In the kingdom of hate

We are driven by negative emotions and the desire to have. More and more. And since there are also exponentially and globally more of us, the acrimony increases in direct proportion to the population density.

In the past, such intensely negative emotional terms were not used. Hate? No. You could dislike someone, but not to the point of killing them. Nowadays, the haters are just waiting to deprive someone of life "bloodlessly", first by taking away their belief in the meaning of life. Help from therapists is a lifesaver for the few. Most stumble alone, falling into depression or addictions.

A little further to the east from us

There is no terrain free from its influence. Art? But no, it breathes hate.
The all-wise invoke Goya and the 'Caprices' or 'Saturn devouring children'. Except... back then it was against anti-humanist behaviour with no hope of rewards or accolades. Goya reckoned with the repercussions because he had already been hit by his bones.

Today the situation is very different. There is a clamour for the freedom of art, for its independence from external influences. The artist is expected to express his or her emotions and position in every way available to him or her.

But no.

Although political correctness takes on different faces in different countries and circumstances, rigorously enforced it becomes a muzzling. Sometimes it means being blacklisted into non-existence, elsewhere accelerating physical anihilation.

This second variant concerns the Belarusian artist and political prisoner Ales Pushkin. He fell silent forever on the night of 10-11 July this year in 'unexplained circumstances'. He was not unprepared for this, although he probably did not expect such a development - from his early youth he had taken up arms first against the Soviet, then the Russian regime. He wanted Belarusian independence, declared for the first time in history at the end of the First World War (25.03.1918). This lasted only until the following January. Please find out about the further fate of our eastern neighbour yourself - if you are interested.

The day of the proclamation of Belarusian independence was evoked by Ales Pushkin in his own way: on its anniversary he painted a picture. For more than 20 years, the composition grew brighter and brighter until it was finally supposed to glow with the whiteness of freedom. This did not happen for reasons we all know about. The current (and, unfortunately, final) state of the work can be viewed in a specially arranged room at the Centre for Contemporary Art - Ujazdowski Castle (CSW) (from 08.08.2023).

This is not the first time that Polish audiences will be given a glimpse of Ales' activities and persona (he was better known by that name than his surname, at the same time - coincidentally - that of a famous Russian poet with whom he had no family connections). Leaving aside Andrzej Fidyk's 2007 documentary "Belarusian Waltz" (shown on TVP), whose protagonist was the aforementioned artist, Ales was active in Poland as a visual artist and happener.

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Already 23 years ago, in July 2000, the artist took part in the exhibition "New Art of Belarus" - also exhibited at the capital's CSW. Afterwards, he systematically participated in plein-air events organised in our country and presented his work or performances in Polish galleries.

Piotr Bernatowicz, director of CSW, had the opportunity to get to know Ales and develop a friendly relationship with him. 'He was not a haunted oppositionist or a sufferer,' Bernatowicz recounted. To the end he remained an optimist, enthusiastic about life. A big, strongly built guy, mighty also in character. He was even able to make artistic use of his time in prison. For example, he drew. And not negative events at all! With his drawings, he designed whatever he wanted. For example, one dish or another. Everyone probably knows that the menu in prison is not very diversified. And he was drawing visions of his favourite dishes.

Ales studied at the Belarusian State Art-Theatre Institute in Minsk, but had a break in his studies - he was mobilised and sent to the war in Afghanistan. On his return, he managed to complete his studies, after which he was sent to work in Vitebsk. A city with artistic traditions (birthplace of Marc Chagall, then his teaching job at the Academy of Fine Arts, where he clashed with the personality of Kazimierz Malewicz). Pushkin founded the first gallery of modern art here, called - somewhat jokingly - "At Pushkin's".

He thanked President Aleksandr Lukashenko for his first term in office by ending his (formal) tenure in 1999... with wheelbarrows of manure dumped in front of the presidential residence in Minsk.

How did Ales' fight for 'his' or the nation's rationale end?
Attempts were reportedly made to 'save' him when he was de facto dying in prison in Grodno from a stomach perforation caused by an ulcer.
Such is sometimes the price paid by modern rebels.

The benevolent reports

We live in supposedly 'interesting' times, which can be tried to be circumscribed in various ways, searching for words or associations between green euglena and parthenogenesis on Mars. There, too, is the hope of creating a colony of protozoa with the general participation of our species, probably wrongly called homo sapiens. What kind of rational beings are we?

We are driven by negative emotions and the desire to have. More and more. And since there are also exponentially and globally more of us, the acrimony is directly proportional to the population density.

SIGN UP TO OUR PAGE If I had to find a term for the present time, I would say - this is the kingdom of hate. As we all know, those who are divided are the easiest to govern. It is said that the Romans were the first to put this principle into practice. In the Polish tradition, "divide et imperia" goes back to the times of the Piast Dynasty - but why limit ourselves to a single territory, drawn on a map with what are still called borders?

The global village existed in the 'Gutenberg Galaxy' envisioned by Marshall McLuhan as early as 1962. However, even the Canadian communication theorist failed to foresee that the most important mass message of the first half of the 21st century would be negative emotions. More recently with a 'negative plus'. That is, the worse, the better. The hotter the better.

Anonymous whistleblowers used to be the bogeyman, usually signing their venom-soaked, real or imagined 'complaints' and 'concerns' dictated by their 'concern for the public good', with the slogan 'Benevolent'.

Now there is no need to write denunciations. It is enough to publish on social media - under one's own name or nickname - false and hurtful information about someone one wishes to harm. There is no chance to write a correction, to seek help from lawyers. Perhaps someone very wealthy and well connected can deal with slander. The common man is slandered with impunity and efficiency. This is especially true when it is lent credibility by an intellectual "authority" who happens to be interested in defaming someone who remembers inconvenient truths.

A little bit of retro

The second edition of Stanisław Lem's book 'Okamgnienie' (The blink of an eye, WL Publishing, 2023), a position brilliant in its visionary nature, has recently been published. For the first edition was written as a collection of columns (essays?) in our writer's reaction to the scientific report 'Technologies of the 21st Century', commissioned by the German government in the mid-1990s.

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Twenty-one short texts. At first, they have the character of polemics or (even) self-criticism of his own science fiction novels, written by Lem from a 'behind the curtain' position. Towards the end (they are published chronologically) they take on an ominous tone. In the year 2000, the author of 'Summa technologiae' foreshadows what we are seeing today. Only in his work there is not a shadow of the hurrah-optimism that characterises the pronouncements of the eloquent protagonists of turbo-capitalism, crossed with the promises of the prophets of technological paradise and other nonsense, which probably only - to use Lem's term - "very uneducated and young people" believe in.

Reality is the opposite of these predictions, spun by "packs of explorers, inventors, scientists and synthetic camels with naked girls between their humps, as well as tanks pretending to be elephants and elephants imitating tanks". It is not the first time that the poor of this world have been pressurised by a quasi-elite driven by the desire to exploit the naive. It has always happened, but not on a multi-billion scale.

Lem's last column in the aforementioned "The Blink of the Eye" sounds like a howl over the carcass of all ideals. The horror, the realisation that this madness cannot be undone. Once hope is gone, any coquetry and hiding behind the mask of futurofantasy is pointless. Once everyone has what they want, "from nappies to the odourless electronic grave", what we observe today will happen: "Dreaming fond daydreams on waking, the phantomised multitudes will admittedly continue to conceive family children, but these children, as dreamed and therefore unreal, will seriously contribute to the coming of the pleasant end of the world, which, as the unforgettable Kisiel (a Polish columnist) used to say, I wish for you and for myself".

Live longer

This was the title of a monthly magazine published since 1958, which miraculously still survives, offering supposedly reliable information on health and prevention. Every now and again, I come across advice on how to prolong my earthly stay on my own (albeit at great expense in terms of time and money). Apart from comfortable retirement havens for fabulous sums of money, technological wizards keep us busy with tales of life extension to over a hundred and 120 will become the norm.

I've heard of an old man-multimillionaire ordering monthly blood transfusions - his own, worn-out blood, for youthful, thriving ones. Apparently this modern-day vampire is flourishing. And the artificial organ farms, the hunts for 'interchangeable part donors', the keeping in coma those who will not return to the world but whose organs function as long as an artificially sustained breath? Such a luxury not for everyone.

Already Michel Houellebecq spoke in 'The Possibility of an Island' about 'immortal', self-reproducing humans (?), living in isolation as in glass palaces, and hordes of feral quasi-humans, existing (briefly) outside these isolations, decimated by disease and hatred. Because when one has nothing to lose and the only directional indicator becomes the instinct to survive, culture goes into oblivion.

Here, too, Lem had much to say already 23 years ago. "'The Blinkof the Eye' seems a prophetic vision in the face of the wild predictions of new technology enthusiasts, with IA at the forefront. "A great many developments, especially scientific ones, show that the global cost of life-enhancing activities will increase over time, probably with acceleration, so that there may be an absolute but also rational stratification of the human masses into a leading few who will improve and prolong their lives, and a vast rest who will vegetate in the old way."

When the game is about joining the ranks of the chosen ones versus a faceless day-to-day existence, honesty and loyalty to any 'traditional' values goes by the wayside.
A convenient and serviceable digit allows you to get rid of the competition without the use of weapons, which requires learning, let's call it conventionally, fencing.
Now the word is enough.

Invisible venom

It has long been known that a poisonous word can inflict wounds deeper than a weapon. It can even kill - although a person attacked with bad speech/defamation will remain alive.
What forms does hate take?
Look at how efficient she still,
how fit she is
in our century hate.
How lightly she takes obstacles.
How easy it is for her - to jump in, to catch up.

She is not like other feelings.
Older and younger than them simultaneously.
She gives rise to causes herself,
that bring her to life.
If she falls asleep, it is never an eternal one.
Sleeplessness does not take away her strength, but adds to.

These are the first stanzas of Wislawa Szymborska's poem about the 'heroine' named directly, without understatement. Hate. Personified.
Anyone who has experienced her will be amazed by the accuracy of the poet's metaphors. And she herself would be amazed at the mighty size of this creature-monster who

… Has the sharp eyes of a sniper
and looks boldly into the future
– she herself.

Szymborska sketched a 'portrait' of this strongest of feelings thirty years ago, or at least at the time she published a poem in a volume entitled 'The End and the Beginning'. I think everyone knows what that era was like - post-transformation political enthusiasm and a time of building the foundations of new fortunes with the all-too-frequent exploitation of 'loopholes'. In general, capitalism burst into the psyche of the countrymen and nullified everything that had existed, in order to burn out everything that resembled the previous system with the living fire of free market freedom. Guilty and innocent people both went up in flames. The latter far outnumbered the former - as the former had the bargaining chip of being rooted in indestructible, invisible systems. I wondered - who did the Nobel Prize winner have in mind when she wrote what I quoted above?

The term "hate speech" had not yet been coined, mobbing was not yet in use, and the terms "stalking" and "staffing" were unknown (for those who do not know, let me explain: it is the opposite of mobbing, i.e. harassment of the management or executive by subordinates). What's more, we did not yet know about hate or haters. Of course, as the world went on, there was the phenomenon of methodically destroying inconvenient people through detraction and depriving them of both their dignity and their right to defend themselves.

Modern ostracism can be more severe than the exile from the city used in antiquity. Infamy often takes the form of social exclusion, not necessarily noticeable to those outside that circle.
Internet chat forums and now deep-fakes are perfect for manipulating collective emotions and beliefs.
The increasingly overworked psychotherapists and psychologists will not help.
With her - the hate - no one will stand up to.

– Monika Małkowska

TVP WEEKLY. Editorial team and jornalists

– Translated by Tomasz Krzyżanowski
Main photo: A sculpture by German artist Mia Florentine Weiss entitled LOVE/HATE, unveiled on 31 October 2019 in Wrocław's Nowy Targ square. The LOVE HATE monument is an ambigram - an inscription that can be read from two sides: on one side is the word 'Love' and on the other is 'Hate'. The installation has also been hosted in Berlin, Munich, Goslar, Brussels, Beroun, Prague and Arcachon, among others. Photo: PAP/Maciej Kulczyński
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