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.

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