Authority, Identification and Nationalism: The Future of Freedom in Estonia
If we turn again specifically to Estonia, there is further reason for concern. What about the seeming passivity and ultimate pessimism of Estonians—given that they are living in a country that has been invaded many times over the past two centuries? My own observations previously in this essay regarding this psychological condition in Estonia have been echoed in much more poetic terms by Alexander Theroux (2011, p. 14) (whom I referenced earlier in this essay). He writes:
An Estonian as a [peddler] of positivism is in all instances a walking oxymoron. His recollections are far too extensive, his memory too long, his wounds too recent to put a tingle of optimism in his besieged and beleaguered heart.
Theroux (2011, p. 14) moves beyond this portrayal of pessimism to the core issue of freedom:
During an occupation, far more than a country is captured—a national soul is possessed. Brutalized. Mortified. Hurt. Made Inflexible. Freedom itself, the very idea of it, becomes victim, as well. More than self is lost, a soul harmed. There is the loss of the sense of adventure.
Under such conditions, is it likely that freedom will remain a victim of lingering pessimism and a fear of yet another invasion by Russia or eventually by yet another superpower? A remarkable social observer and futurist, Fred Polak (1973) observed many years ago that a society without a clear and compelling sense of its own future is either in decline or will never thrive if newly created or re-created. Polak extensively documented the history of many societies and carefully analyzed the state of future-images in each society. A society will hold together and thrive while there is something toward which citizens of this society can strive—an envisioned frontier that is compelling to which people can collectively commit. Sacrifice on behalf of a greater good is prevalent. Individual aspirations are secondary to collective aspirations and goals. Polak asserted that a society will decline in power and capacity without this shared image of the future.
What about Estonia? In reflecting on his own country’s history an Estonian colleague talked about parental aspirations for his own son. I am paraphrasing and recalling a conversation from almost 30 years ago—yet what he said still haunts me (especially when thinking about the aspirations I have for my own children and grandchildren). He said:
I don’t have any aspirations or hopes regarding my son’s future or the future of this country. The Estonian future has always been in the hands of powerful people from outside our country over whom we have no control. How can I think about the future for my son, when he will have little to say about the status of his future!”
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