I’d like to speculate about the causes of the Polish and Argentine mindsets. From simple observations, I’d like to derive a general theory of the Argentine and Polish characters. To start with, we need to be tolerant towards generalizations. Although there’s no homogeneity in the characters of the people of a nation, there are some outstanding traits that distinguish them as a nation. For instance, although I never watch football, I know that this sport characterizes me as an Argentinean; that means that I have to willy-nilly accept football as part of my Argentinean identity. If I were to renounce football as part of my identity, I’d be less Argentinean than I am. Because football traverses many aspects of life; it doesn’t only act in the realms of the sportive activities. Football becomes history when Argentina wins a match and even more when a world cup at home becomes a means of diverting attention from a crumbling dictatorship. In Poland I could mention vodka and kielbasa, which may not have anything to do with many of Poles, but are still part of their culture and something that identifies them abroad.
Having said that, I want to talk about what I called the “Argentinean arrogance” and the “Polish complex of inferiority”. This may not hold true in many cases, but it’s my impression that most of Argentinians are too proud of their country while a great part of Poles undervalue Poland. This is easy to explain historically, but I think demographics and politics also play an important role on this situation.
Argentina is a big country at the end of a continent, which means that it’s a little isolated from the world. Its capital is far from all other capital cities except for Montevideo, and it’s even farther from world cultural and economic centers, like New York and Paris. Argentina, however, is one of the richest countries in South America, and Buenos Aires used to be the capital of the Vice-royalty of la Plata, which stretched even to Equatorial Guinea in Africa. Buenos Aires has the widest river and street on Earth, the third best opera house in the world and an architecture that’s imposing. Besides, Argentinians also brag about having the most beautiful women in the world, they’re proud of tango, football and now even the Pope. They have world figures like Maradona, Gardel, the Che Guevara, Piazzolla and Eva Peron and they’re also part of the Group of Twenty.
What characterizes this country is the careless way in which it manages its natural resources. Of course a lot of corruption has funneled most of the wealth to the oligarchy, but Argentina is aware of its potential. Although a feeling of impotency and disappointment pervades Argentinians, they know what their country is worth and they’ll defend it from foreign intrusion. The key element to Argentina’s arrogance is that it’s developed as a country without foreign help and even in spite of foreign harmful influence. Argentina has been greatly disenchanted with international funds like the IMF, with world powers like the United States, who supported the dictatorships in Argentina, and with England, who exploited the country for more than a century. Argentina is happy to be on its own, although now it’s creating links with China and Russia to be able to defend itself against the attacks of the multinational economic terrorism. Argentina is also strengthening bonds with its neighbor countries because it realized that fraternity is necessary to help keeping South America safe from international predators.
The Argentinian figure for me is that of a rebel, while the Polish figure is that of a survivor. Poland has achieved its goal: to recover its land and its political integrity. The country has survived the worst two military movements in history: the Nazis and the Soviet Union. The Polish figure for me, without even having met Polish people, is that of tough and brave men. Poland has rebuilt a nation, which is something to be proud of, but Poles are eternally disenchanted. The problem I see with Poland is lack of idealism. I think that the pragmatism and skills needed to survive extermination made its people more realistic and less prone to dreaming. Poland bases its pride on material achievements and therefore they’re disappointed for not being at the same level as other European countries, although they work harder than most of them. Poland has fourteen Nobel Prize winners, it has Chopin and Polanski, but it still yearns for material achievements. This may be the result of decades of deprivation, where even to have sugar was a luxury. As many poor people who come into money, Polish people can’t avoid but looking up at richer countries and wanting to emulate them. It’s a sad project for a country with so much history and culture behind.
On the other hand there’s Argentina, which is less developed than Poland, but which in the last decade has made me proud. We’re going our own way, without paying heed to international imperialist forces. We’ve defaulted once and once again, but we don’t lose morale. On the contrary, the second default has made us more radical in our views: “It’s the whole Western credit system that’s wrong, not Argentina.” We’re so convinced of our ideas that we even manage to get the support of other countries in our plea for a fairer international credit framework. We slash against everything and everyone who wants to put a hand on us. We rant against England for their unwillingness to transfer sovereignty of the Falklands and we’ve recently nationalized some oilfields which had been previously conceded to a Spanish oil company. Argentina’s reality is a harsh one, but the dream of it is great and we won’t allow anyone to deprive us of it.
Poland, to my view, is not dreaming high enough. Poles measure themselves in European standards. Poland has greatly developed since its political independence in the 90’s; it doesn’t owe anything to anyone and all its achievements have being done with the sweat of Polish people’s foreheads. However, there’s a patronizing attitude from the European Union, that treats Poland as a good boy who’s grown up into a healthy man thanks to its advices and good care. Nothing farther from the truth; if Poland has benefited from the European Union, it was only because of its own merits as an industrious and diligent nation. I’m personally admired by the Polish sternness and determination, but I believe it needs to be channeled into struggle for fairer labor markets and more national awareness. As a member of the European Union, Poland has given up part of its sovereignty and this action needs to be offset by the reaffirmation of the Polish identity.
Poland is almost an enclave country; its dreams of a Commonwealth has been dashed to pieces by greedy neighbors. Poland has learned to survive and to compromise with its enemies; it has been an amazingly pacifist country between Germany and Russian, two of the most historically belligerent countries in Europe. Poland embraces peace and it’s willing to sacrifice its dreams in order to create a harmonious international community. However, in its struggle to improve the European Union, Poland forgets its value as a sovereign country and Poles believe that Europe is doing them a favor by lending them money when it’s Poland that’s boosting Europe’s development with its hard work and commitment.
From: Story of Two Countries
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