poland, and one of its core messages is that they are always militant against what they perceive to be threats to their country. As a strongly nationalist movement in an established nation-state, it tends to espouse xenophobia and national chauvinism (as well as TRADITIONAL VALUES including gender roles). It seems that the All-Polish Youth matches the dangerous “belief in decline” nationalism. Ideologically, they are very similar to “fundies” in the US and groups like Britain First and EDL in the UK - but unlike the US and the UK, the Polish political system seems to enable and assist groups like them. Roman Giertych, the founder of the All-Polish Youth’s current incarnation, was even at one point Minister of Education. Over 140,000 people signed a petition to remove him from the post, and on good grounds - Giertych proposed bills to discriminate against gay teachers; luckily, he was unsuccessful.

III.

Holt and Tygart (1959)(paywall) argue that in some groups of people, going to college expands their tolerance towards different political ideas. They do so by classifying respondents (N=1037) into “subcultures”: “collegiate” characterised by wanting to have fun and drink, “vocational/careerist” characterised by their narrow focus on advancing their career, “intellectual/academic” who focus on learning and are trusted by the faculty, and “nonconformists” who also focus on learning but do not like the faculty. Their results showed that the “academic” and “nonconformist” groups are most likely to expand their political tolerance. A notable issue with this study is that the sample was limited by design to men, however this being the 1950s, some things can be explained.

(The study also showed, albeit weakly (Nfrat=53), that students living in frat houses tend to be less politically tolerant than even those living with their family. Problems with fraternities (real or perceived) are not a recent thing. Another notable finding: college students in the US are slightly more likely to want to suppress right-aligned speech than left-aligned speech. Finally, most gains in political tolerance happen between first and second year of college, which is also consistent with newer studies on college and critical thinking.)

The Holt/Tygart study does not explain why such subcultures or orientations are more or less likely to become more tolerant. I can draw several conjectures about this:

  1. Students from families that are already academic are more likely to trust academia and thus have the “academic” or at least “nonconformist” orientation at the start of their degree. I can only corroborate this with my own experience: I was born to a family where most of my direct ancestors I have ever spoken to had some sort of university education.
  2. Immigrant students and other students from abroad are more tolerant by necessity and have a better attitude towards their own education than home students. Living and studying abroad requires much more resources and effort on part of the student, so students from abroad are much more likely to be more determined than other students who may not even need to leave their family home to attend university. However, this is again based on my own personal experience, and observations of other students from abroad in my CS class at Queen Mary.

I would like to read more about these topics, so please send me stuff.

This however does not necessarily explain why the All-Polish Youth is so popular among Polish students - granted, it selects for Polish people so it follows that it will not select more tolerant students from abroad. Is nationalism really that strong among most Polish home students? Can this be explained by the fact that Poland has been pretty much under Soviet occupation up until 1989, which instilled a strong sense of distrust in left-leaning political parties in the parents of current students, and their current teachers? The latter may be somewhat plausible: my mother teaches geography at the Univeristy of Silesia, and she’s told me several times that she finds her coworkers and her university’s administration somewhat intolerant of students from abroad. Even in the face of admissions crisis: there just aren’t enough young people to go around.

IV.

I feel like this topic could be explored in a lot more detail. Clearly, there’s a link between higher education and political tolerance, however this link is subject to many caveats, and may not extend to other types of tolerance - for instance racial, ethnic, and religious tolerance required for the Polish to truly accept Syrian refugees. I moderately dislike religion and tend to view it as pointless and occasionally even malicious in the current society, however I won’t prevent someone from praying if they want to, and leave preachers alone as long as they don’t explicitly call for violence against “infidels”. I am also convinced that not many of my Polish peers share this view - again, the census shows that over 87% of people living in Poland identify themselves as Catholic, and the country is heavily Catholicised - even up to the point where there are news stories in both state-owned and private news broadcasts that feature things some cardinal or other church official said on a topic they probably shouldn’t really talk about (say, abortion and in-vitro fertilisation). For a country with two female prime ministers in a row (Ewa Kopacz, then after recent election Beata Szydło*) and a trans woman MP, Poland sure is extremely intolerant, xenophobic, and close-minded.

* But I have a feeling the latter is just a puppet for Jarosław Kaczyński.