esmaspäev, juuni 11, 2012

tweety bird

I'm a sweet little bird in a gilded cage.
What is Twitter? What point does it serve? And, of utmost importance, who invented it? Has he been drawn and quartered already? Gibbeted and suspended above the carrefour of the online world? These questions rotate around my head like bassinet toys. Maybe Twitter has some ancient progenitors, perhaps Roman wall graffiti scrawled by the doors of bath houses and cat houses in vulgar Latin. And, if so, did senators of old engage in "flame wars" via bouts of noctural facade carving?

One can imagine Toomas Hendrik Ilves, a quasi-latinate name to be sure, toga, laurel leaf crown, creeping up beside some public Palatine latrine under light of moon, sharp implement in hand, to express his frustration with the pronouncements of some contemporary economist who has drawn his ire. The sun dawns on the scribbled words -- what was the Latin word for "wogs" again? -- but, alas, who cares, the media reacts, from any hill one can hear the diapason of the city state's echo chamber. Scandal! Twittergate! Panem et circenses!

Maybe such scenes really did occur, but if they did, they were just as meaningless then as they are today and forever will be, not to mention shameful. Paul Krugman's visiting and revisting of Estonia was just a play in the larger game of economic heads smashing themselves against each other. It has little to do with Estland or its people. GDP numbers and other metrics of scoring international gymnastics do not reflect the true health of this country, they cannot, for a man can be an excellent employee in fantastic shape and still blow his brains out at the end of the week.

At the eye of the swirling storm that is the Great Recession is a question of soul, that is, America's ailments are not caused by Wall Street but by sheer gluttony, that blight of the American soul, that metaphysical corrosion that manifests itself in malaise, lethargy, obesity. Estonia's crisis of the soul will not be navigated by men with charts and graphs, but will end when the common man or woman abandons his envy for his or her neighbor -- the large, moose-like neighbor, in particular -- and moves beyond the ideal of catching up to one of achieving simple excellence.

Consider this. Even in the darkest days of Tsarist rule, the Estonians bred like rabbits. But in today's online world, they can barely find time for sex, what with all the late-night Twittering and Skypeing. Yet Estonians in the mid-19th century were pumping them out, Jüri, Mari, Jüri, Mari. It was a demographic deluge. Today there's barely enough new citizens to break even. The Estonians of yesteryear wore rags, spent candlelit nights chewing leather to soften it for future shoes. And this was the context in which the country's people became awakened, not in spite of the poverty, but because of it, because the people knew their land and loved it for what it was because it had made them and it was theirs.

So, my fellow Romans, put aside your Twitter and your Huffington Post, extinguish your flame wars, discard your graphs. If Paul Krugman wants to write about Estonia, that's fine, but he must come here first, he must walk its fields, shoulder its timber, swim in its lakes, dance with its widows, and, above all, be barred from conversing with its political leaders and Ministry of Finance functionaries. Every nation has its problems, sure, but shadow boxing on the Internet is no way to solve them. There must be better ways.

15 kommentaari:

LPR ütles ...

Twitter - I always thought that it was for teenage girls. It is interesting to me that grown ups find use for it. And, as evidenced here, do so with questionable results.

Maybe it is time for me to open a twitter account ... and a Facebook account? Or should I keep waiting until these fads also blow over?

How else do I report my daily activities to the authorities?

Marko ütles ...

Nice, I'm impressed! Very well written and thought through. Roman graffiti and twitter, of course, there surely is some common ground in both of them.

And I agree that the Estonians try too hard to live up to something, which in itself is just a piece of ideology. We've seen more than our fair share of them in not so distant past. It's time to let go and do what we do best - be ourselves. That is, kui ainult seda metsa ees ei oleks...

Spawnie ütles ...

Beautifully written!
Estonia has so few scandals, that it's no wonder every little thing is exploited and magnified.
I personally feel for the president. It must be very frustrating to be a public figure and not to be able to express yourself freely without steep consequences.
I agree, the need for cheap entertainment has always been huge, it's just the medium that changes over the ages. And you illustrated this point very imaginatively :) Whether the progress of technology brings the extinction of the human race, it remains to be determined.
But you cannot stop the process, and you cannot go back to 19th century practices, regardless how beneficial they might have proven to be. Internet, and everything that comes with it, is a necessary evil.

Marta Tuule ütles ...

Nice indeed. But what comes to demographics, there´s really no turning back from individualization which arrived to our shores after changeover process in 19th century. Did you know it was whopping 30% of Estonian population that emigrated mostly to Russia (pragmatic estonians- railroad connection) from Estonia in 19th century, but then again significant amount of them also came back after 1918. My demographics professor claims that after 2050 there will be no nations worldwide (except perhaps israelis, who by the help of their ultrareligious jews keep the birth rate up above 2,1 after it dropped below reproduction some decades ago) that will re-produce itself and our numbers will start to decrease slowly worldwide. And as part of it, emigration stops as well.
Evil internet, how true :). I hardly use my bank cards by now, just hate the idea that some harddrive knows which are f.e my favourite stores and places I visit.

LPR ütles ...

I order a lot of stuff over the internet. There is no hiding what I read or what my interests are or how much I spend or how much I can afford to spend. Somebody out there knows my "profile", they've scored it and commoditized it.

One would have to be like Neo from "The Matrix" movie in order to win in this game. It seems hopeless.

stockholm slender ütles ...

Well, anyhoo, Krugman is one of the very few voices of reason in the US mainstream media, and to my eyes, and with all due respect to our southern brothers, I don't think that Estonia is such a shining economic example to the world, and those that think so know even less of the reality of the country than Krugman.

Temesta ütles ...

I think that Estonians who think that Estonia is such a shining economic example confuse their own succes with the succes of the nation as a whole. :)

Temesta ütles ...

oi, it should be success, not succes

LPR ütles ...

One can see how the "successful nation" concept is eroding and hollowing out the world over. It is becoming more of the success of the grifter class. Grifters, the kind of people who manage to suck the resources out of the larger community.

There is a good book by Matt Taibbi called "Griftopia" that makes some very good and enlightening arguments and shows what is going on in the world at that meta-level.

This book is not much of a mood lifter ...

What I liked how it shows how everyone from Occupy Wall street to Teapartiers get it all wrong and are being gamed by the Grifters, Republicans, Democrats, does not matter. How Greece got into the current mess and how everyone else is going to get sucked into this mess as well.

Lingüista ütles ...

I note Estonia is not the only modern country finding it difficult to have enough sex to increase its population: it's becoming pretty much a pan-European phenomenon. Ex-communist countries may be a clearer case, but the populations of countries like the Germany and France isn't really growing either (hence the need for immigrants) -- here in the Netherlands, the vergrijzing (aging) of the population is becoming a big problem as public health bills skyrocket and the number of taxpayers decrases. Estonians are hardly the only ones failing to follow the Octomom's example in repruductive excellence.

Giustino ütles ...

It's not that Krugman was wrong, Stockholm Slender, it's that Estonia is getting used by a bunch of economic ideologues in a fight to prove a point ... Hands off Estonia, ideologues! Don't tread on me!

Temesta ütles ...

"It's not that Krugman was wrong, Stockholm Slender, it's that Estonia is getting used by a bunch of economic ideologues in a fight to prove a point ... Hands off Estonia, ideologues! Don't tread on me!"

Do you propose that economists stick to theoretical models without reference to reality? Or should they limit their attention to countries where the elite has built up sufficient self-confidence and are not so easily hurt by (external) criticism?

Giustino ütles ...


The Estonian model does not exist in a bubble. Estonia is like a little speed boat moored up right next to two big freighters -- Sweden and Finland. To ignore the presence of these freighters and focus only on the speedboat does not really provide an accurate of Estonia and where it fits in the global economy.

I mean Singapore benefits from its location, its political stability, the presence of a large local Chinese population, its history as a British colony -- there are innumerable factors that make Singapore Singapore. To just grab some statistics and say, "Well, Singapore's model works better than Vietnam's because of X" doesn't really take into account how different those two countries are.

Likewise, being a flat tax advocate in the US and referencing Estonia as some ideal model is ... interesting to say the least. The truth is that these same guys ignore most of Estonia's social welfare programs, because they only see what they want to. Flasher T had an excellent post on this last year.

Temesta ütles ...

It is indeed not so simple and one issue that I have with Krugman is that often he doesn't provide enough background information for his statistics, but that doesn't mean that Estonia's recent economic problems are irrelevant for understanding economics and economic policy.

Giustino ütles ...

There are economists, and then there are ideologues. An economist (or wannabe economist) is engaged in a particular science. An ideologue is a partisan advocate. If you see an "expert" who is salaried by an institution to propagate one point of view, that person's viewpoint is always questionable. Now, a lot of these "experts" have never even set foot in this land. You know as well as I do, that there are some very poor people in Estonia. Maybe they can sell Tallinn as some kind of Nordic Silicon Valley, but try selling Võru the same way. So to see some "expert" waving "Estonia" in his hand is rather disturbing from the perspective of someone who lives here.

To see it the opposite way, I have talked with local Estonian social scientists who believe that America is far better than Europe at integrating its immigrant minorities. Could be true, could be false, but they have a tendency to overlook things like, say, the Trayvon Martin case, just because they are so in love with the idea of how America is better and, at this point, no one can convince them otherwise.

My blogpost had more to do with the souls of nations than statistics though. I am not in the US right now (I was a few months ago) but I get the sense that a lot of Americans are yearning for an easy fix to the Great Recession -- just pass this law or implement this policy, and, bam!, it's 2007 again. Few people have had the courage to openly discuss the deeper, systemic issues at the root of the problems that snowballed into the Great Recession. Obama certainly can't. Who wants to tell the American people that they need to change their attitude? Or -- even worse -- accept collective responsibility for the future of their country? That will go over like a lead balloon.