Veerpalu the new Linford Christie
By Abdul Turay
Publish December 10 2011

Skiing superstar's Andrus Veerpalu reputation had died and with it the belief of an entire nation.

I once said that Estonians act and think like black people. This sorry mess with Andrus Veerpalu seems to confirms it. Something very similar happened to my own people about a decade ago.

There are about one and a half million black people in Britain, about the same number as the population of Estonia. We are also called Afro-Caribbean because most of us have roots in the former British colonies in the Caribbean.

Estonians tend to think of black culture in term of black Americans or black Africans they do not think about black British culture or black European culture of any description for that matter. This is common ,the World thinks like. It's frustrating.

The black community in Britain feels, somewhat, neglected. Our achievements, our literature, our art, our music and our science is rarely celebrated outside of Britain itself.

So for us to have a World class athlete, an Olympic champion is a big deal. Just the same as Veerpalu for Estonia.

Our sporting hero was Linford Christie. he won the gold medal in the 100 metre dash at the ripe age of 32 after years of trying at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. He remains the oldest man ever to win the sprint, so it was a great emotional victory.

When I spoke to black Britons of my generation about the Veerpalu case, they all to a person had the same reaction. Without any prompting from me they said:

“Oh....this is like Linford Christie.”

You see Christie like Veerpalu got caught up in a doping scandal. What happened next is very instructive as to what has happened, what can happen and what will happen, what ever the outcome of the appeal.

The similarities between Christie and Veerpalu are spooky. Both men have immense personal charm. Both were widely regarded as upright and honest, and here is the significant part, both failed doping test towards the end of their careers when they were semi-retired.

In 1999 it was announced that Christie had over a 100 times the permitted levels of the performance enhancement drug nandrolone in his system.

He has always denied any wrong doing and his supporters used the same argument that Veerpalu supporters are using today.


"Why would a man who is virtually retired anyway, use drugs?”

None the less, he was found guilty by the International Amateur Athletics Federation and banned from sport and from any further Olympic competition.

At the time of the scandal, black Britons were in anguish, calling up the community newspapers, issuing death threats against reporters. The feeling was, let the national press report it if they want, we, as a people, must stand behind our man.

Here in Estonia, my colleagues were stunned at the viciousness of the reaction to them merely reporting the news. One of them told me, they have never seen anything like it, even the bronze night wasn't as bad. They could not understand why anybody would threaten to kill reporters.

It didn't surprise me at all. Nation's can grieve just like individuals grieve.

In the Kübler-Ross model psychological model, grieving goes through five stages. We have seen the anger and the denial. We have seen the bargaining.

But as the evidence becomes more damning, time passes and people become more reflective the mood changes.

What stuck me about last week's events when the International Ski Federation (FIS) concluded that the positive result will stand wasn't the drop in “Veerpalu believers” down from 89 percent to 66 percent in the Spring, but the fairly muted reaction from the die-hards “believers” toward the press.

The story isn't attracting as many column inches as it once did. People would rather focus on other things, the presidential debate, the Centre Party leadership campaign even the weather.

More is going on. Judging from my experience with Christie, the main emotions people are feeling are disconnectedness and numbness. Most people just don't want to hear about it any more, how much more curse reporters. Following Veerpalu career used to make people happy, now it makes them sad, even the believers. This is the depression stage of the Kübler-Ross model.

A friend of mine called this type of situation, a living death or judgement day.
It is when the body refuses to die but you get no pleasure in life any more.

Yet there is hope, there is always hope.

This business with Christie happened 12 years ago. Today Christie is still an icon, a hero, T.V personality, role model for children and all round good guy.

People of my generation have come to terms with what happened, we are not upset by it. We have moved on. O.K he may have been guilty in 1999 but no one can prove that he did anything wrong in 1992 when it counted. We prefer to remember his achievements. This is the acceptance stage of the model.

Speaking for myself, even though I am aware intellectually that Christie might have been guilty, on an emotional level I still refuse to believe that he ever cheated. Does that make me Estonian, or does that make Estonians black?

Talk to younger people and their reaction is very interesting. There is total amnesia. They have absolutely no memory that Christie was ever was accused of, how much more found guilty of, doing anything wrong.

As far as they are concern Christie is a great man who was once Olympic champion and has a sports stadium named after him. He coaches, gives talks, and works to promote sports and healthy living.

It doesn't end so happily for all discredited sports heroes. Canadian athlete, Ben Johnson, a rival of Linford Christie, was also caught in a doping scandal. He was Olympic champion back in 1988. Today in Canada and the rest of the World his name is mud, if anyone can remember who he was at all.

The difference between Johnson and Christie/Veerpalu, was that Johnson was implicated at the height of his career, just after he won the gold medal.

It doesn't matter if Veerpalu is innocence or guilty. I don't mean this rhetorically, I mean this literally because there is a real difference between the long term public perception and reputation of someone who was banned for doping when they were semi-retired and someone who is banned just before during after their career peak.

The finding doesn't prove that he was doping at the last Olympics or the one before that. No one will ever prove that, because as we have all read, these tests didn't exist back then.

The Estonian people will either never accept that Veerpalu was guilty or will prefer to remember his achievements.

In a decade from now, young people won't even remember that Veerpalu was ever caught up in a doping scandal. He will still be a national hero just like Linford Christie.


Socialist have a conscience
By Sven Mikser
Published 27 August 2010

Columnist Abdul Turay finds in yesterday that the socialist(sotsids) are freaks, The proof, The sotsid are not in government yet their polling rating is in fourth place. Despite Turay's provocative style his opinion story contains questions which deserve an answer.
There are many reason why Estonia politics have leaned to the right for the last 20 years. Sotsid propaganda weakness is only one and not the biggest. Yes the Reform political technology has had most skilful, moving from in 1990 gradual competition in paying for education and medical services, to in 2003 the parent's salaries “soft” sphere, and in the year 2007 bronze portable “nationalism”. But this crude right wing agenda still has basic fundamental errors.
The centre party(Keskerakond) has corned the “disappointment” niche. And this niche is incredible big and lively nuisance for the right, who ruthlessly casts the weakest to the side. The crude right wing and populist left wing are elbowing closer to the centre. This demands an injection of ingenuity.
The secret of success: The Reform and Centre party(Keskerakond).
The advantage of the right wing worked until the crisis as Estonia society developed the idea, of cultivated, tacky materialist, success cults. Part of being successful was drinking the drink and voting for the party of the success.
The sotsid type of voter is a concerned intellectual about our country, in the case of whom public consciousness is assumed, and he agrees to sell his skills almost for free and exclusively from a sense of mission. This perception have to break.
In addition some of the cultural tip vote for the sotsid, he whose heart beats to the left but to whom personal predicament doesn't depend on whether the government carries out right or left wing politics.
The sotsids challenge is a dialogue with all those, who real situation depends of the economy of the country and the socio-policies of the government.
Keskerakond's popularity is based on a self image which depicts them as the marginalised centre, who competitors bully them, the national power, the media. The marginalised have simply to identify with the marginalised.
In addition Keskerakond solutions are simple. The underemployed person turns to his own worries to get solutions by way if one party has a “national show” offering 700 kroon, the other is offering strategic development plan, then is not difficult to guess who gets the vote.
Sotsid must express the complicated world order in words everybody can understood. In addition we must get from thinkers to doers.
We are brave enough to say this. Turay finds that the sotsid lack the courage to say in what they believe, But we are brave.
For example we believe that the tax system is just this lever, with which the country can effect social development. Our goal are reduction in income gaps and regional disparity, restriction is the use of unsustainable resources, saving in times of economic growth and protecting jobs in times of decline and supporting exports. To achieve these goal we must set an additional taxes on very high incomes, tax high luxury consumption and strategic resource use and free up special benefit taxes for people doing investment, reduce VAT for food, medicine and cultural service, We have the courage to defend our position which last year cost us a place in government. But we will come back again.
We are for the poor not for the rich. Poverty especially poverty for children, is a threat to the survival of the Estonian nation. The solution is only generous support at birth but changing the child support system in a way that supports the growth in birth of children. Not throwing money from an aircraft but in support services,child care, and education. We have values and we are ready to defend them. And above all we are people who have the will to carry what we believe.

(ed: note)Sven Mikser went on to become leader of the social democrats soon after this article was published. The Social Democrats did well in the March 2011 elections overtaking the Centre Party (Keskerakond)


Survival of the fittest
By Abdul Turay
Published Postimees 23 November 2011

Never, ever start a story with a statistic a colleague once told me when I just started out in journalism. Just to be contrary, here's one you are probably familiar with.

In Estonia, life expectancy for men is 65.9 years, for women 76.8 years. In the U.K. life expectancy for men is 77.2 years for women life expectancy is 81.6. In Sweden life expectancy for men is 78.7 years and 83 years for woman.

Lies, lies and statistics. These statistics aren't actually lies but they don't tell the whole story. I have travelled a bit, so the newspaper asked me tell that story and interpret these statistics.

Let's start with what you probably know. Health care and sickness prevention in Estonia, and indeed in the Central and Eastern Europe in general, is better than in the developing world but still not up to the standards of Old Europe. So much so that even though women outlive men everywhere, British and Swedish men outlive Estonian women. The reason for this is there is a a strong correlation between life expectation and prosperity both for individuals and on a societal level. A basket case economy like Zimbabwe has a life expectation rates of about 44 years.

The main issue everybody is worried about is why Estonian men dying off faster than Estonian women?

Dr Eero Merelind, chairman of the Estonian Health Fund, is also a family doctor who practised in the United Kingdom for a while. He thinks the health problems in Britian are similar to Estonia, heart disease, blood circulations and accidents but the mentality is a little different.

“Estonian men are a little bit shy to meet the doctor. They need the support from the wife,” he said.

But he says Estonian men drink too much and are prone to accidents.

“This is coming from the historical background, maybe too liberal alcohol policy.
“Young men are looking for adrenaline, also work accidents.”

Dr Merelind is right, Estonian men drink too much.

People forget the size of the problem, in many cultures people hardly drink at all. Obviously in Muslim countries it's not allow. I have lived in places where you can go for months without seeing a single drunk person.

In Estonia I can't leave my building without being confronted by some drunk. I never want to talk to them. I can't have a sensible conversation with a drunk since I am always sober, but I have to act friendly because drunk people are unpredictable and the situation could easily turn ugly.

I got so tired of it that mostly I avoid going out altogether.

Estonians drink too much even compared to other Europeans. Only Russians and Finnish are worse.

Estonians are worse than my own countrymen. You wouldn't get this impression roaming around any British or Irish city on a Friday night or seeing English drinkers, shouting from the rooftops, pissing in the street and generally fighting their corner.

It's a cultural difference. The English drink outdoors, drink noisily and drink mostly beer. Estonians drink at home, drink in silence and drink a lot of spirits. Estonians cause less havoc to others but more harm to themselves.

I have noticed also in the last few years in England attitudes on excessive drinking are changing, its become uncool and low class. Years of anti-alcohol consumption advertising are having an effect.

In Estonia it is still somehow considered unmanly and downright weird not to drink at all.

Estonian men having a knack for getting into accidents. This comes about through lack of criminal intent.

Young men everywhere will always find ways to get an adrenaline rush.

In Britain the preferred method is physical violence, the British enjoy smashing up things and people. We saw it in the riots this year, we can see it in the low level suburban violence that goes up all the time but is rarely reported, we can see it in the football hooligans culture, also known as “casual culture”, for which England is famous. This violence is well organised. Fights are arranged days beforehand. Football hooligans train themselves in martial arts. Causality levels are surprisingly low.

In America young men have a variety of ways of getting their thrills. I knew young men whose idea of fun was to jump in front of moving cars and then roll over the bonnet like Minoan athletes in ancient Crete somersaulting bulls. It required a lot of skill to execute this manoeuvre without getting hurt.

My acquaintances would then writhe on the road in fake agony and threaten to sue the driver if they didn't pay up. Why not get your kicks and exhort money for it? ...oh those clever Americans.

In Asia the preferred method of thrill seeking is driving around is sports cars, very, very, quickly.

If you ever seen any of the “the fast and the furious” franchise of movies you know what I'm writing about.

I got involved in this when I was in Asia, just as an observer I should add. Again the level of organisation is incredible. Those guys spend years honing their skills in parking lots and deserted beaches. Races are planned, weeks sometimes months in advance. Cars are are not only customised for speed but for safety. They bet money and girlfriends.

And the people involved aren't just kids. Actually the main racers are educated professionals who can afford expensive souped-up pursuit car. They get into it when their young and continue into adulthood. The guy driving me round the streets of Hong Kong one night at 140 kph was an orthopaedic surgeon in his 40s.


Estonians young men also like to drive very, very,fast but there is nowhere near this level of organisation.

The Asian racer is a skilled amateur. The Estonian racer is just some dude who likes to speed, he is speeding to his own funeral.

The good news is Estonian men like sports as much as any nation I have ever encountered, the bad news they work so hard they don't have time to do it. Most of my Estonian friend do sports of some kind or another. I have one friend who spent the summer cycling 70 kilometres, he's pretty fit.

I train in boxing at a gym with another friend, he's fitter and slimmer than me, I am stronger and faster though. But we didn't train this week because he and I were too busy with work which brings me to a contradiction.

The place I have been where people look like they are in the best health is the West coast of Africa. In Estonia as in the rest of Europe you occasionally see men who look like they work out. But in Africa, the men all look terrific, every other guy looks like an athlete.

In fact the poorer the country is in my experience the the better shape the men are in. The statistics say the opposite. African men should not only be in worse shape than European men they should be dead by the time they are 45.

In countries with weak health care systems, Darwinian forces come into play. It is the fittest and the naturally healthiest who survive into adulthood.

Young men who have no jobs, little money and plenty of free time have got to do something to keep themselves occupied and impress women so they train; martial arts, soccer, beach volleyball, running, basketball, whatever.

In Estonia this is impossible. In the old days hard work in the fields kept you fit, nowadays we are all stuck behind computers.

So if Estonian men are getting bad results its from, kind of, good behaviour. They are not as loutish or as publicly drunk as some nations, so they end up silently drinking themselves to death at home. When they break the law they not as cynically organised as other nations, so they end up in accidents. They work too hard which leads to stress, heart disease and high blood pressure.

Doctors are confident the gap between men's and women's life expectancy will narrow as the economy grows better. But it's they not going to change the fitness levels of Estonian men. Doctors may be able to keep Estonian men alive for longer, but how fit will the survivors be?


London isn't crying about the Euro
By Abdul Turay
Published Postimees 21 October 2011

It's not going to work, not now, not ever. The European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF), the plan to save the Euro, is doomed. The Euro - at least in it's present form- will fail, that is the view from London.

It is a view held across the board, by left-wingers and right-wingers by Eurosceptics and Europhiles, by economist, politicians and traders and it is really only in the last month or so that this view has crystallised and become a majority view.

The only question is not “if” the Euro will fail but “ how” it will fail.

Can Europe's political elite work something out so that the Euro will continue on in another form may be even come back stronger at a later date or will the whole thing disintegrate into a unholy mess that will destroy Europe and the rest of the World.

Some traders who know the region are painting a very black picture for Estonia indeed.

“One day Estonia will be in the same position as Greece is now, but probably worse,” Michael Wood-Wilson a trader with one of Britain major banks told Postimees.



Why does London have this view and does it matter? After all Britain is outside the Eurozone and does not contribute to the fund.

The answer to the first question is fairly simple. London has this view precisely because it is not in the Eurozone. The financial community in London unlike policy makers in Brussels, Frankfurt, or Tallinn don't have a vested interest in saying that something is going to work when clearly it isn't.

In Britain analysts aren't swayed by sentiment or political rhetoric. It's true that Britain has traditionally been more Euro-sceptic than Estonia but there are also a lot of powerful Europhiles, they have all but given up hope. They look at Europe and they see, confusion, a culture of blame, lack of leadership, lack of will and most importantly lack of money.

Jose Manuel Barusso, President of the European Commission, wants the continent to recapitalise its banks. The view from London is European countries can't afford it.

Simon Tillford, chief economist, at the pro-European think tank, the centre for Europe reform, told the BBC.

“Some of the weaker countries do not have the money to recapitalise the banks. If they try to stomp up the money themselves there is a risk of making the sovereign debt crisis worse. France will struggle. There is very really risk that they will lose their triple A rating. ”

Indeed it cost Belgium, France and Luxembourg 90 billion Euro to bail out just one bank, Dexia. Belgium have may it's credit rating downgraded as a result.

In London nobody thinks the EFSF is big enough. George Osborne the British chancellor of the exchequer has called for a massive increase in its size.

But the problem is deeper, London thinks the fund won't work because, once you get past the rhetoric, it is structured like a Ponzi scheme. It involves hugely indebted countries lending money to themselves.

Derivatives trader, Satyajit Das told the BBC

“The European Financial Stability Fund is guaranteed by a whole bunch of countries including, Spain and Italy. Spain and Italy between them make up 30% of the guarantee of the European Financial Stability Fund.

“The European Financial Stability Fund is going to borrow from the European Central Bank, which has also obviously got support from Spain and Italy, and then lend the money to Spain and Italy.”

Das went on to say that say that nobody could serious think this will work.

“The politicians in Brussels and a few policy-makers.... to be very honest don't have any solutions, and they are now playing almost confidence games to try to actually convince people that this will work. Ultimately it won't work because it all boils down to a simple fact,” he said.

The British assessment of what has caused this disaster is radical different from how the average Estonian sees it.

Far from blaming the Greeks for their free spending ways, analysts in London blame the Germans for setting up a system that suited them.

“The rules weren't obeyed. France and Germany broke the rules,” Sir Richard Lambert ex-editor of The Financial Times said on British Television.

Under Lambert's editorship The Financial Times once supported Britain's membership of the Euro. Now he says the Eurozone will shrink.

“I think it is likely that Greece (will fall out of the Euro) the numbers are now impossible.

“I think the extreme position of the collapse of the Euro is very unlikely. I think a fiscal union is very unlikely the question is it possible to get an orderly way to get Germany to support an orderly way for Greece to withdraw,” he said.

In America even right-wing economist are enraged with Germany behaviour. Dr Peter Morici of the University of Maryland said the Eurozone is mis-structured because it allows the Germans to be quite wealthy without sharing any of its revenues with the others. He roundly cursed them in the British press.

“This crisis is as much a product of Germany's destructive and economic imperialist behaviour.”

“ Germany profits greatly from the Eurozone. Germany has an undervalued currency. Germany seems to think they can drink from the well but never put anything in. Germans get to trade, keep huge surpluses keep most of the manufacturing to themselves.

“The German finance minister is doing a heck of a lot more than Germany's armies could have ever accomplished in the 1940's it is literally destroying the state. Essentially the Germans are saying 'buck up and march through the great depression again.'”

City traders like Wood-Wilson who knows this region well, think unless Germany changes it's ways it could spell trouble for Estonia even if the Eurozone shrinks in an orderly manner.

“Germany will have a larger percentage of the value credited to the Euro by the markets. As more weak countries leave the Euro, the stronger it will get, as Germany is awesome. The stronger it gets the more those on the periphery will be sniffed out by the markets and pay more to service their debts.

“The stronger the Euro the less the rest of the world (Sweden and Norway), will want to buy their goods as they can't afford them.

“They (Estonia) can't devalue to boost their exports. Even with a strong economy (Estonia) will be out of synchronisation with Germany at some point. There must be a United States of Europe for the Euro to succeed,” he said.


To give readers some background. The Conservative party the equivalent of the IRL which is now in power fought the 2001 election on the issue of saving the pound. When the Swedes voted No to the Euro it killed the issue anyway. There has been some triumphalism from the die-hard Eurosceptics. Journalist, Peter Obourne an uncompromising Eurosceptic said his kind had “saved this country(Britain) from economic degradation” whereas the pro-Europeans “got the greatest economic issue of age utterly and completely wrong.”

But mostly the mood is one of fear, a fear that may turn to sheer panic if a way isn't found to fix the problem. British banks are also exposed to Europe debt. European banks are by far the biggest lenders to emerging economies so there is no salvation coming from that direction.

Mervyn King Governor of the Bank of England a man not known for hyperbole, is talking about the World facing the most serious financial crisis ever, worse than the 1930s.

And the view from London does matter, despite Britain not being in the Eurozone. London is Europe's main financial centre dwarfing Frankfurt and Paris. When people talk about what the market thinks, what they really means is what London, New York and Hong Kong thinks. And since London is a little closer to the Eurozone, is following developments just that little bit more, the view from London is the view of the market. The US economy and debt crisis is as bad if not worse than Europe's but Americans aren't thinking about that right now, they are just following sentiment in London. The Eurozone crisis is a crisis of confidence as much as it is crisis of credit. London and therefore the market has no confidence there is a way to fix it.


There is always hope. Many influential people think the collapse will happen in an orderly manner and the Euro can come back stronger. This is the view held by billionaire financier George Soros.

“We could have two or three of the small countries default or leave the Euro provided it done in an orderly way.”

He believes the seriousness of the crisis will eventually lead to a solution.

“I think the authorities whatever it takes to hold the system together because the alternative is too terrible to contemplate,” he said on American TV.

(Ed note; this is a paid for article. To read the original, subscribe to Postimees.)


White Riots
By Abdul Turay
Published 23 August 2011

Some in the media are doing “The Italian job” on England's black population. For those of you who are not British, I'll explain. “The Italian Job” is a famous 60s movie starring Michael Cain. It's something of a national institution here, every Briton has seen it. Non-Brits may have heard of the more recent American remake staring Mark Wahlberg.

It's a very clever, quirky, patriotic movie about an elaborate gold bullion heist in Italy by London's criminal underworld.

There are couple of scenes in the movie that have always bugged me and I suspect every other Black Briton.

At the end of the movie, after a celebrated car chase through Rome's Byzantine streets, the gang load the gold onto a bus, ditch the cars, get on the bus themselves, and drive off.

The driver has the easiest job in the whole gang, in fact the easiest job in the World. He has to drive a bus along a perfectly maintained mountain pass, with no other traffic on it........without driving it off the edge of a cliff.

But he is black. He can't manage it. He starts acting black, flipping the bus from side to side and laughing, and then!.........watch the film if you want to find out what happens, it is not quite what you think.

You see the point. The black man screws it up for everybody.

Outside the UK, the riots have been presented as a race riot. In Russia and many other countries many people actually believe the recent riots in England are simply the fault of “blacks and immigrants”.

Even in the UK the coverage of riots has been black tinted. All the main media outlets looked to historical precedents; the riots in Brixton, Hansworth, Tottenham and Toxteh in the 80s. These were race riots. Old stalwarts from the 80s, people like Darcus Howe were wheeled on to give important pronouncements about police harassment of the black youth. Contemporary black pundits were also roped in to give their penny's worth.

It was as if time had not moved on since 1985.

But there's a problem and everybody knows it. The trouble spots included Salford, Gloucester, Milton Keynes, Reading, Nottingham, Ealing, Enfield, West Bromwich, Greater Manchester, Bristol, these areas are mostly white.

Look at the images of the rioters or do what I did and go on to the street and see the rioters, one thing becomes crystal clear; the rioters were mostly white.

This is where the Italian Job comes in. The idea persists that the whites were just passengers, the driver is still black, or Asian.


Historian David Starkey notoriously explained this on the BBC's Newsnight.

The whites he said have adopted black mores and values.

“The whites have become black, a particular sort of violent nihilistic attitude has become the fashion and black and white, boy and girl operate in this language together. This Jamaican patios that has been intruded in England.”

David Starkey is wrong. Firstly he is wrong about language, nobody outside of London talks in Jamaican patios or multicultural English as it is called, certainly not in Salford or Gloucester.

More fundamentally he is wrong in his assessment of the problem. He could not be more wrong. White people haven't become black the opposite is true. Black people have become white, that is to say they have become English; and the English like to riot. Sometimes we riot for a purpose but at other times it is mindless.

In 1780 a mob took over London for two weeks. They rampaged through the street in an orgy of destruction. The nominal reason was anti-Catholicism, but historians and commentators at the time thought the real reason was a combination of lack of social mobility and an opportunity to loot. Sound familiar?

In the Middle Ages peasant revolts were fairly common. The most famous was the revolt of 1381. That has been sold to us as a righteous looting, noble peasants chaffing against evil barons.

However most of these rebellions were totally dodgy and therefore not well remembered. Jack Cade's rebellion in 1450 is a case in point. After all this time it is difficult to work out what Jack and his lads actually wanted, other than to steal and to smash things up.

Shakespeare portraits Jack as a bragging charlatan leading a rowdy mob. The Jack Cades of today would be or more accurately are on blackberry.

The 20th Century had riots in England aplenty, in France also.

There were riots in Bristol in 1919, there was the so-called Battle of Cable Street in 1936 against Oswald Moseley's Fascists. There was the Tonypandy Riots, the Brown Dog riots, the Epsom Riots, the Poll Tax riots, my flat mate took part in that.

We have had riots because we were happy, after we won the Great War in 1919 celebrations turned into riots. We have had riots because we were sad, after losing football matches and yes we have had race riots.

It is not just blacks against whites or against the white “system”, (Brixton 1981) sometimes it’s whites attacking blacks (Notting Hill 1958). Other times it’s Asians against whites (Oldham and Bradford 2001) and other times it’s black against Asians (Birmingham 2005).

But mostly people riot; because it's summer, because they are young and because they are bored.

Growing up in Chelmsford, Essex in the 80s I experienced the low-level suburban violence that seems to benighted every small to medium size town in England.

A river runs through the town in the Northern suburbs. At night kids would stand on both sides of the river and throw stones at each other. Then the council was dumb enough to build a bridge. There were pitched battles between dozens of kids on that bridge.

This low-level suburban rioting never received much attention from the media. It was happening all over the country most summers, but it was localised and sporadic.

If it's happening everywhere at the same time, then the press are going to notice.

What would have happened if you have satellite TV, CCTV, blackberries, and Twitter in the 60s?
Youth cults, the Mods and the Rockers, would be fighting each other all over the country, not just in Brighton.


Why did these riots happen?

Here is your answer.

This riots happened because the English like to riot and now the English have the technology to riot in many different places at the same time.

There is another very English type of violence which is very instructive as to what went on this August. Why has no-one noticed that these riots have more in common with football hooliganism that persists to this day than anything that went on in Brixton in the 1980s?

It was football hooligan gangs, known as firms, who invented organised fighting and looting specialised clothes and sport goods shops. This is the culture of the casuals and this was a casual riot. Casual culture spread to the streets and it was only a matter of time before casual organisational skills did as well.

This also explains something else that has not been discussed much. Why there was no rioting in Scotland and Wales.

Scotland in the 70s and 80s had enormous problems with football hooliganism. The Scottish Football Association and the Scottish government in the 90s dealt with the problem by appealing to people's sense of patriotism.

“Let's not be like the English, let's be civilised, let's not tarnish own nation's reputation,” they told people. The strategy worked. Hooliganism has died out as a Scottish problem.

I think Scots will agree the reason why the Scots didn't riot isn't because they don't want to be black. The reason why the Scots, and the Welsh and Northern Irish for that matter, didn't riot is because they don't want to be like the English.

Football hooliganism is the English disease after all. Now all types of mindless urban and suburban violence have become the English disease.

Why the English like to riot is a subject too big for this essay. It's been going on for decades, it's been going on for centuries really.

I suspect the answer lies in the mutual contempt the classes have held for each other since the Norman Conquest. After a period of détente from the 1945-1990s, this hatred has come back with a vengeance.

Modern England has vilified its underclass “the chavs”. Now “the chavs” are fighting back. But there's the thing, chavs are usually presented as white. This riot proves chavs can be any race.



New feature (Off Topic) This Blog is about Estonia but occasionally I may publish a feature or opinion piece that is off topic. Here's one about the England riots.


White Riots




City under siege
By Abdul Turay
Published Postimees 11 August 2011

Croydon High Street this morning looked like a war zone. I could see smoke pouring from buildings on the main street. Places I know well were burning to the ground. Police had sectioned of the main street. The helicopters, the one
s with
the cameras on, whirred overhead. Debris strewed the streets, people walked around dazed and shocked, not quite sure what to do.

Then is started up again. By noon Croydon was starting to look dangerous. Crowds of youths were beginning to gather. So I went home, only to find the high street near to where I live was shut down. There are reports of crowds beginning to gather there too. I can hear the wail of police sirens as I am typing this.

There is no simple explanation as to why this is happening. The truth is nobody knows why it is happening.

Some commentators have pegged the rioting on the usual suspects of inner city social deprivation and government cuts. This is demonstrable false, as well as poorer areas like Peckham, Tottenham, Hackney, Dalston, and Walthamstow and Brixton, rampaging gangs have torn up well-heeled areas like Notting Hill, Camden Town, Chalk Farm, Ealing, and Lavender Hill.

Ealing was one of the worst hit areas, it is not an inner city area, it’s an affluent leafy suburb on the outskirts of London, think Nõmme.

There have also been trouble across the country in Liverpool, in the centre of Birmingham, in Leeds, Manchester, Bristol and Nottingham. More is sure to follow.

I spoke to local residents in some of the worse effected areas who have been touched personally by events.

Tyrone Davidson lives in Peckham, a tough inner city area on the front line last night. He knows some of the people involved in the rioting.

“I wouldn’t be surprise if some of them(the rioters) come up to me and ask “do you want to buy a TV, do you want to buy a phone?””

Davidson gives me updates of the latest developments.

“My friend just e-mailed me and said it is kicking off in Lewisham again. ”

Talk to local residents and it is very clear that this not a race riot, nor political riot like the one in Tallinn four years ago. It is sheer mindless violence.


I have been on the street, I have seen the rioters. They are young, mostly male, between the ages of 15-30, but different races, religions, shapes and sizes. What they have in common is a hooded attire and an appetite for destruction.

“This ain’t political, some people are just angry and others are jumping on the band wagon,” Davidson said.

“Others are just thinking let’s just go on the rampage. Some of these kids are just 14, 15, their don’t know what's going on, it is just fun for them.

“These people are tearing up the streets . All ages, all colours. It is not a race riot, it’s just mad,” Davidson said.

Bill Todd another local resident agreed. “It's not politically motivated. It is just pure looting,” he said.

Though we may not know why it is happening, I can tell you how it is happening.

Local residents, people in touch with the hoodlums agree these events are not spontaneous, they are co-ordinated attacks, executed with almost military precision. Co-ordinated by blackberry.

In Croydon town centre on Monday, shop were closed at 4pm, hours before any trouble. Shopkeepers had got word that trouble was coming.

Residents also knew trouble was on the way. “My daughter called me at quarter to four and said there will be trouble,” local resident Sheena Kochi said.

This pre-planning has led to senseless destruction. A furniture store on the outskirts of Croydon was set alight merely to divert emergency services away from the main show of smashing up and looting the high street.

“They didn't get all the shops they wanted so they will back for them tonight,” said another local resident who didn't want to be named.

All over London there has been a similar pattern. The looters have discovered the power of the internet to manipulate the police and other emergency services. There are stories of polices being deliberately diverted away from hot spots by false reports of trouble twitted over the web.

Ultimately and this is the really scary thing, the looters have discovered that if you riot in different parts of the city at the same time the police just don't have the resources to deal with it. IT and systematic planning has created new opportunities for looting and general mayhem.




Could this knowledge spread to other countries? Can we expect gangs of hooded rullnokad roaming the streets of Tallinn?

London is beyond saving. “The kids know there aren't enough police to contain it. Police can’t be in two places at the same time,” Davidson said.

Two girls bragging about the riot to the BBC made the same point: “It was good though (the riot), it was good fun. It is not even a riot it's showing the police that we can do what we want.”

The only good thing to come out of all this madness is that ordinary people, decent people, are coming together. Neighbours who wouldn't normally talk and would be going about their business zombie-like on a Monday are now engaging with each other, looking out for each other. It's not just friends and family, total strangers will warn you where to go and where not to go.

It's almost as city has divided into two factions. Them and us. Them, being gangs of hooded youth and us, being everybody else.

I feel like I am living in a city under siege but the attackers are inside the walls already. We all wait with some trepidation for even
ts for the next few nights.


The End of Newspapers
By Abdul Turay
Published Postimees 12 July 2011

Until last Sunday The News of the World was the most successful and biggest selling English language newspaper in the World. It sold 2.6 million copies more than the entire population of Estonia.


Then on 7 July 2011, Rebekah Brooks, the flame-haired chief executive of News International, the media empire that owns The News of the World, marched into their main office in Wapping unannounced and told the staff to their utter amazement that Sunday's editions would be the last and the paper, which has been in existence since 1843, would be closing.

In Britain, where I am at the moment, everybody is stunned; not just media types. Taxi drivers, hairdressers, waiters, fitness instructors, even people who don't even read newspapers, how much more The News of the World, are talking about nothing else.

Britain's newspaper industry is in deep trouble and the rest of the World is about to follow. The big issues are corruption, too much power in the hands of a few owners and the survival of the newspaper industry itself. All these issues are very relevant in Estonia.

Corruption

It is no point asking the question, is the media corrupt? it is pretty clear that large parts of it are.

Investigations conducted by rival newspaper The Guardian, and later by The New York Times and Vanity Fair proved the newspaper hacked phones, bribed police officers and bought the silence of politicians by threatening to expose their private lives.

The police believe this newspaper hacked the phones of anyone who they might have an interest in. Celebrities, member of royal family, the families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan, murdered children, the families of the victims of the terrorist bombing in London, all had their phones hacked.

Up until recently, News International have claimed that only one rogue reporter was responsible for the hacking, he went to jail, and that only a handful of people were hacked.

This was a lie, many reporters were involved and thousands of people were hacked. All of this happened in the early 2000s when the very same red-haired, Rebekah Brooks was the editor of the paper.

As Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian told the BBC: “This (hacking of phones) was systematic, this went on for every story.”

What has outraged the British people most was the revelation that The News of the World hired a private investigator (P.I.) to hacked into the phone of a young girl, Milly Dowler, who had been abducted and was later found murdered. The P.I. was so desperate to listen to messages from worried relatives that he deleted exiting messages from her phone when her mailbox was full, leading the family and the police to believe that she was still alive.

It appears the newspaper industry in Britain is run by people who are irredeemably corrupt and/or all powerful.

The News of the World senior editors have admitted bribing the police to get stories. The police were so much in their pockets that did not seriously investigate wrong-doing for years.

Rebekah Brooks is so close to Rupert Murdoch the billionaire Tycoon who owns News International's parent company, News Corporation, the second biggest media conglomerate in the World, that she is sometimes referred to as his daughter.

She has become so powerful that even politicians are afraid of her. She was once called in front of House of Commons select committee. She refused to attend. The committee insisted she come. Then she let it be known that she could destroy the lives and careers of individual MPs on the committee, they climbed down.

After her brutal sacking of staff who were all new and not involved in the goings on under her editorship, not one staff member was prepared to go on record and criticise her. They are scared, they need new jobs.

Rebekah Brooks denies that she knew anything about phone hacking, or bribing police doing her time as editor and she has refused to resign.

Britain top editors find it highly unlikely that she is blameless.

“That any editor wouldn't know what was going on is inconceivable,”Rosie Boycott a former editor of British newspaper the Independent said.

“Who are these wrong doers? either that includes Rebekah Brooks or she didn't know what was going on in which case she is not very competent,” Alan Rushbridger said.

Only one man has confessed. Paul MacMillan a reporter who worked for her once stated: “Of course she knew.”

The flame-haired Mrs Brooks, successor was a man called Andy Coulson. He resigned as editor of the News of the World when the scandal first broke in 2008.

One politician in the U.K. Dame Shirley Williams described him recently as: “a brilliant liar”.

That didn't stop Prime Minister David Cameron from appointing him as his chief press adviser.

The public believe he is more honest than the flame-haired Mrs Brooks. It was he who admitted to bribing the police to get stories. He is now facing criminal charges.

Worse is set to follow. It seems the other tabloid papers not just The News of the World have been involved in phone hacking and bribing the police, they have been strangely muted on the the scandal.

Rebekah Brooks has said that when all the muck has come into the light people will understand why they had to close a newspaper.

Prime Minister David Cameron said there will be two independent inquiries, one into phone hacking and the other into the ethics and culture of the press.

Britain newspapers look pretty ugly compared to Estonia.

Money is driving corruption. Even if Estonia's editors were so inclined, there simple isn't the capital required to bribe police and pay private investigators to hack phones.

Estonia's press culture is fundamentally different. Newspapers in the U.K. are what daytime TV is the U.S. Britain's press has been in a yellow race to the bottom for years. Gossip, tittle tattle, sensationalism are what sells. In Estonia this newspaper outsells Õhtuleht.

Ownership of the media

In chat show after chat show the same refrain came up from politicians and media experts. Why has Britain allowed so much power to be concentrated in the hands of one foreigner, press Baron, Rupert Murdoch.

“MPs were terrified of taking on the tabloids, especially News International,” said actor, Hugh Grant himself a victim of the hacking.

“This is a protection racket,” Grant said on the BBC's Question Time.

“They are too powerful we have to sort out the power of the media,” said Harriet Harman deputy leader of the Labour party.

Ever since the late seventies no politician of any strip risked upsetting Rupert Murdoch because the belief was no party could win an election without Rupert Murdoch's support. This started when the News of the World's sister paper The Sun switched allegiance from Labour to the Conservatives in the the 1979 election.

This means a private businessman, who is not even domicile has more power than elected law-makers

One journalist, Jon Gaunt described a function held by Rupert Murdoch, he said all the great and the good were there; the entire cabinet and the shadow cabinet.

“It was like being in the court of the Sun King,” Gaunt said.

Can it be right the an unelected foreigner should have such power? Rupert Murdoch is Australian but he took American citizenship so he could control Fox television in the United States. He was once asked what nationality he considered himself and he answered.
“I'm just Anglo-Saxon.”

This isn't just a flippant remark, it's actually the case. He feels an emotional attachment to the country of his ancestors and to other great culturally “Anglo-Saxon” countries.

He doesn't act like a foreigner, he acts like a native. This is the both a problem and a boon. It means for example that he has kept the loss making The Times open for years, whereas somebody without this emotional attachment to the mother country might have closed it.

But it does mean he has a real interest in who gets elected.

No-one can really say how much influence Murdoch personal has on editorial policy. But The Sun and the News of the World have famously gone from being strongly left of centre papers to strongly right of centre ones, though the process didn't happen overnight.

Greg Dyke former head of the BBC has said Murdoch's time as Sun King may be over.

“We have had 30 years where cosied up to New International and Murdoch. I think this week that's been broken. I think it will fundamentally change politics and the media in this country.”

The relationship between politicians and journalist in Estonia is complex, and the subject for another article but we can say this.

In Estonia no politician of any political persuasion is scared of newspaper tycoons!

The opposition may not like the media but they are not afraid of them. At the last elections Edgar Savisaar increased his personal share of the vote despite all the mudslinging. This is a clear indication that the print media has only a limited influence on the way people vote.

Foreign ownership can be seen as a blessing in disguise. The Norwegian owners of this newspaper and the Swedish owners of Äripäev don't have the same emotional attachment to Estonia that Murdoch has to Britain or the USA. They don't influence editorial policy.

This is the view of the all editors and is a position not challenged by political parties of all stripes.

Their concern is journalists as a social class and the personal relationships between journalists and politicians not strategic relationships.


The survival of the newspaper industry

Here is where things get tough. It has been suggested across the board that the real reason why The News of the World was sacrificed was because News Corporation is in the bidding process to take full control of BSkyB Britain's major satellite operator. It already owns a third of the shares, it wants the rest. BSkyB has revenues of close to six billion pounds and net income of £878 million compared to a net income of both The News of the World and its sister paper the daily The Sun of £86 millions. Satellite television is the greater prize.

Closing down the newspaper clears the way for ownership of BSkyB in two ways, it reduces the minister's ability to veto the take over of BSkyB on the grounds of plurality, that is one person owning too many media outlets, and it makes it harder for the broadcast regulator, Ofcom, to prevent the sale on the grounds that Murdoch and his executives aren't “fit and proper persons” to run a broadcaster.


Too be sure after all this, it is looking increasingly unlikely that Murdoch will get control of BSkyB. But they had to do something. The bid would fail if News Corporation had done nothing.


Rupert Murdoch is the World greatest newspaper man. A man famed for his love of newspapers, yet he was prepared to cut loose his most successful newspaper, merely for the chance of owning a satellite broadcast platform.

We all know that newspapers readership is shrinking and ageing. The News of the World readership is down from 4 million to 2.6 million over the last 10 years.

We know most young people get their news for free from the  net, in Estonia this means Delfi, but if even profitable newspapers can be closed for strategic reasons what hope it there in the long term for less profitable or smaller ones?

Paying for news online isn't working either. Rupert Murdoch's son James has been gunning for the BBC because nobody is going to pay for news from The Times online when they can get just as good quality news for free.

The editor of this newspaper once told me nobody knows how to save the newspaper industry, not even Murdoch. It appears she was more right than she knew at the time.


China Rising
By Abdul Turay
Published Postimees 6 June 2011

Here is a random list of things that came into my head:

Wong Fei-Hung, Tsui Hark, Gong Li, Shao Lin, Leon Lai Ming, Stephen Chow Sing Chi, Wang Fei, Sun Yat Sen, Chiang Kai Shek (also known as Jiang Zhong Zheng), Fa jia, Si ren bang, Han Fei, Shen, Dao, Fu Jian, Bo Yang, Guo Min Dang, Aaron Kwok Fu Shing, Nan Jing, Cui Jian, Tang Chao, Andy Lau De Hua.

To most people here, the above is just a list of sounds. If I were to put together a list of the Western counterparts you would know precisely whom or what I was talking about.

Wong Fei Hung is the Cantonese equivalent of Robin Hood. Nan Jing is a big city, a former capital.

Somebody asked me once knowing that I had once lived in China what the Chinese and Estonian share common. The answer is the Chinese and Estonians share... ignorance,they have a limited knowledge of each others culture.

In April the IMF published figures that predict that China will replace the United States as the world’s largest economy in PPP terms as early as 2016. They later backtracked a little but you get the point. China will be number one sooner or later.

In May, the Chinese announced they are putting forward plans to launch a television channel in Estonian. The Chinese are spreading their influence to Estonia.

The Chinese themselves laugh at the notion that about to take over the World.

“The notion that China wants to replace the United States and dominate the World is myth,” Chinese Foreign ministry Dai Bingguo China’s State Councillor told the press last year.

But the facts are that China’s global influence is increasing and is going to increase whether they like it or not.

Estonians understands that in order to survive and prosper as a nation they need to understand China. Estonians are aware of the challenge, but I doubt many realise just how gigantic the task is. You certainly can’t sum China up in one opinion piece. I won’t attempt to do this, nor will I attempt an analysis of China’s foreign policy ambitions in this article. Geopolitics is a complex area, especially when dealing with China and there are enough pretend experts in the field already.

What I can do is give an idea of just how big the concept of China is.

I ended up in China by accident rather than design. When I was 23, just out of University, I decided to put some distance between myself and my family. One day I quit my job and flew to the other side of the world.

I arrived in big industrial city called Kaoshiung in the Republic of China, Taiwan, with no money and no job. I didn’t speak the language, didn’t know anybody and didn’t look like anybody else. I planned to stay only a few weeks, I ended up staying for five years.

I spent my first night underneath a palm tree. I woke up to find myself surrounded by an army of old people dancing around me very slowly in perfect synchronicity. They were doing Tai-chi, which is sort of like a cross between martial arts and yoga and is very popular with the elderly.

Years later I was working as a reporter on a national paper in Hong Kong, I was married to Chinese girl, I was speaking Mandarin Chinese.

Yet after all this time, I still would not call myself an expert on China. As an old flame who now works as a China correspondent for the Washington Post once said to me.

“Nobody is an expert on China, not even the Chinese are experts on China.”

The trouble is China is just simply too big for anybody to comprehend. China is not just a country in the same sense that Estonia or America is a country, China is a civilisation.

It is as though the whole of Europe, North and South America, Australia and South Africa were one country. China is actually many different peoples speaking different languages and practising different philosophies.

Just looking at the words “China” and “Chinese language” in the Chinese language gives us an idea of the scale of it.

The Chinese word for China translates into Estonian as kesk-riik (The Centre Country), the sense of it is the centre of the World. The Chinese not only believed that their country was at the centre of the World but that most of the World was Chinese. They weren’t far wrong, at the beginning of the 20th Century about half the World’s population were Chinese.

The Chinese world for the Chinese language translates into Estonian as tavakeel (The common language, usual language) the sense being this is the common language that everybody should speak.
The common language serves the same function that English does in Europe. There are other types of Chinese languages, Shanghai, Fuijian, Hakka, Cantonese; they’re called dialects but actually they are as different from each other as Finnish is from Estonian, some more so.

The political authorities require everybody to learn the common language in the People’s Republic of China in the island of Taiwan and in Hong Kong, but in reality large numbers of the population speak a different language at home.

I have known people show up in Taiwan thinking they speak the language and then find out not only do they not understand what people are saying but they were irritating people by speaking the “Beijing dialect” as some Taiwanese call it. Imagine some one showing up in Tallinn and then speaking to everybody in Russian.

Then there are the ethnic minorities, who have totally different languages, cultures and religions to the main ethnic groups the Han Chinese. Examples of ethnic minorities are the Manchurians who actually conquered China a few centuries ago and founded the Qing dynasty, the last imperial dynasty, though there are very few people left who speak Manchurian. There are even ethnic minorities who are Turkic, they don’t look Chinese to you or me, they look Turkish, but as far as the Chinese government is concerned they live in China, they speak Chinese, they are Chinese.

There’s an old saying in English that the Chinese are inscrutable. This is nonsense. People are the same everywhere. People are the same in ways that are surprising. In China some young ladies would react to me with terror. Some were scared even to shake my hand.
Their attitude was: “Stay away from me you’re strange, you’re foreign, stay away.”

I used to feel bad about it until I went to Africa for the first time and found out that the young ladies there were behaving in exactly the same manner, even though I looked like them.

Then I realised it doesn’t matter what you look like, young women in conservative patriarchal societies are just afraid of foreign men.

By the way, Estonian young women never behave like that.

There are some things that Estonians and Chinese have in common. Both Estonians and Chinese share a strong patriotism, Chinese are very nationalistic. Sun Yat Sen is the Chinese equivalent of Lennart Meri, respected even in the communist People's Republic. Both peoples are close to the land. Both have a strong work ethic. Chinese culture is conservative and traditional.

If people don’t understand Estonia because it’s too small, then people don’t understand China because it’s too big. The Chinese, or at least the government of the People'sRepublic, has been accused of bullying, authoritarianism, human rights abuse, imperialism and military aggression.

Whenever I read some expert attack China’s human rights record or foreign policy, I always wonder how much time this person has actually spent in China. The people who I know who have spent some considerable time in China and have learned China’s history and culture tend to be a bit more philosophical. Without saying too much about Chinese foreign policy here, I will say there is a Chinese way of doing things.


But this still leavess the central question that I posed at the beginning of this article. How can Estonians find out more about China?

How is an Estonian company which wants to do business in China able to do it, if they don’t know the first thing about Chinese culture? Chinese like Estonians value business partners who take an interest in their culture.

There are opportunities to learn about Chinese culture in Estonia at Tallinn University. Estonia also has a small Chinese community. But if you are not ready to go back into formal education opportunities are a bit thin on the ground.

Most young Estonians exist in a cultural space that looks to the West. “In running toward the West”, away from Russia, decision makers have forgotten that China is also in the East, not to mention the rest of Asia.

Now we have a situation were it is virtually impossible to learn that much about Chinese culture, history, language in Estonia unless you really put your mind to it. I had to go to London to get my fix of the latest movies from Hong Kong. That’s why this initiative from Chinese broadcasters is so welcome, but it is a small gesture. When the average Estonian businessman knows who Andy Lau is, then progress is
being made.


Why the world is silent about the Estonian election

Playing around with higher education

Response from Education Minister (ed note: in Estonian, will translate into English when I have time)

Right is Right ?

Why I write in Estonia

Sotsid are not freaks Why are the Social Democrats still failing?

Room 101 A comparison between British kids and Estonian kids

Go West Where is Estonia exactly?

Venture Capitalist Allan Martinson view Follow up story

Musician Jaan Tätte view Follow up story

The greatest speech of all time A review of Unite Estonia a very successful political play held 8 May at Saku Suurhall.

For Europe's sake: Stop the Tories How the British elections will influence Estonia.

The libertarian tradition Why Estonian Health care is better than the USA

Brave new Estonia Estonian Independence day

Cancel the debt Haitian crisis

Who's in charge here How the leader of the opposition in Estonia can bully the PM.

The man who annoys Estonians: Q and A with Priit Pullerits Postimees did this in depth interview.

Black men, Estonian women the truth
An opinion piece. The title is self-explanatory.

Pyrrhic Victory
About the 2009 local elections in Estonia.

The Sexiest man in Estonia Guess who?

The Playboy bunny and foreign policy

Laar's Dilemma About the former PM of Estonia.

Cult of Youth Why Estonia is run by kids

Quiet genius who brought East to the West How the Koran came to be published in Estonia.

Bigotry and denial Race relations in the Baltics in particular Lithuania

A hard landing indeed About the economic crisis

Let's eat potato peels and again

Fighting to preserve a Nation's heritage Lithuania's Jewish community



Why the world is silence about the election
By Abdul Turay
Published Postimees 10 March 2011

Nobody cares. The World didn't care. The global reaction to the Estonian election has been total apathy.

In the UK, The Financial Times ran a brief inside story on the election saying who won but not why. The Chicago Tribunal carried a brief wire report as did The Herald Sun in Australia and The Telegraph in Britain. The BBC covered the story, but buried away somewhere. It had no analysis on the lead up to the election and no real analysis of the reasons for the results.

The New York Times was better. It gave the story brief analysis, but from its Moscow correspondent, which as many people believe, is a bit like writing about the activities of the French resistance in World War II from the point of view of the Gestapo headquarters in Berlin.

“Estonians stoically absorbed the suffering,” wrote The New York Times correspondent.

“The opposition leader Edgar Savisaar, the mayor of the capital, Tallinn, and head of the Center Party, argued during the campaign that the government had overlooked the suffering of average people in its drive to join the Euro zone.”

At least The New York Times mention the Savisaar financial scandal.

The Independent, and The Guardian in London, both of which usually have excellent international coverage, didn't cover the elections at all, not even wire reports.

What's going on?

One could argue Estonia is small country and the its politics are not of much interest to larger countries.

But elections in other small countries, Latvia in October 2010, Iceland in 2009, and more recently in Ireland in February 2011 were all extensively and exhaustively covered in the international media.

The Spanish election is already getting heavy media coverage even though it is not due for a year.

It's not true even that the international press don't care what happens here. When people were rampaging through the street of Tallinn in 2007, the whole World knew about it. Even the tragic accident in the orphanage last month was widely covered in the international press.

Part of the explanation may be there is a lot going on elsewhere. Newspapers have a limited amount of space to fill and with the upheaval in Libya and the Middle East taking up the column inches there was simply no space.

Newspapers need a narrative. And the narrative that the World has followed since the Financial Crisis began in 2008 is that in country after country people are rejecting their governments as incompetent failures and electing fresh faces even if, or maybe especially if, the new faces have no experience in Government.

The Estonian experience challenges this narrative. The Estonian people have given a vote of confidence in the existing coalition, which got a combined 56 per cent of the vote.

As a colleague who works for a national newspaper in the UK told me, had Estonian voters thrown out the coalition government and elected a new government there would have been a lot of interest, but since they voted for the same guys who have been in power for the past few years there was little to no interest.

Could there be another more sinister reason why the story hasn't been covered.

“When it comes to Eastern Europe we want muck, we want trouble. We don't want to hear that everything is hunky dory(all good),” my colleague said.

According to my colleague, news providers when they are interested in the region at all, want to present an image to readers of backward little nations which are making a mess of things.

The coverage to the Latvian election last year is instructive. If you compare Latvia and Estonia, in it's essentially the stories are the same.

In both countries an international economic crisis was the catalyst for a local credit crisis. In both countries unemployment went up as businesses collapsed. In both countries centre-right government reacted by severe austerity measures and slashing wages in the public sector. In both countries, in spite of all, this the ruling coalition won general elections by comfortable victories.

Latvia's crisis was worse, so they had riots, a change of leadership and international bail outs. Estonia, on the other hand, got membership into the Eurozone.

The elections themselves were not a story. It was the bad news that preceded it that were the story.

This explains why an international paper like The Guardian could cover the Latvian elections in some depth and not cover the Estonian elections at all.

This explains why the BBC could have have a headline story like: “Latvians vote in crisis elections” and not have a headline about the Estonian elections, until after the votes are in.

The fact the Estonia economy is anticipated to grow by 4 per cent this year and the fact that unemployment is dropping or the country has the lowest debt and the smallest deficit- as a percentage of its GDP - of any country in Europe, is mentioned in The New York Times but not in most other outlets.

The irony is of course there is a big story that the international press have missed. This election was extraordinary for its ordinariness. In a time of falling wages, unemployment and hardship, people didn't panic, they voted sensibly. The whole election was a very sensible affair.

Let's not forget that the result was not only a endorsement of the government, but an endorsement of the entire political establishment. In a society that remains traditionally cynical of institutional politics, this is remarkable in itself.

All the parties had something to be be happy about. The Reform Party won. The IRL and the Social Democrats increased their number of seats and votes. And though the Centre Party won less seats than the last election, leader Savisaar increase his personal endorsement to record levels, further proving, if any proof were needed that his supporters don't care what is written about him in the media.

Had the Estonian people been angry, as the people of Iceland as Ireland have been angry, they might have turfed out not only the government but the opposition and voted for one of the mighty fringe party leaders. As it was, not even the Social Democrats and their dynamic leader Sven Mikser, who performed brilliantly in the pre-election leaders' debate and whose party many political analysts think, had the best campaign couldn't quite break the mould and become the main opposition party.

In some way you can't blame the international press. People are marching through the streets of Dublin, rioting in Athens, demonstrating in Cairo and fighting pitched battles in Libya's towns and cities.

Estonian people voting for stability is rather boring.

Yes it would be nice to get more coverage of the election. It would be nice to get more coverage of Estonian public life in general. But the international media have put Estonia in a box and unless something dramatic happens to break Estonia out of it, the country can anticipate being ignored.


Playing around with higher education?
By Abdul Turay
Published Postimees 4th February 2011

The IRL is promising to scrap tuition fees for a large majority of university students. The Social Democrats are accusing them of populism and Keskerakond are claiming that they are just stealing their policies.

But what do the students themselves think?

At 18 years old, and about to enter University, Diana Kull is just the type of person whom this policy is aimed at. Free education sounds good to Kull, it was the main reason she picked the university she picked. She is also just the type of young swing voter the IRL is trying to win over. She likes the Social Democrats but she believes the IRL are the party of common sense.

“(I like) their general appearance. The IRL are not too nationalist, they are in the safe zone in the middle,” she said.

Don't count on Kull voting for the IRL just yet. In fact don't count on her staying in Estonia at all.

Kull is leaving the country, she decided to study in Denmark because which already has free tuition.

Even if the education was free she wouldn't be staying. For Kull, who wants to study fashion design, the issue isn't just money, it is the quality of education she can get abroad.

“Even though we pay for education the level of education is so bad. If I go to Denmark they have all these machines for making fabrics.
“ Here they make things on looms, no-one does that any more, it's just useless,” she said.

As for returning to Estonia Diana Kull faces the reverse moral dilemma.
“Maybe the question should be should I stay in Denmark? Maybe I would feel guilty about having their tax payers pay for my education,” she said noting the irony of the situation.

When I talked to the people who the policy will effect directly, the students, one thing became clear, they are just not buying it. Students understand that things are far more complex than the three words in the manifesto pledge “tasuta kõrg haridus” would have you believe.

The central problem the The IRL faces is people don't believe the contradictions. They don't believe that a party that is still most forcefully in favour of fiscal austerity, can deliver programs, mothers pensions, free education, that are obviously going to cost a lot of money.

Aleksandr Popov, 26, Ph.D. candidate and lecturer in International Law at the University of Tartu believes they can't do it.

“It's a discussion that going to effect everybody for the next four years. Obviously the IRL is trying to encourage students. Special pension for mothers. It's a good idea but where are we going to get the money.”

“They can raise raise some kind of tax. But then I don't see the difference. People will have to pay for their children's education through tax,” he said.

Popov argues that trying to find the money from somewhere else won't work either.

“It might be an idea to cut the expenditure from the military, this has been tried four times and each time it hasn't worked. A plague of historian will argue that the Russians are around the corner, we can not cut.
“Since we are members of NATO we have an obligation to take part in NATO treaties. There is no other area to cut. Culture has been cut and health,” Popov said.

Estonian Universities face a fundamental problem as they improve. If universities here begin to compete in a global market it pushes prices up towards international norms. Thus the Reform party talk of attracting top international lecturers won't wash if they can't afford to pay them.
Other countries have faced the same problems for decades. It was precisely this issue that led to the collapse of Britain's free education system in the the 90s. Britain's Universities were and are in direct competition with American Universities. Lecturers began to demand higher wages and better faculties or they would leave to go to the United States. The government wanted to increase the number of students attending University. The answer was to make the students pay; just a little at first. People accepted it, more or less, at the time.

Now the students are rampaging through the streets of London. You have probably read about the mayhem that broke out last year; cars set alight, hooligans fighting running battles with the police. The heir to the throne and his wife, cowling in terror as an angry mob set about their car. More violence is set to follow

We came learn a lot from this the story, and we can learn a lot from the story of the Liberal Democrats, like Keskerakond, their Estonian equivalent, they have touted, free higher education as a key policy. They were the most popular party among the young for precisely this reason. Yet when they came into power as part of a coalition, they increase tuition fees by 300 per cent from 3000 pounds to 9000 pounds a year. Students were outraged and reserved special hatred for Lib Dem leader, Nick Clegg.
Cynical Estonians may shrug this off. In Estonia, political parties routinely do things that were not in their manifesto or don't do things that were. But it is instructive, parties normally don't the precise opposite of their manifesto promise, unless they are in coalition. Britain does not have a tradition of coalition governments. Hence the riots. Estonia does.

This doesn't mean that the IRL will definitely renege on their promise, but students are not counting on it, they are not even discounting the possiblity that an IRL government might actually raising fees.

They are also worried that not enough thought has been put into the implications of the policy. Free education may actually make the education system worse.

Erik Loide, 19, is precisely the type of student that the policy is aimed at, he planning to study biology.
He said: “Of course I think it is a good policy. My family isn't very rich, And I can't rely on my mother who is like a single mother right now. If I would like to go to University she could pay for living she couldn't pay for living and tuition.

“If you are paying a 1000 Euro for going to school it will put a lot of pressure on the student.”

But he fears the quality of education will suffer.

“Money is needed for research and materials and new technology. If we should take away the tuition fees, it won't go there if everybody gets free education,” he said.

Loide argues to suddenly spring this policy on people in the year of the election was a mistake.

“By the time they give the free education, if they give the free education, it will take years of reforms,” he said.

Popov argues that throwing money at the problem will not improve education.

“I am for free higher education. I am for tougher education to get into university. Someone should be emotionally ready to get into University. Many young people who come to University still have the high school mind set,” he said.

Popov argues that Universities need to change the way they do thing.

“In Estonia we don't have strict regulations in establishing Universities. We have a lot of primal academies.
“People are uninformed. And generally high school kids are very uninformed because our Universities don't do 'open door weeks' which logically they should do every year.
“I didn't have a clue when I went to University,” Popov said.

Even those who already get a free education see problems. Edith Nigumann, 23, is training to be a radiology technician.
She thinks making everything free will demotivate teaching staff and students.
“ Maybe tutors won't work hard. It will be really harder to get into school and somebody who really doesn't want to study this profession will go because it is free,” she said.

Though her first choice would be to stay in Estonia she said she would still consider going abroad if she got the right offer.
“When we started school they told us that we were going to have jobs, good salary, Now they told us all the jobs are full. We were disappointed because this profession isn't so widely spread,” she said.

Some students especially those active in student politics are totally cynical.

“I think their promises are nonsense, where does the money come from?” Kristjan Kilk, 16, who campaigns for the Estonian School Councils Union, said bluntly. He is not against the policy he just doesn't trust the IRL, to deliver it.

The IRL is hoping the free tuition will improve the education system making it accessible to the poor. No-one I spoke to was convinced.

The IRL is hoping that free tuition will encourage people to stay in the country, or if they do work abroad, to come back. No-one I spoke to was swayed.
“If I stay in Estonia it will be because of my family is here and things like that. I don't think I should stay here because the country has paid for my education,” Kilk said.

The IRL is hoping that this policy would win votes. All of the students I spoke to were cautious.

Nigumann said:“It would be nice to know maybe my children can go to school. But it is not going to influence the way I vote. I would rather vote for the individual, not the policy.”

The underlying theme is penny pinching and freebies do not mix. Maybe the IRL needs to see whether it's policy is really a vote winner.