Featured Post

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Civil Society Starts When You Realize That Your Country is Virtual

In real life, I was standing with my colleague on the 20th floor of our office building, looking at a big cruise ship visiting Tallinn harbour. "Can you imagine that all Estonian policemen and all military could be put on this ship and it could sail away?" he said. And he was right. Not only would the forces fit in this ship, they would have plenty of room for a party too.

Countries are virtual. Yes, all of them. Be it USA or be it Albania, they all rest on the same belief that "there is a country". If there was no such belief for example, inside and outside of USA, we would not have USA and even the nuclear weapons would not help here.

Well, be honest you might say, at least part of the belief that there is USA, is supported by the fact that they have weapons! Maybe, but belief is still necessary. With Russia, for example, there is more belief that their nuclear weapons might actually work than there is ground to it, according to some analysts at least.

In Estonian case the belief that "there is a country" is not backed up by its own weapons. It is not relying upon massive industry nor any other feature that could be easily pointed out or that you can really touch. Some say that "it is all based upon our song festivals". Well, great, but in many ways Estonia seems to deny any geopolitical gravity and reason. Our biggest asset seems to be the fact that we hang around at all. And we believe that this is the right thing to do. The world seems to believe in us too.

Take away the belief and there is a prime minister who is just a stressed out man, there are too few civil servants, notoriously bad roads, a small police force and an army that according to general Ants Laaneots could immediately summon 200 men to fight and several thousands only with considerable delay. Put the belief back in and you get one great country with lot of great things to report.

The moral is that not even big countries survive without the right dose of virtuality that is expressed in values and beliefs that its citizens hold dear. Still, it may be easier for a big country to live through a temporary loss of belief than for one of the world's smallest fully functional countries called Estonia.

What is the real difference between advanced and less advanced countries? The more advanced countries tend to understand how fragile and imaginary a country can be. Less advanced countries still believe in their absolute might and the raw power of armies. As a rule, the advanced ones understand also the importance of a civil society, the further development of which is an absolute necessity in case of Estonia. Join the believers!

(The ship that we looked at. Photo from the blog of Chris Brooks.)