Zero Squared #40: Poor But Sexy

Agata Pyzik is a Polish journalist who divides her time between Warsaw and London, where she has already established herself as a writer on art, politics, music and culture for various magazines, including The Wire, Guardian, New Statesman, New Humanist, Afterall and Frieze. Her book, Poor but Sexy, was published last year by Zero Books.

Daniel Trilling, author of Bloody Nasty People blurbed her book this way “A necessary corrective to the paper-thin portrayal of Eastern Europe by Western media. Pyzik’s writing is clear, direct, knowledgeable – and partisan, in the best sense of the word.”

In this episode you’ll hear an excerpt from Dezerter’s Ask the Policeman, XTC’s Are You Receiving Me, and Weird Nun by Stride machine. You’ll also hear a McDonald’s Ad, Claire’s theme from the 1991 film Until the End of the World, and Kraftwerk’s Electric Cafe at 45 RPM.

I enjoyed this. For a ‘middle class overeducated Polish girl’ Agata has some interesting things to say.

I have a personal interest in the collapse of the Soviet Union since my father was Latvian. As an anti-Thatcher socialist in the 80s I caused him a great deal of distress since he equated anything left of Tory with terrible memories of Russian occupation. I understand now I am older. Sadly, he is no longer around so I cannot apologise for my insensitivity back then.

The East/West cultural situation raises so many questions, not least those revolving around notions of ‘freedom’ built by the West compared to restraints imposed by strict communist ideology. We in the West readily see the old East as a prison populated by victims of an evil regime. Raised on capitalism, we cannot help but be forced to consider ourselves lucky. Yet, as a working class undereducated man, I would argue that this ‘free world’ imposes equally terrible unwritten rules based on material wealth, which is our measure of ‘success’. We are told we are all free to achieve, a lie which the system must perpetuate, of course.

Yet viewed from the East how lush and green this grass appears to be! Look how free they all are to consume the lowest possible forms of food and culture – McDonalds! Lady Gaga! Bling! Ghetto Rap! Look how they can vote for their dictators!

Welcome to the Real World, brothers and sisters. Isn’t it wonderful? Unfortunately, my Latvian relatives cannot afford to travel. When I visit them, I may be tempted to stay.

I look forward to reading this book.


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