"Yeah, in Hungary the irony is -- and it's close to the same in many countries in the region -- that the voters threw out the incumbent government in every single election from 1990 to 2002. In every election, in 1994, 1998 and 2002, they voted in the opposition party that promised to steer the economic reforms in a more social direction, to moderate the excesses and the economic brutalities. And after every election, that party went on to govern the economy exactly like the previous one, ditching all its election promises and focusing instead on cultural issues to distinguish itself from the other side.
One might say that this just showed there was no choice, no alternative. I doubt it, but maybe so. But is it any wonder that people have so completely lost their trust in the political system, and dangerously, in the concept of democracy itself? And that the political debate has degenerated into a total focus on cultural identities (true patriots vs cosmopolitan lefties, true Europeans vs dangerous rabble-rousers, etc)?
The fall of the communist dictatorships was good reason for celebration. But the politics and economies developed since are a graveyard of missed opportunities."
Well, the post-Communist Kwasniewski was elected as President twice in a row (1995-2005), the second time in the first round.
I believe that the government in Warsaw is one thing, and businesses another. Businesses are well-managed by their dictatorial owners, or often by foreign owners. They are separate from everyday politics. Maybe foreign investment just has brought some general stability to Poland.
Politicians are no longer the main TV stars, as was the case in the 1990s. The aims have been achieved - the EU, NATO - and now people concentrate on light entertainment, Italian-style.
But that Asian undercurrent is always here, admiration for dictators.
"Missed opportunities" - no, here we have just capitalism, with all its brighter and darker sides. Normalcy. But the volcanic forces are still at work.
The political discourse is no different now than in the rest of Europe. Yes, we have patriots, and we have cosmopolitans, let them clash.
In the 1990s, a weak Russia was in the background. But as members of the EU and NATO, we now feel some superiority towards Russia, our country cousins, who haven't taken full part in the transformations of the last two decades. For example, Russians don't go abroad too much, while in Poland almost every young person has been somewhere in Western Europe, it's like rites of passage, the Grand Tour.
Poland is cut off from Russia in most matters, unlike Latvia or Lithuania, or the Ukraine. Our economy hasn't suffered too much from the current crisis, unlike Hungary, the Baltic republics, the Ukraine, because of more rigour, maybe better legal foundations.
When I read about Putin's announcement that overgrown and unused railway lines in Siberia will be rebuilt, well, he sounds as if neglect was sth normal, and waste. But oil and gas allow him to speak like that. Now, Medvedev is softer, oil cheaper, Russia has become even less attractive as an example.
As to social equality, I've discovered recently the Gini coefficient:
Poland is normal, all post-Communist countries have retained some socialism, even Ethiopia after an anti-red uprising.
So you won't convince me that we have a failed region here. Just optimal progress, without excesses.