This post is also available in: French
Forum for the Future of Culture
18th and 19th of November 2017, Powszechny Theatre, Warsaw
In the autumn of 2016, this slogan brought together nearly three thousand participants of the Congress of Culture. We met up in Warsaw and talked about culture in Poland during three days.
We finished the meeting with the conviction that a new heated debate had begun, the Congress being an important, but not the only, place of it. We have no doubt that culture is one of the fields and, at the same time, the subject of a political dispute growing ever more intense. Its stake is similar as when Poland’s independence was being shaped one hundred years ago and when, two centuries ago, efforts to save independence had failed.
After another hundred years, we need to answer again who we are and who we want to be. The political camp which has been in power since 2015 clearly defines its purpose: it is a top-down abolition of social pluralism and the subordination of Polish people’s life to the apparatus of the national state. Cultural reduction is the main element of this policy. Under the slogan of restoring traditional values, strengthening national identity and pride or shaping patriotism, culture institutions are being taken over and subjugated to the ideological programs of the group in power; independent culture is being impoverished and the artists’ work – censored. At the same time, the authorities are developing a propaganda system programmatically using falsehood and disinformation on a scale reminiscent of the propaganda of the People’s Republic of Poland.
Culture is being confused with worship, artistic criticism of works with religious judgment, and the Ministry of Culture is dealing only with heritage and history. Hate speech and xenophobia are escalating to find their expression, more and more frequently, in physical violence; citizens’ freedoms are at risk, misogyny and obscurantism are running rampant.
It is precisely culture that is the essence of the dispute and the stake for the future. We need an all-encompassing, open and socially shared vision which will embrace the multitude and variety of experiences, practices, tastes; a vision based on humanist values, founded on respect for human dignity and rights as well as for the environment; drawing on the resources of local, national, European and human heritage.
Recognising this challenge, referring to the achievements of the Congress of Culture in 2016 and its message, we call: let us get together again!
Let us meet up in the autumn of 2017, to discuss culture in Poland and its future.
Let us meet up to work on the vision of culture and society of the 21st-century Republic of Poland, a member state of the European Union and a responsible member of the international community.
Let us meet up to undertake the task of inventing a project for the future: creating a vision of the culture we dream of, one which we would desire for ourselves today, as well as for future generations. We need new stories which will return us hope and sense of commitment and action for shared values. It is the Bildung work, mentioned by Maria Janion in her letter written to the Congress – the work of understanding leading to empathy, the wise effort of transforming oneself and the world around. Let us not allow the vision of the future to be taken away from us!
Let us meet up, there is no alternative to free culture.