Poland is no green isle at which ‘wokery,’ ‘cancel culture,’ and victimhood stop and ‘snow-flakery’ melts. The march of the ‘woke brigade’ has even reached Polish state television, controlled by the conservative Law and Justice government, as I discovered to my cost. You do not have to roll out the rainbow flag for woke warriors to be doing their job.
Before exploring the Polish dimension let’s first briefly decipher the terms being used. ‘Woke culture’ encapsulates several different strands. The term ‘woke’ simply means being awake to injustice and oppression and being prepared to challenge them. This means attempts to unmask it at every turn and overcome it by calling it out, not necessarily doing anything about it.
‘Victimhood culture’ is very much a part of the ‘woke revolution.’ It is a classic reversal of classical cultures based on honor in which being the victim was a source of shame. Today, the cause of shame is defined as being ‘privileged.’ The hunt for the privileged is multi-faceted with whites, males, and heterosexuals as the main offenders—but now it is also being stretched to those who are gay rather than trans, able bodied rather than disabled, and thin rather than overweight. Interestingly enough economic hardship no longer counts. Working class people are probably too white and straight to qualify.
What is striking about this culture is that those who are privileged remain so and those who are victims likewise. Males are always patriarchs; women are their victims. And change you must not. If you are overweight and want to slim, you are exhibiting fat-phobia; if you try to cure disability, you are indulging in ableism. Gays who do not display their sexuality are displaying their suppressed homophobia. And trans individuals are entitled to change our whole language bringing to it horrors such as “persons with a cervix.”
‘Cancel culture’ in turn is a reaction to those who oppose these ideas. It is an attempt to exclude from the public sphere those who question the new orthodoxy. It’s not about eliminating just the obvious symbols or defenders of privilege and oppression. They are beyond the pale. Actually, it is far more about pursuing those who have not signed up to the ideology: this is why the most prominent examples of people being excluded now are now so often feminists, opponents of racism, those who have defended the rights of gays, and who tend to be liberal and left leaning in their outlook. But they have digressed over the use of language or questioned some of the new assumptions, such as those of the trans-lobby.
‘Snowflakes’ describes a form of upbringing and an attitude of the mind, namely people who are oversensitive and who have learned that in the culture of victimhood being offended is always the best policy. There are lots of jokes around to illustrate this, but one of the best describes a father wanting to give his child an ice cream and saying, “What’s the magic word that gets you everything?” The child replies “I’m offended.”
Needless to say, these are usually people and children coming from well-off backgrounds. This is because being a ‘snowflake’ is not about being oppressed but feeling that you are oppressed. So, you incessantly appeal for safe spaces and activate trigger warnings every time something is said by someone you disagree with. It’s essentially a technique of blackmail in which the individual seeks to identify microaggressions that make them feel badly, rather than actual physical or verbal abuse.
On the surface, Poland is a society less susceptible to these trends as people are more religious and more committed to traditional roles and national identity. But while there may be fewer rainbow flags around and more room for self-expression on sensitive topics than is present in Western societies of today, ‘woke culture’ is spreading in Poland.
This does not demonstrate itself so much in terms of ethnicity. Most of the migrants in Poland are white Ukrainians and therefore of little interest to the ‘woke warriors.’ But on gender, Poland is now in the ‘woke’ mainstream. Nothing demonstrates this better than the battle over abortion rights that led to the “Women’s strike movement” and the “Margot” case.
“The Women’s Strike” was a response to the constitutional court ruling that judged that eugenic abortions, i.e. abortions of children who were diagnosed as being likely to be deformed or severely disabled, were illegal. As the protests gathered pace, some within the movement started demanding that the protests should not be focused on women but “persons with cervixes” so as not to exclude transsexuals. This demand was accepted and the whole movement began campaigning for “the right to an abortion for persons needing an abortion” and reproduction rights of “people who are patients.” Even a legislative proposal for liberalizing abortion legislation no longer included reference to women but only “pregnant persons.”
Social media was soon awash with attacks on those who did not show sufficient enthusiasm to the new orthodoxy. They were accused of being “TERFS” (trans exclusionary radical feminists) just because of their traditional definition of women. The abuse was particularly strong when it came to the “Margot” case. Margot was an activist male who demanded he be called a woman and was tried and given a prison sentence for a violent attack on pro-life supporters. Those who opposed the right of Margot to go to a prison for women were vilified and sent death threats.
Those in the women’s movement who have dared to oppose the trans-lobby have found themselves under attack. A classic case was the activist of one of Poland’s left wing parties who was removed from her party for suggesting the trans-lobby was harming the traditional cause of women’s rights.
The radical advocates of the trans-lobby in Poland also tend to support the cause of ‘sex work,’ arguing that it is “just work.” This may be hard to square with their campaign against “rape culture” but it does not stop just there. The organization Stonewall in Poland has been promoting not only sex work through its sex education efforts but also promiscuity in terms of numbers of partners—all dressed up in pseudo-psychological mumbo jumbo of course.
It would be comforting to believe that the world of academia in Poland would show some resistance with intellectual rigor challenging these assumptions. Not a bit of it. The Warsaw University’s department of psychology has worked closely with the pro-LGBT Lambda pressure group on a report on the state of the LGBT community in 2019–2020. Despite the large sample (23,000), the methodology was totally flawed. First, it was not based on a random sample but on those who responded: this meant that from the outset the research could not be deemed to be representative.
Little surprise then that the questions and results turned out to be tendentious. Garbage in, garbage out. The question on microaggressions was so broad in terms of definition that it was hard not to spot any when gays were asked about “unfriendly looks” from strangers. Most people in the course of the year experience those. So, unsurprisingly, 98% of respondents said they had encountered some.
Next came some incredibly sloppy definitions: namely, the research cites 44% of trans people as having suffered from depression and 56% of the young sufferers of depression having severe clinical depression. If these figures were real, Polish hospitals would be overflowing with clinical depression patients as a clinical depression diagnosis means hospital treatment.
The homelessness figures were no less dubious. They classified even a one-day run away from home as homeless, and therefore contrived to produce a finding that 10% of trans people had suffered homelessness.
None of these transgressions (not to be confused with microaggressions!) stopped the research from being cited by all the liberal media and even the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN). The mantra coming out of the unrepresentative and methodologically questionable research was that trans people were far more susceptible to depression and suicide.
Some of the campaigning methods for LGBT rights are also breathtakingly irresponsible. In the publicity promoting the Equality Parade, a celebrity darned a T-shirt with photos of five LGBT suicides, three of whom were underaged. Parents of the children had not been asked for permission. Moreover, a sixth photo space on the T-shirt was empty with a question mark, presumably awaiting the next ‘victim.’ This outraged those who actually know something about suicides, as it can lead to encouraging others towards suicide in the pursuit of fame, especially when the action is publicized by a celebrity.
For the ‘snowflake’ element of this discourse, I can offer a very personal example. It is an example from Polish state television for which I worked for four years, and which for the past seven years has been firmly under the control of a party and government that prides itself on being conservative. I had invited a female colleague, not a subordinate, out on a date. The fact that she refused was not a problem: that was her right and I had no issue with that. It was her abusive behavior towards me and outright refusal to work with me that triggered me to appeal to the management to resolve the situation as people in a team have to be able to work together and cannot refuse to do so for petty personal reasons.
The management duly fired me because the lady in question complained about “feeling harassed” and “threatened.” No evidence of inappropriate behavior from my side was produced; no attempt to hear my side of the story. A woman said so, therefore it must be true. It was just simpler for the management to accept the ‘snowflake’ account. The white heterosexual man is always wrong. The mantra of ‘wokeness’ personified, by individuals and an institution that swears that it rejects it. When conservatives themselves start using the tactics of ‘woke’, then we know we’re in trouble.
‘Wokery,’ ‘cancel culture,’ victimhood,’ and ‘snowflakery’ are all examples of a departure from reason—a departure that is dangerous as when reason sleeps demons awaken, and real damage gets done. ‘Woke’ is essentially that kind of awakening. It actually makes the situation of those it tries to defend much worse. It poisons the public’s mind about the minority causes it tries to impose on them. The only way to counter it is through free discussion and rigorous public discourse—even if it means getting canceled. I know, as I have paid the price, but refused to succumb to the bullying and mobbing of the ‘snowflake’ strain of the ‘woke culture’ that is beginning to dominate in our everyday life all over Europe.