Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The End of “The 3rd Asleep” in Latvia (3)
The figure to the right is called Melnays Jānis (Black John) and is a stand in for Latvia, a country of northeast Europe standing tall, but almost limbless. John and Latvia are names become almost synonymouss. Jānis-John is a nearly forgotten holy figure, now relegated to folk mythology, while Latvia is a country believed to be dying. However, come Johns Eve (Jāņu vakars), Midsummer solstice, I place a wreath of oak leaves around the black limbs of this oak stump, place a skusts, a prayer shawl, around my shoulders and sing a "lihgo" song.

The greatest problem for the current government of Latvia is its lack of authority—if not de jure, then de facto.

The de facto factor arises from the “fact” that only 10% (I am unable to trace the origin of this figure, but it is widely mentioned and believed) of Latvians support Saeima as presently constituted. However that may be, the media puts the onus for the January 13th (2009) protests on the economy. Nevertheless, as I have pointed out in the two previous blogs of this series, it is not a question of economics alone.

The “Umbrella Demonstration” http://www.tribine.lv/upload/1786/images/pikets1.jpg in November of 2007 was before the economic problems were anywhere near as prominent as they are now, but already resounded with calls “Atlaist Saeimu!”—dismiss the Saeima. Corruption in government, featherbedding government positions with professionally unqualified political supporters, nepotism, disregard of farmers, failure to support and develop industry and exports, low pensions, inattention to history, Brussels accept of former KGB officers as government representatives, failure to integrate the Russian speaking populace, and more, all contributed to the unhappiness of the demonstrators.

If Latvians by some lucky star were to experience economic well-being, there would of course be no protests. After all, the Western democracies stand and continue to convince the unwary as a supra political system because of full or nearly full employment, salaries sufficiently large to pay room and board, perhaps buy a house, government sponsored health care, and free education through high school. However, most Latvians receive a poor quality of these benefits. Moreover, most of the protesters believe that they are lacking the just mentioned goodies because the government is short-changing them, or as cynics may say, not paying them off to remain undemonstrative.

Are the cynics’ accusations against the Latvian government true?

If we take a deep look into the well of history, we discover something seldom mentioned, to wit, that democracy has its foundation in the exploitation of slave labor, colonialism, and—at a very late date—dependence on science and technology. The latter permitted the abolishment of slavery and colonies, because science had discovered a way to extract steel from rocks, margarine from coal, and cars from oil.

The arrival of the industrial age, quickly followed by the electronics age, gave people the illusion that the age of exploitation was over and all were to be free individuals. The illusion had its day, but is presently ending on a note of sober realization that it caused widespread, perhaps irreversible, damage and exploitation of our planet’s habitat, not to mention a return of universal poverty dotted with exceptions of extremely wealthy individuals. http://www.core77.com/blog/images/Delvoye_01.jpg

The Latvian people regained their liberty from the Soviet Union at a late stage of capitalist development (1991), but fully convinced that the age that was ending http://www.marvelousmarv.com/car_on_edge.jpg was their future. Poorly educated—because the socialist system of the Soviets made sure that the masses living under their control were as dumbed-down as the masses in the capitalist system—Latvians did not question the delusions of the West. The rush to the capitalist through was such that no intellectuals or native political leaders emerged to give warning.

Those with political connections in the Soviet system had the advantage. Latvians living abroad rushed home to “dzimtene” (land of birth) to reclaim properties nationalized during and after World War 2 by the Germans and Soviets in turn. Economic “shock therapy” worked wonders and quickly turned those full of hope into cynics. After eighteen years under the new political system, there is speculation that the people are hoping for an authoritarian leadership figure.

No doubt, an authoritarian leader would spell the end of Latvia as a nation if only because not even an authoritarian leader can recover the economy in a country, where—according to the former PM of Russia, Putin—“there is only sand and mushrooms”.

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