Expected Plot Twist? Update to Prejudice on the Rise post

This is just a brief update to my blog entry from last week RE: European nationalism.

The European Parliament elections held at the end of last month yielded staggering 30% victory of the anti-European parties (shockingly, in Greece 40% of the votes were won by Eurosceptic/Racist parties—I guess the billions of EU bailout moneys weren’t enough?). Process this for a second: 30% of the EU Parliament wants the EU to end. What!

Anyway, thanks to the multi-party political system this is an unlikely end to the pro-European policies, but it is a worrisome trend in the long run.  Britain has expressed the desire to leave the Union for long enough, and they might actually do it this time.  What’s worse…. Others might follow.

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Prejudice on the rise

The notion of a globally connected, intercultural world has been so wildly accepted that we tend to overlook the daily reality of racial prejudice. While our policymakers are satisfied with equality laws and regulations adopted by their governments, the cultural effect of those policies is lagging.  In fact, the United Kingdom, one of the world leaders, is experiencing a rise in racism, not an expected fall.

According to the 2013 British Social Attitudes Survey, 1 in 3 Britons admitted to being racist on some level. 9 out of 10 of those said they wanted to reduce the number of immigrants in their country. What is worse, the study relies on ‘self-reported levels of racism’ – testimonies collected during in-person interviews- which one would suspect, are grossly understated.

To me, this trend is at once shocking and predictable.  On the one hand, Europe is a mixed bag of cultures, languages, ethnicities and histories.  For centuries, we were separate but certainly not equal, especially in economic terms.  Mixing of these multiple tiers of diversity only adds complexity to the currently crippled economics of the euro zone.   Naturally, prejudice becomes an easy scapegoat for unemployment and shrinking public service budgets. On the other hand, the EU has been around for 21 years- long enough to at least begin its citizens’ change of heart…

Inspired by randomly stumbled into: http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/may/27/-sp-racism-on-rise-in-britain

Radek

Radek Sikorski is an extraordinary politician, journalist and a visionary for the future of Poland.  His clear and pragmatic ideas, composure, integrity and patriotism have always impressed me.  Since I can remember, I’ve admired his diplomatic skills as a Foreign Policy Minister and a Minister of National Defense.    He is one of the strongest role models in Polish politics and as such he has exerted a significant influence over my career choices.

Mr. Sikorski has lived through many struggles of the Polish history.  He lived through the Polish fight for democracy, experienced the oppression of liberties under the martial law.  He was at the center of the democratic transition of the 90s and was present at the triumph of Poland in the 2004 European Union enlargement.  He has also experienced the life of an émigré while studying at Oxford and understands the international complexities well.  Most recently, he has been recognized for his plea to German leadership in the European Financial Crisis and his appeal to support Ukraine in their struggle for democracy.

He is a self-made man and that’s what I like about his story the most.  His parents, much like my dad, worked as civil engineers.  His family has some loose ties to the military, but his accomplishments are attributed to his own ambition.  My favorite fun fact about Radek is that he worked in a pub and at a hotel reception to support his life in England.

But it wasn’t until recently that I realized that Radek has achieved as much as he did because of his first mentor, Zbigniew Pelczynski – Oxford politics professor who helped Polish students pave their way to success in academy and politics.  After much research, I realized that it was by complete accident that Radek landed in Oxford and it was the push of Mr. Pelczynski that made him realize his potential.  His first nomination as a Deputy Minister for National Defense was certainly a result of his professional accomplishments, but it came at a favorable time – when Poland needed a global leader to serve as a gate to the West.

It was his determination and courage what made this great man, but the help of luck and mentors certainly made it easier.  Here’s an excerpt from the Foreign Affairs Journal, interview with Mr. Sikorski:

“You’re a proud and passionate Polish patriot. You are also a proud European. You’re a proud Westerner. How do such overlapping identities play out in the twenty-first century?
Being European does not supersede one’s national identity; it adds another layer. In Europe, we have regional patriotisms and local patriotisms. Europe is another locus of our identification. Often, you discover your European identity while traveling or living abroad, just like Americans have discovered the reverse while staying in Europe. Being in the European Union helps us to build a successful Poland and therefore strengthen a new Polish pride based on success rather than on the wrongs that we suffered in the past.”

I could not agree more. And, I cannot wait to get to start his book ‘The Polish House’ on our upcoming vacation to the Dominican Republic.