Living for the first fifteen years of my life behind the Iron Curtain, I - and many others, even those older and wiser - had a somewhat skewed view of the world. For us, the world was divided into the communist part and the capitalist part, the East and the West. The communist world was dreadful, and 90 per cent of us imprisoned inside desired nothing more than to see the Evil Empire crumble and fall. Then there was the legendary West, the world of democracy, freedom and capitalism, inhabited by happy people who enjoyed their liberty and prosperity and were as hostile to communism as indeed we were. The Party told us the West was the Enemy. But we knew that was not the case; since we wanted to be like the West, The West couldn’t be our enemy, it was only the enemy of our communist overlords, and therefore our friend. The world seemed so simple then.
I was sixteen and a half years old when I arrived in Australia in November 1988. I had so many other things to do with my time (like learn the language, for starters) that the political reality did not hit me straight away. It dawned on me slowly over time: my old Polish world-view was a sham. Or at least half of it was. The part about the overwhelming majority of my fellow residents of the Evil Empire wanting freedom and democracy was still right. The part about the West being full of… well, Westerners, wasn’t.
You can imagine my shock and disappointment upon discovering that only a minority of the inhabitants of the Free World were truly committed to the ideas of liberal democracy, capitalism and anti-communism. Another minority was in various shades and degrees opposed to, or critical of, one or more of these concepts, and the group in the middle was largely indifferent and disinterested - not quite alienated from their own society, but too busy or too bored to fight against its enemies.
It is truly sad that some people can’t lay aside politics long enough to see that building democracy and bringing freedom to Iraq is a good thing. If it happens to make this country safer or put a brutal dictator out of power, then so much the better. And even if it doesn’t achieve these goals, it was still the right thing to do.
Dean Esmay has some thoughts of his own about this, too.