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2.15.2008

Return Babies - is adoption becoming like shopping?

Return Babies, Queue Here!-the case of Polish Baby X
Does adoption have a return policy?

Have you ever thought about adopting a baby? What do you think it would be like?
With the natural parenting it is generally assumed that the love for one's child happens automatically, as a result of instinct and hormones and whatnot. If a natural mother finds it hard to relate to her new baby, it's attributed to her hormones being out of whack after the delivery. So, if it's all chemistry and glands, how come the adoptive parents aren't given shots to make them love their new baby better?

Adoption is always being compared with natural parenthood, but the truth is, it is a lot more like marriage. You have to make the conscious effort to build this relationship - day after day after day.
Just like the marriage, adoption is a social contract. It begs the question - can there be a divorce?


Our presenter, Roberto, wanted us to discuss a case of a couple who gave back a baby they have adopted, after finding out the boy was autistic. The court allowed that after it was found out that the adoption agency knew about it but tried to hide it from prospective parents. However, they have to pay for the child's support until he's of age.

  • What was the morally correct thing to do?
  • Can babies be treated as a product, with a two week return policy? After all, adoptive parents are made to pay large fees for the process.
  • Natural parents don't have these kinds of choices, if they find out their baby is disabled, they are expected to accept it. Why should adoptive parenthood be any different?
  • How can you abandon an autistic kid to the system which wasn't taking proper care of him in the first place, knowing he would probably never have another chance at a family?
  • On the other hand, if you know you can't cope, isn't it fairer to back out now, while the damage is still relatively small, than to fail later?
Please, share your thoughts and experiences.

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1.23.2008

Is it me, or it is getting hot in here?

The elusive Electric Car and more.

On the usual last Thursday of the month, Consilience Forum hosted a presentation by Konrad J. on the topic of Global Warming. Or "Global Heating," as some insist we call it: a fuzzy blanket can be warm
. We are talking about a process more similar to slowly heating a pot of water - and we're the frog sitting in it!
Konrad, loaded with his impressive electronic equipment, gave a short outline of what the process is, and demonstrated a lot of data and facts on how it is beint tried to be dealt with. The highlight of his presentation, howewer, was the brief history of the electric car. Not the hybrid car, not one of the many prototypes wchich we see being unveiled from time to time, only to fade into obscurity. A real deal, fully functional, available to any consumer (provided they live in California) electric car that was relased in the Nineties (!) and was proving to be a viable alternative. Unfortunately, it was backed out from the market by the producer, due to car and fuel industries pressure.
All the time when we've been hearing that the wholly electric cars are not developed enough yet to be practicall to use on the wide market - to slow, to costly, to difficult to charge - it had been proven wrong already.

After the presentation, we got ourselves in a holiday mood by plaing some Christmas-themed party games, like "pin the nose on a reindeer," ate (vegetarian) bigos, and listened to carrols.

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10.27.2007

The Controversy
sexuality in religious art - now and in renaissance

Many contemporary artist mix religious symbols and imagery into their works, combining them freely with secular, mundane ones (utylity objects, pop culture icons and such). Such works more often than not spark controversy among the general public, especially in Poland. But there's nothing to cause bigger outcry than a coegsistence of sexual and religious theme in the same context.

But it wasn't always so. Our speaker, Grażyna, being an art historian, presented us with an array of Renaissance paintings and sculptures of Biblical themes that were full of nudity. Most notable were images of Jesus, which accentuated His maleness - a visual arguments in teological debate on nature of Christ that was going on at the time.

Our participants were quite suprised to learn that such portrayals were common at certain point in church history. However they were quick to add that these were far less schocking than modern attempts at putting sexual and religious into the same work of art like - for example -Nieznalska's "Passion."

We were then asked why is that exactly? Partially because a painting is far less realistic to us than a photograph, and thus less explicit. We have to remember however that for the people living during Renaissance this was probably most realistic, and they - having far less exposure to visual stimuli - had to find them much more sexual than we do. Yet they seem to have been all right with naked figures of Christ, at least up to the council of Trident which turned a moral tide.
Also we have been trained to see old style nude painting as "art" and not "act." It's been presented to as, from the moment we are children at school, as a composition of light and shadow, fine brush stokes and delicate pigments - and not as a picture of a naked body.


We also expect from the contemporary, modern artists to try and shock us. If they use sexual and religious symbols, or images, side by side, it's probably to stirr controversy only. Many probably are doing just that, but it is also true that often they simply ofshoot theyr mark. They create a piece that can have various and multilayered interpretations - for fellow artists, critics and conossieurs, and only single and crude one - in the eyes of the general public.

Are we all post-Tridental? Are most contemporary artists just hoaxes? Or are we out of tune with modern art language and see offense where there's hardly one? Share your toughts.

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10.17.2007

Back up and running with an euthanasia debate.

Is it right to pull the plug? The scope and burden of the decision.
New discussions at the Consilience Forum


On September 27th Adam F. gave an exellent presentation entitled "I want to die, why can't I?" With this, Consilience Forum returned in a new venue, once again bringing you interesting debate on controversial topics - in english, of course.

The presentation, featuring the case of Terry Shiavo - toghether with its far less publicized aftermath - and other tought provoking examples of situations where one could be required to end a life of the another, was followed by a fruitfull discussion, and a "practical exercise" of sorts, where participants had an opportunity to read over, and attempt to fill, a Living Will form. A mini voting was held at the end of discussion, where most participants were in favor of euthanasia legistlations being introduced in Poland, albeit each with huge caveat.

The meeting was concluded over a light meal and a glass of wine.
We will be meeting again in October.


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6.28.2005

Being Gay in Poland: Misinformed Myth and Raw Reality

What is a reality of being Gay/Lesbian in Poland?


The Consilience Forum audience listened to "Being Gay in Poland" at the monthly meeting.

After the recent debacle over Equality Parade in Warsaw, our country has made it to the front pages of many western newspapers and internet sites fighting with Homophobia and promoting Gay Rights. Are Poles really so intolerant?

The answer differs, depending on whom, and where, you ask. As to be expected, main line of division goes between younger and elder generations, big city centers and province, the "liberal" and the "conservative".

But reopened discussion among general public and in the media, especially the language of it, had shown that the real problem behind Polish Homophobia. It is lack of basic knowledge regarding Homosexuality. In it's place, stereotypes and biases reign in the vocabulary.

In western societies, discussion regarding sexual orientation and discrimination started c.a. the end of the sixties. Here - in the end of nineties. We observe and relate to the state of public discourse elsewhere in the world, but without comprehending how they get where they are today. Polish media report on controversies regarding same sex marriages and adoption, when our society haven't yet understood fully what does it mean to be Gay or Lesbian.

Opponents of equality in Poland use a language that bases on stereotypes and hate speech. They question most of the basic facts regarding homosexuality (often not even bothering to get to know them first), as "homosexual propaganda".

In western societies such attitude is reserved to fringe groups, known for their disregard of scientific knowledge in general, whenever it collides with their views. Most of other people, including those who do not agree with the demands of Gays and Lesbians, accept these facts, albeit not always their implications and significance. But they gained their knowledge through constant public debate stimulating research and government campaigns promoting the knowledge coming from that research.

It's also important to recognize that Gays are internally diverse...from conservative to a bit on the liberal side.


In Poland dormant public debate springs to life only occasionally, usually in connection to some political turmoil. Then the knowledge about Homosexuality is discussed in the media, often briefly and without understanding. When the hubbub is over, usually it becomes evident, that again there were people who didn't listen at all.

Also these declaring themselves open, liberal, and pro-equality sometimes do lack knowledge on the subject. Or they have some deep running doubts and issues they don't wish to explore.

With a low numbers of Gays and Lesbians coming out in our society, it is not so uncommon of people to be declaring tolerance towards homosexuals, while they do not know any personally. (which is statistically impossible - they are simple unaware of sexual orientation of some people they know) And even if they do, certain "silly questions" remind unasked out of fear of appearing homophobic after all.


In the end, its up to individuals to search and accept knowledge of the Other whoever he is. This is one of the most enriching human experiences.

We hope that our forum provided you with such opportunity.

Links in polish:

Kampania Przeciw Homofobii

Co to znaczy być Gejem; Lesbijką?

Niech Nas Zobaczą

Stowarzyszenie Lambda

więcej linków na www. kampania.org.pl


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5.30.2005

It's getting more difficult to tell Warsaw from Wausau

This in from Houston Chronicle

The tour bus is rolling along a busy street when suddenly there's the Philadelphia 76ers star, staring from a shoe ad.

Welcome to the United States of Poland. At least that's the way it feels sometimes, what with all the Pizza Huts, J.Lo and Levi's.

Sixteen years after communism fell, the Polish embrace Western pop culture with a stunning eagerness. Watching on the streets of Warsaw as a beefy guy in a Chicago Bulls cap passes a petite blond babe with a blouse cut down to there, it feels like I never left home.

Indeed, unlike travelers of a previous generation, I have no need to walk around with a Polish-English dictionary pointing to phrases and mangling the language. Most people ? at least most I come in contact with ? speak English, some flawlessly. After a while, you begin to expect it.

Frankly, there's a certain pride that comes of seeing your country's products, fashions and mores so eagerly adopted by a new democracy. But at the same time, I find myself wondering if these people realize what's happening here. Do they understand that they are selling their uniqueness for the price of an MTV video?

I think similar thoughts when I drive through the United States and find it difficult to remember where I am because this town looks like every other town, the same jumble of Exxons, Taco Bells and Holiday Inns.

"McWorld," political scientist Benjamin Barber famously dubbed it. He saw a world that was simultaneously being pulled apart by tribalism and extremism, and drawn together by free market forces. Meaning, teach the people what to want, then give it to them.

The result of tribalism and extremism was on view on 9/11. The result of McWorld can be seen here in Poland and in the ongoing homogenization of the world's cultures and languages into a blanded, blended uniformity in our image.

Small wonder France has sought ? futilely, of course ? to institutionalize French as the nation's one and only language, waging war against the encroachment of English into daily life. If you think that's much ado about nothing, well, you probably haven't seen the Nike swoosh sign in the old marketplace at Krakow.

Which is not to pick on Nike. Rather, it is to note ? and lament ? the passing of a time when American popular culture was ... escapable. But if it's really a choice between McWorld and extremism, I'll take McWorld. Reluctantly.

Still, I wish Poland looked more like Poland.


Comment: Nicely done and accurate (I guess) piece of report from Polish cities. I remember even attempts to introduce official ban of using non–Polish names. Fortunately the idea failed but now we are at pretty the same point of the question. Are we doomed to have dozens of McTowns and Mc Cities across Poland?

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5.28.2005

One Year On in The EU - The Death and (re-)Birth of Poland


Poland & the EU- Mutually enriched?

The Topic of our May 2005 Consilience Forum meeting at Pasta Cafe was presented by Joanna K. The title of her talk was "Poland and the EU, or Something Like it" -- during the presentation, we explored questions, as Joanna puts it, touch upon '...where the geographical borders of Europe are and how deep can the integration process go?' Very important, and so very relevant today...(the following comments are not Joanna's - they are intended to add to the topic) Read a report on the meeting at PolBlog (re: United in Their Differences).

A year has passed since Poland joined European Union, and there are some summaries to be made. What has hanged during that time? Are we different - as a member state - from the country that was aspiring to that membership? Who are we now? Who were we?

First of all, it seems, that Poles understand now more what European Union is - and what it is not. Many of our rather exaggerated expectations, and fears, from a year ago seem ridiculous, when confronted with rather prosaic reality. Poles feel that - to a degree - they know what to expect from the Union in the nearest future and, whether EU-enthusiasts or Euro-sceptics, they take the matter more at ease.

We had our great moments together, we had difficult ones. Polish leaders were able to show political weight of our country on the European arena at some occasions, and quite unable - at others. By now, an average Pole seems to be used to the fact, that the matters out there are running at their rather inert pace, and being a major player takes time, lot's of grunt work/groundwork, and it won't happen overnight. Most of the EU political storms roll over the far horizon nowdays. Unless, of course, they are connected to the - alays close to everybody's hearts - money matters. But then it's a domestic politician that usualy takes the beating.


Jigsaw Puzzle or Humpty Dumpty?

That does not mean, that the EU spares us interesting times to live in. The major attraction on the news is the new Constitution, and it's fate - doomed(?), it seems at the moment. What exactly will it mean to Polish people in the short, and in the long run, we haven't decided yet. But the crisis is grasping our attention, despite many matters being decided on the home turf as well. The question of who speaks for Poland is also important, should Warsaw have the loudest voice in this debate?

We're in the Union to stay, and share its fate - for better or for worse. It would be nice to know that we're also able to shape it.

Some questions come to mind: What exactly is European about Europe, and for that matter what is European about the EU? How will varied alliances and diplomatic postures toward the USA among member states play out within the EU itself (is more cohesion/division promised?) Is to European to be anti-American?

http://www.europa.eu.int


**Join an official EU Blog by Margot Wallström, Vice-President of the Commission and Commissioner for Institutional Relations and Communication Strategy.

Read the European Constitution, and about it

Are You an European Citizen? What does it mean, really...?

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Supporting Democracy in Iraq -- Blue fingers at Bald Penguin Cafe, Praga (Warsaw) - CF Meeting 2/2005 Posted by Hello