Poland Bullish On Ukrainian…. Ukrainians Not So Sure

An interesting thing regarding the ongoing migration non-crisis of Ukrainians coming to Poland to work is language. I live in the large city probably the least affected by Ukrainian migration and within a year it went from where a person might overhear a conversation in Russian or Ukrainian (or a mix thereof) once or twice a week and then at least once a day and now it’s impossible to walk for ten minutes without hearing people speaking Russian or Ukrainian.

Recently coming home on a streetcar with a little screen showing announcements and ads there was an ad recruiting workers to work for a company producing fish products (mainly herring). This isn’t unusual as large companies began recruiting campaigns a couple of years ago (there is functionally no real unemployment in large Polish cities at present). What was odd was that it was in Ukrainian. I got off the streetcar to change and there the ad was again. I’ve since seen the poser in Polish as well but it appears more commonly in Ukrainian.

Would you buy a used herring from this man?

This is typical as pretty much all the ads I’ve seen advertising work for Ukrainians have been in Ukrainian and never in Russian. I also recently saw that an automatic touch screen ticket machine next to the bus-train station where many arrive in town has added Ukrainian as a language option (alongside Polish, English and German).

This would all seem normal were it not for the fact that I hardly ever hear Ukrainian anymore on the street and I do hear more and more Russian. But still the signs I see going up to accomodate Ukrainians are invariably in Ukrainian.

Things might be different in Warsaw which has had a Russian speaking minority since the 1990s and where Russian has long been integrated into some multi-lingual signage. But where I am, the assumption reigns that the best way to reach Ukrainians is in Ukrainian.

This comes from a probable cultural misunderstanding. The Polish language is the single biggest anchor around which Polish identity is built (far more important than Catholicism or anti-German or Russian feelings) and is absolutely key to functioning and integrating in Poland. Polish people probably assume that Ukrainians do (or should) feel the same about ‘their’ language but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

It’s may be a bit more like written Nynorsk in Norway – maintained vigorously by a committed minority but largely regarded as a nuissance by the majority who are happy with a written language that is essentially Norwegianized Danish.

There is also the fact that for years Poland has heavily invested in promoting both Ukrainian and Belarussian (despite Belarussians being even more lukewarm toward ‘their’ language than Ukrainians). Polish radio has maintained broadcasts in those languages even after cutting back on others. This again is probably both projection and the idea that helping (even a tiny bit) to resist the hegemony of the Russian language will also help weaken Russian political influence.

There’s also a possibility that Ukrainians use Russian to speak to each other in Poland because spoken Ukrainian is partly mutually intelligible with Polish and if they have in interest in not being understood that’s easier to do in Russian (since knowledge of Russian is extremely limited among the population under 60 or so).

There’s no way to tell how much longer Ukrainian migration will continue to Poland or what the long term effects on language will be either way, but the current cognitive dissonance is intriguing.


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Pressure Will Be Released (One Way Or Another)

Poland suffered massively and horrifically at the hands of Germany in WWII, the Soviet Union finally drove the Nazis out of the country in 1944. By the late 1970s, however, Polish resentment against and dislike of the Soviet Union was far greater than negative feelings about Germany.

This was partly because the Soviets forced the country into an unwanted political, economic and military alliance but the far greater factor was that Soviet misdeeds could not be mentioned in public. Overall Soviet crimes against Poland were far less than Germany’s but Germany’s actions could be openly discussed and criticized while Soviet crimes were not only not discussed, but alternate Soviet fantasy versions about events had to be repeated in public by everyone even though they knew they were lies.

Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania chemnitz riots

The biggest danger is trying to put this down too early….

It wasn’t until well after the collapse of communism and the withdrawal of Soviet troops and years of finally being able to openly discuss and criticize Soviet actions that Polish dislike of the Soviets (and Russia as the successor to the USSR) lessened. There was even a short period of warming relations brought to screeching halt with the Russian-Georgian conflict of 2011.

This is why I’m not so alarmed by the mass protests in Chemnitz (aka Karl-Marx-Stadt when it was in East Germany). A German citizen was killed (stabbed 25 times) and two other injured by two “refugees”. The absolute normal reaction to those given a safe haven and a major life opportunity is collective anger. A lack of anger in such a situation is far more disturbing than loud public protests. Reports of crowds tracking down random migrants have been, as far as I can tell, exaggerated because…. Germany and Germans have always, do and will always freak out their neighbors.

Part of the problem that gives rise to movements like Pegida or the rise of the AfD is not being allowed to notice or publicly discuss that German’s migration/asylum policy is fundamentally misguided and deeply dysfunctional. Everyday Germans pay the bills (and bear the physical brunt) of this dysfunction and are not allowed to criticize policy in any but the blandest most general terms that allow for no possibility of a change in policy.

As far as I can tell the events in Chemnitz so far are badly needed and should open up more public dialogue that deals honestly with the fact that country has imported several hundred thousand young men that either don’t want or can’t integrate in any meaningful way and too large a number of them are victimizing German citizens. It’s not a random crowd, even if a little violent around the edges, that is a great danger in Germany. The biggest danger is for the frustration of the public to keep building up with no outlet until it explodes.

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If You Build An Identity, People Will Assume It

Remember the early days of the internet? Before the normies got their boring little paws on it and dumbed it down into a glorified refrigerator door cum ad delivery system it was like an alternative dimension machine. You could start fooling around with random search terms and you could find yourself dealing with realities you never realized existed. Some were funny, some were profoundly disturbing and some just weird.

I remember one example when searching for something else I came across anorexia positive pages which changed everything I thought I new about that condition. Something like that happened at least once a month or so back in the 1990s.

Anyhoo, back at that time I read an article that described that if you create a condition and give a name to it, some people, who discover that a particular condition is described and has a name will ascribe this new identity to themselves and conform to that condition no matter how irrational it might seem to others. Crucially this refers to people who had never given any thought to the features of the condition and who would probably never think of it on their won. The article was specifically the phenomena of people who liked to chop off parts of their bodies, usually toes and fingers joint by join (or all at a go) and in extreme cases they wanted to lose entire limbs. Apparently a large percentage of people who were engaged in this only thought of it once they’d stumbled across a page or web-ring devoted to it.

That’s what the controversy over Rapid Gender Onset Dysphoria reminded me of. Once I thought about it for five seconds…. of course some number of people who claim a condition (especially a cohort known for discontent, rebellion and conformism) are doing so because they’re looking for an identity to pour out their anxiety into.

What’s scary is the attacks on this perfectly reasonable hypothesis and what’s even scarier is a university losing its balls and giving into crowd hysteria. The US is rapidly degenerating into non-scientific irrationality (and non-legal morality but that’s a separate post).  It’s part of the collective regression to infantilized morality of “I want it!” an inflexible demand that cannot be addressed or reasoned with only appeased.

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Mob Thinking and Goal Oriented Behavior

All told, I tend to be a strong believer that large groups of people are pretty good at achieving and maintaining social, political and economic systems that are pretty comfortable for them. That is, I’m a believer in collective conscious or unconscious cooperation that groups engage in to achieve goals that may be conscious or unconscious.

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First step in overthrowing communism…. crash the economy.

I live in a good example of that. When Soviet Socialism was forced upon Poland in 1944 people did not mind a tremendous amount – there was a strong movement towards something like socialism across Europe just after WWII that has largely been pushed down the memory hole. And the country was in such ruins that for a few years economic and social progress was very fast. But in less than 10 years the bloom was off the Socialist Rose which led to the first uprisings against communism in 1956 which were met with violent repression (Poland and then Hungary).

Thus began a long process (in Poland and other countries in the region) where the majority of people began sabotaging the system in various ways whether small or large, public or private, economic, political or artistic. The government began a cycle of loosening then tightening and then re-loosening social and economic restrictions and by the late 1970s the communist system was essentially dead and spent most of the 1980s on artificial life-support until the plug could finally be pulled in 1989.

Contrast that with the Russian Republic of the former USSR. There’s no evidence that any significant percentage of ethnic Russians in the Soviet Union were strongly unhappy with the USSR and since they gained their unwanted post-Soviet country they’ve been fairly successful at rebuilding a Soviet style of governance that the population is comfortable with (as horrifying as that sounds). Does this mean I think they unconsciously made the decision to make sure that post 1991 Russia was a social and political failure so that a Strong Man could pick up the whip and hold it over them and keep them in line (like the Party Leader before him and the Tsar before him). Essentially yeah.

I do believe that sometimes these unconscious goals might be wrong-headed or badly planned or dysfunctional and then the fall out can be long and dispiriting. In Latin America there have been attempts to build European style social welfare states but the attempt is made without the necessary social and educational and economic infrastructure they collapse quickly (Venezuela) or messily (Brazil) and just surviving ends up becoming the new goal.

Mostly, I don’t believe that people are helpless pawns at the individual or societal level and that more often than not societies work for their members, it’s just that the goals that individuals or societies have might not make much sense to outsiders.

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Causes and Effects

It appears now that the South African government will follow the Zimbabwean project of confiscating white owned farms and distributing them to political cronies who don’t know the first thing about farming (they’re not advertising that but I’m pretty sure that’s how it will go given the realities of third world politics).

The inevitable crash and food shortages will possibly be blamed on the seizures, but I think that might be wrong. My take is that the government already knows the economy is in the toilet and about to bust and they’re doing this to distract attention.

To be clear, it’s not that land seizures are a cause of agricultural failure and economic collapse (though they often enough are) but land seizures are something corrupt governments do when they realize the whole system is about to crash around their ears and they’re looking to cash out.

We’ll see.

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Genius of Aretha: Share your love edition

I’m in the middle of translation hell and not posting much because of that, but I’ve just seen that Aretha Franklin has died. I have to admit she was never my personal subjective favorite singer (always high but never quite at the top) but her body of work clearly makes her the most important artist in one of the most important American musical genres of the 20th century – Soul.

Here’s a song that wasn’t one of her bigger hits but is a personal favorite, a mid-tempo number that sees her dial back her trademark intensity in a relatively straight reading of the lyrics detailing the pains of unrequited love (the intensity is there but kept under control and only surfaces by suggestion as in the crescendos on some words like love at 0.23 or no one at 1.18).

Beyond the appealing melody and her gently rocking performance (combining longing and resigned acceptance) I totally love the bass line chugging along in the background.

(lyrics below the video)

It’s an evil wind that blows no good, yeah
It’s a sad heart that won’t love like I know it should
Oh how lonesome you must be
It’s a shame if you don’t share your love with me

It’s a heartache, yeah, when love is gone
But it’s bad and even sad, oh later on
And there’s no one blinder than you won’t see,
It’s a shame if you won’t share some of your love with me

I can’t help it, oh no, he is gone
I must try to forget, because I’ve got to live on

Oh, it’s a good thing it’s a sweet thing
To love someone
But it’s bad and even sad when it’s not returned
Oh, how lonesome, how lonesome, how lonesome
You must be, I tell you it would be a shame
A shame if you don’t share your love with me

It would really be a mistake baby
If you don’t share your love with me
It would sure be a shame
If you don’t share, share your love with me

Farewell to a giant creative talent who made everyone who heard her better off. There is no greater artistic legacy.

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Spanish Leftovers

Here’s a bunch of random crap about my recent trip to Spain, none of which I have enough to say about in an individual post…

*Spanish TV seems stupider than it did just a few years ago. This is very random and impressionistic and might be wrong but… it seemed a little stupider.

*Mexican-Indian restaurants are apparently a thing there (I saw signs for more than one such… establishment). I can’t imagine any way that Mexican and Indian food (both of which I love individually) can exist in the same vicinity without leading to some kind of tear in the space time continuum.



Yes, this happened. I’m not making it up….

*Andalusia is the hottest place I’ve ever been. It’s not so much the termperature (I’ve been in places with higher temperatures) but the heat attacks you in all directions in a way I haven’t experienced anywhere else. It feels like being in deep water (with pressure all around you) but with hot air instead of water.

*Despite the increased stupidity levels Spanish TV is blessedly free from Trumpomania. There was an occasional mention of his existence when relevant but no more.

*Tourist markets (I don’t know another name for them) those ubiquitous little stores in any seaside place in Europe that sell water, alcohol, cigarettes, candy, some basic food and tourist stuff are almost all run from people from South Asia. If you look like a tourist (most of their clientele) they don’t respond if you speak Spanish…

*The airport at Málaga has added German to its signage. The German is on top with English underneath (both in white) and Spanish on the bottom in yellow. That said, I don’t think I heard German on the street or beach or in the hotel twice…

Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania malaga airport signage

Where have all the Germans gone….

*The new Prime Minister who came to power because of a vote of no confidence for the old Brontosaurus called Rajoy is acting like he has a huge mandate from the electorate and doing all sorts of things that seem like… distractions (like digging up the bones of Franco) while he backpedals away from actually tackling austerity.

*Not only were there almost no Germans, there were very few Brits (once the major tourist group). The single largest foreign contingent both in my hotel and in town and on the beach were… the Dutch. Weird.

*I would have thought you can’t really combine Russian salad and tuna, but you can as I discovered at a tapas place in the market. It was weirdly delicious.

*The miserable old ghost of Rajoy emerged to oversee the crowning of his successor, a Macron wannabe (who since I got back has managed to get in his first scandal).

*There were hardly any Africans peddling pirate goods. Maybe this is because of all the Dutch people (notorious as cheap bastards in most of Europe).

*The Mediterranean was freaking freezing. I was absent-mindedly wondering why more people weren’t swimming in such nice looking wat….. holy mother of hell is that cold! And finally getting in the water and swimming didn’t change that, worse, there were currents that were even colder. I don’t know what was going on. Id’ swum there before and it wasn’t nearly so cold.

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Not recommended for messy eaters…

*I was at a chiringuito (kind of a seafood place on the beach) and ordered gambas pil pil (shrimp sauteed in olive oil infused with garlic and chili peppers), which is not a good choice for a messy eater. I managed to eat the shrimp without disgracing myself but then I wanted to sop up the oil with bread and the very last piece of bread broke in two and splattered onto my shirt. My record remains intact.

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