Friday, February 26, 2010

© Eso Antons Benjamins, aka Jaņdžs
85 Gridlocked in Latvia (4)

I have observed the aforementioned virtual family (see Blog 84) for many years. I find similar cases to family X everywhere I look.

This is because, unfortunately, over the last twenty years the economic situation in Latvia has not improved. I do not consider a new refrigerator necessarily an improvement in quality of life, though it is undeniably a material acquisition not possible in Soviet times. A difference between then and now is that while twelve years ago when I first met some of X family members, the children where by that much younger and by that much more hopeful. Today four of family X’s six children have left Latvia to seek greener pastures (jobs) in other countries and whatever hope existed in the first ten or so years of Latvia’s renewed independence has been replaced by merciless cynicism about government and despair over the negative turns (lack of a job, minimal income, poverty) in one’s personal life.

Family Y, of who I will write about next, describes the vale of tears of a number of virtual people. In other words, what follows is a conglomerate.
A virtual neighbor of mine just told me that he has been waiting for a year and a half for the authorities to register five of his cows so he can take them to the market, but no word yet from the agency responsible for the registration. When Y calls Riga and asks what the hold up is, the answer he receives is that “everything is okay, just wait for our letter”. Meanwhile, the man cannot sell his cow or cows to the market and he is broke. A kilo of cow brings in 40 santimi, thus a 500 kilos of cow or bull x 40 = Ls 200 – ~Ls 20 (in taxes) = Ls 180 (~$360). However, the cash from the slaughter house does not arrive right away, because the law permits three month before payment. Assuming that my virtual neighbor sold all of his five cows, he would earn approximately Ls 900 (~$1800). Divide $1800 by 24 months waiting time for the papers (never mind the time and expense it took to raise the cattle) = ~ Ls 75 per month / 30 = Ls 2.5 ($5) per day. I am no mathematician, but…. Is this worth getting up at 4 a.m. and go to the barn and take care of the animals?
There are several answers to those who cannot for one reason or other emigrate: 1) a bottle of “krutka” to forget the troubles; 2) find a rope to go hang; 3) bite your tongue when daughter becomes a prostitute or runs off to Pakistan; 4) think becoming violent; 5) you add your version to the aforementioned. Interestingly, the grandfather of virtual farmer Y in K. Ulmanis era (1934-1940) owned a profitable horse and stud farm in Abrene. The Soviets sent grandfather and father to Siberia, where neighbor Y was born. After Stalin died (1953), neighbor Y’s father was allowed to relocate to Latvia.

When said virtual neighbor’s wife (from who he is long separated, but not divorced) went to the village administration to request government aid (she worked for years as a cook at a local school—until it was closed last year), she was refused aid. The reason given was that, well, your husband has five cows and some pigs, so you are not destitute yet.
How do these “virtual” people get by? I frankly do not know. When my virtual neighbor’s sow (a very important animal, because she can bear piglets) got sick, and my neighbor broke out in cold sweat because he could not afford to call the vet, we extended our barter agreement, and he now shovels my yard and driveway when I am snowed in.

Not long ago in a village—not too far from where I live—an A-frame house caught fire. It was probably due to an overheated stove. Yes, there were days here when the temperatures dropped to -30C. The village administration could afford no more than Ls 150 (~$300) to give the woman who owns the house. Ostensibly the money was for rebuilding the roof of the house.
Yet another virtual neighbor, a man who is in his prime has not left off alcohol for years. This is what happens when you work to get out of the hole, but as soon as you reach the rim of the crater, you—like Sisyphus—fall back, and are forced to dig yourself repeatedly out of the hole all over again. It should surprise no one if the day comes when the man lights a candle for himself (as one virtual man I knew did) and…good bye. Indeed, Latvia has no mountains to climb, but has plenty of craters. When recently a fictitious meteor “dug” a crater not too far from where I live, I suspect that it was not dug to advertise a mobile telephone company as the media insisted. I would argue that while the phone company did pay some men to do the dig, they dug the ridiculous crater as a work of love, because the crater projects a meteoric "rise" of despair that has visited their community.
During our conversation my virtual neighbor also mentioned that on television news, he saw the minister of education being interviewed on television upon her return from the Olympic games in Canada, but could not name the Latvian athletes who had won medals at the games there. We both had a laugh, but we did not laugh over the news that the Latvian Prime Minister was to attend the games later in the week, too.

Last, but not least, as economists know, one cannot invest money into new projects or realize plans if one is forced to become a slave to debt. Instead, debt slavery produces anxiety and anger, both public and private. If there is no money to pay for the minimum necessities and if one finds one’s self in a hole already, the resulting anxiety will not help improve the situation. One will—like a plant sown in a season of too much rain—rot. So will a nation. That is presently the case with Latvia. And though our neighbors see this (not in my unkind words), our own haughty government pretends not to see, which is one good reason for letting it go.

Asterisk & Notes of Interest:
TO THE LATVIAN VOTER: While a “not-vote” is not a cure all, it is 1) a step toward choosing and then setting up a program for achieving a realistic future; 2) it helps exit the simplistic mechanics of a dysfunctional community so reduced by politics as usual; 3) it refuses to keep the current “death spiral” (political, economic, demographic, you name it) under wraps and presents it as an emergency it is; 4) it reintroduces charisma as an essential element for the survival of Latvia. Come October 2, 2010, cast a NOT-VOTE. No amount of votes cast for any of the parties now campaigning will result in improvements in the peoples lives whatsoever. Indeed, it will make things worse, because the government’s dysfunction is endemic. Yes, we know the argument that the Latvian constitution provides that even if no more than a thousand people vote in the elections, the government may declare itself legitimate. However, if the majority of the 700,000 eligible voters cast a “not-vote”, everyone will know that the government has no other options than either resign or declare itself a dictatorship. There is no other way to a viable future than through a not-vote; or as the French writer Genet put it: [Else] nous ne sortirons jamais de ce bordel..  
It is obvious that the mindset among the Latvian political elite at this time is not only gridlocked, but has turned to stone. These blogs are, for one, an attempt to loosen the rusted in screws with some naval jelly. Click here  to discover the meaning of the Overton Window, and here to see what purpose it serves.
On material depravation in Latvia.
On the theme of “more-equal-than-others” see George Orwell's "Animal Farm"
A recommended read: “The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism” by Emmanuel Goldstein (A book within a book from George Orwell's "1984").  
Of great interest to me is this and like articles. It presents some of my reasons for supporting the growing of Johns Grass in Latvia.
These blogs tend to be a continuum of an idea or thought, which is why—if you are interested in what you read—you are encouraged to consider reading the previous blog and the blog hereafter.
Partial entries of my blogs may be found at  LatviansOnline + Forum Home + Open Forum –ONLATVIANPOPULISM vs LATVIJASLABEJIE. If you copy this blog for your files, or copy to forward, or otherwise mention its content, please credit the author and  

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