Monday, May 10, 2021

Comments by Hagne

Showing 1 of 1 comments.

  • This is quite a quasi-scientific rant and I have neither time nor inclination to address all its points. But one of the point struck a strong chord for me.

    I too was raised in communist Poland behind the Iron Curtain. I too moved to the UK and experienced a huge chunk of my adult life here. And I think either the author massively simplified what the Polish friend was saying, or the Polish friend is suffering from a chronic rose-tinted glasses syndrome not helped by the need to find simple answers.

    Firstly, the amount of double think that had to be done behind the Iron Curtain whether at school, or at work, or in social situations was unbelievable. Books you couldn’t mention, authors you couldn’t admit to reading, historical facts which had to be presented in a specific way even though you knew that was false, the list is endless and if you are interested in studying it I suggest you start from the body of work of Michal Glowinski.
    Were these rules simple? Well, in some respect yes – just don’t mention anything that on the naughty list. A massive, massive, ever-growing naughty list. So I respectfully disagree that self censorship behind the Iron Curtain was a walk in the park compared to the burden of walking the labyrinth of social conventions in the UK.

    Secondly, communist Poland had a completely different social structure to the UK. Class differences have not been completely erased but they were to a huge extent flattened.
    The equivalents of Polish upper middle class and working class parents talk roughly in the same manner to their children. (I’m talking about working class, not some bogey social margin a la Jeremy Kyle style).
    Social interaction at school, at work, in public institutions were and still are mainly authoritarian and focused on finding fault in students, subordinates or members of the public.
    Polish social interactions, despite in theory recognising that being polite includes such basics as saying “Please, Thank you, Sorry/Apologies”, in practice by and large lack those basics.
    Simple requests like to pass the salt are expressed by language structures which are used to give orders. None of the “Please may/could/can I have” nuance. Add to that a massively complicated class landscape in the UK and it’s like negotiating a minefield.

    So the burden of self policing that your Polish friend experienced is largely cultural – the Polish way of thinking, speaking and approaching problems is abrupt, and largely self-unaware at that. It doesn’t mean that you don’t self-censor or self-police in Poland, even the post-communist Poland but it’s the self-policing that you understand and where you feel confident about the rules.

    The Vanity Fair aspect of the UK life is unique in the UK only in the extent it is tied to honours, but every society has its rules of smoke and mirrors where “true self” is not welcome and the game is to disguise it with brands that are IN if one wants to be immediately recognised as having a good standing the pack.