Tõnis Niinemets: Don't get angry, just wonder

Tõnis Niinemets.
Tõnis Niinemets. Source: Kairit Leibold/ERR

Comedian Tõnis Niinemets happened to watch a political talk show, and writes about the impression he was left with, urging politicians to give cooperation a shot and see if it does not grow on them.

"Don't get angry, just wonder!" It is something a colleague at the theater once told me during rehearsal. Of course, it was not the first time I heard the sentence, while it was the first time that I tried to apply the principle. And as fate would have it, I happened upon the TV3 talk show "Raua valimisstuudio" on Wednesday following local elections where Mihkel Raud hosted representatives of major parties.

Of course, politicians differ. There are those who sparkle, those who stick to the shadows, those whose canoe is short a few Indians and those whose canoe never had any room for them in the first place.

The latter also tend to be avid social media explorers and users. They bring their social media patterns to the Riigikogu and communication and have effectively become the vloggers of Toompea.

And already I'm wondering. Luckily, the latter were not on the talk show. However, it did feature Center Party secretary general Andre Hanimägi who made me wonder failing to tell the difference between a TV show and Riigikogu Question Time where one is supposed to exchange insincere gratitude, offer ironic recognition and emphasize during one's speech which backroom something was decided in and who was not present at the time.

I would like to see the representative of a coalition party at least try to answer the host's questions on live television. But at least Hanimägi retained some level of civility, which cannot be said of Raimond Kaljulaid who felt he had to wax ironic after every word from Kristina Kallas (Eesti 200). Peculiar behavior from a man who just took 4,000 fewer votes than last time at elections. Kaljulaid gets points for having memorized Marju Lauristin's article verbatim and for a convincing retelling of it.

Urmas Reinsalu from Isamaa was on a roll, throwing around statistics and ideas, thinking fast and even talking about a few things of substance. He seems to be more of an evening person in general as one is hard-pressed to understand whether he is present or sleeping at press events that take place in the morning.

Mart Helme from the Conservative People's Party (EKRE) had learned a new phrase in "mandatory vaccination." This is a welcome development as it renders his sentences far more versatile, seeing that the phrases "constitution," "human rights," "freedom," "Brussels" and "homosexual" have become somewhat worn out. If he could grab the Estonian flag every time he utters a new word, things would really be looking up. It also seems that EKRE are the keepers of the secret of exiting the crisis, while God forbid should anyone else hear about it.

Unfortunately, the show only had a single participant who proposed putting an end to the maundering. It was Kristina Kallas. But every time she finished, the remaining participants opened their mouths and tried to sound like a deer without having a deer call.

Oh yeah. The Reform Party's Yoko Alender was also there but she seemed tired after a long day, was peacefully leaning on the table and seemed to take more interest in something on the floor. Standing next to Kaljulaid, Alender seemed like his younger sister.

That is what I was wondering at. I'm sure the reader now feels that the author simply wishes to gloat at the expense of the participants. That is not the case. It is simply that what I have described so far was all the content there was.

I felt an impulse to stop wondering at times, as mutual relationships between parties and their representatives makes for depressing viewing. Suddenly, it is no longer that difficult to wonder at people who have not done anything to help overcome the coronavirus crisis as citizens in a situation where the government and Riigikogu have people who cannot work together for a single second.

We are taught collective responsibility in school, taught to raise our hand, listen to those who are smarter than us, discuss, read and how to express ourselves. But where does it all go in politics? We are talking about the positively tiny Republic of Estonia. Everyone knows everyone else. Please suppress your ego that has become infatuated with its own reflection, dig deep for responsibility and learn the meaning of the world "example."

We expect teachers and healthcare workers to give their all at work and refrain from yelling at colleagues in hallways or the operating room. How do you think they feel looking at politicians' statements and debates? How much longer can they keep wondering?

They have been unable to do their regular work for a long time, starting each day with overtime and attempts to solve the crisis. The next election is still some time in the future, how about we address the present and the current situation together in the meantime.

I'm not saying that politicians alone have the key to exiting the crisis, but it is becoming extremely difficult to keep wondering and being understanding. Give this cooperation thing a try for once, maybe you'll come to like it. If you don't, you should not be surprised when all your voters are like Kevin from the "Poissmeestepidu" reality show one day. Google it, it is pretty galling.

I would like to close by proposing a little trick for everyone who, like me, gets anxiety watching political talk shows: do your ironing while you're watching. It is a soothing activity and one where the result is immediately evident. At least for as long as the power does not go out.

Also! Let us please agree not to refer to what happens in the Riigikogu as theater as it is hurtful towards theater people. Theater is a collective artform that takes great dedication and pays several times less than working in the Riigikogu.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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