Walesa, disenchanted

THROUGH THE ideologically sanitized media eye, Lech Walesa, former president of Poland and a recent Manila visitor, is described as having launched the 1980 campaign for workers’ rights and the revolution that brought down the communist regime in his country.

But the philosopher and cultural critic Slavoj Zizek has a different take on Walesa: True, he has become the icon of democratic revolt in Eastern Europe—something that delights Wall Street and the Pentagon—but his rule was short-lived. Worse, he became more marginalized, his supporters shifting to the leaders of a military coup who had opened the door to the ex-communists.

Zizek said critics were one in saying that “the people wanted to have their cake and eat it too: they wanted capitalist-democratic freedom and material abundance without losing the security and stability [more or less] guaranteed by the communist regime. The noble struggle for freedom and justice turned out to be more than a craving for bananas and pornography.” They thought a capitalist society was a land of milk and honey!

A kind of nostalgia for the old regime swept over the people, who were “unable to come to terms with the price to pay for political and economic freedom,” Zizek said.

It would seem then that Walesa was betrayed by the people.

Hereabouts, a similar disease afflicts the disenchanted among the middle class who long, subconsciously or by design, for the return of Marcos and his strongman rule. Beholden to political dynasties, they are not up to imagining the reality of revolutionary independence.


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Tags: lech walesa , letters , revolutionary independence , strongman rule

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