Mourning the Dead

MiningI’m not quite sure what I feel about Days of National Mourning. Part of the reason is that they should be defined by a sense of national hurt or sorrow. Poland has jest recently been in a state of national mourning.

But it doesn’t feel like it. That’s the problem. The black MTV, Viva, TVN or TVP logos are all tokenism because you can’t tell me that the TV stations are hurting or are in emotional pain. I get the impression that it’s the government’s attempt to beat the collective chest of the nation and cry: “We Poles, fellow victims…” There is nothing great or positive about harping on about one’s weaknesses or about the wrongs others have committed to you. A government should not proclaim days of mourning willy-nilly because it simply waters down their deeper meaning. The last two memorable periods of mourning in the UK were the deaths of two members of the royal family: HRH The Queen Mother and Diana, Princess of Wales. Then, the country (especially at Diana’s funeral) literally came to a standstill. The whole country felt sorrow.

Now this is not to say that one person’s life (and death) is more important than another’s, than the 23 miners who died several days ago deep in the bowels of the earth in the Halemba Coal Mine. A national period of mourning is the government acting on the will of the nation, reflecting public sentiment. When Diana died, people felt the need to mourn, but there are times when this is not felt by a nation. I’m not saying the nation didn’t feel the need to mourn the deaths of those miners, but I do think there was unnecessary government pressure on the nation to feel a responsibility to feel sorrow.


11 thoughts on “Mourning the Dead

  1. Guess what, it’s election time, a good tragedy is just what politicians need to show to the people how compassionate and decent they are… how worthy they are to be (re)elected… world of politics is a sad one indeed.

  2. Actually, I think it has nothing at all to do with election time. I think the government truly believes that we should be mourning every tragedy that takes place. It’s very sad, really…

  3. I think it might’ve been the pressure of media that contributed to proclaim the national mourning by government. On the news on every single channel (not only Polish as we know) we could hear facts concerning only this tragic accident. And that was happening for two days(!). It means something, doesn’t it? I think such a tragedy makes people more aware of how bad the conditions in Polish mines are. Mining industry has a very long tradition in Poland and every year many miners die… Maybe that is also why this particular accident was so ‘important’ for the media and the whole Polish nation… I wouldn’t call it an act of political games or a responsibility to feel sorrow. I think Polish people just are like that. We’re not a very big country but a very traditional one and if something like this happens we ‘have’ the need to feel sorrow…

  4. Apart from the fact the I also see it as an election campaign, I think that Poles just like to see themselves as victims. The tragedy that happened is another reason for being sorry & sad. We tend to complain about our lives and repeat how unhappy we are…

  5. The media is there to inform (and influence, unfortunately) and so in no way do I blame the media. It’s their bread and butter. I’m also pretty sure that the government decided to declare a period of mourning as soon as they heard what happened.
    As for the mining industry. I don’t have much sympathy. Successive communist governments made them out to be national heroes with HUGE wages, free housing and other astronomically large pensions. If the country can’t afford it, they can’t afford it – close the mines down, it’s as simple as that. The same goes for institutions like PKP which – under normal economic circumstances – would simply be sold off.
    As for the Poles being victims… I can’t agree more. 😉

  6. It’s nothing new actually that Poles like to complain and call themselves victims. It’s just our mentality, isn’t it? Some nations are seen as more optimistic and other as more pessimistic. That’s it. If all nations were the same world would be boring 😉 But what I find positive in all this is that although Polish people lack solidarity, in such moments we can afford “some unity.”

  7. I strongly oppose the idea of ‘Poles’ all thinking and acting alike, as if they were a 40-million strong Gestalt entity; regarding the miners, some will have been deeply moved, others won’t have given a monkey’s, most will probably have thought ‘oh dear’ and then got on with their daily lives. Here in Lódz, a city with its own industrial past, people are more interested in getting a job in Manufaktura. 🙂

    As for miners and mining, the previous poster who mentioned the mythical status awarded them by communist propaganda was quite right; I have seen the same thing in (Silesian, don’t forget) Ostrava in the Czech Republic, murals and statues dedicated to the heroic miners. But the Czech government bit the bullet, closed the mines, and Ostrava is reinventing itself from having been a filthy industrial slagheap (like Katowice, but without the charm) into being a local services and entertainment centre, to which Poles from across the border and money-saving Prague party animals come at weekends. So there are drunk middle-aged and unemployable young ex-miners wandering around? Big deal – so are there in Poland as well. Shut the mines in the South, retrain those who can be retrained, and regenerate Silesia’s economy. It wouldn’t be before time.

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