Les gens qui ne rient jamais ne sont pas des gens sérieux

Be who you are and say what you mean, those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

An increase in Polish intolerance?

A guy in a fitted pink t-shirt was sitting half-way down the bus, looking up every so often from his article to check the route, ears plugged by the telltale white earphones of his ipod.

A group at the back of the bus was being loud, two guys with their girlfriends, showing off to each other and vying for attention.

I turned my attention back to the pink t-shirt guy. He was cute, in a very un-Polish Brit-pop kind of way; skinny with Buddy Holly glasses and messy hair. He looked arty.

The boys from the noisy group had shorn heads and were burly, no overweight. They had noticed the guy further down the bus and after pointing and sniggering, started speaking in high pitched voices and making limp wristed gestures.

I tried to ignore them, but shot them a sideways look anyway. One of the girls' met my look and had the decency to look embarassed. She frowned at the boys and their attention moved to other topics.

I was a bit confused. The guy didn't even have a gay vibe; he'd just had the audacity to wear a pink t-shirt.

All this commotion about the EP resolution saying Poland is increasingly intolerant has been dismissed by most politicians, and I know that having been here just a year, my ability to compare is pretty limited.

I do know what I've seen though and what I've heard from individuals involved in various situations: There have been racist attacks on refugees, including one time when the KFC in which the attack occurred offered free chicken to the victim as compensation... When I walked through the streets of Warsaw with a black girl she was stared at. When we marched for equality we were whistled at by skin heads.

I can't say whether intolerance has increased, but I don't see how its presence can be denied.

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Anonymous szwed said...

Well, I guess the question remains how representative are people like these, and their behaviour, of the general public. I mean, drawing general conclusions from personal experiences can be misleading at times.

Also, having spent a better part of my not-too-long life in Wawa, my personal impression is that the increase in tolerance is evident. Still, I guess there`s always room for improvement.

BTW, why did you describe the ipod earphones as "tell-tale"? No nitpicking here, just curious.

11:46 am  
Blogger Becca said...

Hi Szwed. You're right personal experiences can be very misleading, but I've lived in a few countries and can't help but draw comparisons. A guy wearing a pink t-shirt wouldn't be noticed in London or Brussels.

The earphones were only telltale because they were white-ipods come with white ones whereas standard walkmans etc usually have black. I'm full of that kind of useless information...

8:54 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"A guy wearing a pink t-shirt wouldn't be noticed in London or Brussels."

And what about a nun ? or an irish catholic ? what about people from marocco in paris ? what about black people in eastern germany ? what about.....

By the way.Do you really think "tolerance" is good ? Do you think the "tolerated" people in london ,paris ,berlin ,new york, who live in ghettos and slums are happy ?

9:56 pm  
Blogger Becca said...

What exactly are you trying to say anon?

It seems from your first point that you are trying to imply I think tolerance is higher everywhere else. I'd have to say that intolerance is everywhere, but that certain things that go unnoticed in some countries further west that I've lived in are remarked upon here in Poland.

Then you go on to question whether tolerance is valuable. I'm not talking about a group of people being tolerated in that sense - tolerated but not accepted, I'm talking about non-discrimination. With that definition, yes, tolerance is good.

Maybe I misunderstood you though, let me know if I did.

10:05 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I'd have to say that intolerance is everywhere,"

good !

"..but that certain things that go unnoticed in some countries further west that I've lived in are remarked upon here in Poland."

And i can show you certain things that go unnoticed Poland are remarked in some countries further west that I've lived in.

each country/social group has its own "intolerance" ;)

10:59 pm  
Anonymous szwed said...

I have to say that I do agree with anon on one point (assuming I interpret him/her correctly) - maybe certain things should get noticed more and maybe we in countries like Poland (having received less grooming in the spirit of PC) still see them as being, well, wrong.

And I`m not talking about pink t-shirts. Yellow, maybe.

Also, I disagree that commenting on something must right away be classified as an example of intolerance. Does that mean that ignoring an obvious wrong is THE ULTIMATE sign of tolerance?

5:42 pm  
Blogger Becca said...

No, commenting on something is not always an example of intolerance, but pointing and sniggering at something can be...

10:28 am  
Anonymous ally said...

OK, I´m lost!

When I read your blog Becca I totally got what you were saying. In Poland I always found that guys like the one you described weren´t as common as the shaven headed ones at the back of the bus. Whereas in Australia pink shirt boy would have been one of many and nary a look would have been cast in his direction.

So without trying to read anything more into what you´ve said than what you´ve said, yes, I agree Poland has it´s share of intolerance, especially on that point.

But hey, the Australians aren´t perfect either...intolerances aplenty!

3:25 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a Londoner living in Rzeszow, Poland. I'm not gay, but - most of my students know that I'm living with a Polish girl (therefore: straight) - but, but, but man, does Poland's homophobia bug me! I play my students heaps of Rufus Wainwright (who they love until they find out is gay) and the Scissor Sisters (likewise), and they're convinced I'm gay because I speak out *for* gay/lesbian adoption, etc... Poland's a very difficult country to make see sense at the moment! Putting it lightly! My wife and I shall do what what we can, up until this neck a the woods sees fit to see sense.

7:31 pm  
Blogger Becca said...

Keep on with anon! Poland needs more people with your kind of attitude.

11:45 am  

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