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What can happen in 40 years?

Here is another short blog I started writing a year ago.  Nothing has changed.

Well, over forty years, one-half of a long human life can happen for starters. Forty years ago, on July 6, 1980, my extraordinary wife, Joanna, and I were married in a small ceremony in Warsaw. Poland was a communist country, the Soviet Union controlled Eastern Europe, but a social movement, Solidarity, to which we dedicated our young lives, was burning fast through the very foundations of the powerful Eastern Block.

Who would expect that 10 short years later, the Soviet Union was no more, Germany was unifying and the eastern European countries were tossed like leaves onto their paths to democratic modernity? With some adventures, we left Poland in January 1981 (me) and in April (Joanna) to settle in Minneapolis, where I was hired as a postdoc at the best Chemical Engineering department in the world, working for the top professor there.

The infamous general Jaruzelski was never tried and sentenced until 2014, when he died, i.e., in the 25 years that ensued after the fall of communism.

On December 13, 1981,  General Jaruzelski, the cowardly and tragically wrong Polish leader cowed by the Soviets, declared a martial law, and we asked for political asylum.  Again, seeing that triumph of tanks, military power and mass arrests designed to subdue the Polish people, who would expect that this very martial law sped up the rate of change enormously, and led in a straight path to the fall of all communist regimes east and south of the Oder River?  As a side reflection, Poland was never as subdued and pacified by the martial law and machine guns, as the submissive America, which is unable to repel Trump and his fellow felons.

Armored personnel carriers and the brutal ZOMO thugs in front of the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN) in Warsaw, December 15, 1981.  I was a fresh PhD researcher at PAN.

A decade later, now in Berkeley, California, we became US citizens. I can barely convey the enormous pride and emotions with which we became Americans, and swore allegiance to the US Constitution, democracy, the rule of  law, and to that very special place the United States held in the world.  I have always maintained that the United States of America is not a country, but a state of human mind. In that sense, millions of people who never set a foot on the American soil, can too be Americans, and denizens of that Shining City upon a Hill, which was helping the entire world to become a better place. Of course, we were a bit naïve, but that feeling of elation that I finally was an American would stay with me until today.

The only thing that troubles me is what we haven’t seen and felt each day. The stealthy, slow and complete looting of the country by the educated and privileged, most with the degrees from Harvard, Yale, Berkeley and Stanford. These people lead Goldman Sachs, Chase, Wells Fargo, Amazon, Facebook, Uber etc. Together they have completely hollowed out our country and destroyed the middle class. Now the same companies block so many people with technology from communicating truth and escaping poverty. Shame on Academia and the highly trained us. I think that in its impact on the global destruction, the Harvard Business School is worse than the National Socialist German Workers' Party (abbreviated in German as NSDAP), and WWII. And America richly deserves the pandemonium we sowed and got. We, the people, disoriented by our finely-tuned propaganda machine far better than by Goebbels et al., elected the Creature.

“The ultimate expression of sovereignty resides, to a large degree, in the power and capacity to dictate who may live and who must die,” the Cameroonian philosopher Achille Mbembe wrote in a 2003 essay called “Necropolitics.” “Hence, to kill or allow to live constitutes the limits of sovereignty, its fundamental attributes.” I read this line not long before the pandemic reached American shores, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.


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