Go West follow up article

Musician Jaan Tätte's view: As far as foreigners are concerned, we are Russian.
First published Postimees 21 July 2010

Musician and traveller Jaan Tätte's experience is that foreigners think Estonians are Russians and mostly Estonia has to be introduced via neighbouring countries.

In today's Postimees opinion piece Abdul Turay writes that gradually Estonia has started to be separate from other Eastern Europe countries and more and more it is becoming part of the Nordic countries. Postimees asked Tätt what his experience shows.

“When I meet with a foreigner and explain where Estonia is located, then we talk at first about Finland and Sweden. Yes And Russia is our neighbour,.... then there is understanding,” he said.

The musicians evaluation is foreigners think Estonia is Eastern European.
“The more intelligent understand that we want to belong to there the North but actually we belong still to the East,” he said.

“For many acquaintance it doesn't matter if we are well-dressed or can speak English well, still the thinking is that we are Russian. There is something in our appearance and nature that they think is actually Russian. The first offering is that “Ahah Russians” he described this situation frequently occurring.

The greatest speech of all time.
By Abdul Turay
Published Postimees 11 May 2010

Think of every great speech from history. They all use parallelism.
Think of the beatitudes.

All blessed are the meek , All blessed are the peacemakers,All blessed are the poor.

Think of Martin Luther King's “I have a dream” speech.

Think of Winston Churchill Battle of Britain speech.

We shall fight on the beaches, We shall fight on the hill, We shall fight on the landing grounds.

Now we have a have candidate for great speech for our age. Andres Mähar, playing a disgruntled losing Unite Estonia candidate, ranting on a roof top and shouting f*** you to everybody; politicians, their supporters, country folk, the Janitor, even himself.

The “F*** you (Kai Perse)” speech.

“F*** you internet commentators, thanks to you, you can't get your point across without saying f*** you,” he said.

Estonia has one underlying political problem. People dislike the government, as they should be after years of failure and broken promises; people - especially the fine upstanding patriotic people who read this paper - also dislike the main opposition. Meanwhile the other parties are in the process of falling apart. If they are honest even supporters don't really trust any of the parties and believe they can make life better or fix the economy.

This situation has been going on for so long now that people have forgotten it is actually possible for politicians to be good at their jobs, honest and generally popular.

So along came Unite Estonia, a group of young actors with a clever marketing campaign. The press and even the public at large took it very seriously.
They thought maybe this could this be an answer. People so desperately wanted it to be true. Desperate times calls for desperate hope. Could Unite Estonia be a knight is shining armour, who slays the dragon, brings freedom to the people and saves the kingdom?

As we saw on Saturday Unite Estonia wasn't the knight, it was the court jester, the fool.

The fool isn't really a fool of course. Actually this stock character was probably the wisest person in the medieval trope. The fool poked fun at the established order of things, he changes pre-conceptions and makes you think. He doesn't influence the action in any way, he just highlights the absurdity or what is going on to the audience. Probably the most famous theatrical fool is in Shakespeare's King Lear.

If the media were expecting a saviour there were always going to be disappointed. Real life knights weren't heroes, they were hired thugs who went around forcing peasants to hand over grain to the lord of the manor.

Court jesters on the other hand were real. All kings employed them. King James I of Britain's fool tricked his king into signing over the kingdom to him for a day because the king never read any documents before signing them. The king got the point.

After the performance, some newspaper headlines expressed disappointment this was just a show. Even though it's been blindingly obvious to everyone that this was simply a play. Just a look at the mock election posters reveals the truth.

“Wait a second isn't that Marika Vaarik from Revenge Office...em hold on that looks like the guy who played Toomas Roo in Windward Land, em that's an ex-Vanilla Ninja surely.”

There must have been people in the auditorium who were taken up in the moment, even when it was clear this was all tomfoolery about the way that politics is conducted, they still wished this could be real and if there was a party like this they would vote for it.

It was Orson Wells stuff. In the 30s actor and director Orson Wells produced a radio play in which he managed to convince people that the Martians had invade. Thousands fled in panic.

They say crisises produces great art, well here is an example. The show's brilliant cast of actors stage designers and writers have managed to create something,that to my knowledge has never been done anywhere; a play staged to look like a political campaign, partly improvised and with actors, real politicians and the audience all taking part.

It poked fun at and showed up the inadequacies of the political system. Generally creative people in Estonia borrow ideas from elsewhere To wit, Keskerakond's most recent campaign with a long queue of people outside an unemployment office is a rip-off of a very famous campaign in Britain that dates back to the 70's and has been recently revived. “Labour isn't working”(see poster).

So this was that very special thing, an Estonian original. Indeed it hard to imagine how the same concept could be so successfully pulled off in another country.

The show itself was excellent, wonderfully staged, full of energy wit and emotion. Like a James Cameroon movie you could watch it with the volume turned off and still be entertained, still follow what was going on. The show was meticulous planned and thoroughly rehearsed, so of course it felt natural, even improvised.

Unite Estonia couldn't help but take a swipe at Keskerakond. No doubt their supports will say it was a cheap shot, since they are an easy target, but the play had a dig at everybody. No one was spared, not even Indrek Saar and Jaak Aaviksoo who were in the room.

The show had just the right balance of light-hearted and serious moments. If it had a theme it was, don't give away your right to decide your own destiny to elected officials, take responsibility for your life.

All the actors were great but special mention must goes to Jaak Prints whose acerbated performance held the show together.

Unite Estonia really illustrates the lines between show business and politics, always a fine one, has completely disintegrated. In Britain we say that politics is show business... for ugly people. In Estonia, the politicians aren't so bad looking, so it would seem politics is just show business.

It can't have been lost on many in the audience that here was one ex-Ninja, Lenna Kuurmaa, pretending to be a politician whereas her former band mate, Katrin Siska, is attempting to do the real thing.

There's a line in the classic 80s time travel movie, "Back to the Future" where a character from the 50s is given a camcorder and realises why the President of the United States in the 80s was B-movie actor, Ronald Regan.

“Amazing a portable TV studio. That's why your president is an actor, he'd have to look good on television,” he said.

Fast forward 25 years, in 2010 in Estonia all politicians are actors, they all have to look good on television.

Don't believe it? consider this.

Having worked in the field I can tell you that most of the time, even when politicians are giving interviews, apparent on the fly, what they are saying is actually scripted.

A top politician will have an army of people working behind him whose job it is to work out what questions any interviewers might possible think of and script appropriate answers. Quite often politician will have had a look at the questions before hand.

That's why politicians are never lost for words and always have facts and figures to back up what they are saying. And you thought they were so clever?

There are some who believe that politics is a about public service, like doing a stint in the army. If a citizen has somehow gained some kudos through he work in another field, he might be called upon by his fellow citizen to help run the country. If those days ever existed, they are long gone.

Now it seems that people go into politics because they can't sing, can't dance, , can't tell jokes, can't play a musical instrument but can act a little and want their ego's stroked. Some of them - without mentioning any names- can sing and dance, but their previous careers have hit the rocks.

But ultimately Unite Estonia leaves a lot of unanswered questions. The show may have been great fun; I am sure people left the auditorium feeling better about themselves and better about the future of the country. But in the end it's a court jester. A play is just a play. Unite Estonia may have livened things up, it's certainly help a lot of young people get interested in politics. What it didn't do and nor could never have done is answer the central dilemma the country is facing.
“If nobody believes in the government and no one believes in the opposition, just who is going to run the country come 2011?”
(Ed note: there will be a general election in 2011)

For Europe's sake stop the Tories
By Abdul Turay
Published Postimees 4 May 2010

One brutal statistic brings home what Estonians really think of Britain. According to the British Office of National Statistics (ONS), more than eight times as many Latvians or 38140 registered workers and almost 13 times as many Lithuanians 57620 have emigrated to Britain in the last five years as have Estonians – 4520.

Clearly more than any other country in the region, Estonians don't dig Britain. They don't rate it as a place to live, work and make money; and they don't care about the British election.

The challenge therefore is to convince you that this coming election really does matter to Estonia.

What many Estonians don't realise is that far from being weak, in decline, with it's glory days behind it, Britain is strong, getting stronger and increasing it's influence in Europe and the World. To find out how and why, read on.

The man who becomes the next British Prime Minister could do a lot of damage. He could destroy the British state; there is a real danger of that happening. He could destroy the European Union; there is more than a slight possible of that happening. Ultimately he could destroy the world, …..at the press of a button. Still think the British elections don't matter?

Let's assume none of the candidates, Gordon Brown, the current prime minister (Labour), David Cameron (Conservatives) and Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrats) are not going to lose their mind and decide to use Britain's formidable array of strategic ballistic Trident nuclear missiles, though what to do about Britain nuclear arsenal has been on the agenda for the first time in a generation; this still leaves the question of how this election could effect the EU, international relations and Anglo-Estonian relations on trade and immigration.

First let's look at how the system works. Under the British constitution there has to be an election every five years. This is not written down anywhere, it's just convention. In Britain a government can dissolve parliament and call an election at any time. It has been known for elections to be held one after the other in quick succession when no-one was happy with the result.

The ruling party will usually call an election if it thinks it will win, after three or four years. The fact this government waited the whole five is an indication they don't fancy their chances.

British voters vote for individual candidates in 650 constituencies across the country. Each of the major parties will put forward a candidate in each constituencies. The party who gets the most constituencies, wins. The leader of that party, who himself represents a constituency, is then asked to form a government by the Queen.

The Conservatives, also called Tories, are the equivalent of IRL with one significant difference, they are anti-European. The Labour Party are technically the equivalent of the Social Democrats but in recent years, both in opposition and in government, they have pursued more right-wing policies including waging war in Iraq. The Liberal Democratic party sit with both Keskerakond and the Reform Party in the European Parliament. They are a liberal party but have co-opted some of policies you would expect from the left, including higher taxes for the wealthy, free education at university level and consistent opposition to the War in Iraq.

There are also many minor parties, some even win seats, in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Merkel and Sarkozy fear the Tories

The Conservatives may be centre-right but the prospect of a Conservative victory fills Europe's other centre-right leaders with dread. If they get into power it means trouble.
As the Economist March 31 states, in the modern Conservative party: “almost the only divide is between those who dislike the EU but think it would be better to stay in, and those you want to leave.”
The Conservatives have even refused to sit with other centre-right parties in the European Parliament because of their “federalist” ambitions.
Last year David Cameron was talking about a British referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, a treaty Britain had already ratified it. Although he has now abandoned this idea, many in the party would like to re-negotiate not only Lisbon but all other existing treaties including the Maastrict treaty, the founding document of the EU.

The Conservative party rank and file want to destroy to the Euro. They don't just want Britain to not join it, they want to destroy it. Their vision of a Europe is a loose free-trade organisation like the North American Free Trade Association (NAFTA) which includes Canada the USA and Mexico.

The Labour party are broadly committed to a stronger Europe but have been circumspect about joining the Euro.

The Liberal Democratics are the most pro-European party they would hold an immediate referendum on joining the Euro. This of course means educating the British people on what the European Union is all about.

Up until now the engine room of Europe has been Germany. With 80 million people, it is by some margin Europe's largest economy. It has traditionally provided the financial muscle and the moral fibre to keep the EU going. Germany's central position in handling the Greek crisis is continued proof of this.

Demographers believe in the next 30 years this situation will change. Largely due to immigration, Britain's population is expected to increase from 60 to at least 80 million by 2051. It is expected to increase to 65 million by 2016 already, according to ONS figures. Germany's population, like most other countries in Europe, will shrink in the same period.

London has overtaken New York as the World's most important financial hub this decade according to the Global Financial Index, it is far ahead of Frankfurt. Despite current setbacks, due to it geographical proximity to continental Europe and the East coast of America, many analysts believe it is likely that London will pull ahead in the future.

Britain is still the World 6th largest manufacturing economy, but it has made more of a switch to a knowledge economy than Germany has been able to.

All this means that Britain, and this is a first, is in the process of becoming Europe's single largest and most powerful country in 20 or 30 years.

The trouble is Britain is a country where; if there isn't outright hostility towards Europe, there is downright ignorance among the political elite.
Charles Grant, director of the Centre for European Reform, a London-based think-tank, explains that in Britain: “People can get to the top in the media, business and the City without knowing anything at all about the European Union. Parliament is full of people who are proud to have little or no understanding of the EU.”
The prospect of Tory Britain as Europe's main bread winner is a potential for disaster. Europe needs strong leadership not need pigheaded, ignorant, Eurosceptics

Get out and stay out.

The British don't go in for self-promotion, there is no talk of a “British dream” but it isn't a bad place to live. The country offers a high standard of living to people to those who are doing well, like the USA and Canada, and a generous social security system to those who are not, like Sweden.

When this information became common knowledge, everywhere except Estonia it seems, it was like the California Gold Rush. In countries like Poland and Slovakia everybody and their sister moved to Britain. It was mass migration on a scale never before seen in British history.

Back in 2004 the British Home Office predicted that 50,000 people would settle in Britain when the eight accession countries including Estonia joined the EU.
In the end over a million people legally immigrated and half that number again off the books.
Put another way Britain increased it's population by more than the population of Estonia in a couple of years.

The new immigrants didn't just settle in big cities. Every town, every village, every hamlet, has seen its share of newcomers.

Now with the recession, the backlash is in full swing. The gutter press are full of banner headlines about “Eastern Europeans” rampaging through the streets, raping woman, smashing shop windows and taking British jobs. Eastern Europeans including Estonians get lumped into one category in Britain.

How central the issue is to this election was illustrated last week. Whilst out canvassing on the streets, Gordon Brown expressed what he really thought of an old lady when he thought his microphone was switched off. She had complained about Eastern Europeans “flocking in ” to the country.

“That was a disaster, the woman was a bigot,” Brown said to his aide.

The Prime Minister was criticised for being two-faced, but it could be argued the incident showed him in a good light. He is someone who doesn't like prejudice, not only as part of his public persona but privately. It's a shame therefore whatever he may feel privately, Brown has pandered to xenophobic sentiment by talk of “British jobs for British workers.”

However it is the Conservative party who would actually pursue xenophobic policies if elected. They want a cap on immigration. This would initially apply to people from outside of the European Union. There is no reason to suppose this policy would not be extended if it became clear that it wasn't working. This would make it more difficult for Estonians to live and work in Britain, if they are so minded. It would also create bad feeling if rights are suddenly taken away which Estonians currently enjoy.

To protect and defend

All three main political parties are committed to maintaining the British presence in Afghanistan. Britain has already withdrawn from Iraq.
David Cameron, Conservative leader, is known as an Atlanticist with strong personal ties with the Republican party. All the same, cost-cutting brought on by the recession, means Britain will find it difficult to engage in American-led foreign adventures to the same extent that it did under Tony Blair.
Conservatives would veto any attempts to build an effective European defence force. So if the Tories get in don't expect any beefing up of Estonia's defences.

What all this means is the Tories are bad for Estonia. They would slow down European integration they would make the EU weak and ineffective, if things got really bad and there was no co-operation they might even try to break it up. They would make life difficult for Estonians living in Britain and Britons living in Estonia and they wouldn't defend Estonia from foreign enemies.

A Labour government means things stay the same.

The Liberal Democratic are the best choice. They would strengthen Europe's defence, bring Britain to the heart of Europe, support the Euro and stamp out xenophobia, or try to.

Unfortunately the situation is like this. The Tories could win, Labour probably won't win and Liberal Democrats are never going to win.

The Liberal Democrats despite being second in the polls have only 62 MPs in the House of Commons out of a potential 650 MPs. Britain uses a winner takes all system, so the Liberal Democrats will come second or third in constituencies all over the country and not win that many seats.

It's not all sad though. The most likely result is that no party will get an outright majority. This is called a hung parliament.
The British people don't particular like the Conservatives, they have long memories and though they may be angry at Labour for failing these last two years; they haven't forgiven the Tories for the total mess they made of the economy in the early 90s.
Although it's not one of the main issues, the British people don't trust the Conservative's policies on Europe. The Tories are still known as the “nasty” party.
By rights the Conservative should be in government if they come out on top, but the two other parties are ideologically, morally and even personally more at ease with each other on whole range of issues.
There hasn't been a hung parliament since the 70s, so the truth is nobody knows what is going to happen. British politics doesn't have a culture of coalition government. There could even be another election in a few months.
Britain is heading assuredly into uncertainty and that can't be a good thing for Britain or for Europe.