I wouldn't hold up Estonia as a model because I think they have been quite smug. Their particular problem is the Estonian Russians -- their integration has not gone as fast as it should have done in the past few years.
The Bronze Soldier riot was a wake-up call to them. They're not getting the solid allegiance of a new generation of Baltic Russians. Fifteen years ago no one would have dreamed that Russian teenagers would be rioting in the streets of Tallinn shouting 'USSR forever!'
-- Economist correspondent Edward Lucas in an interview with Alfa.lt last week.
The thing about this comment is that it is true. Yes, some Estonian politicians might strike an outsider as smug and self-satisfied. They suffer from 'Tallinn syndrome' -- where the country girl or boy from Haapsalu or Paide suddenly finds themselves surrounded by buildings that are taller than three stories and the international political jet set and are too absorbed in the euphoric moment of "I've finally made it, baby" to think about what comes next. Integrating Estonian Russians? That's the last thing on the list of things to do for a person afflicted with Tallinn syndrome. They are more concerned in skirting zoning laws.
Yet, on the flipside, the 'Western' European outlook on 'Eastern' European countries seems smug in itself. Hey, Estonia, you need to work on integration. Easier said than done. What is the solution? Feel good, useless legislation? National campaigns to get ethnic Estonians to view their Russian-speaking neighbors as 'equals'. That would be great, if ethnic Estonians actually liked their ethnic Estonian neighbors. Instead, Estonians tend to treat each other as competition. As someone once famously pointed out, the only authority an Estonian might be willing to salute is themselves in the mirror. But please, integrate those Russian-Estonian/Estonian-Russians, kohe!
So Lucas is right, but is the very expectation of what Estonia is capable of doing in itself wrong? Is it that Estonian syndrome, Flasher was talking about: the presumption of competence. I personally believe that, either by the basis of civilizational outlook or constant self-delusion, Estonia has become a quasi-Western European country. One may worry about the security implications of some teenagers burning an Estonian flag or chanting 'USSR Forever', but, shit, how about the security implications of publishing some drawings of the Prophet Mohammed in Denmark?
I mean first it was just the insult to Islam. Then it was the way society reacted to the insult to Islam. Then it was the way the police put extra pressure on those who may be insulted by the Danish cartoonists' insult to Islam. And then it was those anarchist lovers of multiculturalism who turned over cars and set fire to buildings to let ordinary Danes know that they are in solidarity with their friends who may have been insulted by the Danish police or the sinister cartoonists they protect. So, please, Denmark, integrate your Muslims and anarchists. Pass a law, build a new joint ungdomshuset-mosque, and stop selling flags to the Iranians to burn. Please, anything to make the uncomfortable reality of violent, idiotic youth go away.
Perhaps my world view has been too informed by the musings of lost existencialistas. Perhaps I too suffer from Tallinn syndrome. I have had my sõõrikud, drunk my coffee, rubbed elbows with people who know people. But I have heard the same conversation in the dormitories of Copenhagen that I have heard in the living rooms of Tallinn. People don't want to live their lives in fear and they do believe in integration. Yet beyond that, they know not what to do. What can an individual really do, other than work, eat, sleep, and occasionally reproduce? In the meantime, our hapless northern individualists find themselves hijacked by 'fascists' -- as a Danish colleague referred to the anarchists, Muslim extremists, and Bronze Soldier 'defenders' -- for whom they have little or no respect.
It appears that there are no easy answers. There are no laws to pass. There is no governmental interference that can make it all go away. We'll just have to cling to the life preserver of rote pragmatism and stomach it. To borrow a line from Braveheart: they can burn our R-Kiosks, but they can never take our freedom.