Hands off my Female Students!
Barbara Stankiewicz talks to Sławomir Czapnik, PhD, professor at the Institute of Political Science and Administration of the Faculty of Political Science and Social Communication at the University of Opole.
- Have you received any feedback on your text in Przegląd (Review] magazine? As you remember it was ‘Open letter to my 16-year-old daughter’ in which you write, among other things: Poland is a country of aggression and alcohol. I hope that as many young people as possible will leave it. And they will never return. The comments I received can be summarised as follows: either the author is very brave, or he has parted with his self-preservation instinct, hopefully only for a moment. And a terrible and deadly epithet: the leftist.
- Jarosław Kaczyński said that after the Law and Justice (PIS) party had taken power, there was more freedom than ever before, so I am eager to use it. And as we know from the TVP, which is financed with our money, the Chairman is never wrong! There is no doubt about that. Business and the state are allowed to exploit workers with impunity, gays are allowed to be maligned, politicians in suits and cassocks are allowed to control people's most intimate matters, bishops are allowed to cover up paedophile scandals of the clergy, bandits in tracksuits and uniforms are allowed to beat up girls and women, nationalists, racists and neo-fascists are allowed to act freely. So much freedom is just dizzying.
Since our ministry has announced an offensive of Christianity in education and science, and my friend, an ardent Catholic, calls me a follower of Christ, I shall be at the forefront of that offensive for the purposes of this interview. Therefore, as in the Sermon on the Mount, let my word be yes - yes, no - no.
Let me be clear and straightforward: I became a scholar and a university teacher because I seek traditional values: truth, beauty and goodness. I took on the role of a chain dog of reason in the service of freedom. I may kneel down before my partner, but I will never kneel down before any clergyman or politician: no matter what party he/she is from. I am proud to descend from the peasant and working class. I do not serve Kasia Tusk or Anna Lewandowska but I do serve - or at least I try my best - a saleswoman at a grocer’s, who prepares a vegan hot dog for me, a Social Insurance Institution (ZUS) lady who gets up at four o'clock in the morning to get to work at six o'clock, a nurse in a nursing home who changes the pampers for her charges. I have only mentioned women, because about two thirds of the people I teach are women. And it is on their work that society is relying and not on the embarrassing displays of party demagogues. Hence my war cry: hands off my female students!
- In well-established democracies, public pressure can force the resignation of a dignitary involved in a scandal or even just in dubious circumstances. In our country, scandals pass on without a staffing effect, the media for a week or two say that something is shocking and that is the end of it. In the communist era, party newspapers pretended to be public opinion, but this was to end in the new system. What must happen in order for public opinion in Poland to gain power and for the experience of shame to lead to resignation?
- Politicians are usually either incompetent or vile, so counting on their shame is like persuading a wolf to become vegan. What matters is public pressure. Poles have no sense of causality, they think that - as the Wzgórze Ya-Pa-3 group sang - Those on top are the mafia, / They rule this country, / To make everybody slaughter each other. The current women's protests will show whether, in the foreseeable future, public pressure will make a difference or whether the legitimate rebellion against condemning people to suffering will be stifled with repression.
- In a democracy (here every four years), fools and wise people have the same voting power. Most of us do not belong to any of these categories (although the results of some elections may contradict that). What has the greatest influence on electoral decisions of a statistical citizen?
- In principle, people vote according to their interests, hoping for a better tomorrow, and they vote against those they fear. Let us repeat after Marx that it is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but, on the contrary, their social existence that determines their consciousness. The PiS would never have won if it had not been for the 500+, or 13th pension. A large part of its electorate can flow to parties that will offer more social benefits. In fact, in the political DNA of the Law and Justice party, as the name of the party itself indicates, there is an ideology of law and order, and not a question of social rights.
- It seems that the authorities do not like people who think for themselves. Such a conclusion results from tolerating the outdated model of the Polish public school: with its curricula, methodology, criteria for measuring effectiveness, the plague of tests... And what is going to happen under Minister of Education and Science Czarnek?
- When the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan, they took control of education, ordered women to have children (because God supposedly wants them to), persecuted homosexual people and all those who thought differently from them, used the police for brutal repressions- ...
- But I asked about Poland and Minister Czarnek...
- The Taliban are the only appropriate reference point for this person. Although I do not know if they were even brazen enough to tell women to breed like wild boars. In a civilised world, the views he preaches are not legitimate. Full stop. Czarnek proposes a Catholic jihad, a holy war. He has nothing to say about important matters of the department. The fact is that the Polish school is, just as under communism, authoritarian, split into the poor and the rich, that it indoctrinates at catechesis, that curricula are overloaded with unnecessary information, that it does not pass on civic knowledge, and that it does not develop basic social skills. And as if that were not enough, teachers themselves are sometimes dim, because with these embarrassing salaries, selection for the profession is necessarily negative.
Czarnek has announced the end of the pedagogy of shame. Of course, there are certain issues that may connect us across differences - I think many vegans will praise the knocking out of teeth in medieval Poland for eating meat on Friday, and even express the expectation that nowadays teeth will be knocked out for eating this food on the remaining days of the week as well.
However, I would warn the minister that history - to paraphrase Forest Gump - is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get. What if female students take the example of anticlerical bishop Krasicki? Or another clergyman, Hugo Kołłątaj, who in 1794 organised the hanging of traitor bishops in Warsaw? Or they will be proud of the socialist Okrzeja or Jakub Szela? Or they will spitefully ask praying teachers if it is true - and these are the hard facts - that in the Europe of the 19th century, when the papacy supported the partitions, and in Polish churches people were singing 'God, save the Tsar', only the left-wingers insisted on the independence of Poland?
What differentiates me from the Minister for Education and Science - apart from the fact that I have about 100 scholarly publications to my credit, and he has about 11 - is that I am in favour of freedom not only for those who have similar views to mine, but for everyone. If a woman prays before having sex with her husband for the conception of a child, preferably a crippled one, because this is an expression of God's special grace, then I have nothing against it. Her body, her choice. But I also have nothing against a bisexual woman who wants to have at least a hundred male and female partners before she is 30. Everyone has the right to dispose of their own body, and calling a merger of an egg and a sperm a human being is a propaganda fiction and scientific nonsense.
Democracy differs from dictatorship by virtue of the fact that society agrees that everyone has full freedom if he or she does not harm another person. Any prohibitions and orders are only meant to serve this purpose, to maximise human freedom.
My female students and their younger colleagues, many of whom are protesting against the inhumane decision of Mrs Przyłębska's body, are wise women who know that they are right. If Jesus returned to Earth, he would certainly stand in line with them, after all he said: carry one another's burdens. Not only the law is on the side of the protesters, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child (which guarantees freedom of thought and freedom of peaceful assembly) the Constitution (Article 54 of the Constitution ensures freedom of expression for everyone), but also justice. Christ addresses blessings to them: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled, and, Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Mathew 5).
He would have as much to say to the enemies of the protests as he said of the Pharisees: …they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. Everything they do is done for people to see. [...]. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are (Mathew 23).
- Do you watch television? We complain about some of the channels and stations, we call journalists trashy propagandists, and yet it is us, the viewers, who are complicit, because if we did not add to the audience, even a subsidised broadcaster would probably have to raise the standard.
- I do not currently have a television set, but I love television. Not only do I watch TV, but I have even played several times in Difficult Matters, because I wanted to understand the phenomenon of this format and see how it looks from the inside. People watch TV series or films, so I do not blame someone who watches Turkish Prisoner of Love for the quality of TV news programmes... And younger people do not watch traditional TV, they prefer Netflix. I love Netflix, because there are many good series and films. They are better than what general Polish language channels offer.
- What is missing most from the Polish media? Do they suffer from certain specific Polish diseases, or are they affected by a worldwide virus?
- Of course, the media are affected by tabloidization, which is a global pandemic. But they suffer from many specific Polish diseases. Polish media are extremely unprofessional. Inept. They are subject to herd instincts, trying to impose a false image of the world. They often simply lie. It is difficult to find valuable information, as it is sinking in a deluge of rubbish and propaganda. People are therefore not clear about their own affairs. As a result, Poland is spending money on armaments, not on health and education. It has an important gender dimension - as the Świetliki sang, in this country the model of a man is a priest or a merchant. In a word: tragedy.
- Something optimistic at the end?
- Recent weeks have shown that we have grown a generation of intelligent, creative women. Women who love freedom, equality and sisterhood. The future is a woman! As Sławomir Mrożek wrote in one of his stories, you always have to be guided by what is new, what sprouts. Only barbarians and opportunists with no tactical sense cling to the old. When - not if - women take over power in this country, it will renew the face of the earth. The face of this land.
Sławomir Czapnik - PhD in Political Science and Administration, Associate Professor. Author of about 100 publications in Polish and English. He specialises in the thought of Karl Marx and Marxism, fluid modernity and the theory of communication. He describes himself as a radical, likes tattoo, listening to punk music and cooking vegetarian dishes. He does not like stupidity, destruction of nature, and patriarchy.
The text was published in the December issue of the university magazine "Index".
*All quotes from the Bible after the New International Version