Literary Hubs and Polish Intelligentsia: A Light in the Tunnel for Right-Wing Creatives | Dinah Kolka
You carefully cut off the end of your cigar. You light it up, laughing at something your friend just said. The waitress arrives with a glass of whisky for you, some gin and wine for your friends. The table is messy, there’s a well-used copy of Hobbes, St Augustine, and Scruton piled up in the middle. Most of your friends have their notebooks open with a fountain pen stuck in between the pages. Classical music plays in the background, it’s Wagner. Someone in the far corner of the pub stood up on the table to recite TS Eliot. Women are looking at the reader admirably, he looks charismatic, fit, and well-groomed. You look over at the table next to you – the artists are conspiring again, their fingers dirty from some paint, sketching their surroundings.
The literary cafés in Paris were popular hubs for political, creative, and social elites. One of the good examples will be Café Procope, often frequented by the likes of Diderot, Voltaire, and Rousseau. Others were the favourites of Baudelaire, Rimbaud and Mallarmé. When you walk down the streets of Paris these days, it’s overwhelming to think of the sheer number of now-deceased creatives who have walked the same streets regularly, stopping at the same cafes, thinking great thoughts. Paris was a living and breathing heart of the educated elites, rightly so, considering its proximity to École Normale Supérieure, the prestigious graduate school that gave birth to Sartre, de Beauvoir, Foucault and Lacan.
Even if our politics stray from many French existential thinkers of the 19th century, the example of France shows that proximity of like-minded individuals can lead to networking, an intellectual discussion and the sense of community with shared values, something most people are currently lacking. And there is no wonder – not to even mention the pandemic, but we did become more isolated, less-community driven and our support network tightens the older we get. We also don’t have as much time as we used to – most of us work long hours of hard labour, not many have time to sit at a French café, sip absinthe, and ponder over the meaning of life. Add on top the problem of the ‘right-wing intelligentsia’ being scattered all over the world, connected only with their internet cable, our options are slim.
But this doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. Start meet-ups, events, art gallery shows, literary hubs. Networking is one of the most powerful opportunities to advance your career and for many who have been rejected by the left-wing outlets and public opportunities, this will be a way for them to flourish too.
In the 18th century Russian-controlled Poland the spirit of nationalism and freedom was growing. Thus, the new elite was born – Polish intelligentsia. They weren’t confined to a specific class – some were aristocrats, some were peasants. What connected them was the drive to become moral leaders, as teachers, journalists, even engineers. It was their love for higher culture and engagement in intellectual occupations that led to them rising in prominence.
They promoted being kind to your neighbours, manifesting tact and gentleness when dealing with other people, continuous self-education, love for their country, ultimate freedom of expression, ability to criticise the government, loyalty of one’s convictions, and sometimes, surprisingly – the manifestation of conservatism. They were selfish, narcissistic, and they wanted to fight for what they believed in – regardless of consequences. Polish intelligentsia often stemmed from social traditionalism and reactionary conservatism. The Katyn tragedy that followed near the end of WW2 resulted in most of the members of intelligentsia being brutally killed by the NKVD, the Soviet secret police. On that day, Poland’s greatest minds ceased to exist, and with them, the inspiration and beauty they offered to the world.
What can we learn from the Polish intelligentsia? Where are our British intellectual elites? Are we going to suggest that it’s Owen Jones? Ash Sarkar? This notion is laughable. Journalism is dying in this country, and so is art, literature, and other forms of higher culture. Nationalism is branded racist, the art that doesn’t allude to the current skewed form of social justice is not accepted, let alone praised. Forget about writing a successful book with traditional concepts. The higher culture of modernity is rotten and falls apart under closer examination, like an apple covered in mould and puss. How can we stand for this when we watch the very things that make life worth living being desecrated and brought to ruin by so-called postmodern intellectuals?
We need to take a page from Parisian minds and the Polish intelligentsia. We need to revive the genuine pursuit of knowledge, where right-wing thinkers can share their thoughts and create new things from the ashes.
Undoubtedly, this is a Sisyphean task. Creativity is generally absent in mainstream conservatism, as this goes in direct contradiction with the personality traits of most traditional rightwingers. But this doesn’t have to be the case. Do you plan to start a family? Read to your children, teach them to be creative. The next generation may help you succeed. But that’s not all. Many people brush off the concept of creativity as a lost cause. They believe they have no creative inclinations and reject the idea altogether. But when you look at Jungian psychology, we all have chaos and order in our lives. To live to the fullest, we need order, we need organisation, discipline, and such. But if we won’t try to be creative, we’re not tapping into our full, chaotic potential. To live in complete harmony with yourself, you need some form of a creative outlet. Use it to your advantage. Create.