Saturday, October 17, 2009

© Eso Antons Benjamins

38 The Horror (I)

Populism is presumed to be a murky word, and so it is—up to the point when we dare equate it with economic equality. Then something interesting happens.

Though “populism” retains its wont to be unstable even with economic equality well understood to be at its core, our inability to remember this truth is explained by the likelihood that in the West “economic equality” remains a culturally forbidden subject. In the West populism remains a dangerous word and more often than not is used negatively in a pejorative moral sense; re: he’s a commie, a fascist, an outsider, a slum dweller, a gypsy, even an artist, etc.

When we use populism as a word with a negative meaning, it distracts the eye (our self-consciousness) of our economic order—liberal and neo-liberal democracy  (see Abstract in link)—from taking note of love turned inside out and becoming a bias that excludes all who are considered by the more-equal-than-others less equal than they.

Liberal democracy of course has its beginnings in the founding violence of an arch “more-equal-than-all-others” group. If this group is ever challenged, it retaliates by calling-naming any sovereign community “fascist” (or its presumed like) and may initiate violence against it. It is essential for the arch-community of “more-equal-than-all-others” to eliminate populists (one way or another), because if it fails to do so, it may have to accept the argument that economic equality is possible under a different asymmetrical arrangement than with the “more-equal-than-all-others” always somehow coming out on top.

If populism and populist are in fact synonyms of unequivocal economic equality and the fact is reflected in a widely accepted social order, the words would not be known. Their truth would be that obvious. In other words, old signifiers never die, they just fade away—if its hidden and forbidden meaning is recognized and realized.

Yet as obvious as it may be to those who understand what truth underlies populism, there is no way to communicate a word with a meaning that few, sometimes no one, dare think of. This has been the unhappy position of populists for a thousand years. Their alternative has been exercised by writing books and start incomplete revolts and revolutions. Yes, poets and philosophers, too, sometimes become thought and tongue tied before a word that is empty but somehow manages to exist. Such unhappy solutions must necessarily continue until populist unhappiness infects a majority sufficiently enough to force it into a desperate search for an answer that has always been before everyone’s eyes, but this time for their discovery.

Before the forbidden-empty word is discovered with a meaning, it is known among those with an interest in politics and social structures as a signifier. To understand an empty signifier, one must understand that accessing its meaning is not only an act of a revelatory nature, but that it brings with it an understanding of its importance to human survival.

Populism as an unstated yet a real demand for economic equality is repressed, but it prevails nevertheless. No doubt, inequality is found in any organization that is larger-than-life and stands against an individual or natural community. Such inequality is inevitable. But the inequality can be compensated for in at least two ways. One is our “more-equal-than-all-others” community, the model that over the last thousand years has increasingly dominated our civilization. The other is the community of officials (say, the presidents and their ministers) who earn themselves a name in history by living in a community that practices not-violent-terror, that is to say, who have become leaders by having agreed to give their lives to the community. The radical difference between these two forms of social structuring is that the former reaches its more-equal-than-all-others status through economic exploitation using violence and lies, while the latter gains its authority through not-violent terror.

What is not-violent-terror? Let me put it this way: For anyone raised with the idea that it is a mortal (and moral) sin to die a day before Nature forces you to die by bringing you death itself, it is no sin to be more-equal-than-others. On the other hand, those who practice not-violent-terror hold the social order together through the authority brought to them through self-sacrificial death. To put it in terms of our own day: When suicide is seen as a potential and then actual self-sacrifice, the event changes the word’s moral meaning and authority, and a new political order is born.

Because the Latvians experienced the full brunt of the meaning of economic equality as an ideal practiced under the Soviet Union, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Latvian elite were quick to switch to politics as practiced by the “more-equal-than-others” social group in the West. In order to switch sides as quickly as possible, the politically and economically well informed communist elite, finding itself suddenly in post-Soviet times, agreed to expose itself and everyone in Latvia to the shock treatment of capitalism. A series of former Soviet sponsored manufacturing enterprises (VEF, Alfa, RVP, RVF, Elektrotehnika) were allowed to go bankrupt. Parties of wolves, some more alpha-syndrome endowed than others, were then allowed to roam the nation.

There were elements in the switching from communism to capitalism that made the switch easy. The chief enabler of the switch was that under the Soviets (incidentally, the Communist Party—still in the grip of those who considered themselves “more-equal-than-others”—practiced unabashed violence to institute the ideal. After the population was “dumbed down” by violence and as little educated as possible, the violent ones let up on the violence, and (because they were being “humane”?) signed the death warrant for the Soviet system, which had been brought into existence with such a huge death and misery toll. The step, the one that succeeds and brings in place of the “more-equal-than-others” another order, was missed—again.

As we see, the Latvian parliamentary government for the nineteen years since its reconstitution has been as great a failure as the failure which possessed that famous clubfoot who ruled Thebes and who through no accident caused—to my count—ten deaths within the extended circle of his own family. Ecce Latvia?

(Continued in blog 39.)

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

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