Friday, October 9, 2009

© Eso Antons Benjamins

36 Not-Violent Populism (VIII)

If there ever was a truism, it is the one that says that the best defense against an attack is an offense. Of course, the offense that arises because of a provocation to one’s defenses has to be successful for the truism to work. If Latvia as a nation ever had a plan of defense, the current situation is one of a complete retreat and rout. At the head of the ones retreating is the government of Latvia with the president in the lead.

Not long ago, I was in Riga and went to see the controversial musical drama called “Vadonis” (Leader), composition, lyrics and direction by way of Zigmars Liepins, Kaspars Dimiters, and Edmunds Freibergs respectively. The musical has received much criticism from the elite and the left wing of right wing political commentators.

As I have stated in previous blogs, the two most hated words in the circles of Latvian politics (right or left) is populism and populist. Whether the creators of this musical drama succeeded in identifying with populism in Latvia at this time, I leave for everyone to judge for themselves, but no doubt they identified it with Karlis Ulmanis, the now often maligned president-dictator of Latvia from 1933 to 1940.

Though the musical is harsh and loud in timbre and grey in tone (performers come with grey gauze over their faces and are dressed largely in grey or black), I suspect this is so, because this is how the authors see an economically and politically humiliated Latvia. It suggests a state of war in which Latvia continues along its present government’s policies of surrender of sovereignty to the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and associates. The musical is an unpleasant cry of a country in distress. It is not meant to be entertainment.

My guest, a young woman (b. 1984) with mother, step-father, and three brothers in England, herself likely to follow, told me that she felt like standing up and singing along with the facsimile Latvian anthem, which the cast sang when in the background the red-white-red flag of Latvia descended from the stage ceiling. I told her that I had read that in the early performances, the audience did in fact rise to its feet, but this was roundly condemned in the media to be the result of calculated psychological manipulation of the audience by the authors. The audience—having absorbed this information—was reserved in its behavior (my companion including) by making no visible response during or toward the aria. The anti-populist press drew another veil over the public by way of encouraging another unrevealed emotion toward populist sentiment.

Here I must return to my blog 33. I suggested there that Karlis Ulmanis, the dictator-president-and a founding father of Latvia (1918) should have killed himself in a statesmanlike protest against the Soviet invasion of Latvia in 1940. In blog 34, I suggested that Adolfs Buķis, a middle-aged man who killed himself in front of the Freedom Monument in Riga in 1993 to protest the corruption by corporate buy-out of Latvia as a nation, could have put a stop to Karlis Ulmanis disastrous retreat. However, the police never investigated his sacrifice and never revealed the written contents of the note in his pocket as promised. Thus, Ulmanis failure has arrived at a constellation of circumstances where the nation he was a founder of is a nation whose downfall he also may be causing. In effect, the Latvian Republic has never tested the resolve of its leadership to sacrifice its own lives in defense of the country since the battles of its founding days. Karlis Ulmanis had participated in the battles and was wounded there, but his nerve failed him when the act became the responsibility of him in office as president.

“Vadonis” presents Karlis Ulmanis as the leader of not only ethnic Latvians (whatever that may mean), but of all Latvian citizens, the last probably best described as a people who live in Latvia and speak Latvian with a pure native or immigrant accented inflection. Any presumption of cultural separatism is purely by inflection, which the authors may or may not have intended.

It is at this that there occurs in the drama’s crust a crack, an uncertainty about the Latvians. It is like—who did you say they are? (Continued below.)

These blogs tend to be a continuum of an idea or thought, which is why—if you are interested in what you read—to consider reading the previous blog and/or the blog hereafter.

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