Polish intellectuals willingly enumerate their problems, but none the less give themselves ambitious objectives. Defend ecology – supported by the 2018 Nobel Prize for Literature Olga Tokarczuk –, egalitarian democracy with regard to women, or even prevent the political exploitation of religion. “In France, there is a tradition of major debates on fundamental ideas and we take the time to argueargues the professor of ethics at the University of Warsaw Magdalena Sroda, philosopher and author of vitriolic articles. In Poland, all that has disappeared. There is indeed a debate within the academic community, but in a vacuum. »
“Poland is a country of individualistsregrets in turn Henryk Wozniakowski, ex-president of the Catholic publishing house Znak. It may be a reaction to the former totalitarian regime. There are relatively few collective actions, appeals or open letters as in the communist era. » In the 1960s and 1970s, groups of writers, academics and lay Catholics, as well as some idealist Marxists, had protested against the poverty of the workers, the censorship, or even the inscription in the Constitution of the leading role of the Communist Party and of the alliance with the Soviet Union. Retaliation followed and some went to jail.
The topics of debate abound
Today, continues Magdalena Sroda, “the greatest danger is the national state, closed in on itself, refusing to face globalization and the climate issue”. This is also the opinion of Tomasz Terlikowski, a conservative Catholic philosopher: “Unfortunately, the intellectual debate in Poland is becoming more and more tribal, due to the polarization between power and opposition. Many intellectuals no longer see themselves as independent thinkers, but as spokespersons for Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the ruling party, or Donald Tusk, leader of the opposition. »
However, according to the philosopher, the subjects of debate are not lacking: the rapid secularization of young Catholics, the intellectual heritage of John Paul II, largely ignored by the Church of Poland, the delicate relations with the European Union and preparation for “deglobalization” announced by the war in Ukraine and Beijing’s policy. Other Catholic intellectuals add a priority: the abuse of authority by the Church, which interferes in public affairs. “It’s an informal relationship, fiery and profitable in the immediate term, but harmful in the long term”, thus analyzes Zbigniew Nosowski, editor-in-chief of the Catholic journal Więź.
Moving from lament to action
Reflections that feed concrete commitments. “At the Club of the Catholic Intelligentsia (KIK), we have moved from lament to action”, says Zbigniew Nosowski. He cites the “Wounded in the Church” project to provide assistance to the victims of pedophile priests, or the help provided by Club volunteers to migrants in the forest on the Belarusian border.
The mobilization of thinkers also happens in the street and on social networks, but not without difficulty. “In demonstrations, you have to act on emotions, it does not encourage debate and argumentrecognizes Magdalena Sroda, in favor of abortion. We are also victims of the Internet. Influencers abbreviate everything, only seek clickability, messages are getting shorter and shorter. »
Some Polish intellectuals, however, know how to be brief. Such as Agnieszka Holland, internationally known filmmaker, expressing in a few words, during the Women’s Congress, the need to free culture from authoritarianism.