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Wednesday, June 12, 2024

A difficult comeback. Column by Maciej Wierzyński

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In my old age, I don’t like traveling. When I was young I didn’t like it either. Like engineer Mamoń from the movie Rejs, who liked watching the movies he already knew the most, I like to travel to places I have seen before. I have always had such preferences and that is why I did not become a reporter, like Kapuściński, but an editorial official. I think I’ve already described it somewhere, but it wouldn’t hurt to remind you.

Conversely, my wife. She doesn’t like staying at home, but I do. However, I am delighted with my wife’s mobility. Thanks to her mental mobility, my wife wrote many great texts, and one was even included in an anthology of Polish reportage. And this is not her best text at all.

Let me give you the first example: a small book about the weekly “Poprostu” titled “Stare numery”, written in cooperation with Barbara Łopieńska, a talented reporter of Kultura in Warsaw, who died prematurely. The book is about the typical illusion of journalists who think they are creating reality. In the times of the weekly “Poprostu”, the political reality was created by Comrade Wiesław (Gomułka – I am posting this explanation with readers under 60 in mind, whom I can only dream about). The magazine “Poprostu” was a tool he used. When the tool started giving him problems, he abandoned it. Demonstrations were held on this matter. They were suppressed by the militia. The police, using tear gas, dispersed students rallying in defense of their favorite weekly.

A popular story about those times had it that Gomułka succumbed to pressure from the hardliner faction, while he himself was a convinced democrat. He was not a democrat, he was an autocrat who understood that one cannot rule only with a stick. The Natolin faction did not understand this. The people of Puławy understood, but to understand they had to lose power, because while they were in power they didn’t understand it either. My wife and her friend Basia Łopieńska understood this, and even if they did not understand it, they felt that in Poland in 1956 there was not a duel between good and evil, but a fight for power.

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Gomułka was not a democrat, but he was more intelligent than the dull “Natolinians”. And my wife understood it, and I, like the young people from the “Poprost” editorial office before, was subject to illusions. Perhaps the attitude towards traveling also belongs to the category of illusions. “What you don’t have in your heart, you won’t find on a long journey,” said one of the intellectual patrons of my youth. I guess he was wrong, and he probably repeated it only so that I wouldn’t worry too much when the people’s authorities refused to grant me a passport. He himself did not follow this rule and took advantage of every opportunity to break away from the camp of peace and progress. I went there very rarely. Mainly as a participant in journalists’ ski competitions.

Anyway, I prefer to travel to famous places. In Poland, to Zakopane, to the mountains for skiing, and in summer, when it’s warm, to the lakes. And if abroad, then to my children, scattered by fate around the world. When I lived in America, I liked coming to Poland because I knew it. I liked coming back to USA, because I also knew this country. There were no surprises waiting for me.

This time America turned out to be a country I didn’t know. And it was an unpleasant surprise. Because America has changed, or maybe I have changed? I have grown old in these five years, because five years have passed since my last visit. But there was something else – the world had changed a lot. And these changes are very painful for me. More painful than in Poland. Because America is faster than our country. That’s how it was and that’s how it remains. I remembered America from a different era. The pre-electronic era. In teaching: pre-digital, pre-digital. I remembered analog America, but such America no longer exists.

It is not available at airports or banks. It’s not in stores. And in Poland it is still there. There is a certain analog niche and thanks to its existence, an old-timer like me can function in Poland but cannot function in America. Let’s take the example of artificial intelligence, there is a lot written about it in both countries. However, in Poland, analysts from branches of American computer companies operating in our country write about it, and in America, Henry Kissinger wrote a book about artificial intelligence in cooperation with the head of Google and the former dean of the computer faculty at MIT. (If you don’t know what MIT is, look it up on any search engine, and if you don’t know what I mean, ask your grandson for help.) The book by Kissinger and company is titled: “The Age of Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Man” and in America it was even released as a paperback.

We keep up with America to the extent that Elon Musk’s biography can be purchased in every Empik store. There is no demand for the “Age of Artificial Intelligence” yet.

Opinions expressed in columns for tvn24.pl do not constitute the editorial office’s position.


Author:Maciej Wierzyński

Maciej Wierzyński – television journalist, publicist. After the introduction of martial law, he was released from TVP. In 1984 he emigrated to the USA. He was a scholarship holder of Stanford University and Penn State University. He founded the first multi-hour Polish-language channel Polvision on the “Group W” cable television in the USA. In the years 1992-2000 he was the head of the Polish Section of the Voice of America in Washington. Since 2000, editor-in-chief of the New York “Nowy Dziennik”. Since 2005, he has been associated with TVN24.

Main photo source: TVN24

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