As I’m stretching myself in two directions these days - trying to get the ball rolling on the conversation side of the things, asking people from various online spaces to come and share their stories (which worked, as you can see.
I made a few complete strangers tell some very strong and intimate stories that paint a picture of Poland as we experience it here) and I asked my friend to help me arrange a bunch of talks in my old university city, where I am headed today, to talk with 10 people from different walks of life about their experiences
and onboard them here. @Kinga is also doing some interviews herself - with people who vote for PiS.
Two days ago I had also an excellent blablacar ride with a guy from Podkarpacie, who votes for PiS. It was a very candid discussion we had - so these voters are not hiding anymore. I’ll try to make a small interview with him, if that fails, I’m thinking of making a writeup of our conversation here (flawed and as I remember it, but it hits some key points).
What do you think, @Jan ?
Moreover, I have been informally tracking the right people for us for the Czech and Serbian team and I have a bunch of wonderful candidates. The moment things are straight with Serbia, I will start bringing them all to the platform.
I will illustrate this post with a picture I took in Lublin, of a new sculpture that was placed in the square of Lech Kaczyński (I used to live right in front of it, and remembered the controversy the renaming if the square spurred) - and it somehow perfectly illustrates the points I make right below.
@nadia asked me to write up the conversation regardless of his permission, so here are key thoughts from the ride talk we had:
He voted for PiS because they promised to empower and strengthen podkarpackie, and they indeed did so - at least this is how he sees it. My interlocutor comes from Rzeszów, a Polish Tiger-city, which grows rapidly due to smart politicians since more than a decade - but he seemed to be especially happy about the last 3-4 years, and stressed it multiple times. He is happy to see Eastern Poland covered by national media more than ever in the past years. Roads are not even that interesting to him anymore - roads are the most important element of the previous government anyway, I’d say. What’s interesting is the availability of jobs and a decent standard of living they give.
We also talked about 500+, and he stressed the fact that almost half of it is paid back to the state in various taxes. he strongly believes this gives people dignity and strengthens the economy, as the money gives people more purchasing power.
I asked him, in the light of these changes, how does he feel about trading these improvements for a white, closed, Polish and Catholic country. he said he would be happy to agree on “selected” migrants - not just anyone. And then he quoted the very obvious: it’s really worrying to see all of these young males fleeing their countries, what are they thinking? Leaving families and homes behind? If I was there, I’d stay and fight.
When we started talking about the risk of dismantling the free speech and other democratic rights, and the constitution, he didn’t have a strong opinion. I gave him a small warning, to stay alert and be careful what these empowering changes are being attached to.
After that and a couple of other talks I had, mostly with my highly opinionated activist team in eastern Poland, I can see there essentially is one pretty obvious reason for what’s happening in Poland at the moment. The way we changed the system in the 90’s and the place we gave the working classes in the new society and economy is key here. Lower classes were ignored and laughed at for decades now - a shock after worker-loving socialism. I don’t think this is what they imagined will happen to them when they fought for freedom and democracy, and I was lucky to conduct two interviews with people who shared some interesting insights about that shift, which I will soon share. It’s probably comparable to other super-capitalist countries, where cities with their well-off middle and upper classes dictate what success is, capture the public imagination, create the cult of higher education and white collar jobs, calling everyone else a loser. Many people really bought the narrative that if you didn’t succeed in these conditions, you deserved your fate. PiS is changing this narrative. And it’s huge - it creates space for solidarity and rethinking of social relations, and changes the way we perceive social welfare - somewhat a taboo after the ‘89 in Poland. Of course, it can’t be done on PiS’ terms - their politics are still venomous and divisive, and their arguments simplicistic and dangerous, but they’re tapping into burning problems of our society.!