I Protest! Take My Blood!

Perhaps some of you in the UK will have already heard of the remarkable #polishblood initiative, but most have not. And it is all supposed to go down tomorrow (that is, Thurs., 20 August).

This is a tale of the birth and growth of a special meme, largely via social media, in this case among the very many people of Polish citizenship living and working in the UK. It started out of the substantial accumulation of grievances held by this particular cohort against the country they chose to move to – basically, of the many instances of unfair discrimination against Polish people as being foreigners, as an unwelcome people coming to the UK to steal native jobs, to compete for resources, take up space on a crowded island generally, etc.

One of their natural champions in articulating and publicizing these grievances has been Polish Express, a Polish-language UK newspaper. This publication certainly does not hold back on its Twitter-feed:

“20 thousand pounds reward for information on the affair of the degenerate who brutally attacked an immigrant” – Polish, of course.

“Immigrant [actually, not Polish this time] does not pay a fine of 20 pounds, is deported.”

“These UK firms cheat their workers! We publish the government’s ‘list of shame.'”

A few weeks ago, in the febrile atmosphere of the UK’s summer heat, resentment at this sort of treatment cropping up in the Polish Express’ on-line forum finally boiled over. “We’ll show them!” was the new attitude. “Let’s have all Polish people in the UK go on strike for a day, to show the Brits how their economy would collapse without us!”

That must have been a satisfying feeling, getting that off one’s chest and being able to look forward to a coordinated, nation-wide action designed finally to demonstrate the error of their ways to what UK-based Poles perceive as an often resentful native population, insufficiently appreciative of their contributions to modern-day Britain. Just how things went on from there, however, is not so clear.

For the evident down-side of such public action – assuming it really can successfully be coordinated on a wide scale in the first place – is that it could make British people angry even as it reminded them of how much they depend on the Poles. Indeed, it might make them angry precisely by making them aware how much they depend on the Poles.

Blood for Money

That is why we now have #polishblood, at least as Rzeczpospolita (which is of course one of the leading national newspapers in Poland) reports it. Don’t go on strike; instead, take some time from your work to go to the local hospital, or Red Cross center, and donate blood!

That’ll show those Brits! Ha! No regular Anglo-Saxon person will be able to donate blood his/herself that day, as all the slots will be taken up by Poles! In fact, according to the Rzeczpospolita piece, this new campaign took off among Poles so much that even they were having trouble arranging to go give blood on the appointed day (which is 20 August: tomorrow), so that many of them had to resort to booking times to do so even several days before.

Still, doesn’t this whole idea of “protesting” through the massive volunteering of blood seem slightly odd to you? Maybe if it originated among the Indians living in the UK – and, Lord knows, they have an even longer history of emigrating there to work and therefore a considerably richer history of discrimination, aggravated by differing skin-color – it could be credible, as that sort of non-violent, “beat down your enemies with Love” gesture does seem rather Ghandian. But these are the Poles, a tough people who did not hesitate to go on strike against the Communist Polish authorities in GdaƄsk in 1980 (actually, also at several instances, at several places, before that); why should they be fazed by the idea of going out on a mass-strike in modern-day Britain? (For Heaven’s sake, back in pre-Thatcher times that was basically the national sport; what better way to demonstrate one’s assimilation?)

But no, the “action” will involve giving blood. Naturally, there is a #polishblood Facebook page set up for coordination, where the very first line in the Polish message states flat-out “There’s no time to organize a strike.” That doesn’t keep one respondent, a little way down, from inquiring plaintively “Is someone not going to work tomorrow??” The fellow obviously was looking forward to a day off.

Or is all of that wrong? Is there time, is there to be a strike after all? That there will be one is the message of the lead article now on Polish Express’ homepage. Then again, the full headline (and associated tweet) reads “20 August – immigrants’ strike in the UK. That day has already been won.” The point there is that news of this collective action – whatever form it ultimately takes – has leaked out to the native authorities and native media to such an extent that native consciousness has already been raised about how badly they sometimes treat their immigrant (Polish) workers. In any case, in the words of the editorial:

Tomorrow [20 AUG] will show whether it comes to a strike, and if so – at what scale. The original idea included not just leaving off work, but also a peaceful demonstration at 12 noon in front of the British Parliament in London.

Polish Express knows it cannot guarantee a strike on any sort of significant scale – but it can guarantee that demonstration, so presumably that at least will indeed come off.

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