Harmony Centre & Its Geopolitical Uses (7)
It is common among mythologists and anthropologists to see in sacrifices [made in what are called “foundation myths” (usually of and by “primitive” people)] as “foundational acts”. It is also common to refer to such foundational sacrifices as foundational violence.
A favorite scholar, literary critic and philosopher of mine is Rene Girard. Professor Girard wrote some very thought provoking books about human sacrifice, especially about the role in human sacrifice of the “scapegoat”.
The scapegoat in mythology is the person whom the community selects—for whatever reasons of its own—to sacrifice when the tensions inter- or intra- a group has reached the breaking point, i.e., the community is threatened by the tensions with breaking up.
At such times, what ever it is that ails the community screams for a correction. The circumstance may be a physical provocation, an enemy, or it may simply be confusion. However, the expectation of violence becomes part of everyone’s subjective self. When subjective concensus unbeknownst to itself reaches a peak, yet remains unspoken, we may count on it that someone will speak up.
He/she may go to the temple and speak to the priest.
“Holy brother, I think it is So Andso who is creating all the trouble among us. I believe you should consider that we have him done away with, have him sacrificed. At least, let us chase him from our midst.”
To which the holy brother replies: “I see what You mean. I have for some time been thinking along those same lines, except that I do not think that So Andso is at fault, but that it is You. Temple guards, seize this man and lock him up. He looks starved. Fatten him up. Bring him every night a new village virgin for company.”
Imagine now that you are a young Latvian man who went to complain to the priest and received the above sentence. Would you leave the virgins untouched?
If you are a Latvian of today, surely not. You would take everyone of the virgins and give them a ride on the best horse You had. The priest would then call the villagers together and give them the news.
“That son-of-a-bitch should be castrated,” screamed an elderly woman. “Off with his head!” screamed a great number.
“We should not do this,” said the holy brother to the villagers. “Not today anyway. We had our foundational sacrifice many years ago. That event horriblis was terrible enough, but it brought us together. Which is why we have become a kinder and a more united people. Now we only sacrifice once a year to remind ourselves that we live not in a virtual but real world.”
“I agree,” seconded someone out of the group that had gathered at the temple. “That was a bloody event that should not be repeated often. Okay, give John another virgin for the night.”
“Good,” said the holy brother. “The next summer solstice, Johns Day, does not come until June. The temple will keep John supplied with virgins. When Johns Day comes, John will hang his head in shame, but die happy. And we all will breathe a sigh of relief”.
I agree with Professor Girard that the scape goats [likely called by proto- Latvians “Cross-Johns” (Krish-Jahnji/ Christ-ianity)] are among the first human scape goats who were allowed to voice a subjective self. This subjectivity was later described as the subjectivity of a holy man or woman, even God. The New Testament is one such subjective story.
As a consequence of the switch of who is or is not guilty of seeking and persecuting a scapegoat, scapegoating became a crime.
However, if violence (idealized as ‘sacrifice’) is necessary for the foundation of a community—is it not that any and all violent events may be looked at as foundational violence? Even suicide, surely a misbegotten foundation act, is a foundational act nonetheless. A suicide more than likely gives witness to the fact that there is no community or nation worthy the name.
Going by such myths, the question that arises is “What is the foundational act of Latvia in 1991? We know what the foundational events were in 1918. What was the foundational act of Latvia in 1991?”
 Harmony Centre & Its Geopolitical Uses (7)
We know that during the “Days of the Barricades” in Riga in 1991, the Omon, a specnaz group of the Soviet Union, let loose a barrage of bullets from the streets near the Ministry of the Interior http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1y4wLPgTxwk and killed five people, a videoman/ filmmaker, among them.
One way that one may look at the death of the videoman is that he was filming the events of violence as part of the re-foundation ministrations begun by the Soviet Union.
As it happened, the Soviet Union did not survive, and a re-foundation of Latvia occurred instead. Still, the question remains—especially in the light of the corruption that followed—whether the deaths of said five was enough of a foundational sacrifice to become internalized in the body and blood of every Latvian?
The filmmaker was shot and died as one who documents an events. He recorded flashes of light from Omon’s guns firing. The camera also recorded the video camera falling in a dizzying whirl of its own motion, then coming to rest and pointing nowhere in particular. The filmmaker was struck by a bullet. His death was accidental in that he was part of the fifth estate (reporters) and did not face or fight the fire, but was moving away from it.
In other words, the foundational violence of Second Latvia (1991) was not clearly defined. Sensing the vagueness, the uncertainty, Latvians prefer to “see” the Second Foundation of Latvia as “a singing Revolution”.
The re-foundational violence of Latvia’s was felt by many as unconvincing, and one man, Adolfs Bukhis, a tool and diemaker from Jelgava, tried a second foundational act in May of 1993. He shot himself in front of the Latvian Monument to Freedom in the centre of Riga. He died protesting corruption in Latvia’s government led by Latvians. Pervasive corruption had made Latvians feel that the re-foundation of Latvia had become a dismantling of Latvia.
It is of course difficult to say when re-foundational sacrifice is enough to begin exerting its influence on all who are witness to it. In the case of Latvia, all that can be said is that it did not suffice. A renewed Latvia was soon seized by interests that were able to neutralize emotions activated by such violence as had occurred in 1991. By 1993 the then Latvian government felt strong enough in its corruption to hide the notes found in Bukhis pocket, and there were few, perhaps no voices from the public that demanded that the notes be made public.
As for Mr. Bukhis, we do not know how he formulated his sacrifice. However, we may presume, that he viewed corruption in government as proof that government or elements in government were not part of the Latvian community, at least not of the kind of community that most everyone of the “singing revolution” had prayed for.
The re-founded Latvia that arose after surviving Soviet occupation was not a political entity structured horizontally, seeking an economic order working toward economic equivalency among its smaller communities. Instead, Latvia became a nation divided in those who dwelt on the “North Pole” and those who dwelt on the “South Pole”. This means that (an over simplification no doubt) that Latvians who live on the North Pole have beautiful smiles and shiny teeth, while Latvians living on the South Pole have rotten teeth and poor health.
The subjective thoughts of many Latvians on Foundation Day 2011 (commemorated on November 18) are restless and distrought. These thoughts are like cranes rising in air for a long journey, but yet circce in a circle of chaos. An order for flight has not yet emerged out of the whir.
The Latvian government (for practical purposes near broke) acts as if nothing is missing, that everything is in order.
The President and the Ministers of Latvia are working furiously to cut government expenses at the expense of poor Latvians. The poor Latvians have protested by leaving Latvia for a job abroad mosly. No one in government is thinking or suggesting ways of making money by way of analysis of the present and imagining untraditional niches that may be more compatible with the future.
The demogrophic of Latvia is in a Death Spiral. At least one government official thinks that Latvians test out dumber than Russians when it comes to critical thought. Foreign banks are happy that Latvians are cutting down their private forests, because it means Latvians are paying off their debt.
The optimists are saying that though Europe is falling apart, Latvia is either re-founding itself or founding something else. Founded on air blown by a joke perhaps?