I call things as they are
Wieslawa Lewandowska talks to Beata Kempa, MP, about decency and tears in politics, sweeping matters under the rug and lobbing in the Parliament as well as that it is better to have a house in a small town than to have a big apartment in Warsaw.
Wieslawa Lewandowska: – Christmas, Christmas Eve, spiritual warmth, cordiality, mutual respect, reconciliation…This mood seems strange to Polish politicians although last year references to reconciliation were so frequent. Are respect and reconciliation possible in politics?
Beata Kempa: – Although last year is not the best example I think that reconciliation as mutual respect, understanding and readiness to compromise for the good of the country is always possible provided the difference in principal matters is observed.
– For example, is Poland most important in this respect?
– Exactly. We all agree to that but some of our colleagues, referring to this motto, evoked a wave of aggression towards the Law and Justice Party (PiS) just before the local elections… I am sad to say that I have got used to the fact that they oppose each of our proposals, each of us separately, but what our colleagues have done recently made me furious. What always makes me furious is betrayal – I cannot tolerate traitors!
– Aren’t your words too strong?
– No, they are not. It is a deceitful betrayal through cynicism! I am even sadder that this action directed first of all against Jaroslaw Kaczynski whose decision to remain in politics after 10 April and be a presidential candidate I regard as heroic. In my opinion this pride of our colleagues, their unparalleled drive for power, is piteously funny and scandalous. I cannot evaluate it otherwise. I think that they harm Poland that is not most important to them. But I believe that they will come back to us one day… Jaroslaw Kaczynski proposed a draft bill of the parliamentary club of PiS that those who left it without reflecting on their decisions enough have the right to come back. It is like leaving an empty place and additional set of plates for dinner on Christmas Eve…
– A place for those who have gone astray…
– Yes, because neither PiS nor its leader Kaczynski cherish – as people often think – rankling and hatred.
– Full understanding and forgiveness are to be practised?
– To certain limits because one should always remember the principle of decency.
– Which is?
– It means there will be no place for those who talked to Janusz Palikot, who breathes hatred and breaks all canons of decency, and thus they have betrayed the values that are most important to us. Naturally, one can forgive all things in the Christian way, can bear any slander but as a person working for the public good I cannot agree to what I regard as evil, cynical or indecent.
– What is decency in politics?
– It is what is or rather should be decency in everyone’s daily life. Unfortunately, decency is not fashionable today, especially in politics… However, politicians should remember about it, especially those politicians elected by the nation. But it happens that they openly deride at the nation, society, e.g. when they tarnish our national sanctities, mock at our adherence to tradition, religion; when they undermine poverty and, what is worst, care only for their own interests.
– Do you think that ‘political derision’ is a frequent phenomenon?
– I am afraid so. In my opinion we should initiate some mechanism to differentiate decent and indecent people in politics because without it there will be no proper social control. It seems that evaluating politics people cannot differentiate between good and evil, honesty and dishonesty. Sometimes they even vote for those who are charged with some accusations or documented suspicion of dishonesty…They simple do not always know how important decency in politics is, that it guarantees the quality of their lives…
– And on the other hand, people seem not to believe politicians…
– I would say differently: they do not believe but too often they look at appearances and do not analyse political messages.
– Do they prefer slogans about ‘second Japan, second Ireland?’
– I guess so… They long for a better world. And there are these Polish inferiority complexes… I talked about them frequently, during the two election campaigns last year I travelled all over Poland and recently, thanks to the invitation to the ceremony of opening a street named after Lech Kaczynski in Chicago, I had the pleasure to speak to the Polish community that always encourages me, showing how important the Polish matters, Polish traditions, Polish history are to them.
– Do you have the impression that here, in Poland, we do not care for these things?
– It looks like this when one observes the media and many – unfortunately – Polish politicians. I reached a conclusion that now all strengths, hope to save tradition, national remembrance and all that is important to Poland, lies in Polish homes and in us as parents. The fact that some fashionable media successfully influence the minds of young people should not stop us from influencing the upbringing of our children. Let us not give it up! I have taught my children that Christmas is not rushing in supermarkets, buying little dreams but being together, baking ginger cookies, a dinner at home on Christmas Eve. No external attacks, no derision of the tradition will change anything.
– Some say politicians must have thick skins and you have shed tears in public… Out of helplessness?
– I was angry with myself about these tears since I know that emotions are bad advisers. I cried – I do not want to use strong words – because I had never faced such a behaviour that the chairman of the gambling commission, where I worked as a representative of PiS, demonstrated…The Chairman Miroslaw Sekula, a member of the Civic Platform, was terribly malicious; he shouted, especially when the media did not watch him… when he tried to make me cross out the name of Mr Schetyna from the list of those whose telephone billings had to be carefully examined… He threatened me by shouting. He wanted to frighten me. It was a parliamentary mobbing…Before the Smolensk crash he directed his threats to me and Mr Wassermann who always supported me… I had never felt so hated, unheeded although once I worked with people who had long sentences… Moreover, I think that these marginalized people had more respect for me than my colleague-politician, chairman of a parliamentary commission… Why? He might have not controlled himself because he was fulfilling fervently the political orders to marginalize the accusations in the gambling scandal…
– The gambling affair was swept under the carpet of the Parliament… Did you regard it as a defeat, you own political loss?
– It was not only my defeat. The whole Poland lost because the affair ‘vanished’; the state budget lost, the principle of decency lost. The Civic Platform showed that it did not have any principles, that nothing except blunt, ruthless obedience towards a narrow group of interests counts and the good of the state did not count at all and is something abstract, what should be ridiculed since the state does not count at all! The whole weakness of the state was revealed and the same happened with the investigation of the Smolensk crash. In my opinion these two affairs are unprecedented cases of discredit, proofs of the present weakness of the state and the cynicism of the government.
– Today we have the impression that the gambling affair did not happen. Wrongly?
– The gambling affair is being investigated by the prosecutor’s office now but we know nothing about the present stage of the investigation because Mr Sekula did not want to organise a meeting between the members of the commission and the prosecutors although we asked me about it in writing. Additionally, it is known that the commission did not get many materials and dealt only with the top of the iceberg. Together with Mr Wassermann we submitted the motion to enlarge the range of the investigation by adding new problems that had appeared during our work… And today we should examine why and by whom the commission was dampened for so long.
– Can you answer it?
– It seems quite clear… The prosecutors are examining this affair and whatever its result is the stenographic records of the sessions of the commission will be published, I mean those records that are not top secret any longer. Then it will be clear how the process of dampening and sweeping under the carpet looked like and who cared to force it…
– Will the investigation be continued?
– I think it is not the end. One should show in detail all the wrong mechanisms and block them at once. In our separate statement we wrote what corrections should be introduced at once; we have already work on them and will soon propose two indispensable (according to PiS) bills. But I doubt whether the Civic Platform will want to support them… The recently published stenographic records of the conversations of one of its senators show that good manners are vanishing in this party and rotten mechanisms are functioning. To be sincere I can say that one should not count on any sincere and good intentions in this case…
– You are known for your political sincerity and sincerity in politics does not pay, some say…
– Nothing of the kind! I am painfully sincere and I always call things as they are. Sincerity always helps me although it causes suffering and pain because sometimes those who speak so much about branding discrimination discriminate others for their political views. The bill concerning discrimination says that one must not discriminate anyone regardless of his/her political views and the one that discriminate others should pay compensation. And I like that!
– Do you often feel discriminated?
– Of course, I do! In our wonderful 40 million-citizen country, in the centre of Europe, that appears to be a very tolerant country, the violence of the media is blooming and so is political intolerance of the prevailing, the only right leading power of the nation. Any different ways of thinking are branded not only in political life and also in social life. I think that ‘the PO-elite’ should reflect whether they are real elites when they do not respect others for their political or religious views…Many a time I have tried to convince others that discussions with these elites are simply impossible… They usually use the most primitive way of exchanging views – undisputed negation… It is something my children hate: discussing on the principle ‘no because no,’ without any justification. The politicians of the Civic Platform and their followers in the saloons neglect all justifications…
– Are the discussions during meetings in other places in Poland similar?
– No, they are quite different although I always organise open meetings to which not only supporters of PiS come… There we discuss giving arguments and not invectives like in the Warsaw saloons! These are excellent meetings. Recently I have noticed some kind of frustration: people tend to feel that they are cheated. One can feel an increased level of mistrust towards the media, especially in people who have certain experiences, who can discern discrepancies between the real world and the world presented by the media… One can see it most clearly when the matter concerns the increasingly bad material situation…
– And what is you reaction?
– I have noticed that statistics, which are not so boring at all since one can read a lot from them, can reach the frustrated and uncertain people most. So I show them the tables comparing the data of the government of PiS and the government of PO, and people conclude themselves that the data given by the Central Statistical Office are undisputable. During such meetings there must be a high level of concrete data and no slogans, promises, propaganda like in the media. And moreover, people want to listen to you and want to be heard as well. I try to listen to them patiently and only then convince them to my views.
– With what effects?
– I know that I at least make people think independently. I often give them the example I know well, namely that the Civic Platform refused access to legal professions for young people and in small towns I give the example of the project concerning children’s transport to schools… Such concretes, documented, clearly shown, are effective and even those young people whose attitudes are aggressive calm very quickly. I often tell them, ‘Someone can have excellent shirts, cufflinks matching the colour of his eyes, you like him but he acts against you’… I encourage them to analyse carefully the messages the media direct to them. There have been no situations we have parted in discord although I have not managed to convince them in every case.
– Which is a different situation than in the Parliament!
– Here there are more cases that should be analysed in the category of good manners. If someone did not gain good habits at home he or she will behave like … in the Parliament. I can do nothing about it. During the meetings in towns, in the streets, I have never encountered strong unpleasantness. But I have faced it among my colleagues-politicians… Numerous invectives and even threats in letters, most frequently anonymous, or in the Internet where we can face unprecedented boorishness and looking at its style we can guess that the authors are not the so-called ordinary people but this ‘saloon’ of big cities.
– How can you cope with these cases of boorish hatred?
– I personally cope with it excellently. If someone breaks the barrier of decency I use every legal possibility to punish this person. It evokes respect. And besides, the one who sows hatred feels worst…
– For long we have been convinced that political hatred comes from PiS… The media are eager to show that the electorate of this party is hateful, rankling and ignorant.
– On the contrary! It is a very warm electorate; these are people who really can give much joy… And they support me very much. These are humble, sincere people with whom one can sit and talk about Poland and draw from these talks as if from the treasure of the simplest solutions. And these are not ‘iced,’ celluloid talks. Different people, different because it is a real world!
– Recently Poles speak willingly about two Polands: that of big cities, i.e. supporting PO, and that of small towns and villages, i.e. voting for PiS. Do you think such a division exists?
– Oh, yes, it does! And this division does not only result from the current politics but first of all from the past events that are the first cause of these bad divisions even into a few different Polands. Unfortunately, after 1989 this division was strengthened. Taking for example the education in Poland one can see young people outside big cities that have still grossly educational chances. If for the last 20 years children living in small towns had had proper access to the cultural goods and schools how many more artists and inventors Poland could have had… How much better the whole country would have developed! That’s why the PiS proposal of balanced development of the whole country and catching up civilisational delay seems to be the only sensible one. Unfortunately, the prevailing party focuses first of all on large metropolises.
– Since it is the large metropolises and university centres that remain driving forces…
– Not necessarily. Not all those who come to study in big cities want and can live there after studies. Please believe me, I know it from my own experiences that many people dream of returning and would like to find the sense of their lives working for their little homelands. And there are many things to do in these small places provided that those who want have these possibilities.
– Are you still living in Sycow?
– Yes, I am. My home is there. But I have heard five times that I am moving to Warsaw. I keep denying it. You see people find it strange that I do not use the possibility of ‘social promotion’… But I think that although my trips to Warsaw are strenuous the fact that I can live in Sycow makes me lucky! I appreciate this tranquillity, these Sundays and holidays in my small town…
– What would you wish yourself, your colleagues, Polish politics and Poland for Christmas in this memorable year 2010?
– Politicians – not to pour out their bile and hatred on themselves, politics – wise, honest politicians, myself – a lot of strength since there are many things to do. And Poland – the Prime Minister really stops doing politics! May he fulfil at least one of his election promises and leave politics. It would be very good for Poland.