Friday, August 12, 2011

Chickens Running in All Directions (X)
The recent outbreak of hooliganism in London and in other parts of England, confirms the death of the traditional community with a vengeance . Not that this is anything new or has not been known to happen before. Many historians of economy, notably Karl Polanyi (The Great Transformation, 1944), noted “the social catastrophe which followed the Industrial Revolution” .

The social catastrophe of the Industrial Revolution was gradually arrested and a kind of temporary society reestablished in place of the traditional community. If before the arrival of the piston engine “…the self-sufficing household of the peasant laboring for his subsistence remained the broad basis of the economic systems…” (ibid), these systems were soon transformed into ones that turned the substance of its labors, labor including, into money.

Moreover, if before the arrival of money as the chief determinate of value, the community had been held together by the limits imposed by slow mobility (the horse, the sail, and objectified land), social rituals established over long periods of time, and the founding violence of the arch-Christian world (later to become neo-Christendom), the arrival of money commoditized even violence. Some of the first great wealth of our times was made by financing wars.

War is not a new phenomenon. We only have to recall the Vikings, who roved or sailed to distant lands and pillaged peaceable villages located far upriver of those lands. Indeed, such wars preceded the times of roads, because once the only ‘roads’ that were were rivers or paths along seashores. However, these early wars differed significantly from the wars of our time. While no one to this writer’s knowledge has called these early wars ‘fascist wars’, this is what they were, if we understand that  fascism can stand for socialism on behalf of small homogenous  communities.

No doubt, early communities were also more or less democratic in the sense that individualism as such was non-existent or was barely perceived as such. Moreover, early communities probably sustained a dual system of self-governance: that of the sacred King being buttressed by so-called community of Elders.

The Sacred King was the scapegoat who legitimized the community by confirming through his death (real, ritualistic, one or both) the community’s will to be (as if to say: ‘The community is so important to me that I am willing to die for it’). The elders of the community (early bureaucrats) were then able to exploit the charisma of the death in an administrative way. Usually, such an ‘administration’ was by way of instituting common gods, ritualistic observations, distribution of supplies in times of emergency, and a network of messengers who distributed such summons as the Sacred King and the Elders issued in the name of the community. The community, often misnamed ‘tribe’, was generally visualized as a totem.

[The name of the Sacred King was probably John (Janis, Ivan, Huan, Jean, Dion, etc. The name probably derives from the name ‘gans’; re, herdsman. This is why the herdsman, also the Sacred King, is often identified with a lamb.]

Small community fascism expanded, after the great movement of communities from the East (perhaps originating in some climactic cataclysm) came up against the shores of the Atlantic in the West. With oceangoing ships not yet invented, many of the migrants settled as households (self-contained subsistence level economic units). Relatively peaceable communities at their inception, the governments of the communities—the Sacred King and Elders—soon came under the pressure of violence.

For one, the Vikings (and their like) had more prey (settlements) at hand, which they could attack; secondly, the relative vulnerability of a settled community vis-à-vis a gang of marauders increased the role of the messengers. With the arrival of violence, the role of these messengers was transformed. Traveling armed with a stick, we know them to this day as Gendarmes  and Janissaries + .

The proto-Latvian communities had their Jahnihshi (Jānīši) or Johns, too. A Johns Festival song on Midsummer’s Eve or Johns Eve sings of this community’s guardian: “Ai, Jonny, son of the Sun!” Of course, today the word ‘Sun’ is replaced by the word ‘God’’. This is one of the ways that a small community is joined to the empire. Or could it be that one empire, the East, was exchanged for the empire of the West?

Yes, of course. I have frequently mentioned the 1209 attack by Bishop Albert’s knights (of Riga) against the proto-Latvian king Visvaldis and the city of Jersika (Jerusalem), which was located in what is now eastern Latvia. Situated on the left bank of Daugava (Jaunava?), Jersika was but a portage away from the Volga, whence the Black Sea and the Orient was wide open.
Without going through the labyrinth of proto-Latvian history (I do that in my earlier blogs), let us allow ourselves the fantasy of joining the 12th and 13th centuries in proto-Latvia to our days.

Today the Johns Festival on Midsummer’s Eve is famous for drunkenness by disoriented Latvians or summer concerts beginning with a Spanish song. John himself has been scandalized and was removed to heaven to sit on his hands there centuries ago.

Following a brief period of independence, 1918-1939, Latvia was occupied by the Soviet Union and administered on its behalf from 1940 until 1991. Since 1991, after undergoing brain massage by shock and awe capitalism, Latvia is an invalid sovereign country presided over and administered by a President, who cannot escape having a conflict of interest and being under suspicion of being a proxy of Western banks. The same goes for the Finance Minister. Almost everyone pretends that this is not so, but perhaps as many as 20% of Latvians have left the country to work abroad. This ought to serve as proof of incompetence, failure, and ‘sovereign’ power sans charisma.

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