Eiki Nestor: A mind is like a parachute, it doesn't work if it isn't open

Speaker of the House Eiki Nestor (SDE).
Speaker of the House Eiki Nestor (SDE). Source: Sergei Stepanov/ERR

President of the Riigikogu, speaker of the house in other words, Eiki Nestor delivered a New Year's message broadcast on ETV on Tuesday evening, speaking from the eastern city of Narva. The English version of his speech is as follows.

Hello, and a happy first evening of the year to you all!

By now you have recited your verses and sang your songs to Santa Claus. I'm sure you were also very happy with Santa's little helpers, for wrapping up the presents. Now a new year has begun. A year of new hopes and, first and foremost, a year of singing and dancing together – since summer is no longer so very far away. We are all looking forward to our common celebration [summer 2019 sees the Laulupdiu take place, the Song Festival which occurs once every five years in Tallinn-ed.].

I am not completely sure how I feel about the past year. On the one hand, it was the centenary of the independent Republic of Estonia. A year of celebrations, with a whole host of both crowned and uncrowned guests. These were all brought here by the common desire of acknowledging our people, our independence, and of Estonia being a part of the same club of free nations as they are. I would like to thank everyone who lent a hand in organising the celebrations of this crucial year. The next anniversary of the same magnitude is still one hundred years away!

Yet the end of the year saw things turning sour and ugly, something which is alien to Estonia and to our national character. If something is not quite right, we usually come together and discuss it. If necessary, we have at it, and then fix the issue. It is not like us to tell another Estonian that they are somehow not Estonian or that they want the Estonian nation to disappear [Mr Nestor is referring primarily to controversy surrounding the adoption of the UN Global Compact on Migration-ed.].

Could the nastiness have been caused by the fact that the Republic of Estonia in 2018 has advanced too far for some people? Those people have lost all hope of keeping up, and thus they start shouting – ''we mustn't do this, we can't do that! Let's turn back!'' – but back where?

Ask yourselves – is your hairstyle or your clothing a threat against public order? Can your favourite music threaten morality? Can the person you love shake the pillars of society?

During the Soviet era, I, too, had to explain to the Soviet police why I wore my hair long or was wearing jeans [Mr. Nestor is also well-known for being a fan of avant garde fusion composer and musicaian Frank Zappa-ed.]. Should it not concern only you what you decide to do with your hair, your clothes, what music do you listen to, or who you love?

Or, whether a judge should base their judgement on the law, or the decisions of the leaders of some political party?

I am happy that I am living on this side of the border, in a world where human beings are loved with all their virtues and vices. I believe in the Republic of Estonia, and I am sure that my children, grandchildren and their children must never live in "an empire of darkness".

During those tough times, the conqueror had shifted its border to the other side of the islands of Saaremaa and Hiiumaa. But our beliefs and convictions kept the border at its place. If someone today threatens the independence of the judicial power in Estonia, or is fighting the press, art or scientific research that they find politically unacceptable, or is solving differences of opinions by force – they are also pushing the border between world views back to the age of darkness.

I firmly believe that all of us, without a single exception, want to move forward to make sure that the Estonian language, spirit, and mind set might live forever. This is our Estonian home; there is nowhere else for us to sail away to. For an overview of our choices, please refer to the map of the world. If that is not enough, please read from the history books on why Estonia lost its freedom the first time. Obviously, we are not obliged to necessarily like an opposing world view, but we must pull ourselves together and accept it nonetheless. Estonia only has a future if all countries that respect human rights work together, on this side of the 'border'. There is no third option for this place in the world that we love so much.

I apologise for making my New Year's greeting more work-related than it should be or than I would like it to be. But I needed to say what was on my mind to stop people from shaking their fists or shouting abuse at others.

And truth be told, this kind of antagonism does not happen just in Estonia. Other countries also have people who lost their footing in this open world and are now clamouring for the ''good old days''. They all have a common enemy – international cooperation.

Add to that the open and tolerant people who respect cooperation and every human being, and who understand that building fences is not a solution. So, you want to lock your door behind you and then see what happens? Well, nothing will happen until you die – and after that, there is nothing.

Compatriots, I realise that what I say next might not be universally popular. It is a fact that people in Estonia have never been as well off as we are today. Admittedly, this well-being has not reached everyone. It is definitely possible to do better. Some people feel left out and it is our common responsibility to find a better way to help them. But Estonia is the one country in the 'new Europe' which receives more people each year than it loses. This has been the same for some years now, and this should really make us proud. On the whole, Estonia has benefited from a free and open world. The dumbest thing to do now would be to rest on our laurels; therefore – full steam ahead, Estonia!

I wish everyone wise decisions in the new year. Let us all firmly support the independent Republic of Estonia! I wish all grandparents good health and energy, to bring joy to our lives. I wish grandmothers and grandfathers all the success in their work and private lives. Maybe you remember this phrase from the past; I can hardly keep a straight face myself. I wish mothers and fathers joy from their families. I wish children all the success in finding new knowledge, and hasten to add that Santa Claus really exists!

And because I want Estonia to do well always, I conclude with a thought from one of my idols – "'A mind is like a parachute. It doesn't work if it is not open" (F. Zappa).

Happy New Year! Everything will be all right, fear not.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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