European Union ideologues have prepared a report arguing that European residents should give up their cars altogether. Instead, they should ride bicycles, walk or use public transportation.
I’m just thinking
that it’s not in the magazines
but in those files
and dressing boxes
all our misery
– Sgt. Pepper, “29 wierszy doraźnych” [29 ad hoc poems], author’s own edition, Warsaw 1982
Reading this short blank verse in the spring of the year of martial law’s introduction in Poland, I had in front of my eyes the morose apparatchiks with pouty faces sat down at plenary and executive sessions, whose photographs were published with anointment by the People’s Tribune on the occasion of successive Party congresses, and I thought it hardly surprising that it was in Poland under communist rule that turpism arose.
I felt a sincere dislike for these yaps. Their faces were perfectly suited to personify the essence of the system in which we were all immersed without any hope. In my situation at the time and at my age at the time, such a feeling was completely understandable, but this personification was obviously a dead end.
I had good teachers, of course. Tyrmand, for example, wrote in his “Dziennik” [“Diary 1954”] about Ochab [Edward Ochab, 1906-1989, a communist activist from a peasant family, before World War II a member of the Communist Party of Poland (KPP), in the People’s Republic of Poland, among others, the first secretary of the Polish United Workers’ Party (PZPR) and chairman of the State Council – ed.] that his physique betrayed “connections with the pork trade”, and about literary activists he wrote that they were people “with the appearances of roadside stones”. Very apt.
But Sgt. Pepper also accurately noted that it’s not the faces that matter. The contents of files and briefcases – this is what mattered. Documents, plans, intentions, papers. Words. Even if they were spoken by nice and polite people.
Let’s sit cross-legged together
Let’s take a look at this nice photo. Ursula von der Leyen is sitting cross-legged in a circle with young people, who are probably discussing some important matter with her. They talk of the Union, of Europe, the future of mankind or the planet. It is inconceivable that the President of the European Commission could talk about something trivial, is it not?
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