I’m driven to this rant by the film “Katyń”. Borrowed this from the DVD shop yesterday and was encouraged to see on the back that it included English subtitles. Of course, when you play it you realise that the English subtitles are actually a second set of Polish subtitles and so, yet again, you are hindered from understanding a little piece of Polish culture as well as you might. No wonder it didn’t win the Oscar, they probably had the same copy I did.
This may just be a technical problem but I find it to be entirely consistent with Poland’s general attitude towards playing a role as a part of a wider global community and helping outsiders to understand the country, its culture and history. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of Polish films or TV programmes that have English available even as subtitles and yet there are at least 50 I would very much like to watch. With book translations I suppose it is slightly better but not many people have the time to read through all those books in the hope of getting something from it.
I went to Dubai. They had a “global village” where many countries had an exhibition and bazaar showing off their countries. It’s laughable to even think that Poland would bother, and they didn’t, but the Czech Republic did. Why should I be surprised? I travel a fair bit and I have never, not once, seen any exhibition, travelling show even an advert in an airport promoting Poland. Poland’s efforts in terms of promoting the country abroad would be laughable if it wasn’t so sad. Still, Poland has a big population and doesn’t need to bother about marketing. Czech has a small population and so is ‘forced’ into all these marketing tricks to survive. IS THE WRONG ANSWER. You want to be another USA? All tied up in your own little petty issues with most of your population not being aware of anything outside Poland?
If I raise this issue I am generally told to “learn the language”. Pathetic excuse. Polish is not a language anyone globally would bother learning as it is only of any use in Poland or with other Poles around the world. It does not even come close to the usefulness of English, Spanish, French, German and others so expecting people to “learn the language” is the same as saying “Piss off, I don’t care if you understand this film or not”. For me, learning the language does apply, and I am learning it, but wouldn’t it help me to learn faster if I could watch some Polish films with English subtitles? I mean how hard can it be? There are zillions of English language films given Polish subtitles, so the art itself is not unknown. It’s just a one way street though. You want to suck up everyone else’s creative output whilst keeping all your own for yourselves, or for people who have learned the language.
No. The problem is simple to understand. Poland has a massive chip on its shoulder, perhaps a whole bag full of chips. If the world were one big classroom, Poland would be the child standing in the corner counting his new sweets and plotting revenge for all those times he was bullied in the playground. Poland wouldn’t be joining in the games with the other kids because “nobody understands him”. He’d be suspicious of strangers and forever picking fights with other kids over stupid, short sighted, issues. He’d be made fun of because his mum always dresses him up warm, makes sure he has plenty to eat and tells him to go to church. The report card for Poland would say “Anti-social, must try harder”.
My suggestion is that Poland knocks those chips off its shoulder, puts the past behind it (what else is there to do with it for God’s sake?) , and starts embracing its neighbours, the EU, the world in a grown up, adult, expansive, open, professional, collaborative kind of way. That it realises that the whole world is NOT going to learn Polish just so it can understand you better and that it is POLAND”S job to help people to understand it. Either that or accept the fact that you’re going to be forever an odd little island of paranoia, suspicion, self flagellation and stupidity in a sea of EU/Global harmony.
This has not been a big issue, yet, because the cooperation in terms of joining NATO, the EU, investment in infrastructure, awarding 2012 football championships and so on are in everyone’s interests, not just Poland. But when all that is done and Poland is still showing everyone the finger?