I suspect that very few people at the Gala were interested in culture. Even if I am wrong, since many had come up from the provinces, a discussion of culture was nowhere near their list of priorities for a night out in Warsaw. A business mixer, food, drink and a chance to meet more of their own kind would have been more to their liking.
The first part of the Gala consisted of an award-giving followed by a “discussione alla Polacca.” I should explain what I mean by this. A young Polish cousin of mine recently returned to Poland after three years at Oxford University. I asked him how he was settling in. “You know, Poles don’t discuss. They make statements” was the biggest difference between the cultures that had so far struck him.
This, indeed, is the greatest drawback facing any conference and, one might say, the development of democracy in Poland. Speakers are paraded on the platform. A host asks them a set question to which they reply. Rarely, very rarely, does the host have the temerity to challenge or question any aspect of the statement. Even more rarely is time allowed for questions from the audience. A few debating societies at schools and universities would make a great difference, though I can’t imagine anyone in the present body politic being keen to lobby for them.
I’ll breeze over the prize winners: one outstanding businessman; couple of politicians: Michal Boni, (who should be running the country) and the upstanding Minister of Culture himself. Krystyna Janda represented the theatre. It was her contribution that was the most relevant to the discussion, though it was pearls to swine in the environment we were in. In front of the Minister she called for more transparency in the allocation of public money to private enterprises. In other words, an explanation of why certain projects are accepted for ministry patronage and others are not. One suspects politics and deviousness. Even though he knew he would not be called upon to answer, I thought the Minister squirmed in his white arm chair under the spotlight high above us on the concert platform.