In the absence of other political propaganda yet to saturate my mailbox over the next month in the lead up to the elections on October 2 for the 10th Saeima (parliament) of Latvia, I have so far received two 16-page newsletters, one each in the Latvian and Russian languages, promoting the culture and values of candidate party No. 8. I wonder why there was no English language version of this promotional literature – surely the world at large would like to know more about all thirteen of the parties competing for power in this land.
Being a typical New Age relic modernist working three jobs, completing two university courses, finding time for a hectic social life, and juggling everything else so as not to lose any momentum in my life, I hardly have time to read and absorb a sixteen-page blurb without sufficient motivation. But, since the present message doing its rounds in the community is that to not vote is to give my vote to somebody else, my conscience then dictates that I should at least take a look at the headlines in this first load of political #@%& to hit the fan in my letterbox.
Candidate party No. 8 appears to be a party of true believers led by an inspired 40- year old who informs us straight out that he is a very direct person. On page one of this publication, directly next to a picture of the man himself, is the caption: Gays will vote for “Unity” (an opposing party). This first impression suggests that candidate party No. 8 has decided already on page one that it is exclusive and does not want the gay vote. That is pretty direct all right. Straight up. No BS.
A bold red text box in the middle of this first page rather effusively suggests that the leader is a work- horse. A human tractor. The message being that when we, the people, find ourselves in the mud up to our ears, we won’t be looking to find a poet, but a tractor! It seems that candidate party No. 8 is boldly telling me that Latvia is up to its ears in #@$%&. Personally, I would find much solace in the 23rd Psalm of King David (a poet and musician) if my world was found to be wanting and crumbling about me.
But then, on page two of this interesting publication we have the good news that in the past year Latvia has actually increased its cargo transit capacity (probably thanks to the U.S./NATO/ISAF and the transit of non-military goods to Afghanistan), that tourist numbers have increased by 20 percent and that the unemployment figures for Riga are the lowest in the land. So where is the mud? Yippee – I love good news!
On page four there is a photo of a haggard-looking past foreign minister with the heading: Unfortunately We Are More Renowned for Our Submissiveness … For Now. Get a life! Latvians are no less dynamic and enterprising than any other nationals. I don’t recall Vaira Vike-Freiberga ever being in a submissive mood – not even in that famous BBC interview! Are Maestro Andris Nelsons, or Elina Garanca examples of submissive Latvians? Pull the other one, Mister!
On the bottom of page five it is impossible not to see the black and colored rectangular box featuring four prominent politicians not from candidate party No. 8, and the instructive heading: Gays and Trans-Sexuals Will be Voting for the Unity Party. Is this meant to be an expression of exclusiveness suggesting zero tolerance for a legitimate part of our whole community – a human resource no less capable of hard work and of paying taxes than anybody else? This potential scenario of up-front scapegoat exclusion could later expand to… the unemployed, to invalids, the aged… the Roma. In such a context I can even foresee a future text box suggesting that Diaspora Latvians and the Children of Exiles need not bother to vote at all! So why was I born in Papua New Guinea? I feel somehow excommunicated in advance.
Page six shows a delightful picture of a well-nourished past city mayor and also the longest serving past prime minister… a man much admired for his skill in the art of compromise. Next to the cheesy grin is the caption: Real Boys Get About. It seems that what Mister Realboy is telling me is that invalids and people who are mobility challenged (such as myself) are not real people. Break a Leg, Mister B!
On page seven an attractive and demure looking femme fatale beckons me with the knowledge that she knows the formula for success – God, Nature, Work. I like that – good wholesome values. Her colleague on page nine, also the wife of the leader-in-waiting, tells us though in her headline that to believe, she must understand. And then her text box reveals that, within every person there is a secret place that will not find peace until s/he finds his or her path to God. Sympathetic words indeed.
The lower half of this same page presents the results of a survey… four people so far are ready to vote for candidate party No. 8! Good!
I am rather confused by the need for page eleven… a page of white space covered in thick black ominous-looking words… one-worders. I find them too visually threatening to translate – you will have to take a look yourself. And then at the bottom of the page, in contrasting red ink, the word CIET!.. hard. Maybe it is a slogan of some sort?
Page twelve of this publication takes a softer angle and offers the party leader in interview with past president Ulmanis, to whom he confides (again) that he (the man who would be prime minister) is a direct person. We also learn that he is evidently of sober habits in that while admitting to having attended a few parties while in his teens, and even to having had a drink or two, he has never been drunk! I know people who have never drunk Coca-Cola in all their lives. Is this relevant?
On the next page we see the very essence of a man at the top of his game, looking very much like the successful Gordon Gecko – portrayed by actor Michael Douglas in the iconic movie Wall Street. The top right hand of this page has a photo of an avuncular-looking past president Ulmanis, looking pensively on what seems to be his protege. These overt expressions of mutual admiration lead on to the near final message photo on page sixteen which suggests that… it is all a piece of cake… with ice cream on top! Yes! This back page closes out four double-sided A3 broadsheets of quality news sheet with so many headliners and text boxes – almost an overload of good will and good intention. Whiter even than that dab of ice-cream on that delicious-looking apple pie… Oh, I need to make some coffee so I can better digest the message picture. My budget won’t allow the real thing.
But then the final message is somehow out of place. On the lower right hand side of page sixteen there is a stereotypical caricature portraying two evidently scruffy-looking men holding hands, pot-bellied, ear-ringed and wearing distinctive colors as if to publicise their non-traditional sexual orientation… both looking upon a poster of a clean-cut elegant chisel-chinned and dapper looking would-be prime minister. The caption says: Oh, Oh, the horrible one. We won’t be inviting Him to our wedding!
All this in no doubt an attempt at self-deprecating humor. The in-house ‘jokes’ directly to the left of the caricature somehow confirm the possibility that candidate party No. 8 is in truth a one-man show. “The only time that Chuck Norris made a mistake was when he didn’t believe that Mister Slesers would become prime minister.” Hi hi hi! Maybe that is the way… it is so rare to find an individual who is prepared to burn himself out for his country, and take all the blows along the way. The last fellow who tried that trick ended up trapped in his pin-striped leather suit for more than six months! Good luck Mister! May your faith in God be as humble as that Mom’s apple pie on page sixteen.
If I get any more party propaganda materials in my mailbox – I’ll be sure to scan the headlines only. After all… one must maintain one’s neutrality.
Resident of the Republic of Latvia
August. 31, 2010
Editor’s comment: This article refers to election materials distributed to letterboxes throughout Riga in hard copy by the Party For the Good of Latvia and which is also accessible electronically and in Latvian language on this link http://parlabulatviju.lv/archives/2620