Monday, 20 December 2010

An Apology for being anti-Polish

One of the things I have lined up to write, is a post that relates to the ease with which a foreigner can try to comment objectively on the country they live in and like, but can fail to do so do just because of the 'foreigner' perspective and through use of prejudicial language. I ask myself "do I do that?".

Thanks to a Post by Scatts on 20 East, I already have my answer. I do. I have written the appalling accusation "The way [Polish] people speak is so culturally ingrained with anti-Semitic, homophobic, Russophobic ideas and perspective ...". I completely and absolutely apologise for this stupid statement. Thank you very much to 'Guest' for pointing this out - it was only on the second rereading of my comment, that I found what I had done.

Everyone tries to excuse themselves for such things, and I do want to explain. However, the fact that I wrote something so awful, so soon after questioning whether I do such things, does not give me any excuse.

What I should have written, adding the follow-on text, is "The way [Polish] people speak seems to foreigners to be so culturally ingrained with anti-Semitic, homophobic, Russophobic ideas and perspective that it seems obvious that Polish people feel this way. However, in conversation it is often clear that people who use this language consider themselves normally neutral and unconcerned, but sometimes completely supportive."

I had written it from a foreigner's point of view, rather than balancing the Polish perspective: my intended point was that a Polish person would not consider this anti-semitic, as I fully know. However, from my background, people who keep commenting on a specific group's racial background can normally be assumed to have negative racial feelings ie to be 'rascist'. This is so ingrained, that coming to Poland and hearing regular and unprovoked, as it seems, references to Jews, one immediately gets the impression that there is an enormous amount of hostility. Not only consciously understanding that this not the case, but also getting over one's 'gut reaction' on hearing such talk: that is "for me one of the hardest things to understand about people from Poland", as I put it, or "Western europeans will probably never understand the Polish Jewish relationships" as Guest puts it.

Apologies again. I am slightly scared that I am making it worse, but I hope this makes it clearer.


Anonymous said...

Very clear to me at least, Steve, and I think a point worth making at some length as it's not an easy distinction to make.

Anonymous said...

Alternatively, you could simply do as Poles do, and just say what you really believe.