29½ THE NOT-V0TER
This post in response to a post on LOL by Bruno the Left. It is no doubt difficult to make a response to a theme discussed in blog 28, when 29 is on line. Nevertheless, it is worth a try.
The Wars of Religion (1562-1598) severely tested the concept of government that “une foi, un loi, un roi,” (“one faith, one law, one king”) could any longer hold the kingdom together. One of the rebels against the former hegemony was Martin Luther, who made the Pope his special enemy. Nevertheless, while Luther initially supported a German Peasant Rebellion, he wished them to remain under the tutelage of temporal authorities. When Lutheranism came to the Livonia, it had a priori submitted to the German authorities there. Most of the Lutheran ministers did not speak the native language, not even by the time when Livonia was reached (1729~1736) by Graf Zinzendorf and his Herrnhuter movement. Thus the Herrnhuters were the liberators of the Livonian peasants de facto, that is, they taught them how to read, become politically self-aware. Not surprisingly the peasants became demanding of their rights, which was not an attitude much appreciated by the tsar, the German barons, or the Lutheran preachers.
After the Lutherans had repressed the Herrnhuters (1860), they consolidated their hold on power, even as they had to acknowledge many of the changes brought about by the Herrnhuters. The latter had actually started into motion the national awakening, which soon became a secular and militant movement. It was under the pressure of the secular movement that Lutheran barons admitted Latvian Lutheran ministers to preach to their own. Still, even the Latvian ministers found certain things in the proto-Latvian past with which they prefered not deal with. One such figure was the figure of “John”, a figure of the ancient European forest, who had survived the Crusades in Livonia.
When in 1873 “John” reemerged from the forest by appearing on the cover of the first Latvian book (other than religious) as krivs or vaidelotis, names of the proto-Latvian priest, not only did the Russian tsar have most of the copies of the book burnt, but encouraged the removal of “John” from the stage as a Latvian hero.
Thus, when in 1888, Andrejs Pumpurs, a Latvian poet serving in the tsars army, wrote “Lachplesis” (Jawbreaker of Bears), his book was eagerly received by the tsar and Lutheran preachers alike. Though Lachplesis was a pseudo epic hero promising to rise again from his defeat by the black knight, his introduction definitively allowed the removal of John. A number of cultural muggings followed. Writes Emils Melngailis, Latvian componist and ethnologue: “When in 1900, I published my first collection [of folk poems], which contained exclusively songs of Johns, I followed the practice of the ‘new language’ and replaced the name [of Johns songs] with ‘Ligo songs’. Unfortunately, my new invention has stuck, and Johns Eve and Johns songs are now replaced with ‘Ligo’”. The removal of John was cemented into place by the Latvian leftist poet Rainis in 1905 through his play “Uguns un Nakts” (Fire and Night) by making Lachplesis the sole representative figure of the Latvian hero. John was—for all practical purposes—dead.
Needless to say, the Lutheran church encouraged these perversions of the proto-Latvian character by the “new language”. Indeed, the Lutheran church even managed to become the state sponsored religion—just as it was in Sweden. The vogue today is to separate religion from politics, which is why the Lutherans in Sweden as well as in Latvia are a little laid back. Still, the multitudinous presumptions of the Lutheran archbishop in Riga and the influence of the Swedish Lutheran church in making the anti-drug movement in effect an anti-narcotic movement by excluding “soft” medicinal plants such as marihuana, attempt to reintroduce dogma in the social life-style of their respective peoples.
THE NOT-VOTER believes that the current phase of “religion” in Latvia is part of the problem of this nation. Rather than help the people fight against corruption in government and reintroduce religion as a tool that is helpful in forming a critical mind, it encourages passivity through unhelpful pietism and social dissention by focusing on such issues as a ban on gay rights and lumps marihuana with hard narcotics, even as the latter find increased acceptance elsewhere in the world.
It is possible to think that if the Herrnhuters were still around, they would be encouraging Latvians to NOT-VOTE for government that has become a stain on the spiritual fabric of the nation and which in collaboration with orthodox religious sects disables the radical changes necessary to bring forth a better tomorrow.