Friday, September 9, 2011
'Let's not do politics; let's build Poland.'

Thus said a billboard featuring a large image of Donald Tusk, looking rather blue collar with no jacket or tie. If his sleeves were visible, I'm sure they were rolled up above the elbow.

A Pole walking with me frowned at the slogan and said that the sentiment communicated by the billboard was actually, to a certain extent, illegal.

'What? How so? I personally rather like the words, though I don't believe that Tusk genuinely means it.'

'He's supposed to support his party's politics; he's taken an oath to do so.'

I groaned. 'The law should never be able to restrict a man from having an awakening of conscience, especially the crime is merely breaking with one's party platform.'

Last Friday, such an awakening, or at least a stand, did take place in Poland. Fifteen noble souls defied the PO's (Civic Platform) party line, and voted in favour of a bill that would ban abortion completely. And yes, their coalition now wants to make them pay for voting according to their conscience, rather than following the coalitions modus operandi.

One may argue that rejecting their faction's position and favouring a higher, moral code was undemocratic. Is PO not in power because of votes? However, Jacek Tomczak, one of the fifteen, did not only justify his actions ethically, but politically as well.

“I voted against the rejection of the (bill) because it was a civic project supported by 600,000 citizens...As a conservative I could not vote against my conscience, especially as it concerned the right to life of the most innocent and defenseless human beings.” (

Mirosław Puta stated outright that one's political party should not dictate positions on 'ideological' issues at all. That's an intriguing statement. When Aristotle concluded the Nicomachean Ethics, he ended with the words, 'Now let us begin.' He meant that the student was finally ready to read his work, Politics. For the Philosopher, the entire point of laying down a rational framework for moral conduct was to guide one's understanding of how a state should function properly. While Puta rightly understands that his party does not have the final say on moral issues, he ought to recognize that it should be the other way around.

The formal Marshall of the Sejm, Marek Jurek, did not tolerate such flaws in his own coalition, and in his integrity, resigned his tenure. He has now formed his own party, but it is a tragedy in Western democracy that he had to do either of these things. A statesman should be chosen for himself, not for the conglomerate faction to which he is expected to pay court. Consider this scheme to institute genuine democratic reform in Britain:

Can one guess why the fictional Prime Minister did not put it forward? Yes, that's right. By the end of the episode, the elitist 'Permanent Secretary for the Department of Administrative Affairs' (backed with a bargaining chip from a Leftist politician) reminds the Prime Minister that he was not given power by the people, but by his party. What kinds of horrible things would the coalition do to revenge itself upon him if he betrayed it by reforming local government at the party's expense?

George Washington's Farewell Address on bequeathing the presidential office is not infallible advice for a state, but it does contain the sincere opinions of a man who was a leader and a statesman rather than merely a politician. Of the five key warnings laid down in the speech, the second is by far the most significant to a democracy qua democracy:

...Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party, generally. 

This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy. 

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty...

...It serves always to distract the Public Councils, and enfeeble the Public Administration. It agitates the Community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another. (George Washington's Farewell Address to the People of the United States)

The reason I am a monarchist and not a democrat is not because of the superior beauty, pomp, and poetry of the former order. It is because there will always be a king, whether he rules directly or through the command of a group. Whatever title one may choose to give him, be it president, prime minister, dictator, or Cromwell's hideousely ironic label, 'Protector of the Realm.' The only variation is how entangled the support behind the throne is, whether there is indeed one head or many, and how long the reign may last (life, four years?).

An outright, functioning monarchy is more advantageous to the people in its transparency. If the king did in fact become a Cronus devouring his children, it would be better to know exactly who he is that one may visit him at his bath à la Charlotte Corday (assuming of course, that it is the kind of tyrannicide that St. Thomas Aquinas would approve of: removing rather than exacerbating the problems of the state). In a party state though, such an expediency is absolutely impossible. As Alexis de Tocqueville pointed out, the tyranny of the majority would be more entrenched than that of a king's, and one cannot combat that sort of tyrant.

Washington, et al., had been more reluctant to demand independence from England than the fiery rebels of New England, and though he has left many rousing and eloquent words as to the reason he took part in the War of Independence, we shall never know how much he believed that the colonies would be freer in their own union. Like Tocqueville, he seems to have seen the constitutional form of government as an experiment, and his tenure as president undoubtedly showed him how delicate an experiment it was. 

One wonders what he would think of the EU's 'Philadelphia moment' and of a system governed by men who are not elected at all, though they definitely toe a certain party's line. 

Gaius Mucius Scaevola, as so vividly depicted by Livy, shall always strike an impressive visage in the imagination, regardless of one's political views. Even though he botched his venture into the hostile Etruscan camp by assasinating a well-dressed secretary rather than the enemy king, he managed at least to declare his fierce defiance, and that of 'three hundred other youths of Rome', by thrusting his hand into a flame and saying, 'Rather this than a king in Rome!' 

According to the republican historian, this impressed King Porsenna so much that the monarch released him. Yet, had that young man seen the forthcoming travail of the modern world, he would have placed both hands in the fire crying, 'Rather this than the rule of a party in Rome!' 

Would a party be as clement as Porsenna at such a display of defiance? Well, are those fifteen lawmakers being fined or not?


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Warsaw, Poland
Domine, spero quia mundum vicisti. Lord, I trust that Thou hast overcome the world. Panie, ufam, żeś pokonał świat.
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