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Cliches about the Poles have a foundation of truth, possibly rooted in the past ± statistics show a very different, changing Poland, writes Adam Leszczynski
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Adam Leszczynski Gazeta Wyborzca guardian.co.uk, Thursday 26 January 2012 13.33 GMT Article history
These stereotypes of Poles are true but only partly. Poles drink average amounts of alcohol, they are Catholic but not really bothered by what the church says, and they dislike Jews just slightly more than the average European. According to data from the World Health Organisation, in 2010 the average Pole drank 13.3 litres of alcohol. This puts Poles just above the European average, which is 12 litres per citizen. Poles drink slightly more than Germans (12.8 litres), almost the same as the English (13.4 litres), and less than the Irish (14.4 litres). So where does the stereotype of the heavy-drinking Pole come from? Half of the alcohol drunk in Poland is consumed by just 7% of drinkers. Research from the mid-90s showed that poorly educated men, mostly farmers and unskilled labourers, drink the most.
Poles are indeed Catholic but they often disagree with the church. According to a survey carried out in November 2011, 95% of Poles declare themselves Catholic although only 92% say they believe in God. With each year, the number of atheists rises while the number of
It's not clear how many of those declaring themselves as Catholics do so out of conformism and tradition. When did the middle finger become offensive? Comments (138) By Daniel Nasaw BBC News Magazine. "In Poland. Between 8. According to an international survey carried out by the American Jewish Committee in 2005. even though there are hardly any Jews in Poland. 56% of Poles agreed with the sentence that "now like in the past. Around 40% say they attend mass each Sunday while only 7% say they are "strong believers". The number of people who consistently exhibit antisemitic attitudes is estimated at anywhere between 10% and 20% in Poland. 1. Of the eight countries in Europe (plus the US).5 million people). And all the Polish post-Communist governments (be they from the right or the left). have been consistent allies of Israel. Jews have too much of an influence on what is going on in the world". the belief in the global influence of Jews is a version of the quite common antisemitic myth." said the sociologist Professor Antoni Su ek. there are significantly fewer acts of aggression against Jewish cemeteries. synagogues or institutions in Poland than in western Europe. According to the last published Polish census in 2002. In a survey carried out in autumn 2011. almost half of all Poles supported the right to abortion. according to international statistics.100 people declared themselves Jewish (out of 38. Anti-semitic? Polish antisemitism is still alive.practising Catholics drops. On the other hand. 38% disagreed with the opinion. Washington . nowhere did more people agree with that opinion more than in Poland. Antisemitism still lives in Poland but more in subconscious stereotypes than in the sphere of real politics. where the survey was carried out. Bigotry ± understood as a fervent and ostentatious exhibition of religiosity ± is much less common than statistics suggest.000 people belong to Jewish community groups. However in none of the countries did less than 25% agree with that opinion. There is also wide disagreement with the church on matters of contraception and divorce.000 and 12.
A. was aware. extended her middle finger during Sunday night's Super Bowl halftime show. British singer M. Latin poets hoping to sell copies of their works. America's most-watched television programme of the year. 'Phallic gesture' Ancient Greek philosophers. is thus documented to have expressed insult and belittlement for more than two millennia. extended with the other fingers held beneath the thumb. By doing it. which is a very primeval display. peevish policemen and skittish network executives have all been aware of the gesture's particular power to insult and enflame.I." During Sunday night's broadcast of the Super Bowl. reaches for a familiar gesture. The middle finger. What does the gesture mean. He extends his middle finger and declares: "This is the great demagogue". The episode occurred not on a chat show nor in the salons of New York or London. expressing his contempt for a gas-bag politician.A. "It's one of the most ancient insult gestures known.I. extended the finger during a performance of Madonna's Give Me All Your Luvin'. athletes and pop stars. soldiers. It is saying." says anthropologist Desmond Morris. . according to a later Greek historian. when the philosopher Diogenes told a group of visitors exactly what he thought about the orator Demosthenes. "The middle finger is the penis and the curled fingers on either side are the testicles. you are offering someone a phallic gesture.Whether or not M. but in Fourth Century BC Athens. and when did it become offensive? A public intellectual. 'this is a phallus' that you're offering to people.A.I. school children. the gesture originally referred to a phallus An American television network has apologised after pop star M.
indecent or offensive finger. or just giving someone the finger. .Diogenes of Sinope was reputedly a fan of the middle-finger gesture The NFL and NBC television.the shameless. "The obscene gesture in the performance was completely inappropriate. at three doctors. which broadcast the game and the halftime show. "the indecent one". In the Epigrammata of First Century AD by the Latin poet Martial. a professor emeritus of communication and classics at the University of Illinois." said Brian McCarthy. The Romans had their own name for it: digitus impudicus . a character who has always enjoyed good health extends a finger. says Thomas Conley. who has written about the rhetoric of insults. The gesture is widely known to Americans as flipping the bird. Monkeys' obscene gesture The Roman historian Tacitus wrote that German tribesmen gave the middle finger to advancing Roman soldiers. a spokesman for the NFL. apologised.
while slapping or gripping the inside of the elbow with the other hand. In performing the "bras d'honneur" (arm of honour). Expression of 'displeasure' The French have their own phallic salute. . says Mr Morris.the two-fingered 'v' with the palm facing inward . says Mr Morris. The British gesture . is documented in the US as early as 1886. but these squirrel monkeys are capable of their own obscene gesture Earlier. the playwright Aristophanes puns in his comedy The Clouds about dactylic (finger) rhythm. Mr Morris quips. which Mr Morris says probably arrived in the US with Italian immigrants.They may look innocent. although this is widely regarded as mythology. The legend that the "two-fingered salute" stems from the Battle of Agincourt is apocryphal Although scholars and historians continue to debate its origins. The middle finger. In 419BC. The gesture's origins may extend even further back: male squirrel monkeys of South America are known to gesture with the erect penis. with a character gesturing first with his middle finger and subsequently with his crotch. the Greeks used the middle finger as an explicit reference to the male genitalia. according to legend it was first displayed at the battle of Agincourt in 1415. when a pitcher for the Boston Beaneaters gave it in a joint team photograph with the rival New York Giants.is a "double phallus". one raises the forearm with the back of the hand facing outward.
let's put it this way. excitement In 2004. pop star Britney Spears gave the finger to a group of photographers who she complained had been chasing her. it's not just a phallus. Two years earlier. "What is risque about it? Maybe the dancing was risque. but the finger? I just don't see it. In December. like protest or rage or excitement. it has lost that distinctive meaning and is no longer even obscene." Deepak Obhrai told a Canadian newspaper. linguistic and national boundaries and can now be seen at protests. a Canadian MP from Calgary was accused of pointing his middle finger at a member from another party who he said had been heckling him in the House of Commons. Liverpool striker Luis Suarez was photographed giving an American-style middle finger to Fulham fans after his club's 1-0 loss there. and at rock concerts across the world. and Spears later apologised. "I expressed my displeasure to him. rage. The middle finger's offensive meaning seems to have overtaken cultural.The story goes that English soldiers waved their fingers at French soldiers who had threatened to cut off captured archers' first two fingers to prevent them shooting arrows. who has studied the gesture's place in criminal jurisprudence. "It does not appeal to the prurient interests. Protest. a law professor at American University in Washington DC." he says." . While the middle finger may historically have symbolised a phallus. Some of her fans thought the gesture was aimed at them. "This gesture is so well engrained in everyday life in this country and others. It means so many other things. The FA cited him for improper conduct and suspended him for one game. The English were thus boasting they were still capable of doing so." And he rejects an Associated Press journalist's characterisation of the gesture as "risque". on football pitches. says Ira Robbins.
It has thrown up a startling skyline of Manhattan proportions in just a few years while its Sovereign Wealth Fund makes canny investments around the world. . It sits on vast gas deposits and is by some measures the richest country on earth.and given the trajectory of his career you're likely to be more than 60 years old. Why did the chicken cross the road ? If you answered "to get to the other side" you are in Britain . And of course it will be hosting the 2022 World Cup in average summer temperatures of 45 degrees centigrade. And Qatar is fascinating. When we travelled to the Qatari capital Doha we had the idea of talking to new young performers about some of the themes in Qatari life which interest outsiders. And what's not.and its fair to say that performers there have their own ideas about what's funny. If your reply was "to see Gregory Peck" you're probably an American . If your answer was "because in his wisdom and kindness the Emir has decided to provide poultry-friendly pedestrian crossings" then I'd say there's a good chance that you're Qatari.Stand-up comedy Qatari-style By Kevin Connolly BBC News Qataris have a great deal to smile about.and were given away by the gentle subversion of expectation which is the hallmark of a good joke there. Comedy gold you might think. And you'd be wrong. A new tradition of stand-up comedy in the tiny Gulf Emirate is struggling to its feet . with enormous wealth and increasing diplomatic clout Continue reading the main story Here is a sophisticated comedy research tool which will help to identify your location anywhere on the planet as surely as any tracking of your IP address or triangulation of your nearest 3G masts.
who's just done some of his material about vegetarianism.why would I make fun of it?". seems a little shocked. Comedian Saad Khan's routine concentrates on impersonations." he tells me. Russia and the US for example .what about Hamad bin Jassim (known as HBJ) the man who serves as prime minister and foreign minister. We have the World Cup.Qatari comedy is more in the Bernard Manning mould than of the Alexei Sayle kind The most obvious subject to raise with young performers in any new country is political comedy. Spitting Image and the rest of it but our culture of disrespect seems as absurd to them as their rather over-reverential attitude does to us. One of the young performers challenges us on Britain's comedy values . not political satire .one of the purposes of comedy is to tear down the powerful. "I wouldn't make fun of my father so why would I make fun of someone who's leading my country. In Britain and in plenty of other places too .surely we're not trying to tell them that British comedians make fun of the Royal Family ? We have a stab at explaining about Punch. What about lower down the political chain of command we ask . "The guy is an amazing person and there's the utmost respect for the leader.France. Abdallah al-Ghanim. we're the richest country in the world . Private Eye. A request to hear anyone's best one-liner about the ruling Emir is met with uncomfortable silence.
basically I introduce myself and so my name is Umr..attempts to explain. "is one of the best foreign affairs politicians in the world. Manning-up So we focus on what Qatari stand-ups do find funny . All three young performers agree that accent comedy . It takes a genius to do that and when you have a genius like this in your country why do you need to make fun of them?" I try without success to imagine a British stand-up comedian describing the work of David Cameron or William Hague in such glowing terms . Egyptian accents and Arabic English accents.or how a Comedy Club audience might react if they did." he explains. Omar Allouba . He looks at me disbelievingly. It is also Bernard Manning country. Why would anyone find that funny? .. unless you're English in which case it's Oh-Mah. "Indian accents..and that there's simply not much discontent around in a rich country that feels it's beginning to punch above its diplomatic weight. Egypt is an important society which is constantly evolving and improving. It may be after all that discontent is one of the most important drivers of angry British comedy . "This guy. and a diplomatically influential country. "I do accent jokes.and it turns out that Qatar is not just a wealthy country. The guy is a good friend with the US and with Iran. You can't really do cost-of-living gags in a country where every government employee has just been given a 60 per cent pay rise.how foreigners speak either English or Arabic ..There is another moment of frosty silence. but Qatari comics are not tempted to make him the butt of their jibes Omar is Egyptian and I ask him if the upheaval in his home country in the last year has provided him with any material." Abdallah says.who it would be fair to say hasn't found the exchange of ideas about comedy funny and who hasn't done anything to make it funnier ." The Emir may joke.is where it's at.
And its important to bring a degree of humility to all of this of course . And he did rather a good impersonation of a British football commentator too ("Ohmigod.whether that's through smart strategic investments like Harrods.Some aspects of the comedy we heard did feel as though they might travel slightly better . But Qatar is a country which is learning quickly how to convert its enormous economic clout into soft power . had a pleasing comic demeanour rather like a South Asian Oliver Hardy.what you find funny depends not just on how old you are and where you come from but who you are yourself. through the Qatar Foundation (sponsor of FC Barcelona) or through its satellite TV network.. He Shoots! He Scores!").. . Saad Khan.one of the young comedians who spoke to us. It just seems it might be a while before it can it rely on its home-grown stand-comedians to help develop the brand. Al Jazeera.
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