Kaupo Meiel: Jury members as the great hope of the Estonian people

Kaupo Meiel.
Kaupo Meiel. Source: Kairit Leibold / ERR

Participating in the work of whatever kind of jury is quite a challenge, while it can also prove beneficial, especially if Estonians could be the jury of the entire world, Kaupo Meiel found in Vikerraadio's daily comment.

A keen-eyed observer can spot, in addition to snow plows, pensioners moving in single file and politicians shuffling through the snow on their way to meet voters, another group of absent-looking characters who seemingly take an interest in nothing at all. They pay no heed to Christmas decorations and can easily cause dangerous situations in traffic by missing the changing light cycles. Some fall down and never get up from the snow again. Natural wastage.

These stragglers with estranged and yet all-knowing eyes are members of various juries tasked with choosing the outgoing year's best book, athlete, song, article, movie, building, grandfather, grandmother or geological formation.

A lot of awards are handed out in Estonia every year, and every such act of recognition is the result of long, hard, yet thankworthy work by members of juries. Almost every jury takes flak after finally picking the nominees and winner, with people asking why those particular people or works where highlighted, which is the reason it is not always easy to find people willing to serve on juries. This despite the fact that any self-respecting publication compensates their work with a honorarium.

That said, being a member of a jury is plenty rewarding as it provides a very thorough overview of creative works in various fields, as well as things one might have missed during the year. Delving deep working in a jury makes one appreciate how bountiful our cultural landscape really is as picking the best is truly very difficult.

I participated in the work of juries tasked with handing out the Betti Alver literary and Ants Oras critic's awards, trying to find the best debut work and book review respectively. The main thing I re-discovered in both cases was not the age-old truth that judging whichever cultural phenomenon is highly subjective and complicated, but just how many strong debut works and solid literary criticism we have in Estonia.

Meetings, during which my astute fellow jury members broadened my horizons in terms of the general situation of Estonian literature, authors and critics, were more than educating. We argued, agreed, lost the thread only to return to where we needed to be during these meetings, and once the decision had been made, felt somewhat exhausted but joyful in having gotten something important done.

Perhaps we could borrow the jury model of the American justice system when putting together music, film and architecture awards' juries in the future. At any time, a random Estonian could be invited to participate in choosing the year's best book of verse or the Eesti Laul song contest. Ours is a smart nation, and this could be one way to put all that wisdom to use.

To allow oneself to dream even bigger while awaiting the new year, Estonians' new grand goal could be to become the jury of the entire world and in charge of right, wrong and best of all. While the Estonians only make up a tiny part of the world's population, this is the case with every jury – very few judges choosing between a great many candidates.

We could have our entire people judge, whether through public forums or online meetings, every important event in the world, put it to a vote and then send a letter to Indonesia, for example, stating that our jury finds your decision to ban extramarital intimate relationships complete nonsense and in need of changing. The jury of Estonia could also have decided how the FIFA World Cut Qatar should have been organized.

It would hardly be very innovative, rather a practical sort of evolution of what more active social media users and newspaper editorials are already doing on a daily basis.

So, if you happen to see a citizen stuck in the snow like a Starship package delivery robot these days, perhaps with Maarja Kangro's "Minu auhinnad" under their arm, help them out of the drift and help them cross the road safely in a friendly manner. Because they are very likely a jury member, and members of juries could be our people's next great hope.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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