Thursday, October 29, 2009

© Eso Antons Benjamins

49 A Floating Dead Fish (I)
[The photos are of scenes not infrequent along Latvia's roads. Next blog photos of deforestation near Riga.]

It was W.C. Fields, the humorist, who had the line that a dead fish can float down river, but only a live one can swim upstream. The humorist also knew, as the photo at the link shows, that the way to get any government to spit out the ping-pong ball stuck in its mouth is to whack it on the back of the head with a ping-pong paddle.  In this instance, the ping-pong ball stands for Latvia, which—one hopes—has turned out to be not to be quite as thin-shelled and crushable as the oligarchs first imagined, but a teeth-cracking stone egg instead.

No ‘normal’ Latvian would whack the head of a ‘live and normal’ Latvian government, of course. Nevertheless, given that the current government of Latvia can easily be recognized by the smell of corruption, a ‘normal’ Latvian (whoever he-she may be) may be turning to populism for help. Populism, like ancestor Gods, generally comes with a dozen heads or more.  The heads are what in the language of political theory is known as ‘equivalences’. Equivalences are interests, who while generally going their own way, come together—align themselves as a single force—when some other group presumes to threaten their interests, maybe even existence.

The question of whether the heads of the Hydra can agree on who is their nemesis and focus their antagonism on the real target, is at this time an unknown. Unfortunately, up to now the government of Latvia has been able to distract the many heads of populism with money, alcohol, and Bear-jawbreaker medals. Come Johns’ Eve, the night of the Summer solstice—the festival that no Latvian named John ever missed even if he were to die soon after getting there from exhaustion—many now celebrate this holy day by consuming enough alcohol they are sure to fall or drive into a ditch.

The sorry state of the government of Latvia notwithstanding, the institution has the power to act as the surrogate for the banking industry and clean the bones of what is left. After the forests turn into logs measured by the cubic meter and are sold when commodity prices are at their lows, nothing but the memory of a people who parted their hair in the middle of their heads will be left of Latvians.

It is unfortunate that such an end awaits a people who once upon a time were present at the founding of a culture that transmitted its values not by sermonizing, but through a ubiquitous genre of words known as the ‘endearing word’ and a unique form of households called ‘saime’. Anthropologists call these proto-Europeans—Indo-Europeans. This is not to say that the Indo-Europeans were a collective of tribes inverted upon themselves. That is what Nazi Germany tried to make of them. Rather, the Europeans had and perhaps still have a unique way of expressing and cultivating their spiritual and moral sensibility. I am of course referring not to European governments, but to the people of Europe, the mothers, relatives, and friends of who never call John John when they can endear him by calling him Johnny. Of course, we know or ought to know that the ‘endearing’ word is censured from all European media, the Latvian government and Riga media being only the latest to rework their country’s language from one with a lyrical tilt from the countryside (wood, farm, village, and small town) into a cobblestone lilac lacking endearing qualities thanks to bureaucratic Riga.

Because the people who were to become known as Latvians grew to maturity in times that were economically stable, they were able to imbed their moral and cultural sensibility in a) its proto-language (some call it Sanscrit, some Balto-Slavic), and b) a now lost social structure, the household known as ‘saime’ in Latvian. The ‘endearing word’ and ‘saime’ (a word that stands for a household and signifies a household’s greater priority over that of a family among arch-Christians) are at the root of Latvian consciousness as surely as they had forebears. However, both the genre of endearing words and the economic self-sufficiency of households are not only no longer in use, but stand in radical opposition to a consumer culture on warfare footing at their mere mention.

The war consumerism wages is against all who stand opposed to blatant promotion of a civilization where some are presumed to have the right be economically ‘more-equal-than-others’. Since the current Latvian government is the very embodiment of this exclusionary philosophy, it is for some time no longer the guarantor of the survival of Latvians as a people in their own right. It has become instead a brutal agent-teacher (yet another!) to better diminish what little is left of the people’s spiritual self-consciousness.

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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