In Estonia our favorite poor-young-man’s Sirp ran a series of articles about traveling and being Estonian in the wide world. When people ask me where I come from and I answer, I either get blank stares or if they’ve been to the Northern Europe, then they know something about it. But Estonia in the world media is still referred to ex-soviet first and NATO-ally second, Eastern European third and Northern European never. I get asked a lot if Estonian sounds like Russian (nope, it more like Finnish), but you know, thank god they ask, so I can set things straight.
Müürileht published an article by Triin Heinla about having a pain inside, so she went off to see the world for something more. Unfortunately, hippie communes have their own problems, such as total disregard to hygiene leading to diarrhea outbursts. People aimlessly lazying around and saying “It’s all about having fun!” Not for Triin over here, she left the commune in Tenerife and decided to find her old friend, and now she’s at a semi-revolutionary squat in Berlin. Ah, Berlin, that brings me back memories.
Now, I think Triin’s article was actually well written and took together what’s happening to many young people of my age. People expect you to follow a certain route in life but unfortunately, a degree won’t mean shit, so they get a 800-euro-a-month job and find themselves in a precarious situation because it’s 200 to the taxes, at least another 200 for food a month and 300 euros for rent. That leaves 100 euros for fun and entertainment? Oops, sorry! Winter’s starts in June. Another 200 in heating bills and you’re already 100 in the red. How is a man or a woman expected to start an independent life like that if they can’t afford to even clothe themselves?
The responses to the article are quite expected – the olds curse at the youngs and the youngs curse the situation. Berk Vaher, Estonian writer and critic, went on a frothing rant on the young folks.
“When you imagine yourself as a hero of the anti-capitalist cause, breaker of the social stagnation, and a fighter for a more humane society, then tell me, O dear youth – what kind of sunshine does your errant on the hippie trails bring to those Estonian women who get a shiner from their recently unemployed husband? How many disabled persons are fed by those salvaged half-eaten kebabs which you celebrate living free of money? A father of 13 estranged from his family recently burned to death in a house without water and electricity – and what sort of determination did the man get from your shouted slogans in the Berlin squat?”
-Berk Vaher, translation by Katya Strophe
I’m not saying that he is being unreasonable to say that if you want to be the change in your home country, then you could actually make your home country a better place. I also hundred-percent agree with the idea that the struggle should be brought where it’s needed, no matter how hard it will be.
But I do disagree with the notion that people are doing these soul-searching travels because somehow it’s easier than being in Estonia. I also raised my eyebrow on the quoted passage above, somehow a 20-something’s rebellion to the norms can magically prevent domestic violence, raise disability pensions and reduce homelessness and probably mental illness. I’ll ask you instead, Berk, how many times have your books been involved in causing or preventing a case of wife-battery, huh? Judging by this vitriolic article I guess former is higher than the latter.
Berk really dogged upon Triin for saying “Fuck you Estonia with your start-ups, Muhu bread and private people!” I think anger, just like any emotion, will affect our speech and manner, so it’s OK to say fuck you when you’re mad and fuck yeah when elated. I do understand what Berk’s trying to say – that instead of going somewhere, just like do something for the better, man. Which is what Triin pretty much wrote in the opening passages:
“There was a chance to imagine yourself to be an important cog inside the offered opportunity machine given by the System. If it’s not working out, do more yoga, become a vegan, smile to the cashier. The problem is in you. … Don’t be sad, transform the feeling, buy turmaline lingerie and boycott trans-fats. I wasn’t buying it. It shouldn’t all be this hard.”
Triin Heinla, translation by Katya Strophe
I think that self-critique is always welcome, but we gotta agree that young peeps are fucking anxious to get the hell away from Estonia, as the higher education reform brought tertiary education to the masses while cutting budgets at the same time, giving even shittier education than before. People got no responsibility either, you can get away with anything if you got the cash. You can sexually harass your student and get the dean to cover it up if you bring bank from the European Union, you can build a railroad through protected swamplands if it brings bank from the European Union, you can absolutely rape the Estonians forests and get a green light from the State Forest Management Centre, because it greases the wheels. Job creators, policy creators. Let’s not even talk about the crazy rates people are fleeing into the 2 major cities, because there’s literally nothing going on outside of Tallinn and Tartu.
Let’s fucking face it, Estonia is one of those retarded pugs that can’t breathe on their own and they need a good belly shake (read: economic stimulus) every once and a while to stay alive. The Estonian tiger was hot shit in 2002 but we’ve sure as hell lagged behind. We now wait for foreign investments but we sure as hell will call them “nigger moneybags” if we see them in the supermarket cashier line.
But what the hell do I know, I’m just one of those comfort refugees on a beautiful warm island of Japan and I write all this about Estonia. “Eeeuuugh, why don’t you come and do something then?” Mr. Berk says in a whiny nerd voice, but how about I learn something here and bring it to the table later on, because I couldn’t bring anything on the table back home.