Thursday, April 1, 2010

© Eso Antons Benjamins, aka Jaņdžs

96 To Be Continued At Another Time (1 of 2)

The time has come to end this series of blogs on which I started about three years ago at under the topic of “Latvians On Faith”. At first this was a series of entries under the topic of “The Janis Festival and All About Jānis”. [Jānis = John.] After I concluded that thought-cluster, I moved on to my own blogspot at  I availed myself of the opportunity to introduce my blogspot via the Open Forum at LatviansOnline. On the average, I wrote two blogs every week. The number of clicks per each entry (according to my rough log) was from a low 33 to a high 350, with the average somewhere around a stable 100 + a 20-30 variable.

My interest in the Johns Eve Festival (hence to be abbreviated as “Johns”) began when I was seven years old and moved from Riga to Ērgļu pagasts (about 100 km east of Riga), where an aunt (Emma Melbārde, nee Jurjane, the younger sister of my grandmother) and her husband had a farm. The move (1940) was necessitated by the occupation of Latvia by the Soviets and the rise to political power of Vilis Lācis, a writer become Chairman of the Latvian SSR, who forced our family to move from our home at Juhrmala so he could move in. Vilis Lācis’s move was very much a symbolic gesture of “trumping the boss”. Mr. Lācis came to fame as a writer with the help of “Jaunākās Ziņas”, founded (1911) by my grandfather Antons Benjamiņš, of which Emilija Benjamiņš (nee Simsone, my grandfather’s second wife) was the publisher. At the time my father, Jānis (John) Benjamiņš was the newspaper’s editor-in-chief. The bad taste exercised by Lācis in removing my family from its home for the sake of a questionable political gesture was ultimately too obvious a vendetta of a proletarian-(of-pretension) and Lācis subsequently thought better of it and moved out. Presently the house, sans its once pleasant garden, is the residence of the Russian ambassador to Latvia.
To return to the itinerant John or Johns, one of my favorite topics. Though I was familiar with the Johns Festival as it was celebrated at Juhrmala, the well-known beach-side suburb of Riga, I was unprepared for the tradition as it was celebrated in the more native (less cosmopolitan) countryside. The difference in the manner of celebration of the festival, especially the sense of community that the visits to and from neighboring “saimes”, brought to the senses of an seven year old not only a strangeness, but also a delight. Such an impression has lasted to this day. It was this unstated ritual (along with the Lihgo songs) that aroused in me a special interest, and when I lived in the U.S., I thought of trying to discover the origins of the festival.

My interests in Johns lead me to educate myself about mythology. While the natural inclination of my mind is to weave thought as a surrealist (I owe this observation to Robert Lowell, the late American poet), I was drawn to mythology, because besides the obvious surreal elements in any mythology, mythology is hierarchical as well. Not being familiar at that time with Jacques Lacan’s concepts of ‘the Real’ and ‘Mirror Stage’ and like possibilities (Lacan befriended French surrealist artists before he turned to the study of the human psyche), and finding America not only surreal but bizarre (in its aimless agitation to say the least), the structure implicit in mythological stories provided a sort of anchor for me. I could dip my own string into the sugar or salt water of stories and draw to light my own crystals.
My early experience with political violence and war initiated by some of the “major” States made me skeptical of State governments to the limits such skepticism takes. I distrust any State, even though—some may be surprised—I recognize the need of it in a religious-moral sense. The question, for me, revolves around trust, i.e., who to trust? This puzzle only fed my interest in mythology and introduced me to the now often dismissed studies of it as presented in “The Golden Bough ” by Sir James Frasier and “The White Goddess” by the poet Robert Graves. Both men gave special attention to human sacrifice. Whatever the specifics of these two men’s personal orientations, I found myself in broad agreement with their material and approach. With the help of these and other authors (I especially like Michael Taussig), I perceived that one cannot speak or do politics without taking into account the “ultimate sacrifice”, the latter not so much in terms of the common soldier, but of the politicians themselves. As perhaps Lacan would agree: an oath that is but one’s word must be guaranteed in the Real (unchangeable) by acts.

I attribute much of the vileness of contemporary politics to the absence of public demand that politicians sacrifice their lives at the end of their lives if their names are not to be removed from public records and/or declared unmentionable. I believe that the absence of public demand for such sacrifices from the political parties is due to the dumbing down of the public that began with the destruction of arch-Christianity by neo-Christianity. This is what ‘disappeared’ the itinerant preachers, the Johns, among the Bogomils, the Cathars, the Children of Johns, the Muslims, Jews, and others. This happened a thousand years ago, plus or minus a hundred years. Incidentally, such a contra neo-Christian chronology of history is suggested by Anatoly Fomenko, a Russian mathematician (topology) and historian with whose arguments I am in sympathy with.
However, while in the United States of America, its status as an empire unquestioned and promoted by all possible positivist means of control, the mindset kept my thinking within the boundaries of neo-Christian mythology.  There were not many in my youth who did not hear the Christian myth and the Bible first. While one may say that in terms of open spaces and free market policies America presents no limits to thought, the very same prevent thought from solidifying enough to press back at a boundless and irresponsible positivism with something resembling solid opposition.

Nevertheless, I gradually discovered that the failure to find a point from which to leverage was the dilemma of our times for all: nowhere—anywhere from America to Latvia—can one find a point to leverage from. In a system where corruption is imbedded in law, an honest death cannot escape being called a suicide, and therefore it loses the political tension an honest death had in times when no written word interfered to corrupt the spoken word.
After returning to Latvia [after a total of 51 years abroad (4 in Germany, 46 in the U.S., 1 in South Korea—the latter as a U.S. Marine right after the signing of the armistice in 1953)], I noted with profound regret the changes and demoralization of the community of Latvians. Understanding by now that even the community of 1942, or 3, or 4 and earlier had lost much of what it had formerly possessed (I am thinking back to the Lihgo flag of 1874, and 1209 when Bishop Albert went on a crusade against the proto-Latvians in the kingdom of Jersika), yet because it was so much smaller than America, I was prepared to look at the Johns Eve Festival and image it as the night of human sacrifice on Midsummer Eve—for the reason that there should be no doubt that the Sun would rise on Midsummer Morning.

The stage of human sacrifice in the development of a society is dismissed by Westerners as belonging only to the Inca, Maya, and a few other pre- and post-aboriginals. I submit that such a tradition in Europe was practiced not that long ago, until just before the arch-Christians arrived to replace it with traditions of fasting and sexual abstinence, but retained the ‘endura’—fasting unto death—as a way to prove one’s earnestness about life. The Children of Johns were one of a number of like-minded groups. The widespread use of the name “john” (jahnis, iannis, ivan, johann, hans, huan, aengus, andžs, etc.) in an almost endless chain of offshoots, gives evidence of ubiquity when all was yet one or nearly so. The origin of arch-Christians has nothing to do with neo-Christian Jesus. The word “Christianity” itself tells us that it originates in “Krust” (for cross) + Yahnis (John) = Krust-iyan. Jesus is forced to displace the Johns in order to accomplish—on behalf of secular princes—a total moral flip-flop.

The rise of neo-Christianity has everything to do with and nothing to undo secular politics compromising all convictions. As the used car dealer used to say to his salesmen: “Tell them how they just missed a great “Sale” yesterday, but you promise that you will see to it that they still get a bargain today”.

The neo-Christians replicate the car dealer through a similar practical cynicism: ‘…tell them that they can have everything they want, including God, Bliss, Sex, and Heaven, and they will come to you, shut their eyes to the violence about them, and eat out of your hands, because your force and violence can accomplish this “miracle”’. There is but one qualification: it can be done only as long as the Earth can absorb the cost of “the-willing-to be-violent” and they pay nothing. When the illusion of paying nothing is withdrawn, then as W. B. Yeats wrote: “...the blood-dimmed tide is loosed” at the next step. Is this what humankind wants?

As I see it, modern politics dares not answer to the question: Is self-sacrifice so out of place in politics in our times? As I word-pictured it in Blog 90: While Jesus and Mary have been found to be guilty by the Inquisition and must be burnt at the stake for thinking differently, the Pope is thinking hard of a substitute sacrifice—and does not discover it. For the last thousand years the leadership of humankind has not taken an oath not to take an oath in order to prove that one’s word is real. The reason for this is that in arch-Christian times the spoken word accepts death as a way to keep the truth of the word intact. The politicians of our day are not used to that kind of a commitment to the people of which they are the government of.

Last, but not least, how to start a populist "NOT-VOTE" movement:
If interested, acknowledge with a note.

Asterisk & Notes of Interest:
On material depravation in Latvia.
On the theme of “more-equal-than-others” 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.
A provocative and stimulating news-analysis-opinion site (from someone very American): 
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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