Sunday, November 20, 2011

This used to be a countryside store; demolishing it is in process. I

November 20, 2111

In previous blogs, I have mentioned such words as ‘mimesis’, ‘acting’, and ‘theatre’. One reason for mentioning these is because it is my tendency to learn and think by ‘getting into’ a word or a situation.

For example, I have in the course of my life ‘got into’ being Dr. Doolittle, Bear Wrestler (a notable Latvian hero), Latvian President Ulmanis, Hitler, Stalin, Rommel, Napoleon, and so on. This is common enough, when one remembers that boys after seeing a movie ‘get into’ being Garth Wader or Gary Cooper ‘getting into’ being a sheriff in “High Noon” . In short, we all do it to a higher or lesser degree.

Sometimes however the mood of ‘getting into’ lasts not just for an hour or two, but days, and sometimes a lifetime. ‘Getting into’ something is one way of becoming cultured. When at the age of sixteen, I arrived in America, aside from finishing up high school, I must have read comics for a year or more. I read and learnt all about Donald Duck, Dick Tracy, Superman, Bugs Bunny, you name it. The family that I stayed with was amazed: how does a boy who talks about philosophy and opera, reads such trash at the same time? Needless to say, by the time I took poetry seminars with poet Robert Lowell at Boston University, I could ‘get into’ the English language well enough to have my poem published in the student magazine.

‘Getting into’ language is a tricky business, because it has so much to do with mimesis, body English, and like. The Latvian language is a good example of this, even if you never hear a Latvian talk about it. Fact is that very few Latvians know that their language is very much into mimesis.

The secret of the Latvian language (and many others) is what the grammarians call the ‘diminutive’. The English language is diminutive poor. There is ‘Johnny’ for John, and ‘kitty’ for cat. Still, Latvian exceeds the mimetic abilities of the English language by just about 100%.

Then how come that Latvians do not know anything about this? Here we are today with numerous Latvian politicians defending the Latvian language against an alleged onslaught of Russian  as Latvia’s second language, but the ‘diminutive’ is never mentioned; more over, it is hardly ever used in the public media.

The Latvian nationalist argument against Russian as Latvia’s second language de facto, while Latvian is Latvia’s language de jure, runs into obstacles set by none other than Latvian nationalists. The chief obstacle to the Latvian language in Latvia is nationalist obstinacy in the face of clear signs that the Latvian language is unable to hold its own given there are only a million and a little more Latvians in Latvia. No Latvian today is able to receive a thorough education without knowing one of the major academic languages, the dominant of which is—by consensus—English.

While the Latvian nationalists tout “latvianism” as defining a Latvian, and no latvianist dare defend using the Russian language in Latvia, it is the nationalist led corruption in government that has made a notable contribution in the loss of the Latvian Latvian population to economic out-migration. The lost population may be a half a million Latvians, while many Latvians not of ultra nationalist persuasion insist that the loss feels more like a million. Even on this very day, when Latvia is experiencing major unemployment, poverty, and economic collapse, the nationalists have no program for economic development. In fact, the “nationalist” (presumed) President and Prime Minister of Latvia are suspected by many of being agents of Swedish banks and a self-enclosed capitalist system led by banks, the Bank of Latvia among them.

Let me return to the topic of the ‘diminutive’, its pervasiveness in the Latvian language, but its near total absence in the public media.

The proper name of the ‘diminutive’, one that accurately describes its function, is to call it ‘the endearing word’. Many years ago, I received a letter of appreciation from the Latvian University for noting this fact. Since that time, I have come to realize that ‘the endearing word’ is also a major vehicle and facilitator of mimesis. The appreciation of the theatre, so noted among Latvians (at least of those of a generation ago and earlier), may well be a direct result of the Latvian language enabling them to ‘get into’ mimesis, role acting, and the theatre.

What are the ultra-nationalist Latvians doing with regard to the teaching of the values implicit in the Latvian language? How does the Latvian ultra-nationalist teach a Latvian to use his-her language as a tool of endearment? Are ultra Latvians not belittling (diminishing) the Latvian language? For surely an ultra-nationalist sneers at those Latvians who might use endearing terms with regard to humankind in general and things Russian in particular. Or am I wrong?

It is the ultra-nationalists who are losing Latvia for Latvians by projecting jingoism. And to cover up their being witless when it comes to the economy, they deny, no less, the “religion” implicit in the language of their forebears.
This used to be a countryside store; demolishing it is in process. II

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