Maarja Vaino: Do we find ourselves in the clutches of madmen?

Maarja Vaino.
Maarja Vaino. Source: ERR/ Ken Mürk

Our fate is no longer determined by a single great leader but echo chambers made up of invisible networks where different murmurs and whispers merge into general noise. It messes with one's head and makes one feel they have lost their own mind, Maarja Vaino finds in Vikerraadio's daily comment.

I suppose people have always felt like they are living in pivotal times and that life used to be more peaceful in the past. And it's true to an extent that time does not stand still and change is almost certain to cause uncertainty.

And yet, there are differences to the degree of this changeability, with periods of gradual change giving way to more tempestuous developments. It seems we find ourselves in the middle of a rather more serious storm today, whereas it is difficult to tell whether it's just brewing or already raging.

Either way, one is left with an increasing sense of inadequacy when reading the news from one day to the next. The feeling is taking hold that those in charge of organizing our lives are being seized by a silent madness that threatens to push the world ever deeper into chaos.

For example, I recently read an interview with the rural affairs minister whose message to Estonians was that they need to eat less because a directive somewhere demands it. We are already forced to dial back electricity and fuel use as heating has become a luxury overnight. Of course, it is all for a noble goal, for people themselves.

One is reminded of how people used to brave a cold room and food shortages inside another great empire and how it was also for those very people themselves on their glorious path to communism, to the society of their dreams. That union eventually fell apart because people got tired of being hungry and cold. While it seems we are unable to draw conclusions from history that is still so near. Onward, then, toward the victory of communism!

I'm not even sure what we could use to replace the world "communism" these days. Perhaps the most obvious choice is the "green turn" the campaign for which depresses people who care about nature and the environment in completely ruining the idea of actual conservation. It is yet another industry where salvation is bought with pardons, like in the blessed medieval period. The result is general distaste in society for all manner of environmental topics.

I'm sure that attitudes toward many divisive issues would be very different if they were not presented as mandatory and to the tune of threats and mockery. But in a situation where even schoolteachers no longer have to take a proper course in psychology, what is there to say about politicians or ideological functionaries who simply disregard human nature.

All one can do is wonder at what new and insane ideas have been proposed when reading the morning news. For example, that the prime minister is kept from ruling by ongoing crises; the U.S. president finds that a small attack on Ukraine would not be a major problem; that the state will pay local governments for closing small schools and killing off local life; that the best way out of the energy crisis is burning even more Estonian woods in furnaces etc.

All of it leaves one uneasy. The whole of Europe has been intimidated using the mantra that if people do not act in a certain way, that which allowed Hitler, Stalin and other dictators to come to power might happen again. One can unendingly watch the German people shout the fuhrer's praises on the History Channel. That is why we are convinced that this is how political madness manifests – in fanaticism galvanized behind a single leader.

And this kind of classical dictatorship is still clearly recognizable. But is seems to me that madness is manifesting in an entirely different way today. That dangerous ideas come not in the form of shouting but as quiet murmurs, and not from charismatic leaders but persons who might at times come off helpless.

Our fate is no longer determined by a single great leader but echo chambers made up of invisible networks where different murmurs and whispers merge into general noise. It messes with one's head and makes one feel they have lost their own mind. And suddenly, it seems that nations and countries have been placed under a spell again and are looking at another war.

In 1939, Anton Hansen Tammsaare wrote the "Misadventures of the New Satan" that was published immediately after World War II broke out. The author has said in an interview: "It might at first glance appear to the reader that the author is mad, but reading on, they will soon find they are mad. Keeping at it will soon make the whole world appear mad!"

It seems this is increasingly how the modern newsreader feels. And then, I'm reminded of another novel on madness, Jaan Kross' "The Czar's Madman" the hero of which refuses to give in to the zeitgeist and decides to remain himself.

Have the days returned when the fate of the world, flirting with madness, will be decided by those who can remain themselves?


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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