A review

Tomasz Markiewka

Gniew (Wrath)

Czarne, 2020

Stanisław Bryś, WRiTV in Katowice

There's one iconic moment in ‘Falling Down’ directed by Joel Schumacher, when the main character, William Foster (Michael Douglas at his finest) becomes frustrated with the traffic he got stuck in. He goes out of his car and starts to physicalise the anger. However, being late for his daughter's birthday is not the only reason for the increasing rage. The wrath seems to be the consequence of long-lasting, silenced factors: dissatisfaction with the work, mismatching with gender roles and acute feeling of being excluded from the system. Nobody can stop William from releasing deeply hidden emotions - the society has disappointed him so much that he uncompromisingly wants to get back at it.

 

The aforementioned movie triggered a vivid discussion about the mental health of citizens of that place and the contestation of their well-known American dream. ‘Falling Down’ also throws light on what can be defined as social anger. Even though its characteristics stem from individual reasons, particular groups can share it with each other. As its escalation can lead to gory protests and global anxieties, it is such a feeling nobody should disregard, especially in times of economic equalities, COVID-19, populism and post-truth times. Taking this background into consideration, Tomasz Markiewka’s newest book ‘Gniew’ (literal translation: Wrath), published by Wydawnictwo Czarne, seems to be both a complex and immersive thing.

 

The writer, who is also a philosopher, translator and political journalist, successfully bows down to the feeling that accompanies Foster, dissatisfied voters, climate denialists and upset rightists. To make it more legible for compatriots-recipients, he tells a detailed story about the multi-faceted Polish-Polish war that has been on the run since democratic transition and turning to capitalism in 1989. It was just a prelude to what happens next. PO-PiS political duopoly, Smoleńsk air disaster or Black Protests. It is an open secret that such breakthrough events combined with daily situations and ideological arguments - and to cite Michał P. Markowski, another well-known Polish publicist, axiological and cultural wars - always divide the society. Markiewka does not want to pick the side. Instead of espousing, he impartially analyses social changes and the eponymous anger that goes hand in hand with them. As he notes, it may be embodied in active situations as in ‘Falling Down.’ The coarse language, street manifestations, media appearances, but also in passive ones such as low voter turnout or indifference.

 

For me, reading ‘Gniew’ has been a pleasure not only because the author is a skilled and a careful observer, who merges conscientious enumerations with pop-cultural (including, but not limited to Adas Miauczyński from unforgettable ‘Day Of The Wacko’ or Greek mythology) references and footnotes to modern America’s history. What I find most rewarding and thought-provoking is the split into two sides of wrath – the destructive and constructive. Markiewka aptly notes that the initial disagreement (normal in such a diversified reality) can be a catalyst of something fresh and unexpected. And, even though it may sound like a pop-motivational speech, it is sometimes up to us whether we choose this activistic side or run aground in the field of Internet message boards. 

Gniew