Ilmar Raag: Estonia is tired of the world constantly ending

Ilmar Raag.
Ilmar Raag. Source: Ken Mürk / ERR

Ilmar Raag predicts in Vikerraadio's daily comment that the next end of the world will be canceled.

Every now and again there is news of how one sect or another is ready to face the end of the world after a long campaign of preparation. Such madness has been reported from all corners of the world. In Russia, members of such sects have on several occasions even laid down in caskets to wait for their impending doom.

While earlier reports of groups waiting for the world to end are from the time of Orthodoxy before Peter the Great's church reform, people still took refuge in underground caves because of such fears in Pensa Oblast as recently as in 2007. One of the most famous cases in America culminated in the deaths of nearly 80 Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas in 1993.

All of these collective fits of madness perceive signs of an impending disaster in the contemporary world. While it all seems quite irrational, humans are just that. One might almost argue that waiting for disaster to strike is part of human nature, with facts warped to fit the gloomy picture. That said, disasters do occur sometimes, even though they have not resulted in the end of the world so far.

Even though Estonians tend to be more level-headed than many other peoples, anticipating catastrophes is not alien to us either. I remember the constant fear of the impending collapse of the Republic of Estonia from the very first moments I started taking an interest in society.

In the early 2000s, the struggle was between (Edgar Savisaar's – ed.) Center Party and everyone else. One side was deathly afraid of Estonia being pulled into Russia's sphere of influence and the other side of just the opposite – leaving it. This was further exacerbated by pensioners' fears for the future. And I also believed at the time that we were always just two steps away from democracy coming undone.

Next came the financial crisis of 2008, which was followed by a crisis of trust in the elite. This was symbolized in the so-called Ice Cellar process. On the backdrop were rumors of the EU's collapse and pensioners' fears for the future. I remember thinking that I would be willing to vote for whichever political party if it only managed to do its business honestly and ethically.

Since then we have been living in a new end times paradigm. That of the liberal-conservative standoff, with both sides nurturing their own theory of impending social destruction.

The difference this time lies in the topics being imported from international culture wars. Estonia's liberalization has taken place in trying to more closely resemble Western societies, while the conservatives have borrowed motifs and slogans to counter it mostly from USA and Great Britain. But the end of the world is definitely coming, one way or another.

Taking a longer look back in history is a good way to calm down. We can recall the 1972 prediction of the Club of Rome according to which the world would run out of oil by the turn of the century. But because several steps were taken in the meantime to make sure this would not happen, we still have some oil we can drill while the wider green transition is being prepared.

In other words, doomsdays do not happen for two main reasons. First, because mankind takes precautions that no one knew to dream about when the prediction was first made. Second, there is always the chance that the prediction was way off to begin with.

An example of the former is migration policy, which has become a lot more conservative since 2015 everywhere in Europe. Just like there is no political party in Estonia promoting a full open doors policy. Even the Social Democrats are talking about controlled migration instead of open arms. At the same time, society has gotten used to a certain measure of migration, and there is an economic narrative promoting limited import of labor.

Representing the latter reason why the world tends not to end when predicted is the fight for family and morality. Such struggles have occurred on numerous occasions throughout history, while they have never altered major demographic trends. Looking at Western countries that have had same-sex marriage for decades, no tangible change in birthrate has been observed. These struggles have not had any effect on how society works as a whole, even though they've seen emotions rise like a massive tide.

What next? Right now? In Estonia? We're heading into summer, and people are exhausted of back-to-back crises. My prediction is that the next end of the world will be canceled because people are just too tired to keep feeling afraid for yet another year.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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