Authority, Identification and Nationalism: The Future of Freedom in Estonia
Even if ideas are unlikely to be shared freely in a soft authoritarian society, there is always the new pair of shoes and vacation in Spain that await us. Furthermore, we have learned to embrace consumption at an early age. Beginning during the last decades of the 20th Century, our teenagers found meaning and camaraderie in hanging out together at shopping malls. Now, during the second and third decades of the 21st Century, they are learning to virtually hang around together on the Internet and to consume via the click of a mouse or tap of a finger on the mobile device.
Is it possible that Estonians are immune to this pull? As members of a now prosperous European community, are citizens of this country different in any important way from those living in other prospering countries around the world? Have their teenagers embraced a different orientation? I don’t think this is the case–but I invite the assessment of my Estonian colleagues.
Escape into Nationalism
Freedom can be escaped in many ways. It is not just a matter of identification with an aggressor or identification with a commodity. It is also a matter of identifying with a specific nation and culture. Consequently, we can look to another fundamental mode of escape from freedom. The threat of freedom can be ameliorated by turning to external sources of threat. Other countries become the enemy and loyalty to one’s own country become the coin of the land. Nationalism flourishes. It is one of the tracks of thought that has been well worn by history—so it is easy to slip back into it.
As with individuals who assume familiar roles within their families, so, too, groups of people and nations seem to fall into characteristic modes. Think of the American “rugged individualist.” In Eastern Europe, nationalism seems to be the homeostasis to which group thinking returns. Perhaps this has been useful historically, creating a group identity within which individuals could create a cultural continuity. However, recent historical events now raise new challenges. Nationalism seems to be flying in the face of a flat world (Friedman, 2007) in which national boundaries are readily crossed. Yet, nationalism is still quite powerful and is on the rise in virtually all parts of the world—including the United States.