I love to observe societal processes, today and in times long past. Having begun from afar, by acquiring a doctorate in history from Cambridge, I have gradually worked my way to studying the public life of my society, looking for solutions to policy problems and major attitude shifts. Since 2004, I work at the Centre for Public Policy PROVIDUS in Riga, because this is a place where I can indulge my passion for controversy.
An ardent individualist, I do not shun disagreement with the majority. Authority is my greatest allergy. So far I have not discovered a person with whose opinion I am disinclined to argue - with the important exception of my two cats, Tullius Philip and Gareth.
Religion is a tricky topic to raise in a conversation, let alone in a blog. Nevertheless, people keep raising it in a number of interesting, occasionally irritating, often boring, but sometimes truly exciting contexts. Last year, on a site for aspiring writers called Litopia, I was told off by a forum moderator for asking one of the members about his/ her attitude towards Opus Dei. The question was purely academic, but my God... what an uproar it caused. Later I realised that the reason for that may have been the hypothetic possibility that some publisher or agent with whom the website worked/ had worked/ could work in the future might - just might - belong to Opus Dei. Lasi
My own (albeit short-lived) experience in the public sector teaches me that it does not take a very clever person to be a civil servant. An essential skill to acquire before joining civil service, however, is what I would call 'a way with words' - an ability to say things in a certain way that allows to avoid awkward questions. It is a useful skill for politicians, too. Lasi
Before resigning in December 2007, former Prime Minister Kalvītis apparently had promised Cardinal Pujats and other members of the Council of Spiritual Affairs that he will do all within his powers to ensure that the next government continues to oppose "the propaganda of homosexuality ".(http://www.vdiena.lv/lat/politics/quote/kalviitis_apsoliijis_homoseksuaalisma_propagandas_ierobezhoshanu). Lasi
Some people still remember the promotional video once shown on CNN, where a Tibetan monk was shown meditating in a Latvian forest. I do believe that while for most of us it is less surprising when well-to-do Latvians go to the centres of eastern spiriuality in India or Nepal in search of enlightenment, a Tibetan monk theoretically could find his own spiritual bliss in a Latvian forest. Lasi
This week, for the first time in the history of this website, the author of one of the articles received a death threat from an anonymous comentator. The unsuspecting author brought this upon himself by calling some of President Musharraf's opponents 'radical islamists': http://www.politika.lv/index.php?id=14955 . The commentator declared he would kill the author if he met him in the street. As simple as that. With several years' delay (compared to the US or the UK), the spirit of threat grounded in radical beliefs has reached the virtual space of Latvia. Lasi
For those of you who do not follow Latvian politics: a new government is expected to be formed this month. One of the candidates for Prime Minister's office, Mr Zalāns, has given an interview to the weekly Privātā dzīve, in which, among other things, he declared his dislike of Riga. Riga, according to Mr Zalāns, is unjustly presented as an ideal by many Latvians, while in reality it is not human-friendly and is full of traffic jams. Lasi
Recently Latvian MPs have had several lively debates on the comparative rights of citizens and non-citizens in Latvia. This time, the debates were about the right to own and carry weapons and about the right to serve as public prosecutor. The right to carry weapons is reserved for citizens. The same concerns the right to be considered for the office of public prosecutor. According to the opposition parties whose electorate are predominantly Russian-speaking citizens, many of whom have family ties with non-citizens, this situation is no longer justified. According to the parties whose electorate consists mainly of hereditary citizens, this situation is fully justified. This blog is not about the rights of non-citizens, but about the argumentation which MPs use to support their views. Lasi
On 4 November, the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera quoted Gianfranco Fini, a prominent figure in the National Alliance party. There would be nothing unusual in the fact, if it were not for the content of Mr Fini's statements. Three days after the arrest of a Romani man accused of murdering an Italian woman, Mr Fini made a point of stating that a) 'They (the Roma) consider theft almost legitimate and not immoral'; b) They feel the same way about not working 'because it has to be (their) women who do so, often by prostituting themselves.' Mr Fini further made some points concerning child exploitation being a thing about which the Roma have 'no scruples', using the children for begging. He then concluded his statements by the remark that 'To talk of integration with people with a 'culture' of that sort is pointless.' Lasi
This Monday, I was at a conference where a professor of ethics declared that there is nothing wrong about praising the traditional ethic of one's ethnic group - what she referred to as 'the people's virtues'. Lasi
As a student of English very long ago, in my teacher's apartment just across the street from the place where I work now, I learned a scary saying. It went like this: "Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me". I disagreed with it then. I still disagree with it now, because words hurt. And hurtful words repeated many times over, by many people, hurt a lot. Lasi