Beware, terrorism is not confined to countries with ethnic diversity.

The other night I was invited to the home of a Polish composer. I don’t often receive invitations so I was doubly pleased to discover that my fellow guests were a group of delightful people, all but one women, all doing their bit for music education in their own independent way. As the evening passed and spirits rose, one of the women asked if she could play us a recording of a song she had written for 6 year olds. Delightful. Then she announced that the Ministry of Education had rejected this song for class use. The experts had deemed it too difficult for six year olds to sing. Odd, especially as I was already singing along, and my ability to pick up anything in Polish is miserable at best. Perplexing, since as a member of the steering committee of the ministry, I know there is a dearth of ideas and expertise regarding music education. I asked if this rejection would prevent the composer from using the song in the school where she teaches. Yes. Without the endorsement of the ministry she would not feel confident enough to use it, even though every one of us in the room admired the song unreservedly. Surely, well intentioned, motivated teachers are far more qualified than shiny-bums (to borrow the Australian term for bureaucrats) sitting in a distant ministry? Surrounded by this worthy group of practitioners, each one a martyr to the cause, I felt a degree of hopelessness. The weight of bureaucratic ignorance and inertia is stifling creativity and enthusiasm, just what the government should not want. This is a question of democracy. Democracy does not filter down from above. The powers have already been won. What must be understood is how to use those powers. Grass roots activity is the only way forward. But this requires solidarity in the face of obstruction. Given their history, Poles should know about this more than many other nations. In the light of the horrific events in Paris yesterday, perhaps the one thing that people in Poland should be aware of is that creating a unified society is not just about colour, creed or culture. It is about allowing people to feel they have a place in society which is valued and respected. Recall the terrorist movements in Italy, Germany and, to some extent, Spain during the 1970s and 80s. These were all perpetrated by young people who felt ostracized by their own societies. People who felt that violence was the only course to correcting injustices. Alienation is on the increase in Poland. That alienation will have to be resolved sooner or later. The government and the people cannot sit by complacently thinking that terrorism only happens in other nations, nations with more ethnic diversity than their own.

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