Friday, January 02, 2004

The following is the second part of the essay “The joys of captivity”. Part one is just below if you are inclined to read it in order. I have some good ideas for the next few days ad I hope I can keep things interesting. Check out the book and the plays and drop me a line at and tell me what you think about all of this.

Part II

When I said in my last essay that Marcin Borus was a Poster child for the lack of connection between the established lawyers in Poland and the private citizens that they would be protecting, I was referring to a situation in which Boris refused a request made to be a bike advocate made by my friend Drazek, out of hand and with insinuations as to the idea’s foolishness. The request was made actually by what was hoped to be a bike collective. Drazek came to Borus both because he was my advocate at the time, and because Borus told us he himself enjoyed down hilling on the weekends. Borus’ refusal hurt. It hurt because there was no logic for the refusal, none at least that the bikers could see. If he had wanted the job, what Borus would have had to have done, was simply agree to be there for bike related problems. He was getting in my case some practical experience in biker situations and, because he himself was a biker, this would also be an issue of self-interest. Why did he so flatly refuse Drazek?
My thinking is that there were two reasons for this, and both of those reasonings come from the same root source. The first would be that Borus refused simply because it is just not normal to have such things as “bike advocates” in Poland. Perhaps Borus, himself only an apprentice attorney did not want to step out of line and create a scandal by being entrepreneurial before he actually had his card. This would be an argument except that there are a lot of “unofficial ways” to help, and he could always save his face for another time by offering time and advice (and get some money for this). There is a variation on this theme in which he refused because of the social unacceptability of the bikers. And you can read “poor” in the place of socially unacceptable without stammering too much. This would be elitist, but not unexpected. But I think a second theory is more likely and easier for me to understand: He didn’t agree to defend the bikers because he himself was busy both selling a biker (me) out to the opposition, and selling himself out at the time. To agree to act in a righteous fashion would be to him, and the people he had sold himself to, a conflict of interest.
Borus actually didn’t do a damned thing in this case to defend me. Against my wishes and without telling me what he was doing, he accepted the prosecutor’s party line of admitting unconditionally my guilt as to the charges and then begging that I was out of my head while doing it. I wanted no part in this defense, and spent ten months screaming in print that people needed to address Zaremba the accuser and his compilation of lies rather as being at fault rather than try to piece together a nonsense case from his lies. Maybe his refusal of the bikers was based on his not having learned anything about defending bikers during the process of my trial. If this is so, he did us all a favor.
But as I say, the roots of both of those reasons are the same: Borus was bound to a system that was dictating his actions and was not free to even offer an argument in opposition. That Zaremba, my accuser was a cop was perhaps not the only reason he was given such protections. I could always assume some greater criminal connection and I have presented some possibilities in the book about that. But because Zaremba was a cop, he then absolutely represented the idea of authority. And because of that it was strongly accepted by everybody that that was what the case was really about.
(My feeling was at the time that even the American embassy guys bought into this bucking authority thing and liked having the opportunity to flex their own muscles. That I was a member of their teem apparently not being of too much importance. How “in” they really were in this case I do not know, but this theory would account for Foster Stolte’s berating me to acquiesce to the prosecutor and Grondelski’s overt participation for the opposition.)
So the lessen they demand you to learn is simply that you can’t buck authority, right or wrong in Poland. Not even for the sake of doing a decent thing (as well as an economically shrewd maneuver) and protecting people as Borus could have done. What are the results of this?
Well beside having to accept a ten month kidnapping myself, I got to see a street riot in which the police were happily clubbing down bicyclists, running them over with their cars, bumping them with motorcycles. This party back in June of 2002 was an orgy of unidirectional violence started by the cops as, what they considered retribution for what they heard as the story about Zaremba’s car. About 150 bikers set out for a friendly little critical mass ride, and at some point the ride started collecting cops who, boxed in the pack of riders and then started to prod them until somebody said no. The first biker to push back got clubbed down like a baby seal, and when the bikers protested that bit of violence, all hell broke loose.
Now, this was the same tactic that Zaremba used when he ran me into the bus with his car on May 15th; prodding me into a reaction, and then trying to take advantage of the situation. I really must have looked like a smart-ass when I told the prosecutor that Zaremba’s driving looked like a cop maneuver. And of course, if this attack was planned, then you get a Kennedy-esque conspiracy theory made worse by Stolte’s acknowledgment fours days later that Zaremba’s had told a magic bullet story about the damages to his car. (I am ignoring for the moment that Zaremba was simply an asshole when he ran into me.) But what if all of this intrigue was normal for Poland in general?
The papers at the time (both state controlled, to be sure) printed opposing views as to who were guilty; The Respublica agreeing with the cops and the Gazzetta siding with the bikers. Both however, exactly as with my case, ignored the fact that no one from the bikers had carried a weapon, had caused even a penny’s worth in property damages or had even made any violent gestures at anyone before the beatings started. And yet there needed to be thirty arrests (with corresponding fines) and several hospitalizations- none from the police side. How did these events get so quickly into story phase?
My opinion is that Poland loves to talk, and feels that they are in control of things as long as they can keep up the chatter. From what I could see, the cops dug the opportunity for action and enjoyed getting the chance to deliver a few beatings. That all of this was passed over by everyone as being anything socially unacceptable, or for that matter even unusual, is pretty frightening. But what is even more frightening was that the bikers seemed inevitably to like it too.
Betty told me the next morning that he was fined a few hundred zlotys. He seemed happy about it. Perhaps it was the release of the tension and that he found that he wouldn’t die, made him feel good, and he was grateful to the cops for that good feeling. Betty was going with the flow and he felt that this was what the cops wanted. This made him feel good too. This was Poland he said, and it was always good to go along with what the police wanted because they always won. I guess the inference is that the cops would do whatever they wanted right or wrong; and their wisdom needed to be accepted. And it felt good to accept. His advice to me was to accept Zaremba and get on with my life.
Was Betty telling me that he loved Poland because he loves the feeling of having a strong Polish authority? And does he like this even when it comes with the endless corruption that comes with unopposed power? The riot was indeed the same game as what Zaremba played with me; same people, same tactic the same removing of money. Do they really accept this criminal behavior as being a natural part of life?
That last question is not as wild as you might think. The judges in my own trial told me as much themselves. And certainly the grins I endured during the trial from Zaremba and Yucha were made out in the open. Annd if I didn’t believe it then, Chris Reanolds of the Belarussian embassy made a point of telling me I had to play by the rules of the country in which I was staying. So, yes folks, it’s true. Corruption is executive privilege in Poland.
So what’s the bottom line? Control baby. Complete control. Control by fear. They controlled every second of my trial. Every person involved with it, every moment of my stay and at least as far as I could see, they tried to control everything I heard as well. That is the story here. And I guarantee you, they do not like that I wrote that book.
How did things get to be this way? Well, the simplest theory is that all of the people who are currently in power, learned the methods of sustaining power under the communist system. Under communism, the amount of money one could earn was overtly monitored and controlled. Any excess was seen as contraband and was therefore criminal. Well, ipso facto everyone stole so this was not particularly seen as a bad thing. Well, once theft was socially acceptable, all of those little extortions practiced by all of those extortionist bureaucrats on all of those superficial extortionees meant nothing because everyone was already a criminal and everyone was also on the government payroll. Interesting, yea?
But where I see that the problem is, is that even though there hasn’t been a paycheck from the government for 12 years now, they still act as though nothing has changed. And this is the real problem. There is an argument that any society that wished to live together (exist, sustain its existence), must accept certain limitations on individual activity so as to maintain peace for the general population. This is true for any society. However, maintaining those limitations was seen as the job of the government during communist times. Their doing this, though implemented through fear of death during Stalinist times, could be easily be justified philosophically by the fact that that same government was also the employer. This is no different from your own company implementing a dress code. But it is that the state no longer pays for its cooperation that makes this offensive. We in America cherish our “freedom” but at the bottom line of that freedom is the fact that we are obligated to pay our own way ad are expected to do so by everyone. To have low level bureaucrats standing in the way of every document one needs with their hands out would make life in America impossible. We put those guys in jail, don’t we? But for the people who fought, cheated and lied their way into official Polish governmental positions, all they have to say is that they have succeeded in rhetorically explaining the situation away by simply adding the phrase, said with a knowing smile, this is not America. . Such positions were always before rife with corruption, and no one sitting in those seats now wants to give up their gravy train ride.
In such a world as this, for a bottom feeder like Zaremba, having a police shield is nothing more than a license to steal. Prosecutor Wiesniakowski’s whining to me about his pay reeks of this. Borus’ refusal to defend was really his refusing to bite the hand that would eventually allow him his own license to steal. If you want a real laugh, check out Marx’s thoughts of how impossible it would be to take possessions away from the capitalists. Know of any bigger ironies? Welcome to Poland

But any society that hopes to service has to eventually have the best interests of its people at heart. Any society which refuses to accept its own humanty, or perhaps humanness is better, is going to lode far more than it gains. Maybe I wouldn’t back down to them because I didn’t feel that “love” that my Polish friends inferred to me that I should know. They spoke of this love in a way that door to door Christian evangelists spoke to you. But I remember the arguments I heard during the Patti Hurst kidnappings about how the kidnapped comes to love and identify with their captors. Or maybe I also remember the drug dealers when I was in high school and how we were asked to see these rather horrific human beings as “cool” and asked to follow them in terms of style and attitude. But for whatever reason, I wouldn’t buy into the philosophy of those who held me because I simply didn’t see where there was any real philosophy to buy into; “buy or die” simply doesn’t impress me.
That sort of thinking is like the wife of a drunk re-thinking the events that led to her broken nose and dislocated jaw as being all her own fault because she should have known better than ton upset her husband. I don’t think you need to be an American to understand that. Maybe you do.
If I am supposed to respect my government I would think that that respect would come as a result of witnessing the fair and effective management of the society it governs. I would think seeing a decent standard of living and enough opportunities in life would be a good measure of due respect. And I would also look at the lifestyle and general intelligence of its population and how it deals with social issues to be a good barometer as to the actual value of its governing body. Seeing the general availability to have a life worth living in a place, would be something that would earn my vote, my “respect”. But simply to be told that I must listen to those who would steal from me or be abused is how our beloved Mafia does business. And, if I am not mistaken, we still consider such organizations to be criminal, don’t we? DON’T WE!?