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?

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