Saturday, 9 October 2010

Cheer Up - Economist Eastern Approaches

I like the Economist Eastern Approaches blogsite. Apart from having articles about Poland, it gives me a perspective on events in countries around me. I say 'perspective' as I remember the Economist from years ago, when it often had interesting, well written articles with a clear hard-hitting message. The problem was that the lack of knowledge of the writer was normally only too apparent when an article covered something I knew.

I don't know how I would have regarded their current 'Cheer up' article and the full article in European Voice. The points come across very differently in the two articles, but both make what I consider to be a fair point: "Poland's cup has rarely been fuller, not something a visitor would guess from listening to Poles complain". OK, 'rarely' is journalistic waffle, but who wants to look back more than 70 years?

I would certainly agree that, 10 years ago, virtually every Pole thought Poland was the pits and had no chance. I seemed to be the only one who thought otherwise. This is changing and their is a much greater sense of optimism, especially as a result of people returning from the self-evidently great countries, such as England, spreading the news that much there was pretty awful as well. However, I would still hesitate to say that the balance of the Polish mood about Poland has become more than it's OK, possibly having the chance of becoming prosperous and a good place to live. (I have moved from belief in this possibility to expectation, with certain knowledge that Poland is already the best possible place for many people who already live here ... and some that don't)

However, there is still a strong trend in attitudes that has everything in Poland impossible and unacceptable: the "sophisticated London-based Poles" mentioned by the Economist journalist being archetypally amongst the most narrow minded and uninformed of such people.

What surprises me about the articles is that the description of Poland is so very different from that I see described in the media. The impression given by the "Polish media and blogosphere" seems only to reflect blogs and comments on media articles. Indeed, I get the impression that the journalist wants to emphasise that he is saying something good by saying everyone else says it is bad, distorting reality to achieve this. He then makes himself the arbiter of balance by giving "criticisms [that are] are all the more powerful when made fair-mindedly".

I can't help smile at the "corruption and cronyism", which are always a fun media hang-up, but shouldn't a journalist know that these are blown all out of proportion from their value to the press as attention attracting news items.

However, "the soft-pedalling towards the regime in Russia has gone too far (Chechens, Georgians and Russian democrats all scent betrayal)" is completely weird. Poland has recently drawn back from attempting to incite open conflict to a position where it talks to its neighbour in a normal, untrusting, but diplomatic fashion. Sure, the Chechen leader visiting Poland was arrested, but his case got to court and was rejected quicker than it would normally take to question anyone, not to mention finding faults in the international warrant, lack of documentation, etc which are the world standard for prevarication. The guy himself was clearly not angered by the whole process: it was a set-up. One in the eye for the Russia and he can now come to Poland any time he wants without hesitation. The Economist has picked up one side of the Polish political spectrum and translated their extreme view into being "fair-minded".

The journalist's problem seems to be that there has been a change of party in power and he can't quite figure out what this process means. Democracy is too lively and energetic in Poland for someone who comes from one of those limited option, "sophisticated" democracies where the fundamental principle of political parties is that they are all pretty much the same behind the propaganda. Boring politics for boring countries, but not for Poland.

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