Monday, 11 June 2012

OPINION: Piotr Żuk-- A Country For The Rich, A Democracy For The Few

Due to Euro 2012 the academic year here in Wrocław was shortened, finishing at the end of May. In Poland as a whole, we might soon reach the point where lack of funds for education and research lead not only to shorter academic years but even the closure of colleges and universities. The so-called Kudrycki reforms, long prepared and finally passed last October, were supposed to cure Poland's educational ills. In reality, they have resulted in chaos and extra administrative burdens on educators. As we speak work is underway on reforms of the reforms-- business as usual in other words. The current situation in higher education, however, is the most serious since 1989. The main source of income for further and higher education instiutions, part-time students who attend at weekends, is slowly drying up. All that is left is minimal funding, minimal pay and the self-satisifed PO government.

The desperate need to attract students is leading to a decline in standards-- entry is open to anyone who can pay for the privilege of an increasingly worthless degree.

When the state spends more on weapons, surveillance and security than education then it ceases to be a true democracy and starts to evolve into a police state.

Although official statistics show that the number of people with higher education is rising, the reality is that Poland is becoming a country with more and more secondary illiterates, those who have problems combining reading with understanding. The art of reading is slowly becoming a thing of the past. Working until 67 does not require thinking, quite the opposite. The lower cultural and social capital the citizens posess, the safer the authorities feel. An aware citizen is a problem. Unthinking automatons are much more convenient and they can include even those with higher education.

It is not only the educational system which is collapsing. The health of the citizens' is also under threat. Not only pyschological health, under strain from daily stress and the government's weird and wonderful ideas, but also physical health. Our poor health system has become even worse-- Poland is now in 27th place out of 34 European health systems according to the annual rankings of the European Health Consumer Index (EHCI). We come in last with regard to availiability of medicines and waiting times for visits and operations.

In Poland health is becoming a luxury good, available only to a select few, those with fat wallets who can afford to pay for private health care. What, then, are the citizens' taxes spent on? If the state is unable to guarantee a minimum level of public health care then it should free citizens from the obligation to pay taxes towards such a service. The transfer of public funds to private clinics and surgeries does not lead to greater resources for treatment, as the private health care sector still operates in the grey market and does not usually make its accounts public. Patients do not insist of medical receipts and they cannot deduct medical expenses from their taxes anyway.

 Motorways built with taxpayers' money are gradually becoming toll roads. There is no escape from government extortion-- in Poland one has to patriotically pay several times for the same thing in order to fill the hole in the budget. The result is that many stretches of brand new motorway will be empty and unused. Driving on them will be more expensive than in Austria, the Czech Republic and even the rich and expensive Switzerland. It is not even worth mentioning the toll-free motorways in Germany, Holland and Denmark...

The way things are going, we will soon have to pay to enter city parks, breathe fresh air and walk in the forest. Citizens' Platform (PO) build motorways for the few who can afford them and they allow decent health care only for the wealthy few. They are steadily forming an oligarchical democracy in which the majority do not have a voice, not that anyone would listen to them anyway.

Dogmatic faith in the market should not be a justification for building an market society in which everything becomes a product for sale and in which relations between people become purely commercial interactions. The defence of the public sphere and the right to common spaces is the main calling card of the modern Leftism. A healthy economy does not need to be based on dogmatic privatisation at all costs, just as a good hospital does not need to be a private business operating like a hypermarket. Society is something more than just a chaotic collection of individual interests. The common good counts for something. In the actions and policies of PO one can only see the interests of employers, business and a bureaucracy which only serves ti protect the wealthy minority.

Taken from 'Przegłąd' magazine.


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