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.

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