Article first published as The US Becoming Old Poland? Let's Get Serious on Technorati.
I read an article yesterday on the Washington Post comparing the current US political climate to Old Poland. This article is one day old and includes an explanation by Mieczyslaw B. Biskupski, author of Hollywood's War with Poland, 1939-1945 (which I am currently reading and highly recommend to anyone interested in any of the following: the political history of Hollywood, Communism and the US government and/or Hollywood, Communism's affects on our society and/or political agendas during and after WWII, corruption in US politics and Hollywood, propaganda used on Americans by Hollywood, an indisputable event of racism in Hollywood and US government, etc.).
I have to react a bit to this article. The idea of comparing the US political situation to "Old Poland" seems a bit far fetched to me. But then, I am not a historian or political analyst.
Here is what I do know:
The Liberum Veto was first used in 1652.
The world's countries were, at that time, run by kings who were given the right to rule by being born into it. They would tell their subjects what to do, spend the taxes (which they set the amount based on what they wanted, roughly) how they saw fit, and expected loyalty with punishment of death for those who opposed. Kings then were also plotted against by those who could politically, and through family connections, outmaneuver and kill the King and hopefully seize power for themselves. Nobility were the only ones who remotely stood the chance of accomplishing this.
There typically was no middle class.
The extremely vast populace of any given kingdom were peasants, poor hard working people who labored under the abuse of the nobility (and typically under their protection in the case of an invading army, but also had to fight in such wars and were first to lose their lives as they were "expendable"), paid taxes for the "privilege" of working the lands owned by the nobility and were lucky to not go hungry daily.
Also, 1652 and into the 18th century, the world was in the middle of the "Little Ice Age" (mid 13th century to the 1800s).
The Liberum Veto is considered by many to be one of the precursors to the voting power of Senates the world over. And it came early. The Age of Enlightenment was in the 18th century with origins in the 1650s-1700, when intellectuals began creating ideas like this of people having more control over a kingdom besides one King.
Sure, the Liberum Veto wasn't the best idea in the world. But, considering how most Kings were ruling their kingdoms with no input from those around them, well, let's just give credit where credit is due. This was the beginning political experiment, and you cannot succeed without some measure of failure.
Also, the Partitions of Poland were not primarily caused by Liberum Veto. They were caused by Russia, Austria, and Germany. Blaming the disappearance of Poland from the maps of Europe and the subsequent subjugation of it's peoples, and the abuses that followed, is like blaming the rape victim because she had a few drinks. Like blaming the victim, not the bully.
Like others, I find it irritating that in the current state of the US political climate, the media pays no attention to Poland, especially considering what can be learned from Poland.
The most we get is a quip about comparing a supposedly completely corrupt system of government by Poland's nobility (which, yes, to an extent, some of them were corrupt, but you have to really dig into the history of it and who those people were to better understand what happened and why). A quip doesn't cut it.
Some flaws in this thinking are the following:
The US people have the right to vote. Granted, trying to understand politicians gibberish during election time is like trying to understand a foreign language, and the voter turnout for the last election was a measly 64%.
But, let's be clear, supposedly the US government is set up that our politicians working in Washington, D.C. work for us, the People. We don't work for them. Depending on how you view the way things have been going lately.
The politicians have, according to just about everyone I have talked to, been doing whatever they want. But part of it is because, in the end, we would rather watch something entertaining on TV after a hard days work than paying attention to what they are doing and holding them accountable. Which, I can't blame anyone for feeling that way. After all, they are wealthy and making deals behind closed doors and speak "politician".
How to hold them accountable? Well, in my average-everyday-American opinion, for one, we can hold them accountable for our current budget situation and not allow them to be voted back into to office this coming year and then doing whatever they want with our budget. After all, there is the fiscal trigger.
We also have the right to assemble and tell Congress what we want. As in, we can go there and tell them, "You know, you basically failed, sooooo... We don't think you should get paid this year and, no, we aren't voting you in again."
Or, we can go there and say, "Hey guys, great job! High fives all around!" Or, whatever.
Europe, and the rest of the world, did not have these sorts of rights during "Old Poland".
Alright, I've basically proved that I have a passion for politics but am not versed in it (thank God!).
Here is the point I believe this article is insinuating:
If we don't start caring as voters, our rights will begin to be stripped away, until we are in the same situation as peasants in the 17th century.
Class segregation has become more and more prominent, with a quickly growing gap between the wealthy American and the average American. I haven't met a single person who sees this as a "good thing".
It is becoming harder and harder to understand what our politicians are up to anymore. Between entertainment distractions, an increasingly more and more complex government and it's laws, and a global economic crisis that just.won't.stop, it's no wonder some are feeling this way.
With books published like Third World America, by Arianna Huffington, which it can't hurt to read, it seems that it is not just a handful of individuals with this concern.
By the way, did you know that the term "Third World" does not mean a poor country but, rather, is a term coined during the Cold War to mean those countries who are not First World (on the side of America and "democratic-industry" or Capitalism) or Second World (on the side of the USSR and Communism)? I definitely believe Mrs. Huffington used those terms for the title of her book since many people associate "Third World" to mean a country with no clean running water, not enough food, and squalid living conditions.
In the end, what can the media actually pay attention to regarding Poland and maybe the US Congress can "learn themselves somethin'"? This paragraph:
This reminded me of the call by the Solidarity movement in Poland calling for "[the] bringing the country out of its crisis situation by the following means: a) making public complete information about the social-economic situation. b) enabling all social classes to take part in discussion of the reform programme".
What do you think?
If you follow me on facebook, you can read some people's reactions to the Washington Post article.
Google the words "parliament polish nie pozwalam" and see what you come up with. Here are some of the articles I found which were anywhere from two days old to a couple of years old, leading me to realize that this comparison is not a new idea:
A Republic, If We Can Keep It
Insejm in the Senate
Can Barack Obama kill the climate pirates?