“Gente Polonus natione Europae?” – the voice of one of the subscribers. Part 2
Europe is part of “Western civilisation”, to which, apart from Europe itself, it is customary to include all its (regrettably, usually evolved as a result of rape) “children”: primarily North America, with the United States as a global power, and Latin America, with Brazil growing in importance in the global puzzle, as well as the area of Australia and Oceania.
A centre of political power that is politically separate from Europe is Russia, which represents historically the economic and cultural periphery of the European world-economy, despite its unequivocal immersion in European culture (it is enough to look at the architecture of Moscow or St. Petersburg and art: ballet, classical music or literature to see that they include some of the most outstanding works of European culture). Russia is sometimes presented by the West as “incomplete” in its Europeanness: due to the lack of the heritage of classical Greco-Roman culture, limited contact with the Renaissance, Reformation, Enlightenment, the legacy of Tatar rule and cultural isolation, which is said to influence its hierarchical and bureaucratic authoritarianism. The significance of the Tatars is sometimes overestimated: the 14th century, when the Tatar influence was strongest, was a period of economic collapse in the West and the plague epidemic. The Tatars created an orderly tax enforcement system throughout Russia, and they probably did not interfere with the Ruthenian princes in their contacts with Byzantium and the West. The bureaucratic apparatus present in the Golden Horde, as well as technology and knowledge, owed much to China, also being under Mongol rule at that time. In fact, already in the thirteenth century, Ruthenian cities began to depopulate, and trade weakened when, from the beginning of the Crusades, the transport of goods from southern countries began to run through Italy – Venice, in a way, took the place of Kiev. German merchants also reduced the influence of Novgorod through the Hanseatic League. From this perspective, the Tatar catastrophe happened after the trade and demographic collapse of Rus in the 13th century. Nevertheless, Russia was forced to create its identity as a separate “Orthodox civilization”, having Byzantine origin and claiming the right to be called the Third Rome (which naturally coincided with the rise of its power and the need to justify imperial ambitions); for imperial purposes, it also used the ideology of Pan-Slavism, the concept of the Russian World (Russkiy Mir), assuming the unity of the Orthodox and Russian-speaking population, and communist ideology in the 20th century. It also presents itself, through the statements of ideologists such as Alexander Dugin, as the Eurasian civilisation of the Earth (Tellurocracy), opposed to the civilisation of the Sea. He also eagerly uses dichotomies: collectivism instead of individualism or mysticism (spirituality) instead of materialism.
The United States is the opposite case. They, too, being the cultural child of Europe, until the 19th century defined themselves in opposition to it, as meant to represent freedom, equal opportunities and the future, while Europe was seen as a place of social backwardness, hierarchy and class oppression. Due to the level of capital accumulation, the population and its growth rate and the available land acreage, the United States actually offered greater opportunities for social advancement than Europe at that time – in the 21st century, however, this tendency was slowed down or even reversed. The United States eagerly uses the terms “Western civilisation” and “leaders of the free world”, especially in its foreign policy, emphasising the values of democracy and human rights. They combine this with the promotion of the American way of life and the social model that, together with the rule of law to guarantee equal opportunities, would provide everyone with the chance to fulfill the “American dream”. The “American creed” is commonly understood as a combination of beliefs in the ideals of liberty, democracy, individualism, the rule of law, constitutionalism, and the importance of private property. This is related to the image of the United States as a defender of democracy and justice in the world, but also a place of worship of individualism, entrepreneurship, money, success and competition. These values are used by the United States itself as the foundation of its own world politics, just as European countries created a vast ideological foundation for their colonialism as a “white man’s civilisation” (and at the same time its “burden”), bringing first Christianity, then progress and a rational, scientific view of reality and the “torch of education”, necessary to free the conquered peoples from stagnation and lead them to the only possible path of development.
When describing Western civilization, Samuel Huntington pointed to (1) the legacy of classical antiquity (Greek philosophy, rationalism, Roman law, Latin), (2) Christianity, (3) European languages (a plurality of languages), (4) separation of spiritual and secular authority (separation of the sacred from the profanum), (5) the rule of law, (6) social pluralism, (7) representation, (8) individualism. It is also common in Europe to point to Roman law, Greek culture and Christian ethics (in fact being largely a continuation of topics previously discussed by Greek and Roman philosophers). Anthropologists also pay attention to “inventions” such as: (1) linear time, (2) instrumental rationality, (3) projection myths, (4) guilt culture, (5) the self-questioning mechanism. Europeanness is also seen as a unique combination of civic freedom, the welfare system, access to culture and sensitivity to environmental issues – unfortunately, more than reality, this is an ideal that should be strived for. Undoubtedly, however, Europe is the place where the ideals of individual freedom, political democracy, the rule of law, human rights and cultural freedom were born. In art, which comes from common roots (techne, mimesis, fine and liberal arts, romanticism versus positivism), we have common styles for Europe, ranging from antiquity, through early Christian, Carolingian, Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and later: mannerism, baroque, rococo, classicism, historicism, eclecticism, secession, up to later movements. This was largely overlapped by trends in poetry, painting and music common to Europe, the coexistence and rivalry of positivism, romanticism, academism, symbolism, impressionism and many others. In the development of society, cultural, economic and religious contacts – the history of Europe is basically common, although different phenomena in different territories have influenced at different times and with different power.
Europe, representing Western civilisation, is one of the largest, historical (its origins can be traced back to the Minoan culture, although its development also took over elements of the older civilisation to which it spread, including the extinct civilisation of ancient Egypt and Middle Eastern cultures), lasting continuously until now, universalist civilisations. What binds it is not only ethnic or linguistic homogeneity or national culture, but a broader set of cultural values including social, ethical and aesthetic issues acceptable to different nations. As Rémi Brague emphasises, a European is one who consciously belongs to a certain whole thing – you cannot be a European without wanting it. In this sense, Europe is a constant plebiscite. Different regions at different times and in different senses consider themselves European. Who we are is determined by what is specifically ours. Rémi Brague claims that what strictly defines Europe is its Roman and Latin character. At the same time, he considers the essence of Romanness to be its structure of transmitting content, renewing what is old, readiness to draw from others (Jews, Greeks) and transplant it to a new land. This transplantation manifests itself not only in ancient Rome, but also in its medieval renewal and in the later Renaissance, and even in the history of the United States.
Sometimes it is said that Europe was created as a result of the barbarians adopting a conquered Roman culture. Its history, however, can also be viewed differently, noting the uninterrupted sequence of civilisational unity that was heard for the first time in such a significant area precisely in the Roman times, and for this reason it is still one of the important points of reference for the idea of a united Europe. The mere mention of the fall of the Roman Empire is a kind of historical simplification – the decomposition of the ancient world caused by the great migrations of peoples in the 4th century (caused in turn by the invasions of Attila’s Huns) is a fact, but the dates are conventional. Odoacer, who overthrew the last Roman emperor, was a praetorian and Roman commander, he called himself a patrician, and the sending of the imperial insignia to Constantinople is sometimes interpreted as a gesture of recognition of the formal sovereignty of the Eastern Roman emperor, whose images he minted on coins. Also Theodoric, the conqueror of Odoacer, imitated the style of the Byzantine court, while bearing himself like a Roman; he renovated aqueducts, public baths and city walls on a large scale, distributed food to the poor in accordance with the Roman custom, and even reactivated the circus and adventus games, the ceremony accompanying the emperor’s arrival in the city of Rome. The new rulers of Europe, although of non-Roman origin, supported elements of the old Roman system, as these turned out to be helpful in strengthening their own power. Rome had collapsed as an empire, but not as a civilisation. “Romanness”, like “Chineseness” in East Asia, in the meaning of its representatives, meant civilisation versus barbarism: Romanness was associated with rationality, adherence to legal norms, knowledge of ancient literature, and the ability to exercise self-control. Later, Christianity added a new dimension to this idea. The ideal romanitas – the law, ius, as the foundation on which civilitas is built, accompanied by the concept of freedom of the human being, liberitas, living under the rule of law – survived the fall of the empire. The institution of the empire in the West was reactivated already in 800 AD by Charlemagne and Otto I in 962; on the formal level, it was only the transfer of dignity that had never been abandoned. Ultimately, the title of Roman emperor was abolished only by Napoleon in 1806, and from that time, the emperors could be the rulers of France (in response to Napoleon’s acceptance of the imperial title, the Austrian Empire was also established) – until the defeat in the war with Prussia – then, in 1871, the imperial title returned to the ruler of united Germany – Wilhelm I, and eventually disappeared after the defeat the First World War. In the East, after the fall of Byzantium in the 15th century, the title of tsar was taken by the ruler of Russia, Ivan IV the Terrible, in accordance with the idea of the Third Rome, seeing the Russian Empire as a continuator of Byzantium – there this title also survived until World War I and the end of the Romanov dynasty. After the nightmare of two world wars (and from the European point of view civil wars), the unification concepts of Europe, this time based on peace and economic cooperation, returned anew.
Why is telling this kind of story important in the context of discussions about European nationality? It shows elements of cultural continuity, the exposing of which could be helpful in constructing and strengthening the sense of common identity in a united Europe. Only the late legacy of the French Revolution in the form of the Springtime of Nations contributed to the universal replacement of the vision of “one Europe” with the vision of a “Europe of states and nations”. Until the renaissance of national languages, Europe had in Latin one common language of science, philosophy and art, and religion for even longer. Latin itself, as it is sometimes said, did not become extinct, but it has undergone far-reaching regionalisation within the separately developing Romance languages.
Greco-Roman morality had its source in customs, not religion, it was a secular morality, because although polytheism was an element of public life, it did not concentrate on moral teachings. The fathers of European morality are (as in the case of China) philosophers, sages. The late Neoplatonic synthesis of ancient thought also became the pattern for the further development of Christian thought. Shaped by late antiquity thinkers such as Plotinus, Jamblich, and Proclus, the philosophical-religious system was largely adopted and creatively transformed by Christianity – Augustine of Hippo was a Platonist, Master Eckhart or Nicholas of Cusa alluded to Platonism – ensuring continuity. This reveals an important feature for European civilisation – religion is one of the forms in which it expresses itself, but a reduction of European thought to Christianity, without which the “fortress Europe” will fail – according to the adherents of this idea under the pressure of Islam or Western secularism – is an intellectual abuse. This is a characteristic of the most important civilisations. Also China, combining Confucian, Taoist and Buddhist influences, where the doctrines of the three great sages: Confucius, Laozi and Buddha Shakyamuni were considered “noble” and the “unity of the three doctrines” was postulated (a similar assumption can be made in the case of, belonging to the same cultural circle, Korea and Japan, but instead of Taoism – although its influence is also visible in both countries – it was replaced respectively with shamanism in Korea and Shintoism in Japan), they remain inalienably “Chinese”, regardless of current religious conditions. Similarly, Iran, one of the key heirs of the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, where cultural continuity, richness and awareness – literature, calligraphy, miniature painting, floral and geometric ornament, faience, mosaic, Persian garden type, architecture, and also political elements – go beyond Islam itself, which also remains extremely important. Elements of Persian court culture dominated the culture of the Ottoman Empire’s elites. The Iranians, having mastered the Arabic language, also laid the foundations of Arabic historiography, philology and Muslim theology, giving universal meaning to philosophical and religious reflection, influencing the development of science and literature. It is worth remembering that what the Arabs imposed on the Persians – the Arabic script and Islam – were in fact not their exclusive innovations, but the result of centuries of mixing of various influences, ideas and solutions in the Middle East cauldron. The Arabic script evolved from the Nabatean form of Aramaic script, but in Persia it replaced the Pahlavi script (used by Sassanids to write the Middle Persian language), which also comes from Aramaic. Aramaic began to displace various forms of cuneiform writing in the Middle East since the time of conquests of Alexander Macedon. Islam, in turn, like other Abrahamic religions of Middle Eastern origin, according to some researchers, took over much of the Iranian religion of Zoroastrianism. Finally, India, where Hinduism is the perfect model of the “umbrella religion” that provides a common ground (primarily on the level of the “high” Upanishadic message, including the doctrine of karmana, reincarnation and the atman-Brahman relationship) to the infinite richness of various local and supra-local forms of expression (such as the worship of five deities: Vishnu, Shiva, Surya, Ganesha and Devi, and major branches of Hinduism such as Vaishnavism, Shivaism and Shaktism). Other religions originating in the Indian subcontinent, such as Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, and even the much more culturally alienated Mughal Islam, did not take “Indianness” from India itself. In Hinduism, in the process of Sanskritisation, local deities were identified with the great deities of the Brahmin tradition and local myths with great all-Indian narratives. Many Hindus believe in a transcendent god who is outside the world, but who is inside all living creatures and who can be reached in many ways. They worship countless deities, sometimes regarded as manifestations of holy power. Devotion (bhakti) to deities can provide ultimate liberation (moksha) from action (karman) and reincarnation (samsara). Transcendence is found in the sacred literature known as the Vedas, and in the rules of ritual, social and ethical behavior, known as dharma, and revealed by the sacred texts.
China and India provide excellent reference points for a possible vision of European nationality. Both of these superstates are inhabited by several dozen different ethnic mixtures using various languages. In India, Hindi is the native language of just 180 million of the more than 1.3 billion inhabitants. Moreover, for most of its history (with the exception of short episodes of the Gupta dynasty and the Mauryan empire), India remained shattered and fragmented into hundreds of independent or semi-independent states. A mark was also left by several hundred years of Muslim domination of the Great Mughal dynasty in the north of the subcontinent and the subsequent colonisation by Great Britain. It was only then that the idea of ”Hinduism” as the common religion of the subcontinent emerged, and this period itself helped to shape the idea of the Indians as a political and cultural unity. This concept was possible and was adopted because it had strong foundations, including: (1) the community of sacred scripture – Sanskrit – and (2) the canon of the sacred texts of sruti and smriti, including the famous epics of the Mahabharata, Bhagavadgita and Ramayana, (3) the social ideal of the four stages of life (Brahmacharya – student, Gryhastha – householder, Vanaprastha – forest eremite, Sannyasin – wandering ascetic), (4) four paths leading to moksha (Jnana Yoga – path of knowledge cognition, Karma Yoga – path of selfless work and action, Bhakti Yoga – path of love and devotion, Raja Yoga – path of meditation – contemplation), (5) four varnas (Brahmins – vedic scholars, priests and teachers, Kshatriyas – rulers and warriors, Vaishyas – merchants, craftsmen and agriculturalists, Shudras – laborers and servants), (6) the ideals of Dharma and the law of Karma (in religions originating from the subcontinent: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism), (7) the principle of Ahimsa or (8) the theory of Rasa in art. Contemporary India, despite its complicated history and ethnic and linguistic diversity, effectively functions as a civilisation-state, despite numerous internal problems and growing Hindu nationalism, still publicly emphasising the value of pluralism and democracy. At the same time, historically, India functioned as the centre of a wider cultural space – the Indosphere, encompassing the countries of Southeast Asia, where various types of civilisation achievements (e.g., the writing systems originating from India), socio-political concepts (elements of the caste system, concepts related to the person of the ruler), religious traditions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism) and cultural traditions (epics, forms of dance, theatre, the concept of Rasa).
China also has a history dating back several thousand years, and although at that time there were various state organisms in its territory (and each dynasty, in the European understanding, could also be treated as a new state), it was also often divided into rival political organisms, fighting bloody wars with each other. It also happened that the whole territory was ruled by non-Chinese dynasties – despite that, they perceive themselves as a continuity of the “nation” and, above all, of the Chinese culture and civilisation. Being Chinese, in fact, meant primarily a cultural affiliation to Civilisation (using a capital letter, because it was regarded as the only one), so even the elites of the Confucian vassal states could think about themselves in this way. This cultural circle was made up of (1) Chinese writing (signs), (2) Confucianism, expressed in classical books as a tradition and political model: (a) the state-political system (emperor – huangdi/Son of Heaven, vassalized kings/wang, a bureaucratic system run by a clerical class, selected through imperial examination system), (b) social (five Confucian relations, ideals of humaneness, righteousness, rituals/etiquette, wisdom, filial piety and loyalty, harmony and unity of Heaven and humanity, ancestors and descendants, secular and saint, ideal of continuous self-improvement), (c) artistic (Confucian arts, ink painting, poetry, tea culture), which at the same time gave the ideal of literati, scholars-artists-bureaucrats, (3) Chinese Mahayana Buddhism (with the Chinese canon, liturgy, doctrine). Added to this was the heritage of Chinese philosophy: Books of Changes and Taoism: Five Elements, Cyclical Time, Feng-Shui, Qi Energy, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Complementary Dao-De Oppositions, the WuweiIdeal. All of this made China endure as a whole – whether it was ruled by a single “Chinese” dynasty, whether it was a multi-rival state organism, or even a dynasty of foreign origin that ruled there. It is worth noting that in the traditional Chinese narrative, also people of foreign origin – including Mongols and Manchurs – are part of the family of peoples of Chinese civilisation, so even Genghis Khan himself is “Chinese”, and the reign of foreign dynasties is nothing but “family disputes” – in line with this approach, one could also define the changing balance of power of states on the European subcontinent as “family disputes”. China functioned in the broader context of the East Asian Confucian culture, influencing countries such as Vietnam, Korea, Japan and the former Ryukyu kingdom. China played the role of a cultural hegemon, to which other countries remained vassal. It was a Sinosphere-specific tributary system, in which the formal recognition of the superiority of the emperor of China was accompanied by the exchange of gifts and granting the ruler the title of king/wang. The Chinese Empire, in return for recognising its formal sovereignty and the right to conduct foreign policy, entered into a commitment to support and protect. In fact, however, the strength of the Chinese empire’s influence could be very small – more important was the influence of Chinese culture itself, the writing systems and the class of Confucian bureaucrats – the real level of influence depended on the internal situation in both countries. For example, Japan, despite episodes of abundantly drawing on the patterns of Chinese culture (Chinese characters, elements of architecture, dress code, ink painting, tea culture), due to its island location, had always remained free from the direct influence of Chinese governments. Japan did not recognise Chinese sovereignty within the tributary system and did not accept the Confucian examination system (instead of scholarly officials, it educated a class of samurai officials in the Edo period), creatively transformed borrowings (Japanese schools of Buddhism), and created unique forms of culture (classical forms of Japanese theatre, “dry landscape” rock gardens, haiku). The distinctiveness of Japanese culture was especially emphasised by representatives of the “national school” (kokugaku) that was shaping up at the end of the Edo period. Japan also developed its own superpower ambitions.
The selection of these examples is not accidental – among the major civilisations that have survived to modern times – the cultural anthropologist Philip Bagby lists the Western (in many aspects being a continuation of the Classical, i.e. Greco-Roman), Middle Eastern (developing in the area of the earlier Mesopotamian civilisation), Indian and Chinese. As for Japanese and Russian, he is doubtful whether they should be classified as peripheral, secondary civilisations or also as major ones.
The specificity of European civilisation is the lack of a single dominant centre. The empire from which this civilisation is derived is ancient Rome, which, however, failed to maintain political cohesion, and subsequent attempts to establish hegemony on the continent by military means were unsuccessful. Its continuators and heirs are all European countries (and in a sense even all belonging to Western civilisation). This forces European civilisation and a potential European state to strongly refer to the pluralist and democratic tradition, also contained in its cultural code, seeking unity in diversity, because only a peacefully united Europe can ensure a partner position in relation to the largest and continental-sized (such as the USA, Russia, China, India or, aspiring to this role, Brazil) global players.
The examples of China and India (one could also mention other countries with growing regional ambitions, such as Indonesia – about 300 ethnic groups speaking two hundred and fifty languages on thirteen thousand islands – or Nigeria; the most populous on the African continent and also extremely ethnically and linguistically diverse) show that that the development of a supra-linguistic, -religious and -ethnic identity within one civilisation circle is possible and, in fact, it is a political decision, because they are political, and not cultural, obstacles that constitute the greatest obstacle for it. In the case of Europe, this does not mean negating any cultural distinctiveness of individual European countries. Yet it is the concept of civilisation here that refers to what may be termed the “values” or “ideas” by which society is organised. Particular cultures differ in terms of language, local history, customs, cuisine, and have their own collections of national heroes. Cultural differences – and the stereotypes and generalisations inherent in them – occur not only at the national level, but also at the transnational level: regional (Romanesque, Germanic, Scandinavian, Slavic, Anglo-Saxon, etc.) and local (not only in the case of Basque, Catalan, Kashubian and Silesian, but also in Lesser Poland, Masovia or Greater Poland). In the words of Massimo d’Azeglio, who said during the inaugural session of the Italian parliament in 1861: “Now, that we have created Italy, we will have to start creating Italians”; it is natural that the political unification of the continent will be accompanied by the creation of a European.
It is not about denying the specificity and value of Polish culture. One can proudly refer to some of the old customs, such as the tradition of striving for agreement, compromise and agreeing positions within the heritage of “noble democracy” and the related, almost proverbial, love of self-determination and freedom. One can take pride in the tolerance, openness, and the ability to assimilate various groups, characteristic of the early Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and invoke a Polish ideological counterpart of the Russian doctrine of the Third Rome, in which the ideal states are successively republican Rome, the Venetian Republic and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth – countries whose political systems were precisely described as mixed. The nobility themselves eagerly alluded to republican Rome, for example recalling the model of a commander who defended his homeland and now resigns from office and returns to the countryside to the plow, or some positions without salary, referring to the Roman ideal of selfless service to the homeland. One can refer to the “Polish national character” shaped by the nobility, including a set of both positive and negative or ambiguous features: exuberant individualism, prone to bravado, extravagance, a sense of honour and self-dignity, ambition, hyperactivity, fantasy, attachment to freedom, often associated with a disrespectful attitude to authority, a hospitable and cheerful disposition, but also a disrespect for work, contempt for trade and crafts, exaltation over others. Even today many Poles commonly attribute to themselves certain stereotypical features, such as hospitality, honourability, family character, and religiosity. The culture of the nobility was a rustic culture, and also, at least in theory, an apology of moderation (both in the accumulation of property and in the inquiry of the mind) and naturally an apology of freedom – the nobleman in the countryside did not recognise any lord or superior over himself. Of course, also behind these ideals in practice often concealed a constant career and property pursuit. Finally, one can recall the Sarmatian love of exaggeration, emotionality, spectacle, ceremonial and demonstration of pride. The Sarmatian theatre of everyday life was an original interpretation of a common system of associations and values, drawing on a common heritage of European culture, including some assimilated elements of Oriental cultures (mainly in the material sphere: clothing – symbolised by the national dress established in the 18th century, including the Żupan, a robe and belt, a weapon – the Sarmatian sabre, and interior design), and retained its vitality and fertility as long as it remained open, curious and willing to understand the world. Noble models of culture naturally have their other, dark side: the insularity, xenophobia, obscurantism, religious intolerance and the increasing burden of serfdom, which has been increasing since the times of the Swedish Deluge and the economic collapse of the state. First of all, at the core of the Sarmatian ideology laid the complete exclusion of the majority of people living in the territory of the Commonwealth from the community, throwing them from the Nobles’ Commonwealth, depriving them of the right to call themselves Poles, the identity of which they gradually assumed – or was imposed on them by force – in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The culture of the nobility remains, however, for many Poles an important point of reference in defining Polish culture, it also went far beyond the old framework, becoming for many a common national heritage in the process of “universal ennoblement” (just like in other countries the enriching urban strata, and later middle class, took over the cultural patterns of the elites). It deserves its critical studies, which fortunately, after many years, is also accompanied by a growing interest in folk culture, visible in a growing number of publications. For most of those who share this identity, the experiences of Polishness in the last few hundred years also include experiences of feudal and post-feudal relations, wars, persecutions, various forms of exclusion, denationalisation, political instability, colonial exploitation, economic inequalities and emigration. Today, for many people, Polishness is also simply an attachment to places, landscapes, local colours, one’s own place of residence, family, friends and acquaintances. Also, the broadly understood community of language and experiences, resulting from growing up, working and living in the same country. It should give rise to a sense of responsibility for the sake of a common home and such a shape of the social, political, economic, cultural and institutional space in which all fellow citizens could feel safe, live with dignity and strive for self-fulfillment.
The specificity of Polish culture is one of the melodies in which European civilisation resounds. Culture, however, determines accidental differences, while it is the broader civilisation framework that determines the essential differences. Ultimately, however, one is a European not beside being a Pole, a French or a German, but through them. These identities complement each other, and even condition each other, so we can express it by paraphrasing a formula well known in our history – gente Polonus natione Europae, which would mean that, being a Pole, one is a part of the European political nation.
Naturally, today we are all one global human civilisation. As Yuval Noah Harari emphasises many times in his books, while a thousand years ago each culture had its own story about the universe, its components, the human body, today doctors all over the world are educated using the same scientific paradigms and make the same diagnoses for the same conditions; the model of education and school system works on similar principles, there is no separate Iranian physics or Indian mathematics in which the results of the same equations would be different. The similarities – also in terms of lifestyles, education, and possible career paths – between people from different cultures and even civilisations are much greater than their differences. Almost the whole world shares faith in liberal ideology at its most basic level and accepts some form of representative government, the right to be free to choose one’s life partner or career path. Nevertheless, we are far from creating a world government that would guarantee fair and equal treatment for all, blurring rather than consolidating existing divisions and differences in the accumulation of wealth. The road from the feeling of unity of interests with a community with which it is possible to maintain relationships of a personal nature, to societies that are many times more complex and numerous, was possible thanks to the ability to create imaginary communities and common myths (related to religion, totemic deities, up to the nation state), allowing for identification and feeling the commonality of interests with people we do not know. The transition from the level of several hundred nation-states to the level of a dozen or so civilisation-states would be another step on the way from maximum dispersion and diversification towards progressive globalisation. At the same time, it would leave room for comparison with the “other”, for defining oneself in relation to others, while providing space for the competitiveness of models and solutions. In the case of most of the challenges of the 21st century regarding climate, ecology, global inequalities, combating epidemics, trade or international law, international cooperation will be necessary and crucial. It is important that representatives of all nations that contribute to the international community – including the Polish nation and, perhaps, the emerging European nation, in which Polishness, together with other European identities can find its representation on a global level – and are able to co-create and shape the fate of the only one planet available for living to us today, having a sense of real complicity and cooperating on the basis of mutual respect and
understanding, feeling themselves the subjects, not the objects of international politics.