Szlachcic na zagrodzie równy wojewodzie.
The noble on his estate is equal to the voivode .
This is a Polish proverb, part of the legacy that came with the Commonwealth, that basically means that no free man would think of himself as less superior than anyone else.
The Polish-Lithuanian was one of the early republics, and experienced a time of prominence in the mid-1600s. A huge state, ( see this map ) it had over 8 million residents. Germans, Armenians, Jews, Poles, etc. all lived together. However, whilst there was freedom of religion and many different faiths, Catholic was predominant under the constitution. The constitution, for that matter, was made up of all parliamentary legislation – ranging from the obligation of farmer tenants to wartime taxation.
Many would disagree that the Commonwealth was a republic, as there were still enserfed peasantry and privately controlled cities, and additionally, politics was limited to the szlachta (upper class). Those who held seats in the Senate could also only be Catholic, as was the case with the elected King of the Commonwealth.
Comparing the Commonwealth with its close neighbours, though, illustrates the importance of the progress it had made so early. Rights of self-determination to regional councils and a Parliament of the Commons made in the Commonwealth contrasted with the victory of absolute and central rule in Russia over Zemskii sobor ( assembly of the people ).
Furthermore, whilst in the Commonwealth, libertas and the rule of law was the guiding principle of the state, in Russia autocracy alone symbolised the principles of justice, salvation, and the state structure. Additionally, the Catholic King of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was actively ‘monitored’ by the country’s politicians, who often blocked key decisions.
Overall, the Commonwealth is an interesting example of what some might class as a democracy, at a time where this was certainly not the norm. It would be worth looking more into this.
Expect more from this space. I’ve been busy recently moving house, travelling, and moderating several republican (not American political party) forums and a twitter account. I’ve decided what I’m going to write this month though.
- Terrorism in sub-Saharan Africa.
- State collapse and the link to terrorism.
- Security structures in the near abroad.
- Colonial Power relations in ‘Eurasia’.
President Obama, and a number of other world leaders, will be at my university next week before the G8 in Northern Ireland. You’ll forgive me for not writing about this though, as there is a bit of overload on the G8 already.
Posted: June 16, 2013
So I don’t usually write in the first person, and maybe I should, but in this case it’s due to an individual milestone rather than a quest to make Political Deficit more personal. Recently, a journal of which I was an editor for was published, and given a formal launch.
You can find the full journal here . The two articles chosen in my section were:
- ‘Grand Pretentions, Faulty Execution and Puny Results’? A critical examination of the international community’s ability to turn international environmental treaties into environmentally useful action (p43-55) by Thomas L. Muinzer.
- Authoritarianism & Resilience in the Middle East: The legacy of the Arab Spring in Tunisia & Bahrain (p57-66) by James Barnes.
So, the statistics for GDP in the EU and Euro area were released not long ago. The EU is down by 0.1% from last year, and the Euro area down by 0.2%. This seems to go against efforts made by many EU governments to shore up their economies, something that contrasts with signs of growth in America. However, the EU does still remain the world’s largest economy, and there is no reason to think that this part of a downward trajectory and not merely a blip.
The London stock exchange went up by 2.6% this morning, and posted a 5% rise in income for the year. However, French stocks, for example were lower, following bad news in the first quarter. European shares were up by 0.04 percent, for the FTSEurofirst 300. The eurozone is still in a good position, as “Inflows remain strong, with so much liquidity from the central banks. Investors are buying every dip” (David Thebault from Global Equities).
The GDP for the EU & euro area last year was €12.89 trillion (US$16.56 trillion). Germany led the way with over 20% of the EU’s GDP, and is sure to resume a leadership this year, even with the new results.
GDP provides an easy comparison for economic activity, as the measurement has largely been standardised, and its adoption is across the board. It’s important to think about how much meaning these results really have though, as Frank Shostak, writing for the Ludwig von Mises Institute, claimed that GDP was far too ‘abstract’ with no link to reality:
The GDP framework cannot tell us whether final goods and services that were produced during a particular period of time are a reflection of real wealth expansion, or a reflection of capital consumption.
For instance, if a government embarks on the building of a pyramid, which adds absolutely nothing to the well-being of individuals, the GDP framework will regard this as economic growth. In reality, however, the building of the pyramid will divert real funding from wealth-generating activities, thereby stifling the production of wealth.
Because the GDP framework completely disregards the intermediate stages of production, it can be of little help in the assessment of boom-bust cycles. It is little wonder then that mainstream economists are forced to conclude that recessions are a response to a sudden fall in consumer spending. Consequently, it is quite logical within the GDP framework to advocate loose monetary policies to revive the “economy.”
Poland has, for hundreds of years, been surrounded and conquered by its neighbours. Recent history up until the very late 20th century has been no better, with Soviet-imposed massacres and brutal repression. Colonialism has evidently been a great part of Polish history, being a land between great powers, yet there is a reluctance in postcolonial literature to include colonial presence in Eastern Europe.
Yet some have recognised Ireland as a postcolonial country, with Eastern Europe as an unknown:
only one European country has thus far been exempted from the binary ‘First World-Third World’ model now governing post-colonial studies. This is Ireland which is, as Seamus Deane remarks, ‘the only Western European country that has both an early and a late colonial experience’ […] Deane is careful to distinguish here between East and West; [which] remains terra incognita in recent theory. [Cavanagh 2003, 63-64].
The ‘ terra incognita ‘ of Eastern Europe (and Poland, which Cavanagh references), is often referred to in both Western and Eastern discourse as ‘borderlands’, reducing the culture there and its people as merely a place between the East and West. Whilst at times this discourse has been reclaimed by ideas of the Rus as a ‘two-headed eagle’, strong and facing all sides, in modern times this can be seen as a view that sees Eastern Europe as neither the ‘Other’ or the West. Talk of Russia, the Baltics, Balkans, and Eastern Europe in general is often talked of as peripheral to Europe. Indeed, there have been casual attempts to define Russia as an Asian country.
Colonialism, as well as cultural and geopolitical dominance, have played large roles in Eastern Europe. Numerous states have attempted (and at times succeeded in) exercising full or partial control over other countries, others have even occupied with settlers, and it is certainly not rare for there to be a system of economic exploitation. It is not that this has been confined to the history books either, Soviet presence being the greatest example, but also the aims of different groups during periods of ethnic conflict in the Balkans.
‘Outside’ influences such as that of the Turks in South-Eastern Europe, or that of the Austro-Hungarian empire, are underreported in postcolonial studies. German cultural dominance imposed in Poland, for example, still holds sway over local elections even (see below).
However, this is not to say that Poland was always the oppressed. The Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth was a force to be reckoned with, and whilst it didn’t quite have the same level of brute as other European powers it still made efforts to assimilate other cultures and civilisations. This is also not to say, that colonisation of Poland, and colonisation outside of Europe are in any way equal. The point of this post is to highlight how postcolonial studies can overlook colonial discourse and events purely because of current affairs.
To further confuse those who delve deeper, there are also efforts to rehabilitate Eastern Europe away from the “Other”. The Economist states that the term has “connotations of “poverty, marginalisation, and weirdness” which is for most states there, “anything but.” Membership in Schengen, the EU, NATO, and the reemergence of Russia in world politics as an ally of the West all play to the narrative that Europe is no longer divided. A video that plays with the concept of Eastern Europe, and attempts to think up new terms,
Cavanagh , C., 2003, Postkolonialna Polska. Bia ł a plama na mapie współ czesnej teorii, “Teksty Drugie”, No. 64; 18-19. Quotations taken from other sites, which in turn quoted Cavanagh’s English version.
Dash cams surged up in popularity because cops used to be crazy, they still are, but I’m talking ridiculously crazy. They would extort money, because they were corrupt, for anything. Many people didn’t know the laws because buying licenses was so easy (maybe it still is, there’s Moscow and then there’s the regions).
The first videos on Youtube were a trickle of people who knew they could get away with filming a police officer (despite many of the police saying they couldn’t). These kinds of people usually ended up getting away without a ticket because they were smarter than the cops. This soon went up like crazy, and wasn’t exclusive to the smarter members of society.
After this, there were two main reasons why dash cams were still popular and that videos were being uploaded onto Youtube. Firstly, that you can get off the hook for an accident if it’s not your fault, and secondly that you could get some funny stuff on video. A lot of people say it’s just because of insurance fraud, which is partly true, but not the whole picture.
Anyway, I’ve been watching a few dash cam videos and realised I could share some thoughts. Here’s a video for tiding over http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPkE2hHneP4&feature=share