The Washington Post published a chilling dispatch on Monday from Poland’s nationalist takeover, one year in. As Warsaw simmers with protests over opposition accusations that the ruling (and ironically named) Law and Justice party illegally passed next year’s budget by moving the vote outside of the main chamber of parliament, the Post’s Anthony Faiola reports on rapid changes in a country that’s starting to look a bit like The Handmaid’s Tale. Why not begin your week on a deeply upsetting note?
From the Post:
In the land of Law and Justice, anti-intellectualism is king. Polish scientists are aghast at proposed curriculum changes in a new education bill that would downplay evolution theory and climate change and add hours for “patriotic” history lessons. In a Facebook chat, a top equal rights official mused that Polish hotels should not be forced to provide service to black or gay customers. After the official stepped down for unrelated reasons, his successor rejected an international convention to combat violence against women because it appeared to argue against traditional gender roles.
The new government, which took power last fall and remains the most popular political party in Poland, has defunded public assistance for in vitro fertilization treatments and hired a woman who says contraceptives are “wicked” and cause “sex addiction” (and that condoms cause cancer in women) to advise the government on sex education classes in schools. Poland, whose population is mostly Catholic, already has some of the strictest abortion restrictions in Europe, only allowing the procedure in cases of severe and irreversible damage to the fetus, rape, incest, or a serious risk to the mother’s health; after thousands of women protested nationwide in October, the government withdrew support for a bill that would have made virtually all abortions illegal.
The conspiracy-minded Law and Justice party, ruled by a man who claimed that refugees were bringing dysentery to Europe, has also purged the country’s national broadcaster of journalists—a move that the Trump administration could, thanks to recent legislation, very easily mirror—and turned it into a propaganda wing; the Post notes that it recently ran a piece about the risks of vaccinating children.
And a party that is focused on short-term power grabs over democracy is certainly not going to be interested in battling climate change, a complex and politically challenging problem. The Post reports that Law and Justice has withdrawn support from renewable energy sources in a renewed focus on coal, questioning the Paris Climate Agreement and giving U.S. Republicans, once lone in their idiocy, an international ally in climate skepticism.
To shore up support, the Polish government is essentially handing out cash—to the right kinds of Poles:
Trump is promising a tax code rework that could trigger a bonanza of cash rebates for Americans. In Poland, Law and Justice put cash in pockets in other ways, but always while merging social conservatism and nationalism with populist economics. The new government doled out money to families with children. They also slashed Poland’s retirement age — to as young as 60 for women and 65 for men.
Opponents call such actions the “buying” of support, moves that will only drive up Polish debt and masquerade a long-term power grab that could entrench Law and Justice for years.
“I’m here marching because it may be the last time we’re allowed to,” museum researcher Monika Mizolebska told the Post, referring to a new draft law that could limit future opposition demonstrations. “I don’t think many of us really understand what’s happening in Poland.”
“The government wants women to be mothers, to be housewives, but my daughter wants to be a writer, maybe a journalist,” she said. “But what chance does she have here? In these conditions?”
Just some terrible, rotten food for thought! Read the whole piece here.