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T h e dy n a m i c s of equilibrium

inerview Madeleine albright

Madeleine albright inerview

The Creator made Europe small, and even divided her up into tiny parts, so that our hearts could find joy not in size but in diversity. Interview with Madeleine Albight by Petr Posleni What do we still have in common eighteen years after the Visegrád Declaration? Karel Čapek once wrote: "The Creator made Europe small, and even divided her up into tiny parts, so that our hearts could find joy not in size but in diversity." To enjoy and understand diversity, however, requires a high degree of openness, liberty, responsibility and tolerance. A common, diverse world should be created by encouraging solidarity, protecting human rights and counteracting xenophobia. The coexistence of national and supranational identity lies in ways of forming cohesion in diversity.

The path to this goal is full of trials and tribulations. It means resolving to subordinate one's individual, individualized and often egocentric interests, the fulfilment of one's notion of life's necessities. Seeking and carrying out common "welfare" -- as opposed to "warfare" -- has its own socioeconomic, political and cultural dimensions. I first set foot in a country behind the Iron Curtain on 1 April 1990. For me, Oxford was both impressive and totally stressful. The English I had learned resembled very little the language people used to communicate in the United Kingdom. I failed to understand not only verbal, but also non-verbal communication, mores, and elementary everyday routines. I learned about helplessness (a phenomenon we wrote theoretical studies about in Slovakia) in its full, naked glory. Helplessness, tears… and a determination to succeed. At an invitation to the "high table", I managed to spill red wine over myself at the gong announcing the start of dinner… and trying to salvage the situation, man4

aged a single sentence: "I am sorry, I am from the Eastern Bloc." What can we learn from the experience of our neighbours? The transformation of Slovakia – a former part of socialist Czechoslovakia integrated into the Soviet sphere of influence – took place under conditions that were more complicated than in other Visegrád countries. Two decades on, we can say that Slovakia managed to meet its basic challenges: it succeeded in establishing a pluralistic democratic system, a market economy and an independent state, and in becoming integrated into the Euro-Atlantic community. Even though in people's minds the Velvet Revolution is one of the most positive events in modern Slovak history, it cannot be said that the majority has enthusiastically embraced the new way of life, the product of a complicated social and economic transformation. By contrast, not an insignificant part of the population found more shortcomings in the postcommunist regime than in the previous one. The development of attitudes towards both regimes resembles more a wavy line than a steady incline in support of the new establishment. The democratization of totalitarian regimes – in the early 1990s as well as later, during the building of an independent state – was itself not linear, straightforward or without serious perils. Tendencies towards authoritarianism and the undermining of democratic institutions accompanied the transition. The most significant swing towards the current regime occurred in 2006, when supporters of the present regime clearly outweighed the critics. Nevertheless, approval is still not the sentiment of the majority of the population. nr 2(34) 2011


inerview Madeleine albright

Madeleine albright inerview

“My granddaughter asked a while ago what the big deal was that Grandma Maddie was Secretary of State,” Albright said. “Her entire lifetime it’s been women--Condoleezza Rice, Hillary Clinton.”

I do believe that in order to be a successful negotiator that as a diplomat, you have to be able to put yourself into the other person's shoes.


en have power ties. We have bright colors and nice clothes,” she said. The diplomat grew up being mentored by male figures like Muskey and Mondale, and her father was in foreign policy. She used something almost completely unique to women to make a statement while she was serving: pins. Albright’s collection is on display at the Smithsonian Castle this summer. Some of the pins in the display include a Valentine’s Day heart made by her youngest daughter and the infamous serpent pin. “You know, I’ve said if it wasn’t for Saddam, this collection wouldn’t have happened,” Albright said. In 1994, while a U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Albright criticized Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. The Iraqi press, then controlled by the government, published a piece that called

The Mighty & The Almighty

Democracy and civil and political rights clearly dominate among the advantages people associate with the present regime. On the other hand, the critique of the new establishment is rooted especially in the loss of long-term social securities. Another reason for frustration is the widespread notion that after the fall of communism, those who had privileged positions before – former managers of state companies and communist party officials – retained them. People see the type of change that occurred in our countries not as a circulation but as a significant reproduction of elites. Can we still talk about common political and economical goals? An important factor of the critical perception of post-November developments was an insufficient awareness of the need for profound change. This is related to the late socialist modernization of Slovakia as well as to the specific, softer course of normalization after the occupation of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact troops in 1968. The majority of the Slovak population at the end of the 1980s did not perceive the communist regime as an unredeemable realm of evil; they did not experience first hand that the socialist economic system had reached the limits of its growth and was living at the expense of future generations. This insufficient admission of the need for profound economic change has since remained impressed in the minds of a large portion of the Slovak public. The ratio of economic "realists" to 6

economic "illusionists" in Slovakia has long shifted towards the latter. Behind people's insistence on the strong role of the state lies their critical reaction to social inequality, which grew significantly in the new economic conditions. The public was not ready for the deepening social differentiation – the communist era instilled in their minds an ideal of equality that refused to compensate workers differently according to their productivity or added value for society. After 1989, the levelling of Slovak society started to disappear, and the vast majority (68%) of the population has come to believe that the new economic differences are less fair than under socialism. What opportunities have been missed by the Visegrád countries during the past two decades? The general attitude of the Slovak public towards economic transformation was considerably reserved even at its inception. Positive expectations focused mostly on the reforms' potential to increase opportunities for talented and able individuals, to bring better goods and services, and to increase possibilities for the improvement of the environment. Negative expectations anticipated the deepening of social inequalities and the concentration of wealth in the hands of a small number individuals at the expense of the majority; rising unemployment; the worsening of interpersonal relations; the sale of national assets to foreign capital; and "brain drain". And what is probably most nr 2(34) 2011

In a remarkably accessible, even breezy style, she looks at these issues in light of recent history both abroad and at home, from the religious fundamentalism that led to the ouster of the shah of Iran to the invasion of Iraq and American hope that a political culture can emerge there that integrates democracy and Islam. But Albright also looks critically at President Bush, an evangelical Christian who invokes God in the name of fighting "evil."

Read My Pins In a remarkably accessible, even breezy style, she looks at these issues in light of recent history both abroad and at home, from the religious fundamentalism that led to the ouster of the shah of Iran to the invasion of Iraq and American hope that a political culture can emerge there that integrates democracy and Islam. But Albright also looks critically at President Bush, an evangelical Christian who invokes God in the name of fighting "evil."

significant, only a third of the Slovak population believed that the economic reforms could create the resources for a strong social policy. By the time of the April 2006 elections, the effects of the reforms were clearer. People could compare their previous fears with reality. With the exception of the healthcare reform, none of the reforms generated a majority opposition strong enough to call for their fundamental alteration. Most commonly, the reforms were though to be basically good, although requiring fine-tuning and improvement in certain details. Could the V4 play a meaningful function in resolving SlovakHungarian tensions? An important factor that aided the increase of economic optimism was Slovakia's admission into the European Union on 1 March 2004. During the accession process, the Slovak public strongly supported this step and its positive attitude strengthened even more after membership was achieved. Within the central European region and the Visegrád countries, Slovakia together with Poland are among the more euro-optimistic countries. Contentment with EU membership is due to several circumstances. Notably the fact that negative scenarios – a dramatic rise in the prices of food, services, and so on – did not materialize following Slovakia's entry into the EU. On the contrary, since 2004 the Slovak economy has grown, real wages have increased, inflation has been low and unemployment has fallen. While this favourable macroeconomic development did not occur only as a result of EU membership, and while it took place alongside lasting regional and social disparities, it still managed, together with other non-economic benefits, to contribute to the positive evaluation of EU membership. In public opinion, the other side of the coin – the disadvantages of EU membership – is represented mostly by the abuse of cheap labour force in Slovakia, the departure of experts and young people from Slovakia, and fears of a decrease in living standards. Does support for cultural and scientific cooperation between V4 countries create a real opportunity for regional development? The development of the sentiments and attitudes of Slovaks towards the individual challenges of the transformation contains elements of surprising continuity as well as notable change. The success of the Slovak transition is the result of several factors, including the effect of the civic potential of the Slovak population. Some key socio-economic and political changes have occurred as a result of public demand; other changes have occurred despite public disapproval, and people have merely adapted to them. In the short-term, the majority of the population will probably evaluate the direction of the country and the achievements of its government above all through the prism of its own wallet. Crucial to fulfilling the modernization challenges facing Slovakia, however, will be the extent to which the political representation focuses on long-term investments in education and the environment, as well as support for real equality of opportunities, respect for human rights and non-discrimination. Democratization is the protection of diversity. The story of contemporary Europe is unique in the complementary and 7

essay reading

reading essay

why do we h at e b o o k s ?

by Zsolt Csalog


aresz says brandishing his mug of Riezlingszilváni wine: You listening?, he says. I just wanna say that the Czechs, in short, that the Czechs… an I say it like it is? Don't you think I know the sort of people they are? I know them inside and out. They're Slavs and Prague is their capital and they jibber in Czech and stuff themselves with knedliky. I know, 'cause I learned it when I was a kid, and also, I saw it with my own two eyes. But OTHERWISE?! I don't wanna say nothin' bad 'bout nobody 'cause I'm not like that, but why beat about the bush, they're not like us. They're different! Take their habits, for instance. Hungarians, they got proper HUNGARIAN habits. But what have they got? I'd rather not even go into it. I've been to Prague and saw with my own two eyes and what can I tell you? A miniature Budapest. Can I say it like it is? It's no big deal. It was a bonus trip from the plant. So why not? A freebee. But I wasn't impressed. A buncha churches. But I'm no church goer, so what was I supposed to do with all them churches? A side like 8

in Buda, a side like in Pest, and between them a small imitation of a Danube, but so small, it brought tears to my eyes, I got so homesick! And them bridges! The Charles Bridge, lordee lord! An antique with nothin' modern about it. Nothin'! Back home we'd give it to the panhandler at the Ecseri. You put it next to the Elizabeth Bridge and you wouldn't believe your eyes! And if that weren't bad enough, for three days you couldn't get a decent plate of goulash anywhere, just slices of roll drenched in all sorts of sauce with a side of cabbage. And that's what they call food! Enough is enough, guys, let's head for home! But what really got my goat was the uvaga, uvaga, everywhere uvaga, blah-blah-blah, and you're supposed to know what they're talkin' about! Which is something I'll never understand. Why can't they speak proper HUNGARIAN and say, this here is a chair, this a table, and this here's a mug of beer, lordee lord! 'Cause, sure, the Germans speak German and the French speak French and not Hungarian, which is bad enough, but

there ain't a lot we can do about that. But speakin' CZECH? What an idea! At one time the Czechs used to come to the Balaton. Our socialist brothers soaked their fat Czechs asses there. What do I care, let 'em, they haven't got an ocean or a Balaton, poor guys, I can buy that, I don't look my nose down on them or anything. But things got to the point where we didn't call the Balaton the Hungarian sea any more, we called it the Hungarian-Czechoslovak sea! And my wife, too, that's when she had the bright idea, okay, let's go down to Aliga for the week. So fine. Let's. I was hoping for some diversion. And what happened? I didn't have no piece of mind because of the Czechs, not for an instant. A huge bowl of chicken soup made of Czechs! I'm not sayin' there weren't a couple'a fine assed Czechoslovak women, but what use was that to me when they spoke Czech? You nr 2(34) 2011

may not believe this, but I slept with my wife every night for a week! Which is as much as I got outta the Balaton, all because of the Czechs. How 'bout another round? I'll have the Riezlingszilváni… Or take their culture, though the less said the better. My wife dragged me to the movies. A Czech film, something about a beer brewery. Big deal! Still, I didn't say 'nothin', I was disciplined, I sat through it. And guess what the clincher was. The clincher was that the mother of the director, or the writer, or whatever, she takes a mug of beer and ceremoniously gulps it down in one go! And, buddy, I swear on my mother's grave, that mug was bigger than this here! Tell me the truth, was that supposed to impress me, or what? For one thing, a Magyar drinks WINE. I never thought much of beer myself. And another thing. We're talking about his MOTHER! My maternal aunt – are you with me, buddy? – she drank. I'll say it like it is, she was an alcoholic. It wouldn't have been the first time. On top of which, she drank pálinka. All the time! It's nothing to be ashamed of. Besides, the old gal, she's dead. I might as well be above board about this: Aunt Betsy drank like a skunk. But to BRAG about it? That's real9

reportage german east

german east reportage

e ast west or

The Creator made Europe small, and even divided her up into tiny parts, so that our hearts could find joy not in size but in diversity. by Przemysław Czapliński


nr 2(34) 2011


reportage german east

german east reportage

This toxic cement of collective life turns against the community itself: if it has coalesced around the hatred of Germans.


hile visiting the United States, a certain Polish man was having a brief chat with an American. When asked the archetypal question, “Where are you from?” he replied, “Poland.” “Where is that?” probed the American, keeping up the friendly exchange. “In Europe,” said the Pole. “But where exactly?” the local man insisted. “Between Russia and Germany,” was the Pole’s succinct answer. “But there is no space in between there!” exclaimed the puzzled American. They finished their coffee in silence. The present essay, whose subject is the relationship between Polish and German cultures, emerges in some sense from a place which does not exist – the place for which there has always been too little space. Strangers at home In the mid-1981, in the very midst of Poland’s experiment with Solidarity, Jan Jozef Lipski wrote his essay “Two homelands, two patriotisms”, which outlined a proposal for the renewal of Poland’s collective identity. The need for this renewal, in Lipski’s view, came from the fact that Polish patriotic consciousness had fallen under the sway of megalomania and xenophobia, which work to unite society through feelings of hatred and injustice directed at its neighbors. Megalomania allows one to deride the Czechs, sneer at the primitive Russians, reproach the Ukrainians for their cruelty; xenophobia, meanwhile, relentlessly revives the loathing of Germans and reproduces the most nonsensical prejudices against the Jews. Megalomania works to bleach bloody stains out of native history – that is, wrongs that were done to the Ukrainians, Lithuanians, Czechs or Jews – and assists in maintaining a sense of moral purity. The hatred of the foreign Other certainly holds a community together, but such a community fails to notice that 12


the glue which binds it is made of poison. This toxic cement of collective life turns against the community itself: if it has coalesced around the hatred of Germans, it is easy to steer its emotions by kindling anti-German sentiments in order to exclude; if it is united in its contempt for Russians and all things Russian, then it will never discover Russian elements in its own culture, consequently failing to establish a true dialog with itself. Megalomania and xenophobia are not simply the rejection of the unknown, but, most importantly, they draw a narrow perimeter around what is seen as one’s own. A community which cuts itself off from the Other can only define its identity by stating who and with whom it does not wish to be. Such a collective is not interested in discovering how much of the Other it part of itself, or how heterogeneous it really is. The author contrasts this kind of Ressentiment patriotism with critical patriotism which he also finds in Polish tradition. Critical patriotism is rooted in the readiness for solemn reckonings, acknowledging both the good and the bad, or even the worst, acts committed by the native community. It does not shun the duty to love one’s homeland, but it always asks what kinds of actions this love seeks to motivate, and who it is willing to exclude. This reflective patri-

1 The Cliff Hotel Rügen: This was one of the most glamorous hotels in East Germany. To stay there, you had to be a functionary with the SED Communist Party. 2 Standing at the garden fence: A neighborhood idyll on Rügen Island. 3 Sweating it out: Coal bricks were the main heating element used across East Germany. 2

lead to love – in any other form it becomes an ethical aberration.” This Christian-sounding project can, however, be expressed in different terms: if we wish to communicate with each other better, we need to get to know ourselves more completely. This entails allowing the foreignness within us to be heard, and consequently for the strangers standing by our side to be granted full expression. It is thus impossible for Poles to relate to each other differently without first changing their attitude towards Russians and Germans.

otism does not question heroic achievements, but neither does it allow the past to be reduced to a catalog of triumphs. Guided by a sense of responsibility, next to sources of pride it places causes for shame and disgrace. Lipski thus aims to convince us that the stranger is within us, in the shape of both denounced evils as well as regular cultural influences, so that any attempt at building a national identity based on excluding the Other leads to denial and hatred. Megalomania and xenophobia are not simply passions directed at outsiders, but they form a blueprint for relations within the community itself – their essence rests in coercing all members into a uniform model of identity, which in turn consists of a tally of despised characteristics. Lipski writes: “Patriotism derives from love and it is meant to

Strangers, go home! A few months after the publication of Lipski’s essay, martial law was instituted in Poland. Beginning in January 1982, on every monthly “anniversary” of this event – January 13, February 13, March

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13, and so on – people gathered in city streets to vociferate their hatred of communism, condemn the authorities for their crime, commemorate the victims of martial law, manifest their protest. The demonstrations were surrounded by a tight cordon of militia. Robust and well equipped, they were carefully selected for this kind of task. They were known as ZOMO, the Polish acronym for the official name of their unit: the Motorized Squad of Citizens’ Militia, which was the most despised segment of Polish security forces. The crowd faced

these dumb, baton-wielding warriors of the communist state, shouting, “ZOMO – Gestapo! ZOMO – Gestapo!” Louder and louder, with mounting aggression, till their voices turned hoarse. Sometimes this was enough: the militiamen marched into action with their rubber swords drawn, clashing with the small groups into which the crowd would have split. If, on the other hand, the protesters managed to advance a few hundred meters, a basic political message entered the chanted slogans. The crowd passed the empty party headquarters, yelling, 13

reportage german east

german east reportage

Post-war Germans are no longer nationalist socialists, but rather – as befits their innate perfectionism – model democrats.



“Soviets – go home! Soviets – go home! Soviets – go home!” These were peculiar cries. ZOMO recruits were always young men: our neighbors’ sons, our classmates, cousins, brothers. They were our own society’s flesh and blood. The cry: “Gestapo!” did not mean that they were German, but rather that they treated other Poles the way Germans had during World War II. This insult served to exclude their actions from the set of acceptable community behaviors, expressing the underlying belief that being a member of ZOMO is as foreign to modern Polishness as the methods employed by the Gestapo had been during the war. The second cry, meanwhile, meant that the martial law 14


and the whole communist project in Poland were an Eastern import enacted by people who were ideological and cultural outsiders. Both these slogans therefore meant more or less that under martial law, Polish society was beaten by forces so foreign to our identity that they could be equated with the Gestapo, who took their orders from a government politically so alien that it was essentially Soviet. Martial law – one of Poland’s greatest post-war traumas – was thus never named in local terms. And foreign names ascribed to it pushed evil outside the boundaries of the community, while bestowing on the community itself features of a collective supra-historical martyr. As the two slogans implied, forty

4 The new stores from the West were a curiosity for locals. A West German Tschibo coffee shop opens up in Eisenach in East Germany. 5 Children became more consumer oriented as Western products came onto the market. 6 Sweating it out: At this apartment in Sellin on Rügen, washing clothes was still done by hand

years after the war we were still besieged by the Germans and the Russians. The acute anachronism of this idea points to the need for different diagnoses and new evaluations. But the appearance of World War II stereotypes meant that the simple task of finding more fitting labels for militiamen and party functionaries first required a reconceptualization of the Gestapo and of the Soviets. And that is because collective identity always constructs itself in opposition to internal and external Others. Almost Jewish The first attempt at such a reconceptualization following martial law was undertaken by Andrzej Szczypiorski in his

nr 2(34) 2011

novel The Beginning. The significance of this book lay not so much in proposing a new version of history, but in a regrouping of sentiments surrounding the Other. With respect to Polish-German relations which are of interest to us here, Szczypiorski’s contribution is both apparent and ambiguous. It is apparent in that the author broke with the stereotypical portrayal of the German. Its ambiguity, meanwhile, lies in the fact that the renewal of Polish-German relations proposed in the novel takes place at the expense of the Jews and the Russians. The author achieves this in a straightforward manner. He tells the story of a beautiful Jewish girl, who, having been reported to the Gestapo by a fellow Jew, becomes the subject of a rescue mission on part of her neighbors, while the final link in the chain of solidarity turns out to be Johan Müller – a German who saves Miss Irma Seidenmann from the hands of the Gestapo by pretending to be her friend. Years later, in 1968, Poland’s communist authorities expel Miss Irma from her job, and then from the country. Through this story Szczypiorski not only points out that Germans could be humane and good, and that post-war communism was antisemitic, but above all he seeks to weaken the effectiveness of employing nationalism as a key to interpreting

collective experience. We have relied on this key to explain Poland’s 20th century history: if we were oppressed by two nations motivated by anti-Polish ideology, then our raison d’être had to consist of nationalistic patriotism. Szczypiorski, however, shifts the center of gravity from the nation to the totalitarian regime and, surprisingly, introduces the German as an ally in the Polish struggle against totalitarian authority. Post-war Germans are no longer nationalist socialists, but rather – as befits their innate perfectionism – model democrats. Szczypiorski thus tells the story in which the Poles become almost Jewish: they suffer persecution, but all the more so when forced to watch the persecution and killing of Jews. Because of this double injury – empathizing with the Jews coupled with the immensity of their own sacrifice – years after the war the Poles, like the Jews, find themselves trapped in painful ruminations. Przemysław Czapliński (1962), Historian of Polish literature of the 20th and 21st century, critic, essay writer and translator. Co-funder of the Institute of the Anthropology of Literature (at the UAM Poznań). Recently published “Polska do wymiany. Późna nowoczesność i nasze wielkie narracje" (WAB, Warszawa 2009). 15