Thursday, January 2, 2014

Eso’s Chronicles 268 / 8
The King & I
© Eso A.B.
All comments appearing within brackets [ ] are editorial in origin. This blog series begins at 264.
A summary of a summary of the meaning of “Homo Sacer” at the following link:  reads as follows “To most Anglo-American readers, the term homo sacer is probably unfamiliar as it refers to a juridical category of ancient Roman law where an individual accused of a crime cannot be sacrificed for having committed said crime. However, from the Roman writer Pompeius Festus, we learn that what is crucial about homo sacer is that although "it is not permitted to sacrifice this man, yet he who kills him will not be condemned for homicide.
While the term ‘homo sacer’ may be interpreted as pointing to an individual, nevertheless, it may also encompass many individuals who have not committed a crime, but who have been in one way or another separated from a given society. As the link points out, it also includes “…the status of the right of entry for refugees, the debate over health care in the United States, the right of individuals to bear arms in order to protect themselves….”’; and I would herewith include the status of some 900,000 Latvians who have been forced by their government to depart Latvia as economic refugees. Though the Latvian government insists that it wishes these people to return, the fact remains that ridding the nation of these citizens has been a priority over declaring a state of emergency which would attempt to decrease the pressures that force them (adults and their families) to depart from Latvia.
Because Latvia is a member of the European Union, its citizen may, under the terms of the Schengen Treaty, travel freely anywhere within the territories of member states . The authority of the Schengen Treaty comes from duly constituted “authorities” of the member states. However, there is no single Authority as such at this time, the Union being without a Constitution and a ‘federation’ only within the subjective imaginations of its leadership.
After a brief period of independence (1918-1940) Latvia was merged by 1941 into the Soviet Union. It reemerged as a ‘sovereign’ nation in 1991 and joined the European Union in 2004,_2003 . In a referendum held in 2003, the populace approved joining the EU by about a 2/3 majority of voters. As the link shows, the opposition challenged the joining on grounds of loss of sovereignty and as inopportune for the economy, Latvia’s economy being the weakest among EU’s 26 member nations.
What the opposition failed to do was to question Latvia’s membership in the EU on grounds of political compatibility. The failure to do so may be explained very simply: 1) Latvia had emerged from the clutches of the Soviet Union only in 1991, and Russia (rather, Moscow, as the seat of the former Union) was still feared; 2) liberalist pro-consumerist propaganda (Latvia had a liberal PM at the time of the referendum) allowed little critical discussions to emerge regarding the merits of the EU. Also, while patently untrue, 3) the previous government of Latvia (the so-called Ulmabis regime) was later frequently and with malicious political intent compared to a Hitler-like dictatorship.
As I argued in my previous blog: “Latvians made a serious attempt to recapture for their political estate the King.... even though the word was seldom used in a contemporary political sense. This experiment was enjoined by one of the founders of the nation, Karlis Ulmanis, who became President of the country as a result of a coup d'état in 1934….”
An interesting, but derogatory (belittling) commentary on the search by Latvians for a king is by historian Gustavs Strenga in the journal “Rīgas Laiks” of 2008—reproduced at . Unfortunately, the historian does not appear to take himself seriously and his statement appears to be ‘tongue in cheek’. Still, the article gives significant evidence that Latvians felt an intuitive need for a king-like authority, what with their political bureaucracy having turned authoritarian not as an authoritarianism per se, but as a totalitarianism of a politically dysfunctional government. A few translated (by this blogger) sentences follow:
“Following the 1934 coup d’état the need to fortify the legitimacy of State authority increased. Kings began to be discovered. Where to look for them? Right where they were lost—the 13th century…. One may doubt that Ulmanis, while looking for a Latvian aristocracy, wished to declare himself a Latvian king, but, no doubt, the search for ‘kings’ in ‘a free Latvia in antiquity’ corresponded to the desire of Latvians to strengthen their legitimacy… In effect, the Ulmanis regime efforts reflected the trauma of the Latvian nation—weakness with regard to a political past.”
Such ‘weakness’ with regard to a political past does not delegitimize Latvia as a nation. This is a problem for most “new” nations, which in our post colonial days are many. However, it does point to the fact that Latvia did not have (or had only as of recently) an institutional infrastructure that was strong enough to hold up to the responsibilities of government. This weakness was compensated for by overloading the newly created bureaucracies with personnel. (True to this day!) Of course, it was this ‘personnel’ of the bureaucracy that in a short time created a dysfunctional government, which created an ‘exceptional’ situation, which needed to be rescued through the introduction of an authoritarian government.
Following the renewal of Latvia (1991) after the fall of the Soviet Union nothing has really changed from the way it was half a century before. With no institutions that Latvians could call their own (other than the arts), and with many Latvians trained to serve Soviet bureaucratic institutions, the new ‘democratic’ government continued to function as a form authoritarian government with a notable difference: the emphasis was not on socialistic forms of government, but liberal ones.
Indeed, over a short period of time the last became worse than the socialist ones, because under the capitalist system making “money” becomes a priority; and with no native institutions or social networks in place, the old networks continued to function for some time, and the paradox of rich former communists became the norm. Such a turn of events brought the Latvian people to their economic knees and many of them sought escape by way of finding employment in a country other than their own. The government was happy to see them leave as it meant less challenge to its authority at home.
Who is most responsible for turning a happy event into a disaster?
Without a question, the primary responsibility lies with the United States and the European Union (as the unprepared ‘victors’ of an ‘open ended’ Cold War) who perhaps understandably, but erroneously, put commercial interests as the most important ones. It was a lamentable ‘victory’.
And what is the most lamentable ‘disaster’ of the ‘victory’?
It is homo sacer. The majority of the Latvian people abroad and in their own country are criminals through the fact of having become economically homeless and unemployed. Whereas ‘King’ Ulmanis had put agricultural reform as one of the essential ingredients to Latvia’s economic recovery, the liberal ‘democratic’ Parliament put urban commerce as the leading interest of the revived nation. As a result, one of the most successful economic programs in Latvia is deforestation.

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