Tuesday, November 1, 2011

[16] Harmony Centre &
Its Geopolitical Uses (4)

In the September 2011 elections, the Harmony Centre received 28+% of the total vote, which gave it 31 deputees at a Saeima consisting of 100. Excluded from participating in government by a coalition of the nationalist block, Harmony Centre now sits in opposition. From all signs, the party is for a loss of what to do next.

The lost look in the eyes of Harmony Party leadership (led by the Ushakovs-Urbanovich team) is nothing new. With its centre of power located in the municipal government of Riga, the party has never seriously projected for public consideration a geopolitical plan for either Riga or Latvia that is more than superficial.

Like the nationalist block [concentrated in the Union (Vienotība) Party)], Harmony Centre is a single issue gathering of jingoists. While Latvian nationalist jingoism expresses itself in a gnashing of teeth over whether the Latvian language will prevail as the language of Latvia, for Harmony Centre the issue is whether the Latvian government will relent and allow schools for Russian-speaking students teach their subject matter in Russian.

This one-issue conflict conflicts with the reason for the dismissal of the 10th Saeima by now ex-President Zatlers, 
which reason was verified by a Referendum by the Latvian people. The issue at hand was and remains government corruption, the mismanagement of the Latvian economy and its collapse. However, when it came to the election of the 11th Saeima, the successor to the dismissed 10th—the issues brought to the debating table did not concern an economic-social-cultural vision of the fututre, but the divisive issue of who speaks Latvian, where, when, other.

No doubt there is considerable justification for the emotions indulged in by the Latvian nationalists when it comes to the Latvian language. The language has endured for thousands of years and, as I have often mentioned, projects great spiritual harisma by way of the ‘endearing word’, misnamed ‘diminutive’ by modern grammarians. Nevertheless, for a number of reasons the language may be dying. The following are some of the reasons:

1.     The Latvian people are in the middle of a demographic crisis engineered by Latvian politicians during the past twenty years. Up to 500,000 Latvians have become economic refugees to Ireland, England, and other countries.
2.     The demographic crisis creates a literary and cultural crisis. The number of ethnic Latvians hovers around the 1.2 million mark. If a century ago Latvia had one of the highest literacy rates in Europe, today the rate is among the lowest. Latvian publishing houses are not only being taxed by government out of business, but the decline in literary demographic has created a snake chasing its own tail situation: diminished literacy is threatening publishing with bancruptcy. The earnings of a writer of an original work, a book, does not justify the time spent to write a book in Latvian. It is almost certain that publishing business is kept in business by publishing books for Latvian schools. The other writers who can perhaps earn a living are translators of foreign literature.
3.     Points 1 and 2 (above) diminish the harisma of the Latvian language and put it on artificial life-suppor—the government. This makes the Latvian language less a real language than a virtual one. In other words, once the government collapses [and it is, arguably, in the process of collapsing (denied of course)], the language will face the ‘real world’, i.e. competition, unprepared.
4.     The Russian speaking Latvians, many of whom do speak Latvian, see the disadvantages of the Latvian language. Weakness is never persuasive, especially when it is surrounded by Latvians who create conditions that make the weak even weaker. Among the Latvian agents of weakness are Latvian Culture Ministers. Among the last four that come immediately to mind, there is not one who persuades that he-she understands the words “Latvian people” other than “Riga Latvians”. This results in a situation where lovers of opera and simphony music, who could easily travel to Stockholm, Vienna, Berlin, etc. to fill their cultural needs, receive more government support than the theatre. The theatre, the tool of mimesis-mime par excellance and the foremost teaching medium (from folk to high kitch to folk-metal) goes unnoticed. The theatre, mimicry, the art that transmits culture above all teaching aids, receives least government support and becomes culturally ineffective.
5.     Just a few days ago the President of Latvia, Andris Berzins, traveled to Daugavpils, the easternmost city in Latvia, and made a donation of a month of his salary to schools and “to keep local culture alive”. This act by the President makes “the act of pity for Latvia” the official way of how to deal with the current crisis of the economy and community. I.e., there is no direct action by the Latvian government on the public stage vis a vis the Brussels monster, Swedish bank repression of Latvian interests, or demand debt forgiveness as recommended by many economists. The establishment’s wolves in sheeps clothing do not get mentioned by government or the anally retentive Latvian media. Instead, the equally anally retentive Harmony Centre gets to enjoy all the nationalist blame.

The Harmony Centre—while claiming to be fully committed to Latvia’s interests, at the same time does all it can to keep alive Russian jingoism. It keeps a more expansive vision of Latvia’s future out of sight of Latvian-Russians lest they lose sight of Moscow. This myopic view is also witness to and cause of Riga’s disintegration.

These jingoists on behalf of their respective languages are well matched, and are one of the reason why this check-mate may not be resolved by arriving at a commonsensical solution. A radical mimesis is required instead.

I have argued for quite some time that we must visualize Riga as an object to be exchanged by Latvians for Jelgava as their national capital. As the nation debates, Latvian Latvians and Russian Latvians ought to explore the possibilities of renting Riga to the highest bidder for the next hundred years. If the rent offer raises realistic interest, a national referendum should be held. People may be surprised that the vote may agree that Riga is put up for bid.

In fact, renting Riga may be a great deal for Latvia if the monies received pay off the Latvian national debt, allow Latvians to get rid of the Latvian political lobby that works on behalf of self-interest, and not least on behalf of the interests of the half million Latvian economic refugees, who may get a chance to return to Latvia.

The Russian Latvians, too, will be happy, because no one (whether Paris, London, Berlin, Stockholm, Moscow, or Beijing) who rents Riga will do so for any other reason than making money. At least, such should be a precondition to any deal. The lingua franca of Riga of course will be English, the language of business.

PS A must read analysis by Stratfor of Russian geopolitical interests: click here.

No comments:

Post a Comment