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Kaupo Meiel: Nothing good left, everything is terrible!

Kaupo Meiel.
Kaupo Meiel. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

How did Estonia become such an awful place so quickly, as though we have swallowed the red pill like in "The Matrix"? Kaupo Meiel reflects in commentary to Vikerraadio.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the premiere of cult classic "The Matrix," and the recent Haapsalu Horror and Fantasy Film Festival (HÕFF) even featured a rather fitting special screening of the masterpiece by the then-brothers and now-sisters Wachovskis.

As you'll recall, "The Matrix" kicked off when the main character, Neo, met the mysterious and stylish Morpheus, who gave Keanu Reeves' character a choice: "You take the blue pill — the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill — you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember: all I'm offering is the truth. Nothing more."

Neo took the red pill from Morpheus, because he wanted to know what was actually going on — the truth. And the truth, as it slowly becomes apparent, was terrible.

The truth was that the world in which Neo lived, and which resembled the U.S. of the end of the last century, where only the coolest characters had Nokia flip phones, was a total lie — a computer simulation. The real world was directed by machines at war with the last free people, while the rest of humanity constituted a power bank for the machines.

Like the majority of books and movies I've thought about recently, I can even see a connection between "The Matrix" and modern Estonia now. By the way, I'm currently reading an anthology of horror stories, and I have to constantly remind myself that this is fantasy, not my Facebook wall or ETV's nightly "Aktuaalne kaamera" news broadcast.

The red and blue pill scene from "The Matrix" feels likewise terrifyingly familiar. I'm plagued by the feeling that we have all likewise swallowed the red pill together and discovered that the Estonia where we thought we have been living in harmony, singing "Mu isamaa on minu arm" nonstop while holding hands, is actually a dsytopian wasteland.

It was just yesterday — it was just the case that Estonia was a good little small country, which was justifiably proud of its culture and its digital success story. This was the birthplace of Skype, and this is where Arvo Pärt wrote world-famous music, nature was one-sided but nonetheless beautiful, a deer drank from a stream and a cuckoo called somewhere, the meadow was green, flowers blossomed there, our security increased, the economy grew, and a fisherman was free to seine for fish on the sea and the forest echoed back a joyful song on the field.

Then, and I'm not sure when exactly, the red pill was washed down with some water. And everything immediately changed. People became mean, and in some cases started hating other people based on their political views or skin color, or just started hating everyone else, regardless of whether they were leftists, rightists, white, black or yellow.

More compelling liveblogs were written about the loss of freedom of the press than Ott Tänak's rally races. The president didn't get along with the government, the Riigikogu with the president, voters didn't understand other voters, others didn't understand the media and so on. Generally speaking, the only positive message I've received in the past couple of months is an offer in my inbox to order a spring cleaning. "What is there to order?" I feebly thought. "Voters have made their choice, the government has taken office, and a cleaning will come too now."

In other words, everything is terrible. Even those for whom everything is going well think that everything is terrible.

No matter what I try to do to force myself to think about what's actually going well, it rings hollow, as though I have sunk deep into the mire of self-censorship. I used to use the words reasoning power to describe self-censorship, but times have changed, and the red pill is working.

I'd actually rather not think at all about all of the bad stuff, or talk about it. I'd rather talk about how much fun Saturday's Open Harbours Day was. There was a ton of people at the harbour, and everyone was buying fresh herring by the kilo, and one family had even brought their cat along so that the furball could eat the fresh stuff straight out of the fisherman's hands. The weather was beautiful, and it didn't get dark even late at night, because all the people of Southwestern Estonia had eaten so much fresh fish that they glowed from all the consumed phosphorus.

I want there to be something good, but there's nothing good left; it hightailed it for the forest, and climbed up a tree. And then a bad lumberjack came and took that tree down too. So it is.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

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