Vivemos como se tivessemos escolhido ser pobres
Jose Saramago, A Jangada de Pedra
On Al-Jazeera, there is a Catalan guy who writes that the pandemic may be the utter demise of the populist regimes; he speaks of the last straw that broke the camel's back. On Gazeta Wyborcza, someone else speaks of our passage to the next stage of the authoritarian takeover, that he calls "ratification". When social players accept the new status quo. I suppose that my own attitude, the fact that I chose to coil on the European shore and just turn my back to the bleak landscape, may be seen as such a silent "ratification". I have been saying that the roots of the current situation, the emotions that foster it are too deep in human souls to permit a sudden turn of the tide. Those people found their true identity, they found who they are. This is why I believe the only option is to leave them alone, as long as they don't bring any widespread crisis to Europe, don't cause any new continental war. Let them live their little life. The last straw to break their backs will be economy, just as it happened at the end of the communist regime. But the level of misery to which they may go down before they break is still decades away.
There is an instinct of being poor, of returning to poverty, against all economic odds that might play toward the opposite goal; I know it better than anyone. How much I see myself living as a pauper, will all the money deposited on my account? With all the money that might flow to my account, if I actually chose to live a different, more dynamic life? It is a choice derived from those deeply rooted identities, in which I have a share, very much against my will. At least I can understand, better, as I suppose, than many analysts, how those people may vote in the European Parliament against the funds being offered to their country, how they may actually vote against receiving money. Apparently, such things don't happen in real life. I know from my own experience they do happen, over and over again. I have myself, privately, voted against receiving money on countless occasions. Because I believed money was alien to me, unfitting.
Curiously it is not only a lingering shadow of my lowly origins. It is also a lesson of Polish intelligentsia that I have internalised. I have seen in my youth university professors that were put as role models because of their asceticism. I can think about living people, I could put names here; Kraków was full of them. Such models have never been revoked, replaced with any other type of charisma. Even if there has been an opposite slope in my life, these last thirteen or fourteen years, my taste for luxury was strictly private, hidden like a perversion. Arabian stuff, by the way, is not fashionable in most contexts. Except some circles, some aristocracies that know no shame. In Poland, anyway, it would be simply taken for some sort of incomprehensible fiction, a lonely woman's fantasy. This is why I lived that kind of double life. A double life so deeply attested in Middle Europe. Among those Polish movies that shaped my perception of my country I have never commented on one that is very important: Kieślowski's Podwójne życie Weroniki. On that double life that is associated with high culture, like a high C that cannot be maintained. Because the heart of the singer breaks, right on that familiar miserable stage of Cracovian philharmonic. We were afraid our hearts might not support too much beauty, too much content. This is perhaps the reason why we always followed the example of those ascetic professors living their spiritual -instead of intellectual- lives in tiny flats overcrowded with dusty, miserable little papers. I had such a flat in Kraków, I still have, with its hoard of miserable little papers only partially removed.
Meanwhile, my husband is a constant source of hope. If this government collapses, he says, we might spend our vacations in Poland again, perhaps in September. Vacations in Poland in September, new assignment in Paris in October. And the advantage of wisdom and maturity that I might, after all, derive from this pandemic. A fresh outlook on things, bought at the price of six weeks of total inactivity and isolation. A new awareness to build up: that money, after all, does befit me. That it is becoming for a woman of my position to be a solvent citizen in her own Europe.
PS. This afternoon "Gazeta Wyborcza" confirmed my predictions from two days ago. Those about hearing Chopin's music soon.