Global Independent Analytics
Bojan Stanislawski
Bojan Stanislawski

Location: Poland

Specialization: Eastern Europe, Labor movement

Would Bono, please, shut up?

It is really time for all Bonos, Shultzes and Bidens of this world to shut up and let us on the ground here do our job combating the growing nationalist terror in Poland

The fact that Paul Hewson, popular by his stage nickname – Bono, U2’s vocalist is a talented performer can probably be discussed by some. However, the matter of him being a complete ignorant in the world of politics and social issues cannot be doubted. He has just proven it yet again lashing out against what he calls ‘hyper-nationalism’ which he has suddenly noted in Poland and Hungary.

While it is easy to subscribe to the idea that nationalists are not good in general, one would expect, from a persona of Bono’s caliber, at least minimum discipline when making such statements. Of course, considering his record of various affirmations of such kind regarding vital international conflicts, we cannot expect this. He neither has a clue of what he is talking about nor understands the potential consequences of his actions.

Part of the problem here is that Bono does not really have an opinion of his own. In his occasional political communication, one can detect nothing much apart from mere repetition of liberal slogans designed to boost emotions unaccompanied by any reflections. Anyone is in the right to do it, but one should be aware, that such public utterances are in most cases either false per se, turn out false once contextualized and often have the effect opposite to the desired. Such is the recent statement from Hewson. One can hardly believe he took the time and effort to figure out what is the quality of the current political conflict in Poland, Hungary, and the EU, as well as between those parties. On his way from the stage to the locker-room, he maybe saw a striking headline in a paper or a website and since it is acceptable to criticize nationalism he thought he can just give it a try again. Why not after all? Does he carry any responsibility for making comments? Not really.

To claim, what Bono does, that Poland and Hungary are ‘hyper-nationalistic’ is true on a very general level. One closer look at the Polish nationalism will immediately reveal to anyone its shallow and extremely volatile nature. It received an enormous boost lately as the new powers-that-be used the social base behind it conveniently – the former government (Donald Tusk, Civic Platform) as bugbear and the current one (Jarosław Kaczyński, Law & Justice) as the narrative forming element. Had it not been for the last decade when the nationalist and fascist sects were effectively pulled from the outskirts of the public sphere into its very center, Bono would have to choose another topic to comment on, at least regarding Poland. The current rise of the radical right-wing culture is only due to the political leverage and nothing else. Of course, there is a degree of generalization and simplification here, but this the bottom line. The pendulum has swung to the right on the surface (no matter how violently it manifests itself), but underneath a desperate cry for collectivist, socialistic, state-based egalitarian order can be detected.

However, since the entire Polish left has utterly failed in all aspects (and carries a huge responsibility for our current political plight in Poland), the vacuum is being filled with nationalism. Another question, not unimportant, though, is the organizational and political sustainability of this phenomenon. Let us not forget that we are not discussing here any mass political movements. There is a general new narrative to which masses of disappointed and frustrated people subscribe to not by any affiliation, but rather by purchasing clothing or gadgets with ‘patriotic’ design. The core of the organizations that occasionally terrorize different towns and cities with their marches or spontaneous beatings of Nepalese, Hindu, Palestinians or Spaniards - taking them for Syrian refugees, are small in numbers and to a huge extent aluminized. Many of their members started out as stadium hooligans and this is really where the recruitment is going on. A large number of them is suspected to be involved in drug and human trafficking or other criminal activity. This is not a base one can effectively use to build upon. The ‘hyper-nationalism’ Bono is trying to raise our awareness about is very weak and could be wiped out from the general picture in a heartbeat should a meaningful alternative appear.

Another question is how come the famous singer and accidental political commentator noticed it only now? In both countries, the pendulum had swung to the right quite some time ago. As to Poland, many activists have tried to rise alert regarding the rise of this extremism in Poland for more than 15 years now, both in internal and international respects, but pretty much to no avail. Every time we put forward the problem of the specter of neo-fascism hunting under the covers, with the blessing of the ruling conservatives and liberal media, we were dismissed in the best case and laughed at and called hysteric or lunatic or anti-Polish in the worst. Now, out of the blue, the international show business demonstrates its deep concern. Well, it is a bit too late now.

Bono and the entire European elite together with the American one had hundreds of chances to react against growing extremism in Poland and today they cannot tell you they did not know. They knew, only now an atmosphere has been created within the framework of which they feel their comments of that kind would be welcomed and receive a proper, pumped-up, media coverage.

The second question is what makes Bono so concerned about this particular duet of countries? Why not make a comment on the Ukrainian nationalism especially considering the fact that it not only brought the Ukrainian state to terminal condition (that is if we assume we can actually still speak of statehood there) but also poses a very realistic threat with its constant tension with the Russian Federation. The description and qualification of the Ukrainian right-wing extremism may be somewhat difficult for Bono since to recount the Polish and Hungarian ones he used the prefix ‘hyper-’  and the current oligarchic warlords in Kiev are dozens of time more zealous and fanatical.

Also, Bono would be welcome to note; there are more countries in Eastern Europe where nationalism is rising and in some it even poses a serious threat to the actual composition of society. Why would Bono lament about Poland but not, for that matter, Bulgaria? If we assume that the limit to his “analysis” is the borders of the European Union, then Bulgaria is much worse than Poland and Hungary took together. With the government led by Todor Zhivkov’s ex-bodyguard which can be pretty accurately be described as micro-nazi, obvious allowance and tolerance on the part of the state of various public initiatives pricing figures from Bulgarian history to which the adjective Nazi can be attributed without slightest concern (like General Hristo Lukov) and horrific reports about constant physical molestation and harassment of the Bulgarian Roma by all kinds of hooligan gangs, police and not least – the media; Bulgaria raises, rationally speaking, much more concern than Poland or Hungary.

The problem in Bulgaria is that the current ruling elites use the thick-headed nationalists to mobilize different parts of society in their favor within the clash with the opposition. Thus, new platforms are being provided, and the nationalist culture, no matter how lumpen and violent, receives attention and platforms. In Bulgaria, the problem is that random gangs are proclaiming themselves as ‘patriotic’ actually replace the state structures. Last week a stunning video went viral where a group of thugs with covered faces are humiliating a group of Iraqi illegal border crossers. This week another hair-raising video blew in the social media where we can see a Roma man being severely beaten by an ethnic Bulgarian male just because the Gypsy replied to some insulting comment with the line “Hey, you and I are equal.”

Alas, this is not the end. The greatest idiotism in such actions is the fact that they strengthen the nationalisms they, at least in theory, aim to criticize. Bono was all over the oppositional media in Poland and while a short statement from a random singer regarding geopolitics has pretty much no meaning for those supporting his views, and can just as much change nothing in terms of the nationalist narrative here let alone weaken social support for it, Bono is yet another great emblematic personage “attacking the Polish patriotic camp”, pro-governmental outlets say. The atmosphere of fear of a nation in a besieged fortress which the currently ruling Catholic fundamentalists have quite successfully built just got stronger. Who in their right mind would switch from supporting the authorities in Warsaw to opposing them just because of Bono saying they are ‘hyper-nationalistic’ and pose ‘an internal threat to Europe’? On the other side of the barricade, however, the idiotic perception of Poles now emancipating and of this being disliked by the entire world has just scored up significantly.

It is really time for all Bonos, Shultzes and Bidens of this world to shut up and let us on the ground here do our job combating the growing nationalist terror in Poland, which, I assure you, is much more of a ‘threat’ for my friends and me, colleagues and comrades than ‘to Europe’ (whatever this pathetic cliché might mean today). The problem with them is they neither want to help nor to give up disturbing.

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