Opinion digest: Kersti Kaljulaid on the concepts of ethical nationalism and confident Estonians

Kersti Kaljulaid meeting with the Riigikogu's Council of Elders on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016. Source: (Hanna Samoson/ERR)

On Friday, Aug. 12, Estonian representative to the European Court of Auditors Kersti Kaljulaid delivered a patriotic speech on the Postimees Stage at the 2016 Opinion Festival in Paide in which she expanded on two words and two respective ideas she found important for her country that were represented by the two letter Es in its native-language name Eesti: eetiline (ethical) and enesekindel (confident).

Kaljulaid paired the two keywords, ethical and confident, with two others, forming two key concepts upon which she expanded in her speech — ethical nationalism and confident Estonian. An ethical nationalist was easily defined, she found — confident, curious about others and with an open mind; someone who didn't accept that people of other ethnic backgrounds living in Estonia were a threat to Estonian culture. "For so long as we ourselves are confident in speaking Estonian and patient in correcting beginner language in our case," said Kaljulaid in her speech, which was published in full afterward by Estonian daily Postimees (link in Estonian).

Kaljulaid found that the Estonian language was under no threat for so long as Estonians continued to speak the language at home with their children, and in a variety of situations and on a variety of topics, and where parents found their own language skills lacking, fiction, school, hobby school and university would help. She likewise found that Estonian was going nowhere fast for so long as it continued to be a language of education and research. That being said, she added that "Estonians should not have so little self-confidence that they see a threat to the Estonian language in the use of foreign languages in international communication."

Ethical Estonians, she continued, did not guilt half-Estonians over being only half, or demand that half of the country's population had a duty to their gender and their ethnicity to have children. Kaljulaid noted that every generation needed the opportunity to renew themselves by means of education, and had the right to make themselves happy, regardless of what happiness meant for them.

An ethical Estonia meant helping the vulnerable, including parents, the ill or those lacking an education, before spending to help those who had the ability and freedom to help themselves. It meant guaranteeing access to schools, kindergartens, sports and healthcare as well as communities, village and specialty associations, which in turn would help create confident Estonians. "A confident and ethical state is modest — it does not intrude everywhere but rather is available [for its people] when needed," explained Kaljulaid.

A confident state does not overregulate by law, but rather leaves customs and traditions be so long as they do not infringe upon others' rights — but recognizes that it is ethical to ban those norms which are harmful to thers, such as domestic violence and abuse or not paying child abuse, and come to the aid of those who are treated unfairly. She did note, however, that it was the role of the state to support Estonians' self-confidence, as the latter would in turn breed more self-support.

"An ethical state protects the array of opinions, customs and perceptions, because you never know when this array may lead to something big and good," said Kaljulaid. While she admitted that not all those living in democratic states were automatically happy and not all those living in non-democratic countries were not, she pointed out that democracy was the only model which allowed for the support of an ethical and confident citizen who was free to do as they pleased.

An ethical state did not play with its people, but rather a confident people demanded an ethical state, which in turn supported Estonians' choices. Likewise an ethical state did not dictate how to achieve happiness or what happiness was, and confident Estonians were free in their decisions, including free to be Estonian within the country or anywhere outside of it. "A confident state waves goodbye to those who depart, benefit from those who arrive and recognizes all Estonians — whether one is born Estonian or becomes one," said Kaljulaid.

Editor: Editor: Aili Vahtla

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