Thursday, March 18, 2010

Falling for the Materialist Lie in Post-Communist Poland

The other day, Rod Dreher wrote a post called: "John Paul II and the Mall Girls" in which he explored the sadness felt by John Paul II at the way Poland embraced the materialism and hedonism of the West instead of using its freedom after liberation from Communist tyranny to choose God and life. The post is well worth reading, especially where it quotes from a speech John Paul II gave in Poland, which is basically a lament.

But what I wanted to call attention to in the post is a quote from a New York Times article dealing with a film recently made in Poland about girls who engage in acts of prostitution in mall washrooms in exchange, not for money, but for expensive articles of clothing from the mall stores. The film, by Katrazyna Roslaniec, is called Galerianki (Mall Girls) and it is a commentary on Poland 20 years after the fall of Communism. The NYT article by Dan Bilefsky says:
"The revelation that Catholic girls, some from middle-class families, are prostituting themselves for a Chanel scarf or an expensive sushi dinner is causing many here to question whether materialism is polluting the nation’s soul.
- - - snip - - -
Ms. Roslaniec called mall girls the daughters of capitalism. “Parents have lost themselves in the race after a new washing machine or car and are rarely home,” she said. “A 14-year-old girl needs a system of values that can’t be shaped without the guidance of parents. The result is that these girls live in a world where there are no feelings, just cold calculation.”
Now the whole phenomenon of teen prostitution is unbearably sad, but it is prevalent in countries all over the world, not just ones recently emerged from Communism. The Asia child sex trade is well known. But what I found interesting was the almost reflexive link made both by the filmmaker and by the NYT writer between prostitution and materialism, on the one hand, and Capitalism, on the other. I wonder to myself: "Why is this link made so automatically?"

Bilefsky writes: "whether materialism is polluting the nation's soul" in the present tense, as if materialism entered Poland in the post-Communist period. Why not ask instead if the materialism of generations of Marxism has left the nation without the resources to handle freedom? Bilefsky quotes Roslaniec, who sounds like she is channeling James Dobson, when he writes that 14 year old girls need parents - even implying that a stay-at-home mom would help prevent her from developing such an unfeeling, cold calculating approach to morality.

Why does he quote her so approvingly when he is a liberal who rejects such ideas when they come from conservatives? Well, he want to make the point that the parents are chasing material goods in the new post-Marxist, Capitalist economic order and therefore ignoring their families. This is a bit rich coming from the NYT, is it not? After all, is not the NYT an advocate of abortion on demand so women can be in the work force and compete like men? It is good in New York, but bad in Poland, at least when you are bashing Capitalism.

Somehow, it is an automatic reflex on the Left to associate materialism and hedonism with capitalism. But here the filmmaker and the NYT overreach. It is actually conservative Christianity, not Communism, that promotes spirituality, morality, stay-at-home mothers and self-discipline. Communism is just as materialistic and hedonistic as Capitalism. If Capitalism makes a virtue out of greed, Communism makes a virtue out of envy.

The analysis here could just as well have been that after generations of Marxist atheism and materialism, Poland has yet to recover her historic faith. Her soul has been scarred by an ideology of cold calculation and statist bureaucracy imposed upon her by her Russian masters and people lack the spiritual resources needed to resist Capitalist materialism. But it is preferable to blame Capitalism than to see both Capitalism and Communism as deviations from orthodox Christianity.

John Paul II and I would both agree that post-Communist Poland has seen many people embrace the empty, Western, liberal notion of freedom as freedom for materialism, hedonism and soul-destroying cold calculation. But, unlike Bilefsky and Roslaniec, neither of us would point to an economic system as the cause of the evil. We would point to the sinfulness of the human heart. That is because we are Christians and not Marxists.

No comments: