by Fiona Haze
This is the second article in Warrior News’ series on nationalism.
On the 11th of November 2017, headlines like “‘White Europe’: 60,000 nationalists march on Poland’s independence day” hit worldwide. But is Poland really more nationalistic today than it has been in its past years?
According to Mr. Gasiejewski, a native Pole who works at the American School of Warsaw as a history and Polish teacher, nationalism has always been present in Poland. But in recent years, more violence and instances of verbal attacks have been present in the country.
He also believes that the governing party has impacted the way that people express themselves in public with these nationalistic views. “If people knew that, for example, racism or nationalism was not approved by the authorities, such individuals would keep it to themselves and demonstrate it in, let’s say, private.”
According to Mr. Gasiejewski, the ability of individual citizens to publish and circulate opinions through social media has played a role in the rise of Polish nationalism. “So in the past there actually was some control of the message because there was a limited access to the media. I mean, in order to present your views you had to be lets say, a journalist. If you wanted to reach the public, you had to write to a newspaper and then the editing board of the newspaper would decide whether to publish that letter or not. So there was some form of control. But now with Facebook, with Twitter, anybody can say whatever they want to say.”
Today, more than 50% of the world’s population has an internet connection. In 1995, it was less than 1%. This has resulted in a growth of people who are able to present their opinions online, and this further leads to people who can contribute either their negative or positive thoughts.
And people do use these tools to express themselves, even the government. Mr. Gasiejeski stated that about 30% of all online hate speech in Poland is paid mostly by the ruling party.
Mr. Gasiejewski also believes that the Polish nationalists that are attacking foreigners that immigrate to Poland destroy the positive image of their own nation. Then when occurrences are broadcast in newscasts, like what happened on Poland’s independence day, it throws the Polish nation into a negative light. He also says, “But then again the ruling party uses nationalism for internal purposes, not external. But because of the nationalism that is used here, the effects of such a policy affect Poland externally.”
Kristina Haze moved to Warsaw in 1999, knowing only a limited amount about the culture and language. Today, she has spent nineteen years in the city, and has two children with her husband. When it comes to nationalism and how the fact of that it is more exposed in our society today, she shares a similar viewpoint to Mr. Gasiejewski: “Today everyone can think and express whatever they want on social media, which I believe is dangerous to our democracy to an extent, since it is hard to determine what is truthful and what isn’t. I also think that it is important that with the development of technology, that there are some rules which set how you can and cannot act on social media. The ones we currently have are not modern. This, to a great extent, risks Europe’s and Poland’s democracy.”
She also describes how it was to come to Poland nineteen years ago. “I believe that when I came, Poland suffered from a low self-confidence over everything that was not present in there nation due to communism. The nationalism I didn’t notice, but that can depend on that I didn’t know many poles nor the language.”
“But you could feel that the poles were true patriots but lacked the pride over their own country,” she continues. “It was almost as if they held the time before the communism, a time which many remembered, close.”
As a person who has lived nearly fifteen years, meaning my whole life, in Warsaw, I agree that Poland, like many other nations, is a country which is proud to be itself. Like with everything else, some people tend to be more extreme and therefore are categorized as nationalists. The fact that what has been occurring in Poland has been introduced to a world wide range, depends very much on the fact that technology is developing and, with it, social media is as well. Also, since the government leans far to the right and is nationalistic, people who share similar viewpoints are encouraged to voice their opinions. This has unfortunately not occurred peacefully all times. Since I attend an international school and never have gone to a Polish one, I am not impacted by the change in government. I only notice that flags are hung by the roads on significant days.
Even if Poland is currently seen in a negative light by many other countries, demonstrations occur monthly against corruption and racism and people hope to put Poland back on its feet soon again.