Sunday, July 31, 2011

Chickens Running in All Directions (VI)
Since an existential crisis in a community’s and nation’s life is necessarily a moment closely tied to founding violence, or ‘re-founding violence’ as the case may be, can Latvians find the mechanism of peace in a re-founding sacrifice?  

Though the answer may be in the affirmative, before we come to it, we must see what the scapegoat mechanism with regard to Latvia may be. There are many variants as to who is the victim who will serve a community driven to the blink of an eye before it dies.

One of the mechanisms is games of chance or lottery. An old game of chance is known as King’s cake : only one of the slices of the cake will contain a bean or a piece of coal. He who gets the piece with the bean or coal is the “chosen” one. As Girard points out, games of chance are the only games specific to man, and closely related to sacred rituals. Whoever chance chooses is also the chosen reconciliator of the community, i.e., sacrifice.

Often however the reconciliator is a person already in the public’s eye, and this may be the case of Latvia, if only because the anonymous reconciliator Adolfs Buķis (d. 1993) was implicitly dismissed as a person of doubtful mental health and the media has conspired with the government to forget him. In other words, the fact that Latvia’s leaders at the time of the foundation of the nation chose a parliamentary form of government continues to dismiss the average citizen as one who may participate in determining the future course of the nation unless officially selected for some office in government by the government.
In short, the symbolic King’s cake, when ready to serve, goes to the first person in Latvia. Such a first person is of course the President of Latvia. Since July 8th of this year, the office of the President of Latvia is belongs to Andris Berzins .

Interestingly, while President Berzins has become citizen number #1, this was not clear to the rest of the world at the time of his election (June 2nd).
When the news of Berzins elevation to the post of President of Latvia first reached foreign ears, many thought that Berzins was another Berzins . The mix-up occurred because Berzins the President came as if out of the woodwork. This is not to say that the man was not around, but he was never particularly noticed for either initiative or excellence. He was simply there, so to speak, waiting to serve Latvia.

How did Andris Berzins star pop up so suddenly? By all signs, he was chosen quickly and in circumstances shrouded by secrecy. In fact, those closest to Berzins and Berzins himself were not quite prepared by the honor. This was particularly noticeable during the President’s first days in office.

·        When Berzins had a photo-op with high ranked visitor from Estonia, the visitor had to indicate to President Berzins that perhaps the photo-op had lasted long enough and it was time to leave the stage.
·        The President’s common-in-law wife (until July 4th, when a hasty marriage was arranged) was barely acquainted with the idea of her companion becoming Latvia’s next president.
·        It appears that the new president craves invisibility, what with opting not to spend his off hours at the Jurmala residence of presidents, but preferring an Old Town Riga apartment instead.
·        It is understood that the new President’s out of Riga residence on weekends will be his countryside home. Given that the new President is—among other things—a pensioner receiving Latvia’s highest pension (~ Ls 4500), one may wonder how great the number of visible and invisible police to protect him from irate pensioners who receive Ls 200 per month and less.

To discover the answer for Berzins sudden rise to power, there is an interesting, even plausible story. This writer has it from a well placed and believable source.

The story does not however begin with President Andris Berzins, but the mayor of the City of Ventspils, Aivars Lembergs, Latvia’s richest ‘oligarch’, a man enmeshed in litigation in London over the ownership of a certain number of shares in a company called Vitol.

The story tells that the bets among legal minds favor the possibility, even likelihood, that Aivars Lembers will be arrested when he appears in court in London. While preparing for this turn of events, the mayor of Ventspils took certain steps to protect himself. In effect, he put his weight behind Andris Berzins to make sure that the man from the “Valmiera bunch” (known by Latvians as the Valmiera Group) became the next President of Latvia. The story adds that Lembergs is well acquainted with people of the mentioned former group.

The story then takes another interesting twist. It appears that if the court in London orders the arrest of the mayor of Ventspils, he may be released from jail in London for a jail in the country of his origin, Latvia. Mayor Lembergs’ release to Latvia at a time his man is the President of Latvia means that the mayor escapes the worst of the law, and goes pretty much free. Of course, a story is but a story. Nevertheless, along with deniability as to its veracity, it also is not without certain credibility.

If President Berzins is suspected of being in office as a result of a deal with mayor of Ventspils, in other words, if the story above has veracity, who of the two—Berzins or Lembergs--becomes the scapegoat?
As in a sacred game of chance, we can toss the coin. Call your choice: heads or tails. On the other hand, we may remember that Latvia is lacking a re-founding sacrifice ever since President Karlis Ulmanis failed to make it in 1939 when Latvia was overrun by the Soviet Union.

Does the President of Latvia Andris Berzins have cause to remember President Ulmanis failure, or does he rather remember the why and wherefore he came into office?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Chickens Running in All Directions (V)

The Latvian people have a saying that—to paraphrase—goes something like this: “We Latvians are a hardy people. We have survived many catastrophes before; we will survive this one also.”

What the people forget is that the origins of the phrase come from a forest and agricultural society, a society that is no longer in existence. Though the Latvian people have indeed survived many catastrophes in the past by hiding in the forests, today most of the forests are gone and the people have been driven off the land by modern technology and the requirements of market mercenaries. While in the past one could hide in the forest and survive on game and the milk of a cow, the same people today have been forced off the land into an urban society.

Forcing the people off the land is not a new phenomenon in the world or in Latvia, but in Latvia it has taken its most dramatic turn during the last twenty years, the very years since the renewal of the Latvian Republic in 1991. Worse, the Latvian people have not migrated to Latvia’s urban centres, but have bypassed these by moving directly to foreign lands. The abandonment of Latvia by its own has never reached such numbers before. While the precise figure awaits reports from the Census Bureau, the loss of people to Latvia is estimated to be anywhere from 250,000 to 500,000; in short, about 20% or one fifth Latvians have gone abroad, most of them for good.

Given that the demographic loss has happened accompanied by silence, with the Latvian government giving the phenomenon no attention except for the last year or so, and the Latvian media taking its cue from the government, the knowledge of events and trends by the majority of Latvians is notable for its absence.

In effect, while the Latvian government takes umbrage from criticism by insisting that it is the mirror of Latvian society (you get what you elect), it is the Latvian government that imitates a democracy of chickens let roam the field. It is freedom embodied in anarchy. Given the absence of a rooster and an experienced farmer, the hens and the chickens soon become pray to the first hawk to notice them.

The hawks that noticed the Latvian chickens first were foreign banks. Seeing that the government of Latvia was acting like a rooster without a head (in effect, leadership has been nonexistent), the hawks dove for the Latvian pocketbooks. While the robbery did not occur in broad daylight in order to avoid legal complications, it occurred by a sort of paradox: the foreign banks deliberately loaned the Latvians more money than they could repay, even as they knew repayment was legally binding, and would be enforced by such institutions as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Central Bank (ECB).

The logic of the manoeuvre by the foreign banks somewhat resembles that of a shrike impaling a mouse (the logic is of course not that of a shrike, but entirely human): See, I am not eating the mouse raw, but I am impaling it in order to marinate it in legal chicanery. Or to put it another way: Look, we are not depriving the Latvian people of their sovereignty; we are letting them cook in their own juices before we come to eat them.

The example of the bank shrike’s way with the Latvians (surely an ethologist’s observation) is a good place to insert another observation by Rene Girard (see previous blog) concerning the uses of stones:

“The reduction of canine teeth to their current dimensions occurred a long time before the appearance of homo sapiens, suggesting that stones had replaced dentition in most of their uses, including inter-species combat.”

Peace is not however at hand. Girard continues: “Animals are capable of engaging in rivalry and combat without fighting to the death because instinctual inhibitions assure the control of natural weapons, the claws and teeth. One can hardly believe that the same type of control was automatically extended to stones and other artificial weapons the day that hominids began to use them. The violence that goes unchecked by instinctual inhibitions… will become fatal the moment these same adversaries are armed with rocks.”

What makes Rene Girard’s work interesting is that through a combination of ethology and
ethnology , he perceives coming into being  a uniquely human culture of, if you will, mimetic diasporas. To put it in another way, Girard enables us to see how from the actions of the shrike and the users of stone, we arrive at the rigid symbolic rituals of early hominids, from which—in due time—arises the symbolic framework that allows human beings to engage in mimetic rivalries that the rigid rituals of earlier times forbid.

However, the increase in mimetic rivalries brings with it an increase in crises that lead to violence. According to Girard, such violence could be averted only through the mechanism of finding a scapegoat, which was then murdered by the whole community participating to preserve communal peace. This is why [see previous blog (V)] the first human pyramid was the result of a stoning of the scapegoat. It was through such sacrifices, which averted greater communal conflict, that there arose what we today call a complex society.

Let us now think back to the actions of foreign banks in Latvia, and of similar actions by the banks in Greece, Ireland, Iceland, and others. Though these actions are camouflaged by legalisms, they have brought Latvia (and others) to an existential crisis. Does this not suggest that we are living at a time that is looking for a scapegoat?
However, if scapegoating is a matter of times past as many allege, then what is the mechanism by which it is to be averted?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Chickens Running in All Directions (IV)

Breaking down political stagnation is not necessarily a ‘natural’ thing that happens because people may be sick and tired of it and in a mood for rebellion. Sometimes it takes hard work to dissipate the stagnant pools of water that move neither hither nor thither, but grace a pond with green slime that administrators in a house on the hill admire and even bless by occasionally dipping in it their walking stick.

A potential leader among the Latvians to lead and shape the people’s antipathy toward their government (95% voted for the dismissal of the Saeima in the recent Referendum) emerged recently when a former President of Latvia formed a new party in his name, re the “Zatlers Reform Party”. Alas, Zatlers is neither a liminal figure nor an agitator whatever his own subjective fantasies may be, and the new party was stillborn even as it registered its presence.

According to political analyst Joseph Lowndes , such a situation of stagnation, in his case among New Deal Democrats, faced America in 1964. While this writer has little sympathy for George Wallace, Lowndes analysis of Wallace’s tactics in breaking down the old coalition and his analysis of politics as such is most interesting and comparable to the current political stagnation in Latvia.

Writes Lowndes: “The fashioning of this [Wallace’s] new anti-government populism was a moment of founding violence for the new right, and its power was the result of its opposition to the existing political field as a whole. The Wallace juggernaut was successful to the degree that it was politically disruptive, because creating a new collective political identity involves rending people out of old traditions and political identifications. Wallace did so by combatively cutting new cleavages across the electorate, dissolving old political bonds and forging new ones.”

Former President Zatlers did not take advantage the three weeks available to him (after he initiated the Referendum vote and after a vindictive Saeima voted him out of office) to agitate and stir the Latvian people (long praised for their docility by internal and external observers) into action. Though it is impossible to be certain that the result of agitation would have resulted in re-‘founding violence’ (in the sense of Lowndes, see above), Zatler’s lameness (he had stated on many previous occasions that he was opposed to ‘populism’) is the death knell of Latvia as a state able to rise from the social chaos following the demise of the Soviet Union.

No doubt, the death knell that has been sounded by Zatlers may be in fact recognition that the bell had been tolling all along, and it took a lame man at this particular time to make it obvious.

Whichever answer we may favor, we can be sure that currently there is no re-‘founding violence’ afoot, even if it were the kind of symbolic violence as in George Wallace’s case. And while Zatlers’ had the nerve to describe the inclusion of his name in the party (ZRP) as a sacrifice by him to rally supporters, his use of the word ‘sacrifice’ reveals that he has no understanding that ‘founding violence’ is a synonym for ‘founding sacrifice’. In other words, the current ‘renewed’ State (Republic) of Latvia is basing its authority (spiritual) and ‘potestas’ [military—pautiņi (balls) as the Latvians might say] on thin air or, better if cruder, masturbatory fantasy.

Neither moral authority nor power (written, juridicial, police, military) are today able to reconcile the chasm separating the government from the governed, because there is yet no death that has appeared as the healer. The absence of death as a healer and reconciler plays a major role in the Latvian diasporas that have existed at least since the failure of President Karlis Ulmanis of the original (as opposed to the current ‘renewed’) Latvian republic to oppose the occupation of Latvia by the Soviet Union by either declaring war against it de jure if not de facto, and in place of war de facto, seal its de jure aspects with a sacrifice of his life.
President Karlis Ulmanis failure to offer his life for his country, in spite of the fact that he claimed that he was “married to Latvia”, has played a decisive role in the separation of the Latvian people from their government.

While the Latvian elite suffered relatively few losses (Konstantins Chakste being a notable exception ), the sacrifices of the Latvian people (just because they were Latvians) were massive while participating in wars of liberation (1st and 2nd WW) or due to executions during numerous repressions which included mass deportations.

The last civilian death among Latvians who opposed the corruption in their government occurred in April of 1993, when a tool and dye maker from Jelgava took his life on the steps of the Latvian Freedom Monument in Riga. The Latvian government took immediate steps to repress the event by not mentioning it once the storm of initial news of the death were past and the police promised an investigation. Of course, no investigation ever happened.

Because few Latvians have ever been exposed to either the anthropologists’, or theologians’, or psychologists’, or politicians’ views of the role of death in human affairs, especially in the building of a society, this writer here offers a lengthy quote from Rene Girard, a French literary critic and university professor in America. Since the quote is an answer given as part of a dialogue among several academicians, I trust the reader will absorb the gist of the argument, and go for details to the book (Rene Girard: “Things Hidden Since The Foundation of the World””) that I lift the quote from.

Says Rene Girard: “What is essential is the cadaver as talisman, as the bearer of life and fertility; culture always develops as a tomb. The tomb is nothing but the first human monument to be raised over the surrogate victim, the first most elemental and fundamental matrix of meaning. There is no culture without a tomb and no tomb without a culture; in the end the tomb is the first and only cultural symbol. The above ground tomb does not have to be invented. It is the pile of stones in which the victim of unanimous stoning is buried. It is the first pyramid.”

This writer will delay his comments on the quote until the next blog, here suggesting only that while the pile of stones may indeed be the result of having sought a scapegoat to fix (reconcile) whatever wrong society felt deserved fixing, was followed by a pyramid of smoothed stones, because the first founding violence was almost immediately followed by the first founding sacrifice.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Chickens Running in All Directions (III)

While the Referendum to dismiss the Latvian Saeima, initiated by the former President of Latvia, Valdis Zatlers, was successful and the numbers of voters participating was respectable (688,246 or 44.62% of eligible voters participated; 94,3% voted for dismissal, while 5,49% voted against), the net result in this writer’s opinion signals “more of the same”. That is to say, the immediate past is likely to continue in the immediate future even as social disintegration picks up speed.
Reason for expecting no more than “more of the same” is the Referendum initiator’s (Zatlers) subsequent failure to agitate on behalf of his initiation at the populist* level. Such an agitation would likely have increased voter participation. If participation had reached past the 50% level, say 60%+, it could have become an expression of popular demand, rather than but a popular opinion, which is where matters stand now.
*[Former president Zatlers made a personal gesture toward the unorganized populist citizenry by saying (to paraphrase) that he had finally had enough of the Saeima and that his innards had revolted and had pressed him to publicly suggest its dismissal . However, the gesture was weak; it had no follow-through.]

While social disintegration in Latvia is the result of corruption, greed, and blatant dishonesty among the Latvian ruling elite, the worst of it, a lack of public trust in government (now a hot potato in the new President Andris Berzins hands), will continue to worm its way through the remains of society*, delivering, in the end, a sterilized wreck at a hospital named “Brussels”.

*[Society: in the sense it was perceived by Robert Owen , in the words of Karl Polanyi: “He was deeply aware of the distinction between society and state…. emphatically (he did) not (believe the state ought to perform) the organizing of society.”]

While the Latvian Kulturas Ministry may play Brussels’ bureaucrats Copland’s ‘Fanfare For the Common Man’ as they reverently celebrate the funeral of Latvian society , the Ministry’s complicity in the loss of cultural bearings by Latvians is significant.

I have previously noted the eradication of former cultural orientations such as by Bishop Alberts Crusade, by the Herrnhuters, followed by the Lutherans (and other neo-Christian sects), followed by nationalist founding violence, followed by True Believers (Dievturi), followed by the Soviet occupation, followed by occupation of liberal capitalist banks, followed by the unread, followed by Pop ‘culture’, followed by a dominance of views as expressed by a corrupt Saeima. And this is not to say that there are no other cross-cultural currents at numerous intersections of what once was mainstream or proto-Latvian. The collective brain of Latvians quite simply has been overcome by the overload of disintegrations, and has now broken down and died.

Of course, one may wish to think that the listed series of cultural stages makes for an inheritance the size of the Ganges River. However, the actual result is a history of serial marriages suffering from forgetfulness of previous relationships, which has in effect led to near total loss of memory of history among Latvians.

Any effort by patriots to connect the present to the past is imagined by zealous supporters of liberal individualism as certain deviants sneaking off to the woods to have sex with fascists. And who can deny that following a system’s lockup everything outside the system becomes heretical and sinful? Institutional bureaucracy, having by now come up with its own recipe for ‘society’ and keeping the lid on the kettle to over cook it (to rid it of any vitality), does not remember ever having had an orgasm except perhaps at the time of the nation’s long ago founding. That event, however, has become abstracted and is no longer part of active collective memory.

Whatever the sorrows of those who support the rule of society over the rule of individualism, the leaders of Latvian society today act as if they are chickens entrusted with globalization. The fattest chickens are, naturally, strutting as if they were ‘oligarchs’, while the most henpecked chickens, the poor and mothers with children, are left to create the foundations of Latvian ‘society’ with a language few understand as having roots other than in the naked present.

Is there then a chance of survival for Latvian ‘society’ (whatever it may be like at this point) at this time of sacrificial crisis short of renewed founding sacrifice? In this writer’s opinion—not.

Some form of founding or re-founding sacrifice has to take place. While many, perhaps fearing the attractions of a fascist orgasm, are likely to object (especially those for whom ‘human rights’ have become a religion), the attractions of society when society is breaking down are likely to override the objections.

What then might ‘founding sacrifice’ be like in our day—if it takes place outside of what formerly was—most of the time—known as  ‘founding war’ or scapegoating of an innocent? To find the answer, we must look at several authorities concerned with this question.

This blogger will continue develop this theme in the upcoming next several blogs.

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Chickens Running in All Directions (II)

The Latvian people’s response to their government’s presumptuous liberal capitalist economic policy is to continue to emigrate. The government, but for an occasional crocodile tear, has no objections. One Latvian delegate to the European Union even expressed her displeasure of such emigrants by suggesting that she is skeptical about their loyalties to Latvia. In other words, if you cannot suffer the government’s failures, perhaps Somalian refugees will make better citizens than those Latvians who now live in Ireland, England, Germany, etc.

This brings us to yet another Polanyi observation about the rise of institutional standardization in the nineteenth century, one that I closed the previous blog with, re: “Not economic exploitation, as often assumed, but the disintegration of the cultural environment of the victim is … the cause of disintegration.”

There can be no doubt that Latvia is experiencing yet another step on the continuum of victimization that is due less to economic difficulties than the disintegration of the cultural environment. I have pointed this out in many earlier blogs. As this writer sees it, the cultural disintegration of Latvia has gone through a number of stages, beginning as early as 1209 (Bishop Alberts crusade against Jersika) and continuing on through our own time.

Whether the current stage of cultural disintegration is due to accidentally bad economic choices, or due to an undue influence of oligarchs (taking the place of former “barrons”), or pro-urban prejudices among poorly qualified urbanite ‘cultural ministers’ may, for some, be a matter of debate. However, there is no doubt that Swedish banks have seized for themselves a notable say over Latvia’s sovereignty due to the Latvian government’s uncritical acquiescence in letting a self-regulating global market take its course.

When ‘economic exploitation’ is put next to ‘institutional standardization’, the latter can be seen for the cultural exploitation it is. This exploitation was first expressed clearly by the Latvian “culture workers” under the Soviet system. It was, for example, the cultural worker who diminished the significance of the Johns Festival at midsummer and instituted ‘folk dances’ to a degree never practiced or imagined by the forebears of Latvians. This form of cultural exploitation (pretended to be an unknown) by urbanites at the expense of rural traditions, necessarily results in the diminishment of the latter, but is almost never accompanied by a critical evaluation of its long-term effect.

Another known unknowns that Latvians pretend not to remember, is the turning of the festival of Johns (midsummer) into folklore. This ‘change’ begins no later than the nineteenth century with the arrival in Latvia of the Herrnhuters, but picks up pace when the neo-Christian Lutheran church began to marginalize the Herrnhuter movement. The marginalization was carried out by the Lutheran church presuming for itself the authority of “religion of State”. Support from the state was of course received. This is not to say that the Russian Orthodox Church did not play a role in the marginalization, but that is quite another story.

It is amazing how quickly under Lutheran tutelage the Latvians forgot about the Herrnhuter movement, which for all its neo-Christian elements was founded on an earlier arch-Christian layer of belief in the West. Assuming that the Children of Johns, Herrnhuters, Hussites, et all occupied a transitional ground in the evolution of modern Christianity, the Latvian Children of Johns may be presumed to have been connected, both, to Eastern arch-Christians and orally communicated Christianity . This is not to say that such a memory was convenient to either the Herrnhuters or the Lutherans, but all three of said Christian sects represent three separate ways of interpreting Christianity. The reader may check out the history of the Hussite movement It is possible that the Hussites and others bear the meme of rebellion passed to the future by the existential will of the “heretic” Cathars’ to live.

To return to the political scene in Latvia today.

Though change is natural and inevitable, it does not imply a repetition of the past as a catastrophe. Unfortunately, in Latvia ‘change’ has come to mean a catastrophe, because violence has been such a constant. The latest catastrophe to visit Latvians is through a now former President Zatlers and recently installed President Berzins.

Zatlers’ failure to follow through on his initiative to dismiss the Saeima with aggressive argumentation means the letting go of perhaps the last opportunity to discuss in depth what ails Latvia. Without questioning the sincerity of the former President, his failure to debate, at the same time that he presumes to name his reform party in his name (a name as yet untested in political arts) is a presumption that suggests an almost unbelievable lack of familiarity with things political, popular and populist in nature.

As for President Berzins, he is, among other things, a former banker. It is not by chance that he takes office at a time Latvia is continuing to experience a boom in out migration. Indeed, it is apparent that President Berzins has no will to reverse the boom, because by all evidence he is a “market man” and knows how a self-correcting market operates.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Chickens Running in All Directions (I)

To continue :

According to the economist Karl Polanyi (1886-1964) “…by the end of the nineteenth century the peoples of the world were institutionally standardized to a degree unknown before.”

Though Polanyi refers to the 19th century, what he had in mind was not only that one century or the universal bureaucratic infrastructure crabbing and sterilizing governments, but how that same standardization “…enforced [a] uniformity of domestic systems [which] hovered as a permanent threat over the freedom of national development….”.  The result was, as Polanyi calls it “anarchistic sovereignty”, which became “…a hindrance to all effective forms of international cooperation….”

The failure of the international system in the 1920s and 1930s or as Polanyi says, “the passing of capitalist internationalism”, then “…let lose the energies of history …, the tracks of which were laid down by the tendencies inherent in a market society.”

The above thought may be carried forward to Latvia today, because the Latvian government has for all these years of failed capitalist internationalism presumed to join (in the name of Latvians) that very failure, justifying the course as the only way to escape the Bolsheviks. While such a presumption is not of all Latvians, it was presumed such by those who bought into the system of institutional standardization, which had preoccupied so much of the energies of the 19th century.

The standardized system became the system in Latvia today by way of liberal capitalism teaming up with individual rights and buying with ‘good’ money a sustained period of growth. Even so, though a significant number of people in the West have indeed had access to ‘good’ money, their sustainability and their money is illusory. The Latvian government however does not see it thus and has no intentions of hiring scholars and other experts to research alternatives for any eventuality.

Too, both liberal capitalism and human rights became identified with ‘freedom’ as sold by a more or less libertarian America in a fit of temporary success. The Latvian-Americans who arrived in America mid-20th century were America’s vanguard. They were not ones to discover the ebb in the tide of a free and self-controlling market and, therefore, in of the potential damage to their own that an ebb in their prescribed course would bring.  

Most Latvians fleeing the Soviets went to Germany (mostly) and then migrated to other Western countries (particularly the U.S.A.) during the late 1940s and early 1950s. As their arrival in America coincided with America’s and Western Europe’s post WW2 economic boom, the ‘right way’ of both politics and the economy for Latvians became what Polanyi called “failed capitalist internationalism”. In other words, few people, let alone Latvians, remembered Polanyi’s observation or perceived it as prescient .

This is one of the reasons why the Latvian government, having escaped the clutches of the Soviet Union, continued with its rightward tilt. Not surprisingly, Latvia is now caught up in the collapse of capitalist internationalism the second time around, this time however known by the name ‘globalization’ a la neo-liberal capitalism. And not surprisingly, Latvian politicians and business leaders continue to insist that no such collapse is taking place or is ever likely to take place.

All the same, the economic collapse of the West along with the value of its monies—the dollar and the euro—is foreseeable more clearly than ever. Given that economically Latvia is among the last of the European Union’s countries, it ought to be among the first to jump off the wagon known to be running out of tracks.

It is interesting that with the passing into retirement of President Valdis Zatlers [assuming that Zatler’s Reform Party will fail due to an early stall] and the aggressive implant of President Andris Berzins as the new President by the market forces, the opportunity—perhaps the last—for Latvians to escape death as a singularity has passed.

Currently the ‘word’ of the Latvian government is best expressed by the mantra: “Latvia is an example to the rest of the world”, sometimes also called “The Latvian Option” / . The Prime Minister has written a book called “How Latvia came through the financial crisis” , though no crisis has as yet been overcome.

No, no one in Latvia is jumping off the wagon or the system.

Though Latvia’s wagon has no engine, it rolls on. Though the system is now run by bad or fiat money, and few Latvians of former times would recognize themselves in the world of today, the cultural vacuum or debasement smiles on. To end with the words of Karl Polanyi: “Not economic exploitation, as often assumed, but the disintegration of the cultural environment of the victim is … the cause of disintegration ”.

Part 2 to follow.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Ding dong!
Who is there?
Ditch Zatlers!
Dill blossoms.

For the most part, there are two ways of playing “ding dong ditch”.

One of the ways is to ring the door bell and run. When the homeowner opens the door and sees no one, perhaps even walks around the house to make sure, the kids break out in loud laughter and run like hell to wherever they came from .

The other way is to ring the bell, and when the owner opens the door, he finds himself facing Ra-gana, the old Halloween witch, who screams: “Trick or treat!” The word “trick”, if taken serious, means: “If you don’t give me candy, I will whack you with my broomstick” .

More dill blossoms.

There is also the Zatlers’ way. You go to the door, ring the bell, and when the homeowner opens the door, he, Zatlers, surprises me and says (not really, but in my/ our imagination): “I suggest that the time has come do dismiss the Senate. On the 23rd of July, there will be a Referendum, when you can vote and tell me and everybody whether you agree with me and everybody or no.”

When the ding dong (me and you) heard Zatlers message, he-she yelled “Līgo! Līgo! I love you, Zatler. Right on! Out with the crooks! Līgo!”

“Good,” says Zatlers and closes the door.

The ding dong then says to him-herself: “This is wonderful! Those lawmakers have been stealing and selling Latvia off bit by bit to foreign banks. Here, I am near telling Latvians to lease Riga to China, so that after selling off Latvia, we are not asked to yet thank them. At least if China leases Riga, say, for a century, Latvians will be debt free and start a new life. In return for our liberty, we are ready to start out with a straw roof in a forest home, and nothing much more than a coconut or two to chew on. ”

However, your thrill quickly evaporates.

At the edge.

After knocking on every door on your street and telling every homeowner what you have just been told, the whols street awakens and whoops it up, or as the Latvians are wont to say "go Līgo".

However, after closing the door, Zatlers goes eats his supper, and goes to sleep. In the morning, after he wakes up, Zatlers has breakfast, speaks with his press secretary, who then goes out on the front porch of Zatlers apartment. Thence she announces to reporters standing around in the yard waiting for Zatlers to make some further thrilling announcement.

Zatlers’ Press Secretary announces that Zatlers is forming “The Zatlers’ Reform Party” (ZRP) “Zatlers is the first and until now only Latvian politician since Latvia renewed its independence, who has decided to take such a radical step by opportuning the people to activate themselves and not permit [the Saeima] to repeat earlier mistakes.”

Zatlers Press Secretary goes back into the apartment and finds the former president is fast asleep on the couch. She awakens him and asks: “Anything else, sir?”

“No. Thank you. That was great. We are on the roll now.”

“Yes, sir, I understand. However, should we not now get together a band and march down the streets of Riga and byways of Latvia and trumped and get out the vote for the July 23rd Referendum?”

“I do not believe so,” answered the new political hero. “We are not populists.”

Climbing up my legs.

“But, sir, it was the populists who thrilled to your message. You should take your advantage and fire them up to go and VOTE!”

“I do not wish to repeat myself again,” said the New Hero. “I am not a populist. I believe that populists are communists, or fascists, or chauvinists, and who knows who else. They are no better than the crooked Saeima.”

“Who then will be the voters?” asked the Press Secretary.

“Latvians, of course.”

“Well, yes, sir, however, what if all Latvians—except government employees and media people—are populists?”

“That cannot be. Latvians do not like populists. No Latvian ever says a positive thing about them.”

“But, sir, I read that without populists there cannot be democracy. Besides, you are moralizing. Moreover, here is one Chantal Mouffe , a political scientist, who writes that “….moralization of politics leads to the emergence of antagonisms that cannot be managed by the democratic process…. It is clear that when the opponent is defined in moral terms, it can only be envisaged as an enemy, not an adversary. With the ‘evil them’ no agonistic debate is possible.” [See: "The ‘End of Politics’ and….]

“She is a Marxist. The two things that Latvians like least are Marxists and Populists. When in Latvia, we must think like Latvians do. I am a Latvian. Few Latvians are ever Marxists. It is for sure that no Latvian can be a Populist.”

“Alright, sir, however, there is no campaign going on in Latvia to turn out the vote on Referendum day, July 23rd. We are missing out on a great opportunity to stir the Populists, the (presumed) majority of Latvians. Not since the rebirth of Latvia, sir, has anyone been as brave as you. Lead on, sir! Lead on! Time is wasting. Make noise, sir! Trumpet and repeat the reasons for the dismissal of Saeima.”

“I cannot do so until after the Referendum vote happens.”
In the wink of an eye.
“Why not, sir?! Do you think that selling off Latvia to foreign banks is only a ‘mistake’? Perhaps the Latvian people think that it is more than a mistake. What do you say to Ernesto Laclau , who insists that “…populist discourse does not simply express some kind of original popular identity; it actually constitutes the latter”?  How will you ‘reform’ without knowing what the popular identity of the Latvians is, sir?