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State v.

Nation
Where Do Eagles Nest?
Case study: Poland

http://youtu.be/ZJNHWjQueiE
Click here to watch the movie (19 min)

A state and a nation
These two ideas have a very different meaning; but they are often confused perhaps not
by accident. Political elites love to wrap themselves in a national flag.
Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel, Samuel Johnson said, and he had a point; who
is going to throw a rock at a thief, or a fool draped in national colors head-to-toe? Not a
true patriot!

The lites work is easier, and safer, if ideas like government or state are discreetly
fixed to some well-respected notion, and then nailed together!... to the handle of a
national flag.

For example: Freedom.
Like a bell in Pavlovs experiment, the mere sound of the word provokes an immediate
reaction. Only, instead of saliva dripping from the dogs mouth, citizens happily produce
cash and send their children to the grounds of mass killing.
Easy! This conditional reflex is in the core curriculum of the kindergarten of political
manipulation.
Freedom money. Freedom volunteers.

But, this is just a beginning. People want freedom very well, but how to put this noble
desire to good use?
For a political class to benefit, freedom must be firmly attached to something solid,
something that wont slip out of your hands like an eel.
Land, there is nothing better and more reliable than land.

However how to weld freedom, the abstract idea, to a material object, like a piece of
land?
Like uniting a soul with a body, this operation requires almost divine skills.

Perhaps it was not that hard in the old times, when every bread eater was somehow
dependent on scratching dirt
But now, when hardly anyone keeps petunias on the balcony?
Perhaps black magic could help

Well, lets give it a try
A nation must own a certain piece of landscape because because
Ah, thats just too complicated for you!
The national guardians choke with irritation.

No wonder. Lands sometimes change hands, and despite that nations survive just fine!
Poland, for example
Lviv was in now its out. Wroclaw was out now its in.
Meanwhile, the Polish nation thank you very much, looks like its getting stronger!

Do not overcomplicate! Hip, hip, hooray! Free-dom, free-dom!
And how about history and culture?
Important, of course however
However comes about because of that nasty feature that conceptual entities have
abstracts live in a human memory, books, pictures And these, unlike terra firma, move
with people very easily.
And people unfortunately, sigh, they are becoming more and more mobile.

As a matter of fact, to be carriers of the national sentimentsculture and history are utterly
useless, from the lites point of view.
Because how are the mentioned lites supposed to prosper if commoners drag their sorry
butts wherever they please? Like milk cows without fences!
Today they are home, paying taxes as they should, and tomorrow somewhere else,
fattening another government!
Frustrations of Edward, the king of England, concerning the American Revolution are
coming back to Europe like a bad dream.

Screw the culture, the enraged authorities roar, They must love the land! The land can
be trusted, it will never move!
The only problem is, who needs land now, except for farmers and miners? And as peoples
dependence on the land weakens

Never! We will never let that happen. They must love the land!

Doctors, informatics, plumbers and welders criss-cross the continents in pursue of their
personal freedom, paying hardly any attention to borders.
The nomads of the 21
st
century can reject all political lites, and do so without sacrificing
even a crumb of their national culture, carried in hearts and laptops.

The gates of Europe are thrown wide open, and herds of citizens are slipping out of the
frustrated lites grip.
The exhausted shepherds are trying to hold them back, but the state propaganda has been
losing its potency, except for soccer matches and Olympic games.

To have a closer look at this phenomenon, let us follow the case of Poland, a country
undergoing transformation faster than any other European state.

When the western Slavs settled between the rivers Bug and Oder is not quite clear.
Rather easy-going, they did not instigate too much trouble in the neighborhood, so not
many reports reached Rome for documentation.
If there was anything remarkable about them, it was perhaps the lack of cruelty.

Like their contemporaries, Slavs expected their prisoners of war to be ransomed, but
with the money not coming the prisoner could buy himself out by twenty years of
service. After that, he was granted freedom, could go wherever he wished. But after
twenty years, where could he go? And on top of that, as a free man he could marry So he
often stayed, as a Pole.
In the times of mass impalements, this generosity was unusual enough to be recorded in
chronicles.

The year 966 AD, when the country accepted Christianity, is the first date firmly fixing
Poland in the troublesome neighborhood between Russia and Germany, two big predators
of Europe.
The next thousand years passed as one might expect, Poles sometimes fought Russians,
sometimes Germans, and in some unfortunate cases both at the same time.

In effect, the easy-going Poles acquired some aggressive features, a certain tendency to
poke a finger into the eye of the one or the other beast, as she was pushing her greedy snout
across the border.

During the past 300 years, except for the last half-century, no generation of Poles escaped a
great blood letting. Every 20-30 years, Poles felt the irresistible desire to make another
insurrection, one more uprising or revolution, sacrificing their best children in a bloody
rite.

Every decent Pole wanted his place in history, while other Europeans were developing
commercial markets, colonizing continents or undertaking other profitable activities. No
scrap of land was considered unworthy of heroic death.

But, at the end of 20
th
century, a miracle happened. Germans discovered a pleasant and
agreeable aspect of their personality and the Soviet Union, the Frankenstein of Russian
origin, impotently fell apart.
Poland returned to the European community and the need for compulsive jabbing at the
neighborhood robbers practically disappeared.

Within 25 years, Polands national product more than doubled and the speed with which
the Polish landscape changed amazed Europe. The ugly duckling transformed into a
beautiful swan in one short season.
The percentage of Poles working the soil fell from 60%, right after the Second World War,
to 13% in the year 2013. Agricultures share in the national product fell even more, to 4%.
Without a doubt, the Poles relationship with the land changed in a dramatic way. How did
it impact the centuries-long Polish nationalism and perception of freedom?

The polls asking about the willingness to sacrifice for the country had shaken the nations
elders to the core.
Where boys always grew up to be enthusiastic martyrs for the national cause, barely 43%
of contemporary Poles declared readiness for the supreme sacrifice.

The traditional cry, God, Honor and Fatherland, was apparently replaced by the more
moderate motto of, Wife, Children and Decent Life.
The suspicion of treason fell upon the young generation. Instead of waiting impatiently for
a heroic death, they took to teaching their kid how to ride a bike bike and spent time
blowing bubbles in the park.
To the patriarchs horror, they started behaving like the rest of young European degenerates,
for whom state frontiers started having significance of a purely historic nature.

Out of simple minds came simple solutions. This new national disease must be treated
with lessons of patriotism, demanded the knights of Res Publica, intoning the ancient
battle hymn.
Between the lines, if necessary, at the cost of math and English. We need patriots not
smart-asses.

Meanwhile, two millions of Poles left the country since the year 2007, when Poland joined
the visa-free Schengen area.
Mostly young, often very well educated, those Poles went to realize their right for pursuit
of personal freedom.
Some jaded compatriots accuse them of selling out in order to do menial jobs, but those
who are janitors abroad probably would work in the same line of work at home.
Those who learned a useful skill, and took the trouble to master a foreign language, worked
in their own professions.

In Old Europe or the New World, they live and work wherever they are happy, watch
Polish TV programs and meet Polish friends. Just like home.
The culture shock they had been threatened with just did not happened.

Like English, Spanish and other emigrants before them, Poles discovered that the dirt in
England or Texas is no different than the soil at home.
As though Chopin, Milosz and Gombrowicz were not enough, they proved once more that
national identity and culture are transplantable.
Gifted and hard working, international Poles increase the reach and depth of their national
heritage, something that not always can be said about their compatriots back home.

The traditional lites, trying to weld the idea of freedom to the ancestral land, have lost the
first round.
Additional lessons in patriotism are not going to help because the connection between the
land and the Polish identity has weakened. More and more Poles understand that the Nation
means much more than the state.

Young Poles are not losing their national identity, not at all, butquite correctlythey
have learnt to associate it with Polish culture and history. And these abstract entities live
in human memory, on pages of books and in lines of computer code.
The land it plays little role in their national awareness. And the state eh, its good if
the state is not embarrassing them.
They can be Poles wherever life takes them, no permission required.

National communities, Polish among them, are slowly detaching themselves from the
earthly crust, their links to state structures weakening.
Like immaterial clouds of cultural values, likes and dislikes, even the sense of humor
these puffs of kinship drift over administrative borders. Created by the centuries of
common history, they never stop changing. Sometimes feathery, sometimes dense, they can
be seen but no one can trap them.
Yet, even being ephemeral forms, they greatly influence the lands beneath.

For centuries, emigrants bundled their national spirit into meager belongings, as they went
to settle new communities, often better and richer. These relocations did no harm to their
national culture, to the contrary, it strengthened its global position.
Today, this process of nation-drifting has accelerated like an avalanche.

The Polish lites must understand that their compatriots can leave, many will leave but
also that they can return, enriched by their foreign experience, bringing with them new
insights and novel ways of thinking.

Wojtek interview

A nation is the outcome of a daily plebiscite of folks who decide if they wish to be part of it,
said Ernest Renan two hundred years ago, and it is even truer in the 21
st
century.
Any governments cardinal task is to create such conditions that will attract creative people
to its jurisdiction; the art of good governance depends on the ability to align inhabitants
desires with the needs of state.

Flag waving and patriotic chanting, composed for a million voices, do not attract people
who are most useful in the creation of a competitive economy and culture.

A rich crop of young, ambitious Poles grew up like a fresh crown of a tree after a long
winter.

Mateusz interview

Educated, enterprising and creative, these young men and women look around the world,
even if they would rather land on the home airstrip.

Their decisions will not be automatic. Tempted with high incomes, prestigious positions
and well-equipped labs abroad, these young Poles are holding all the good cards in the
game of population poker.
They demand respect, a reasonable tax system and opportunities to develop their careers.
The mystique appeals for love of the ancestral land, tribal scuffles and nights filled with the
light of flares attract different human types not so useful in the creation of cutting edge
technology.

No one can order this promise of modern Poland and tell them where to work.
They must be seduced.
Some of them are still home, others are already conquering new lands.
The same approach can be used to catch all of these birds, it is hardly magic.
But the political leaders must come up with something better than this.

For the most talented young Poles, state borders have already ceased to exist. Sometimes,
they will live in the Old Country, sometimes outside. But as long as they keep their
national identity, they can be Polands great asset regardless of their place of residence.

The political lites should polish their shoes, suck in their guts, and take lessons in the art
of seduction to sweep this class of mobile Poles off their feet.
No nation can afford the loss of its most ambitious and capable people and stay in the
global race.

The leaders who command their troops through blind, automatic patriotism, like Pavlovs
dog, must remember that the last victorious peasant charge had place under Raclawice,
well over 200 years ago.

In the 21
st
century, the country based on tribal emotions may easily degenerate into a
nationalistic backwoods, a place treated with sentiment, good for a trip with kids.
But an ambitious life cannot happen in a Skansen park. The creative, modern people
require a social environment and a physical infrastructure to match their aspirations.
The Polish governments task is to make it possible for them to find such a place between
Bug and Oder.