by Jerome a Paris
Thu Jun 16th, 2005 at 03:03:51 PM EST
The following is a letter to the editor published in Le Monde this afternoon. I have not found a link but provide a full translation. If you have never heard the expression before, please note that the "Polish plumber" was the bogeyman of the French campaign for the EU Constitution - a symbol of the foreigners supposedly allowed, under European rules, to come and work for dirt cheap conditions in France and steal "our" jobs.
The choice of an example is never free of meaning: behind an apparently anodie nchoice, you can find tensions and old conflicts. The "Polish plumber" is neither Czech nor Hungarian, and he is not a doctor or a violonist. (...) We can guess the arrogance of the intellectual and his disdain for the "small enterprise".
The main thing is the country targeted: Poland, to many French eyes, has 3 major flaws:
- For the past 3 centuries (since the early blindness of the Lumières for Catherine of Russia), Poland disturbs the dubious relationship between France and Russia; faithful Poland embarassed Napoléon when he tried to split the wolrd with his "friend" Alexander I. We can note that Ukraine and the Baltic countries are tainted, to some extent, by the same thing - the amazing silence of France, supposedly the "country of human rights" during the orange revolution is proof enough.
- Poland also disturbs the authority of the Franco-German couple over Europe. We cannot ignore the close links between Warsaw and London (and beyond, Washington) that were formed during the terryfing period of WW II. We thus see a new Europe appear, no less legitimate than that of the Rome Treaty (itself so young in view of a history started in the Middle Ages or earlier): facing the Franco-German couple, the Polish-British couple provides an equilibrium seen in France as a menace, especially when, as during the Iraq war, other European powers like Sapin and Italy join them
- the third flaw of Poland is the least ascknowledged and the least forgivable: from Solidarnosc to John Paul II, but also from Jacek Kuron to Adma Michnik, Poland is the country that led, until its collapse, a relentless fight against communism. That ideology continues, in France, to seduce young people that have not known the atrocities of the USSR, and older peoplethat have not given up on "joyous tomorrows". It is a fact that Poland, after decades under aberrant economic planification, has chosen economic and political freedom; it is true that this liberty has cost its population - and still costs - a terrible price.
But the "Polish plumber" is not so much the victim of the economic choices of his country as of old historic grievances.
Dominique Triaire, Montpellier
"I'll stay here. Why don't you come over and visit?"
Attibuted to the Poland tourism board in France (although I have my doubts).