Tolerance

Published 17 November 2014 in:

A very grey Monday indeed. This weekend I started thinking about Christmas for the first time this autumn, but there are still some weeks to go. I am longing for the candles and the lovely Christmas decorations in the streets of Warsaw. And for our daughters, who will be joining us here for the fourth Christmas in a row in Warsaw.

There is certainly still a lot to do for our Embassy this autumn. One important activity, though, is behind us: the event about tolerance we organized together with ISP (Institute of Public Affairs) last Thursday. We have planned it for quite a long time, because we believe it is a theme needing constant reflection and recurrent action, not least to counteract extremism, racism and hatespeech.

My own introductory reflections in Polish are available here.

The core message was the following: Extremists might have become more vocal. Xenophobic tendencies might have become more visible. Anti-semitism as well. Anti-zyganism as well. Homophobia as well, at least in some countries. But we must never ever try to fight them by adapting to them. It won’t work. And it is wrong. Poles know better than most of us what it means in practice when human rights are neglected. “They and them” are dangerous concepts. The individuals must be seen and have a face. Because then you can start thinking in categories of real human beings – me and you and how we can live together.

Our special guest from Sweden, the very well known journalist Maciej Zaremba (to the right in the picture), stressed the importance of defining a national identity like the Swedish in a different way than the ethnical – being a citizen. And an individual. He mentioned that when he has responded to e.g. angry mails he has received as a journalist the reaction from the sender often is quite surprised. They have not expected that a real human being would appear on the other side of the communication.

Once again – we need to see the individual.

I would have liked to be able to write a much more comprehensive summary of the discussion but I can’t. Still, more similar discussions will follow in various fora. I know e.g. that Maciej Zaremba already November 30th will appear in a discussion at POLIN along similar lines. I truly believe we need this kind of constant discussion not only on the national level but also exchaning experiences between countries. Not because there is any one-size-fits all solution. There is certainly no Swedish simple solution that easily could be applied. But we are facing broad challenges related to tolerance – and intolerance – in most if not all European countrries and we need to exchange thoughts and experiences on how to address them.

Many thanks to all our nearly 200 guests who participated, to all our panelists – and not least to Jacek Kucharczyk and his colleagues at ISP for excellent cooperation. As always.

Now a new week has started with a slightly different focus. Warsaw Security Forum is starting on Thursday, and we are happy to welcome several Swedish guests both from Ministry of Foreign Affairs and from Ministry of Defence. Very interesting programme covering topics high on the international agenda.

The weather might be greyish – but the issues we are dealing with are not.