mardi 27 décembre 2011

Mart Laar and his Freedom Fighters

I read the news about Mart Laar's new initiative. He proposes that our Parliament recognized men who fought in the German Army (mostly mobilized into the 20th Waffen-SS division) against the Red Army as "freedom fighters". Well, without delving into the intricacies of the history of a small borderline country, I just wonder why our former Prime Minister and actual Defence Minister did such a thing and why he did it now. Somewhat cynically I find two possible explanations: either he rushed to save his Pro Patria party damaged by serious scandals, or... to save Vladimir Putin and his party harassed by growing popular discontent and mass demonstrations. In such a situation it would be useful to cry wolf, although Estonia is more a mouse than a wolf. We have a saying: "When hungry, the Devil can eat even flies".

samedi 24 décembre 2011

From Story to Science

In the beginning was not just the Word, but the Story. Many stories. A story is something where events, facts are not necessarily connected. After A not only B, but also C, D, E, etc. can happen. Bill can marry Alice, but also Jill, Eve or Melanie. At first our understanding of the natural world was not different, our knowledge of Nature was expressed as a story, Nature story or Natural History. It was an account of an enormous multitude of events loosely interconnected. Step by step, science began to diminish the number of such events, introducing more types of logical connection between them. The great idea of early scientists and philosophers was to establish a rule of rules, a "mathesis universalis", a set of equations or formulas that would permit to calculate everything from everything else, to predict every event from every other event. This was still the belief of Laplace. Now we know that the world we live in is not Laplacean but rather Bohrean. Freedom, banished from the world by Laplace, is still there. Freedom, non-necessity is necessary. Stories cannot be abolished either, stories are still there, history is still there. But we understand better the difference between what is strictly interconnected and what is not, between logistics and story. It is interesting that such a difference between stories and logistics has been discussed by theologians already in Middle Ages. Did God create everything by necessity, is the creation a necessary outcome of his essence, his divinity or of his free will? Catholic theology has inclined to the first view, Islamic theology to the second one. I have read that some fundamentalist Islamic scholars have demanded that e.g. in chemistry textbooks the explanations mention the will of God. God willing, the result of burning hydrogen is water... Here, the world we live in is still a story  being continuously written by Allah, a story that he can write otherwise that follows no other rules than his free will. Is it a reaction to the beginnings of the scientific world view, to the emerging vision of the world as a mathesis, logistics that was developing in the Islamic world long before the golden age of Western scholasticism and the Renaissance? Is the conception of the world ruled by God's will giving people more feeling of security, more comfort than the conception of the world as a logical system with much less space for God's will or God himself? I don't know.

vendredi 16 décembre 2011

Президент и русский язык

Наш президент опять меня и не только меня неприятно удивил. На этот раз своими заявлениями о русском языке как языке оккупантов в интервью швейцарской газете Der Bund. Уже излюбленный нашей пропагандой термин "оккупация" некорректен: аннексия Советским Союзом Эстонии началась коротким периодом оккупации, но потом, когда эстонские граждане стали гражданами СССР со всеми их обязанностями и правами (пусть сих прав было маловато), это было уже аннексией. Две большие разницы. Все юристы, в том числе некоторые члены нашего Государственного суда, в личных беседах с такими определениями согласились, хотя не столь многие хотят выражать своё мнение публично. Но история русского языка в Эстонии не начинается аннексией 1940 года. Русский язык стал официальным языком наряду с немецким в наших краях после Северной Войны, приведшей к включению Северной Прибалтики в состав Русской империи как Эстляндской и Лифляндской губерний. Русский язык стал в 1880 годах единственным языком делопроизводства, а также и обучения в казенных школах, и владение им дало многим эстонцам возможность учиться, найти работу и сделать карьеру в других регионах империи. Моя мама и мой дед учились в русских школах. Все государственные деятели и большинство интеллигенции получили образование в императорском Юрьевском университете в Тарту или в других учебных заведениях России. Все наши высшие офицеры, руководившие эстонскими соединениями в войне за независимость в 1918 - 1920 годах, были выпускниками имперских военных училищ, в том числе и Императорской Военной Академии. В России жили и работали сотни тысяч эстонцев, Санкт-Петербург был сто лет тому назад вторым городом по численности проживающих там эстонцев. Само собой разумеется, что это привело к большому числу смешанных браков и к тесным контактам в области культуры. Для примера могу привести дружбу между эстонским поэтом Хенриком Виснапуу и русским поэтом Сергеем Есениным. Многие эстонские военные и политики лучше владели русским нежели эстонским языком. Конец такому взаимному обогащению культур положила большевистская революция и сталинский террор. До 1940 года в Эстонии к русским, русскому языку и культуре относились с интересом и уважением. Такое отношение пошло на убыль в советское время, но и тогда отношения между интеллигенцией сохранились и иногда даже укрепились. Я открыл для себя волшебную силу поэзии благодаря Лермонтову и Пушкину, могу сказать, что стал писателем благодаря знанию русского языка, позволившему мне еще будучи школьником зачитываться  русской классической литературой. Эта великая литература и ее язык остаются частью моей личности, моего я, и если я о чем-то сожалею, то о том, что не владею в совершенстве русским языком и мне нелегко писать литературные тексты по-русски. Но кое-что я все-таки написал и надеюсь написать и в будущем.  

dimanche 11 décembre 2011

Crusade Preachers à rebours

A friend sent me the URL of a page of the Memri TV: http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/3217.htm. I looked and suddenly realized that it's similar to what happened in Europe a thousand years ago. Fiery preachers calling people to a holy war against the infidels and, of course, the Jews. But the two civilizations have changed sides: the West is the sybaritic, sophisticated and nonchalant one, similar to what the Near East was a thousand years ago, The Near East is similar to what Europe was: uneducated desperately poor people, easy prey to fanatical preachers and cynical politicians. The child preachers... Another similarity. Will there be a children's Crusade too? My hope is that the West will be a bit more vigilant than the easy-going Muslim rulers a thousand years ago who didn't care too much when they heard of some barbarian rabble landing somewhere far from the centres of the civilized world. They were absorbed in their intrigues, in poetry, music and love. As we in Europe...

mardi 6 décembre 2011

Arab Spring and Russian Elections

There are some similarities between the Middle Eastern countries, now shaken by uprisings and revolutions, and Russia, where the ruling party is clearly losing some popular support. Many liberals in the West were (and some still are) enthusiastic about what they call the "Arab Spring". But this enthusiasm is going sour after the victory of the Islamists in several Arab countries. It is becoming clear that there will be no sensible improvement in human rights in Egypt, Libya and quite probably even in Tunisia or Marocco. Now, after the relatively poor showing of the Yedinaya Rossiya in Russia, some people are again seeing a chance of liberal opposition gaining strength there with the perspective of Russia changing from an autocratic to a fully democratic nation. I think this is an illusion. If Putin and his clan loses power, it will not be the liberals but the Communists and Nationalists who will gain power. And this is neither in the interests of the West nor in the interests of liberally minded people in Russia. We can compare Putin with the Austrian chancellors Dollfuss and Schuschnigg whose rule was more autocratic than democratic, but still infinitely more liberal and humane than the rule of Hitler who rose to power in a nearly democratic way... I find similar ideas in an essay by George Friedman from the website of the Stratfor Institute I warmly recommend:

http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/20111205-egypt-and-idealist-realist-debate-us-foreign-policy

lundi 28 novembre 2011

Dream Logic?

Sorry if I have already published these ideas in some form...


I believe that most, maybe even more than 90% of what people tell and write about their dreams is not authentic. Dreams cannot often be described in our common language, in our common conceptual system. Why? Because our language, our semantics are "Aristotelian" -- everything is what it is: A = A. A dog is a dog, no a cat, a cloud or a chair. Of course, not everything can be described and defined in the strictly Aristotelian way. There are fuzzy things that need a fuzzy language, a fuzzy logic too. There can be chairs that are to some degree, e.g. 40% tables or sofas. But even such a fuzzy thing, even a changing cloud or a waning wave is itself, is identical to itself in its fuzziness. However, in dreams, things are often not identical to themselves, they can be 100% A and 100% B, and the person dreaming of them doesn't often see any absurdity here. I remember having dreamed of a place that was both a room in a house with bookshelves standing at the walls, and a town square surrounded by high buildings: these buildings were at the same time bookshelves in the room. It is very difficult, nearly impossible to talk about such objects, our language is not made for such a purpose. Perhaps it would make sense to think about a language or a logic more fit for describing dreams.

dimanche 27 novembre 2011

Quantum God


Recently I had a remarkably philosophical dream. I had discovered that the indeterminacy principle of quantum mechanics can be applied in many other fields. Of course, I didn't invent any formulas nor used
them. One of my dreamt-of ideas was that God's existence can interpreted as having some inbuilt indeterminacy in it, too. We can say of God that it exists: in this case we cannot say anything definite of it. Or we can say something about God, describe its attributes, but then we cannot say anything definite about its existence.

Most often such dreams give us nothing: waking up we discover that the revelations we got are worth very little. But sometimes, very rarely, the revelation can give us something, perhaps some lines of verse, perhaps
some strange associations, perhaps some real understanding. I don't know whether my dreamt-of idea about God's existence can explain us something...

Language as a Religious Affair

An Estonian political scientist has said that nationalism is our main religion. I think it is more or less true, and we can analyze this religion, find out its main elements or components. I believe such a very important component of our national religion is the language. There is so much attention paid to it, there is so much discussion about it, and there is a nearly devotional attitude to it. Instead of typically religious discourse, we have a kind of pseudo-theological discourse about language. We have some elevated ideas about what the ideal Estonian must be, and there are legions of teachers, editors, proof readers, clerks and simply activists working with the language, making it more pure, more similar to the divine ideal. There, as in any religion or theology, are many inherent contradictions. The language, the mother tongue must be kept pure, it must be used in most correct way, uncorrupt by foreign loans and vulgar colloquial forms. But at the same time the language must be modern, it must be refurbished, remodelled continually, made more fit for the needs of the modern world, more close to the ideal. We have even a language police who must guarantee that only (uncorrupt) Estonian is used in public discourse. But at the same time Estonia wishes to be a 150% Western nation, and English is considered a most important feature in our Western identity. But, as in any religious discourse, the contradictions are either ignored or swept aside by either very banal or very sophisticated explanations. Our language as religion has also its prophets and high priests and, as I wrote, lots of mullahs or preachers who teach people how to use the language. Sometimes the high priests change their views or simply invent some new things that people must adopt, the old things should be abandoned (as info instead of teave). And, of course, the prophet, the platonically inspired person who, according to the semi-official doctrine, gave us the modern, Western-style Estonian language, is Johannes Aavik. Nowadays even our president has become one of the high priests of the sacred language, lecturing people about how the language must be used and refurbished. Here we see that our national(ist) religion is well organized, our state is also a kind of a church that guards the language from pernicious influences and regulates its use. Common people must observe its regulations, you are not supposed to write or speak as you will, but according to the rules and dogmas established by the Church.
What reminds me of Paul Valéry:

Honneur des hommes, saint langage,
Discours prophétique et paré...

Eh bien, nous y sommes... And, of course, from the glotto-ecclesiastic point of view I am a dangerous heretic who does not recognize the authority of the Church, obstinately refusing to use the established language. Maybe I am even considered a heresiarch.

lundi 21 novembre 2011

It could be Worse

There is a kind of a law of nature: everything or nearly everything bad could be even worse... When I see one more ironic or angry reportage or analysis of the political situation in Russia, I cannot but think of this law. Yes, the tzarist Russia was in many respects a lousy country, corrupt, more autocratic and theocratic than democratic... But Bolshevist Russia was much much worse. It would have been better for Russians and probably for Estonians, Latvians and others too, if Russia had remained more or less what it was. Now, the present-day Russia reminds me strongly of the Russia of the last tzar, there are many similarities between them including the cult of the autocratic father figure, be it tzar or president. The duma has a limited rule nowadays as it had a hundred years ago. But ... it could be worse. In no way is the present Russia the Stalinist empire recreated, it is an autocratic, but not a totalitarian state. But there are forces in it that would very much like to change it into a totalitarian state. The neo-Stalinist, chauvinist forces are there, and they are quite strong. In their view, in their propaganda, the present rulers of Russia are puppets of the West, henchmen of the Jews, Zionists or Freemasons (Zhidomasony). Their hero is Stalin, their ideal is the strong militarized state, strong order, suppression of any dissent, abolition of any real autonomy of the minorities. I have read of some coup schemes by dissatisfied military. Such a coup is most probably doomed to fail. But if someting goes terribly wrong in Russia, the neo-Stalinists are ready to seize power. Thus, in our interest and in the interest of world peace and stability is not to encourage, inspire or support them in any way. Even by waging a propaganda war against the present rulers of Russia, although in some cases, they can gain some points by being subject to Western criticism. In any case, Yedinaya Rossiya is most probably the least of possible evils in Russia. All the real alternatives are much worse. Liberals like Nemtsov or Illarionov have practically no popular support. We should keep this in mind and perhaps even give some discrete help to Putin and his clan if they are in serious trouble.

Two Estonias

If the "Via Baltica" railway will be built as planned, it will connect Tallinn to Riga via Pärnu, that is, it will be a coastal railway, leaving the eastern and southeastern part of the country out of its scope. This means that this region, the "continental" Estonia will become more isolated from "maritime" Estonia. Even now, the bigger Tallinn is largely a place apart from other regions of Estonia. Tallinn has better connections with Helsinki, the two together form a twin city we may call Talsinki. In the past, the railway connection from Tallinn to Riga passed through Tartu and Valga, helping to connect Tallinn with the South and Southeast. Now this link will probably be neglected, and Tallinn will be even more the smaller partner in Talsinki, a half-Finnish city and even less an integral part of Estonia. The imaginary line dividing Estonia into two runs roughly from Narva to Pärnu and is well known to geographers and botanists. Now it acquires also a economic and political dimension. It is interesting that in the Middle Ages the situation was different: then there existed a waterway from Pärnu to the lake Peipsi via Tartu, making use of small rivers that have by now vanished, become just tiny streams due to the neotectonic rise of the western and northern parts of the country. Thus, geology is also helping to tear Estonia apart. Does this division have a geopolitical meaning? Do people living in continental Estonia feel alienated from people in Tallinn and elsewhere in maritime Estonia? Will they feel they have more in common with Russians, our eastern, continental neighbours than with the well-to-do and self-centered inhabitants of Tallinn and perhaps Pärnu too?

vendredi 11 novembre 2011

Jää ja Titanic

Vahel saava vana kirotuse jälki aktuaalsis. Nigu Titanicu lugu nüit, ku EL ja euroga omma asja sandisti. Paar tsitaadikeist.
-------------
Ka Titanic oli laev, millest paljud inimesed lootsid pääsmist. Ta pidi nad viima uude maailma, teispoole merd, mis Jungi sümbolismis märgib surma. Sõit Ameerikasse oli surm ja uuestisünd. Vana elu, vana kodu, vana mina jäi maha, nendega tehti lõpparve ja mindi alustama uut elu. Sõit Ameerikasse oli natuke nagu enesetapp, üks neist väikestest surmadest, millega meil tuleb kokku puutuda enne suurt surma. Mõned põgenesid sinna vaesuse, mõned sassi läinud pereelu, mõned lähedasi tabanud õnnetuste, mõned politsei, mõned sandarmite, mõned omaste, mõned naabrite eest. Mõned põgenesid üksindusest, mõned üksindusse.

----------------
Me oleme kõige kiiremad, kõige turvalisemad, me pakume reisijatele kõige paremaid tingimusi, kõige suuremat komforti kõige mõõ­dukama tasu eest, me hoolitseme kõigi, nii suurte kui väikeste, nii rikaste kui vaeste eest.
Viiepäevane viisavaba reis
UUDE MAAILMA
reisilaeval „Titanic“
reisi hind alates 5430 kroonist
Hinna sisse kuulub:
edasi-tagasi sõit kajutis, hommikusöök,
õhtusöök
Kuni 6-aastastele lastele tasuta
kuni 12-aastastele lastele hinnaalandus 50%
Meie aitame teil teha teie elu kõige olulisema otsuse, me aitame teil alustada uut elu. Tulge meie pardale, kes te koormatud ja vaevatud olete, me viime teid teie unistuste maale.
*
Pühapäev, 14. aprill algas laeval jumalateenistusega. Esimese klassi reisijatele pidas seda kapten Smith ise, teise klassi reisijatele laeva kassiir. Kui pärast jumalateenistust mindi laevalaele jalutama, panid mõned reisijad tähele, et õhk on läinud väga külmaks. See oli märk sellest, et läheduses oli palju jääd. Ilm jäi külmaks ja selgeks terve päeva ega muutunud öösekski. Külma tundsid laeva ohvitseridki, kes teadsid ka selle põhjust. Ometi ei võetud ette midagi peale selle, et esimene tüürimees Murdoch palus meest, kelle ülesanne oli hoolitseda lampide eest, et ta suleks esimese ventiili: sellest paistev kuma segaks tüürimeest ja mastikorvis olevaid vaatlejaid märka­mast valgust, mis tõenäolikult helgib vastu lähenevalt jäämäelt.

vendredi 4 novembre 2011

Titanicu pardale

Küll sai Eesti rahval vaiva nättüs ja tüüd tettüs, et pästa sakste manu Titanicu pardale!

samedi 29 octobre 2011

Persehe...

Noorus olli illos aig, kõk olli paremb ku prõlla, trepi olliva madalamba, suve lämmembä, tütriku ilosamba ja ropendamine olli ka nigu kodusemb ja mõnusamb. Mi saadi tõse persehe, ku sääne vajadus tulli. Ei saa ma inäp arvo mi ao nuurist, kiä muku inne laskva tulla näid türri ja munne. Ole-i inäp mugavust ja soliidsust. Ilm om hukan, ilm om perseh, mis tast elost saa, kui perse ja sita asemel tuleva türä, munni ja muu seksikamb sõnavara. Ja viimäte viil fuck ka. Vai om säänest meelemuutust vaija, et paremb olessi euro-ameerikaga integriiritus saia. Olku kuis om, ma jää elo lõpuni persele truuis.

mardi 25 octobre 2011

Propaganda War against retired people?

Some economics gurus here in Estonia and elsewhere are predicting that the pension system existing in European countries is doomed. As there will be less and less working age and really working people and more and more elderly, retired people, this seems to become an intolerable burden to the working people, i.e. taxpayers. Well, this is not the main problem. Let's make a thought experiment: there are no workers at all, the intelligent machines, robots make all the necessary work. Who will then pay the taxes, where does the money come from? This means the idea of work and taxation must be reconsidered. The GDP or in whatever way we measure the wealth of a nation has not diminished, there must be some ways to redistribute it without extra taxation of the wage earners and businessmen. For example the "Tobin tax" or something similar.

The real problem is not the ratio of people working and people retired but the rising cost of taking care of the elderly that is rising with the rise of average age. No easy solutions here. The aim must be to find ways to find efficient ways of keeping aged men and women healthy, to fight such deseases as Alzheimer, Parkinson's disease, etc. This is a difficult task, but not a mission impossible.


samedi 22 octobre 2011

Death of a Barbarian

In Libya, a barbarian chieftain was killed by other barbarians. It's quite improbable he was hit in crossfire. We can foresee other barbarians taking over. And it's hard to imagine that they will not engage in bloody internecine conflict.

vendredi 21 octobre 2011

There is no Devil

It's sure, there is no devil. I think I have pointed to the fact that belief in the existence of an immensely intelligent and absolutely evil person leads to insurmountable paradoxes, to impossibility to believe in anything at all. But at the same time: there are enough people who have made and are making an enormous effort to take the role of the devil. And some of them have brilliantly succeeded.

jeudi 20 octobre 2011

From Multi-Culti to Specious Monoculture in Estonia


Estonia is a borderland country between Eastern and Central and between Northern and Central Europe with a history of many conquests and many rulers. In the last couple of centuries it was a part of the Russian Empire with some autonomy. Local aristocracy was German-speaking, majority of them were descendants of the Teutonic Knights who conquered the Baltic provinces in the XIIIth century. German was the language of administration, culture and education with the exception of Estonian-language village schools. Such situation lasted until the "russification" in the last quarter of the XIXth century when Russian was introduced as the only official language and language of education. The second half of this century was also the time of the Estonian national revival movement inspired by the German romanticism and made possible by migration of many Estonian speakers to towns. For those people, identity became a problem that did not exist for their fathers and forefathers who were either peasants or urban underdog with little rights and practically no social mobility. The simplest way for these new Estonians was to become Germans, to become "linna-saks" as they were called ("saks" comes from the word for Saxons as the Gaelic "sassenach"). For some, especially after the russification of schools, there were many possibilities to find a good job or continue their education in Russia. To stay Estonian, to create a culture with Estonian as its language, to have Estonian literature, theatre, university education was initially the dream of some idealists. Only thanks to the struggle for supremacy between the local German landlords and the Tzarist government these idealistic Estonians found some windows of opportunity to create such a culture of their own. The rise of the Estonian culture was made possible by the boom of the Russian economy and culture in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. When the Russian empire fell apart as the result of the great war and the Russian revolution, Estonia gained independance. This was the result of strong nationalist sentiment, but also of the existence of a strong educated middle class, and, of course, help from the Entente, especially the British who were interested in creating a "sanitary cordon" separating the chaotic Bolshevist Russia from the rest of Europe.

In 1918 when Estonia became an independent republic, it was de facto a multicultural nation with three main languages -- Russian, German and Estonian, all of which had an official status. Most educated people were multilingual, and used all these languages in different contexts and situations. In contrast to Russian and German, Estonian had been a language of peasant, and had to be made fit for use in science and "high culture". This "refurbishing" of the Estonian language began already when Estonia was under Tzarist rule, but gained momentum when Estonian became the official state language of the newly created republic. But the two other languages preserved much of their role and status for at least a generation. Annexation of Estonia by the Soviets changed a lot, but not everything. I am born in 1941, and in our family both German and Russian were still in use to some degree. My mother read me poems in Russian when I was a kid, and my grandmother and her friends used a lot of German words in their speech. My generation is the first one who got all or nearly all of their education in Estonian. This is one of the paradoxes of Soviet life: although Russian was taught from the first of second year in schools, and it was de facto the state language of the USSR, the prestige and knowledge of Russian really
dropped during the Soviet period in Estonia despite the official propaganda and measures to stimulate its use. The Estonian language became both a symbol and an instrument of Estonian resistance to Soviet rule. This rule shaped the attitudes and orientations that have now, after Estonia regained its independence, inspired our cultural and language policies. In Estonia, Estonian is the only official language and its use is strictly regulated and guarded even by a kind of language police (Keeleinspektsioon) similar to the language police in Québec. This year, a law has been passed that 60% of lessons in local Russian schools have to be given in Estonian. In practice, this amounts to an effort to assimilate at least a good part of local Russian-speaking population. In any significant publishing house and periodical, the language editors are editing texts to make them to conform to the official standards of vocabulary and grammar. In some cases it amounts to a kind of language censorship. At the same time, most young Estonians are learning English, and the influence of English and other Western languages can be felt in both written and spoken Estonian despite the official policies. The efforts of our linguistic purists are centered on replacing the international words with what they consider Estonian ones, but there is little attention paid to the more latent influences. In fact, Estonian is more and more becoming a variant of the "Standard Average European", a language where an Estonian word is seen more as a correspondence to an English one than belonging to a group of semantically connected Estonian ones. The rigid language policies have become an obstacle to free, spontaneous speech and writing, partly obliterating the individual or local differences of style and obfuscating the language sense of most people. The real spoken language is living its own life, although it is often seen as slang and shunned or even prohibited in official use. The fact that our language teaching and language policies are centered on correctness and purity, not creativity and spontaneity, is, in my opinion, the main reason why many people in Estonia have difficulties in expressing their thoughts. I feel that under the specious cover of the Estonian monoculture, processes are under way that can become more destructive to the Estonian language (and consequently culture too) than the half-century of Soviet rule.

I finish with an item from my blog.

In his book "Linguistic Ecology: Language Change and Linguistic Imperialism in the Pacific Rim", Peter Mühlhäusler writes:

"The grammatical adjustment that is encountered in most Pacific languages that have come under the influence of expatriate missions and education systems is that a number of apparently viable languages (in terms of numbers of speakers and social institutionalization), such as Fijian or Samoan, have nevertheless disappeared, in the sense that what has remained is primarily their formal properties and what has gone is their semantic and pragmatic aspects. The continuation of mere lexical forms of earlier languages raises the question of identity of linguistic systems over time, external pressure(s) having introduced a degree of discontinuity and restructuring that renders the notion of historical continuity useless."

Hasn't the same happened to the Estonian language that has been and is being intensively restructured by foreign influences, these influences having been successfully internalized and sometimes taken to extremes by our own literati? Has the old Estonian disappeared, being replaced by a euro-language that has lost most of its "semantic and pragmatic aspects"? Isn't, paradoxically, the Russian language, at present downgraded and driven out of use a potential counterweight to the overwhelming Euro-American influence on Estonian?

vendredi 14 octobre 2011

Estonian media on Russia

Reading our papers, watching our TV I have more and more the feeling that materials published or shown on Russia are not just biased, but these materials can be classified as disinformation. People -- and this is true of most of our younger generation -- who are unable or not accustomed to read Russian press or  Russian websites can have the impression that Russia is a dismal corrupt dictatorship where there is no freedom of expression, where dissidents are jailed or even killed, where common people are poor, etc. One of the latest news I could read on our national broadcasting company's website was a prediction that Russia has no other way than falling into precipice.

I have little personal experience of modern Russia, but returning from St. Petersburg on coach I could see with my own eyes that the area between St. Petersburg and the Estonian border that in Soviet times was partly abandoned, where there were only destitute villages with miserable huts, is now quite similar to what we see on the Estonian side of the border: a lot of new buildings, new roads, a lot of construction work, old houses refurbished, painted, small townships looking much better and cleaner, people better clad. As to the freedom of expression, I can every day read critical articles about developments in Russia on RIAN, Lenta, NG and other websites. I read a long review of a book written by the former Guardian correspondent in Moscow on a Russian website. And there is a lot of talk about the recent events, especially the sacking of the finance minister Kudrin and Putin and Medvedev changing their roles. And regularly we can read about Khodorkovsky, his opinions are quoted and retold. We can make an experiment, taking for example the titles of articles from the semi-official website RIAN.ru and calculate which ones of them could have been published in a Soviet paper. The result is niggardly, maybe 10%-20%. This could be a measure of the situation with freedom of expression in Russia.

vendredi 23 septembre 2011

Iranian Regime has no Future

As a writer and a poet I am sensitive to details, small things, that say a lot about great things. Sometimes about peoples and states. There is much talk about the politics of the present Iranian regime, about their expansionism, their attempts to gain influence in the third world, about their nuclear project. But somewhere I read a short notice about their editing practice. I read that publishing the old Persian classics they replace wine with coffee. Well, I remember similar doings of the Soviet bureaucrats. They lived in a bubble, forcing their subjects to live in the same bubble. But the bubble burst. And I am nearly sure the bubble of the Islamic Republic will burst too. Perhaps sooner than we think.

In Honour of Max Weber

Max Weber would be glad, if he could observe the present economical crisis in Europe. The countries worst hit by it are Mediterranean and in non-Protestant. In a sense, Ireland too: even botanically, a part of Ireland belongs to the mediterranean area with its arbutus and palm trees. And there is definitely not that much of Protestant ethic and spirit of Capitalism in the South of Europe. Thus, we can ask whether the model of Capitalism that the West has more or less officially adopted, is really the best economic model for all nations and cultures. Maybe the EU is doomed, and the real reasons of this is not the fact that some politicians in Greece, Portugal or Ireland didn't do their job well, but that they simply did what their electorate, their people, their culture prescribed them to do. Now, the IMF and the Protestant Europe want them to change their behaviour. But doesn't it mean that some nations must change their whole culture? Is it possible? It reminds me of the endless talk of the Soviet ideologues about the need to educate people, to "create a new Soviet man". Well, we know the result. Will the Protestantic attempt to re-educate the Mediterraneans, the Southern Catholics and Orthodox be more successful?

samedi 17 septembre 2011

Laar lätt

Laari minek IRList om kriisi märk. Tuust kriisist ole konagi joba kirotanu. Esämaa partei om kandnu Eesti vabas saamise ao vaimu, oma olnu ja taht viil olla rahvuslik partei. A ao omma muutunu ja inemiisi rahvuslus inäp nii pallo ei huvita. Ja rahvuslus om kollektivism. Esämaal om alustusest pääle olnu sääne vastaolu: ütelt puult om timä olnu kollektivistlik, rahvuslik partei, tõselt puult individualistlik, neoliberalistlik partei. Prõlla om nii, et individualismi, turumajanduse poole päält omma reformika timält hää jao valijit ära hauganu, kollektivismi poole päält rahvuslusel ole-i inäp vidämise jõudu. Ja sotsiaalsemit asju aava sotsi ja kesklase parembahe ja selgemini. Nii om seo poole päält IRL-ilt ka vähe kasvamise ruumi. Mul om tunne, et seol parteil ole-i tulevikku, tõenäolikult timä lagunes katte lehte: pintsaklipslase läävä reformi poole pääle, kampsuni jääse umaette ja kaova viimäte ärki. Osa näist peräkõrd tule paadipõgenike kombel SDEsse üle. Nii või sündü Keskiga ka: timäl om ka rasse umma sotsiaalsema sildiga poliitikat aija, sotsi võtva tolle üle ja vast osa kesklaisi ka. Viimäte või sündü nii, et jääski inne kats parteid -- kura ja hää käe partei. Ja vast mõne väikokese ka.

jeudi 1 septembre 2011

Uma riik ja uma kroonu

Uma riik om hää asi, a egäl hääl asal om iks uma paha puul ka. Uma riigiga üteh tule uma kroonu, kroonu kiil ja kroonu miil. Ja nooreh riigih tüküs nii olema, et näide vaihel ole-i selget piiri. Paistus nii, et uma kroonut piässi ka umas ja armsas pidämä. Uma kroonut, kroonu kiilt, keelepolitseid, poliitikide pidujuttu ja udujuttu, paraade ja kuunolekid, Tuumpääd ja Kadriorgu, tulku tast, mis tule. Vinne valitsuse aigu olli halv just tuu, et Vinnemaa olli kroonu riik, nigu kirot Tšehhov. Tšehhovile olli asi klaar, timä jaos olli kroonu värk võõras värk, hädä om tuu, et olemi eesti kroonu ka umas võtnu, nakka-i kroonukiilsuse ja kroonumiilsuse vasta. Tuu eesti kroonu umas võtmine tule-i häste vällä, võõras om ja võõras jää. Ole-i peris uma riik, ole-i peris uma imäkiil... Niimuudu jäämi esi ka esihindäle võõras.

vendredi 29 juillet 2011

Toward a New Crusade?

The mad or half-mad Norwegian mass murderer has turned our attention to a danger looming behind the European facade of political correctness and tolerant multi-culturalism. Not all cultures or cultural features are mutually reconcilable. To find a peaceful modus vivendi, a multi-cultural society cannot accommodate groups with militant religious views. The problem is not only the conflict between Christians and Muslims, but between the post-Christian, Englightenment-inspired Western secular society and some groups who do not accept the values of such a society: gender equality, rights of the individual as opposed to "family values", separation of religion and education, religion and jurisprudence, etc. Such values are in opposition with the values proclaimed and violently thrusted on people by Salafists and similar groups in the Islamic world. But they are also not accepted by many other traditionalist-fundamentalist religious groups, be it Christian, Judaist or Hinduist. Western liberal, secularist values that are the real fundament of any peaceful multi-culturalism, are under attack by newly invigorated conservative religious movements. If the religious conservatives succeed, we will see conflicts between various groups, between Christians and Muslims, Muslims and Jews, Muslims and Hinduists becoming more frequent and more violent. They all are fighting against one another, but sometimes even more violently opposed to what they consider to be the decadent, immoral Western culture. Essentially they cannot accept the view that humanist values are the most fundamental ones, and thus superior to religious values. We have two kinds of conflict, the conflict between religous groups and the conflict between humanism and fundamentalist religion. As the reconciliation between various fundamentalists has proven to be
nearly impossible, the weakening of Western secularism can lead us toward new crusades. The mass murder committed by the man calling for such a crusade is a clear warning sign of such a possibility.

In my opinion, the European Englightenment was greatly influenced by the Chinese Confucianism. Reading the Jesuit reports on life and culture in China, some European intellectuals realized that a great society can exist without any religious fundament, on a purely humanist basis, relegating religion completely to private sphere. They discovered that non-religious ethics is fully possible and can serve as a basis of a state that has withstood many historical vicissitudes and troubles. In many ways,
the Chinese society has also been able to survive the perpetual civil and non-civil wars and the cultural revolution of the twentieth century, and the Confucian heritage is still a force to be reckoned with in China. Perhaps we in the West should turn once our eyes upon the Confucian tradition, perhaps there is still something to be learned from it. Perhaps the Chinese and Western intellectuals should make a bigger effort to join their forces to combat the erosion of non-religous humanism in the present-day world.

dimanche 24 juillet 2011

Neo-Templars and neo-Crusaders

Reading about the murders committed in Norway by a fanatic who dreams of restoring the Templar Order to fight against Muslim and other hordes invading Europe, I cannot but recall a text I wrote about twenty years ago. It hasn't been translated into English, but exists in Swedish and Russian translation. It's called "Ice and the Titanic". A kind of a collection of prose poems and mini-essays inspired by the Titanic disaster in 1912. There I refer to a newspaper article by an Estonian theologian and military man, lieutenant colonel E. L. whose ideas were quite similar to the ones proclaimed by the Norwegian terrorist B.

I translated hurriedly a paragraph from my "Titanic" into English with some unavoidable mistakes. But I hope the content is understandable and can give readers something to think about.

My head was full of other thoughts on my way to Finland. I had just read an article in an Estonian newspaper. The author, who calls himself historian, writes that the mafia of international capital has resorted to a number of actions aimed at the destruction of the multi-ethnic European Christian culture. In order to achieve this, he claims, they make use of false ideology, initiate wars. In Germany the same financial mafia helped Hitler to power, to let him start a war and destroy the bases of European spirituality. Now it has unleashed wars in Vietnam, in Iraqi Kurdistan and the Balkans. These wars are not fought in order to find a military solution to some conflicts, but to drive on the move large numbers of refugees invading Europe, taking advantage of the masonic understanding of human rights forced upon the Europeans, the idea that everyone has the right to live in any country, and there he/she must at once have all the rights. These refugees bringing with them their alien culture will finally ruin the European culture. There is a war between races going on in the world. The financial capital wants to change the whole mankind into what he calls "infantile Homo americanus consumens" interested only in consumption and in whom, in his view, there is nothing human left.

In another article he says that our effeminate young men need more virility, more Viking and knight spirit.

Of course, there is a long distance from thoughts to deeds, but once the thoughts are there,

the probability that sooner or later there will also be the deeds, is increased.

I have always thought that Norwegians have often been the first in many fields, as explorers, rulers (in Middle Ages rulers in several European countries from England to Sicily and Russia) were of Viking origin, scientists, writers. Now a Norwegian has emerged as a first euro-terrorist, perhaps heralding the rebirth of something its adepts call the New Templar Order, and an attempt to restart something we can call the New Crusades. Of course,
these guys are not original. They have been inspired by Al-Qaida and other Salafists with their vehement "anti-crusader" rhetoric.

In many ways, war is theatre. It's even suggested by the expression "theatre of war". There is a lot of histrionics in war, in militarism, parades, even warfare itself. As in theatre, there are actors and spectators, although sometimes the borderline between them becomes fuzzy. There are total wars, totale Mobilmachung, there are attempts to stage total theatre, to force the spectators to become actors. But in any case, we need theatre, and we have reason to ask ourselves whether we need war, theatre of war too. Here, most of us prefer to be only spectators, but nilly-willy we are there to listen, to applaud, to approve or disapprove. We are an important element in the war games staged by neo-Vikings, neo-Templars, Salafists and others. They cannot play their games without us, without us publishing their speeches, printing their portraits, raising interest for their ideas.

The Norwegian B. (I refuse to quote his full name or to include his photo!) is a talented
actor. The play goes on. After the two first acts comes a third: the court where he can
give a speech, propagate his ideas, launch his call to arms. And I am afraid the Norwegian
liberal democracy gives him ample chances to do precisely this. And I am sure this fair-haired Viking-looking young man will have many admirers, and possibly imitators too.

vendredi 22 juillet 2011

Psychoanalysis of Gods

Reading the Bible and the Quran I cannot but think that the main dramatis personae there -- a certain IHWH and a certain Allah would be good subjects for a dedicated psychoanalyst or just a psychologist specialising in psychological portraits. My modest and superficial impression is that IHWH is a bit paranoid, as he says himself, he is jealous and revengeful, sometimes even sadistic, relishing in detailed descriptions of punishment of people who haven't observed his rules and loved him
enough. Allah seems to be less sadistic, but he is a megalomaniac who does not get tired of praising and glorifying himself in a way that is often quite tasteless and vain.

jeudi 14 juillet 2011

Безымянный Бог

Почему Бог не хочет, чтобы его называли по имени? -- Ему стыдно за то, что он натворил.

samedi 2 juillet 2011

На каком языке?

В Фейсбуке пишут о том, на каком языке эстонцам следует говорить с здешними русскими.

На каком языке говорить с русскими? В социальной сети Facebook появилась группа "Говорим с русскими в Эстонии по-эстонски" (Räägime venelastega Eestimaal eesti keeles). Основатели группы уверены в том, что русские, живущие в Эстонии, не говорят по-эстонски только потому, что сами эстонцы при малейшей возможности переходят на русский язык и не дают русскоязычным говорить с ними на государственном языке. "Задумывались ли вы о том, почему русские в Эстонии не говорят с вами на эстонском языке? Потому что мы сами говорим с ними по-русски", - гласит заглавное сообщение на странице группы, - Давайте будем в своей стране говорить на своем языке! Так мы сможем и другим задать верное направление".

А я говорю с русскими по-русски. Русский язык мне просто нравится и возможностей говорить не так уж много.

mardi 21 juin 2011

Neo-flagellants

There is more masochism in the Christian and post-Christian Western culture than in any other culture. In the past, the flagellants whipped themselves for their sins, nowadays the leftist liberals are doing more or less the same. We must think that we are the worst sinners in the world, being guilty of colonialism, sexism, imperialism, racism, slavery, Communism, Fascism, etc. We have sinned, we have done so much harm to Africans, Asians, native Americans, Muslims... Somehow the Africans, Asians, American Indians and Muslims are not plagued by such remorses. I haven't read of any attempt by some Muslim movement to repent, to ask for forgiveness from black Africans or Europeans for their colonialism, piracy and slave trade. The western do-gooders are even trying to reshape their sexist and imperialist language, to ban all words smelling of sexism, colonialism and imperialism. The Islamic theologians or activists have not asked for forgiveness from Jews and Christians persecuted and massacred. There are no such flagellants in China either. In other cultures, people either think that their culture, resp. religion is the best one or at least not worse than the others. Only the Westerners seem sometimes to think that theirs is the worst, the most unjust in the world, and they whip themselves and repent in public. They don't ask whether some other cultures and nations have not done even more terrible things. And sometimes they organize mass meetings, demonstrations and protest actions. The flagellants were vehemently anti-semitic, often killing Jews in towns they passed. The modern flagellants haven't so far organized pogroms. But they actively organize protest campaigns against Jews, against Israel.

dimanche 22 mai 2011

puuk vallut mu

Kõneldas, et jälki omma eesti mehe "vallutanu" ilmamaa kõge korgemba mäe Mount Everesti. Sis võissi üteldä ka, et puuk, kiä om päsnü mu päähä hiussihe, om mu ära vallutanu... Piät väiko puugikene olema, Džomolungma om päält 4000 kõrda korgep ku inemine.

lundi 9 mai 2011

More human, more primate-like?

It is proven, that in affluent societies, men have more typically male personality features, and women more female ones as measured by psychologists. This despite the advances of gender equality, the fact that many women nowadays do work that was in the past reserved for men and vice versa. The explanation offered to this, at first sight paradoxical result is simple: nowadays people have more chances to become what they want to become and to be what they want to be: there is more freedom, and both men and women make use of it. This study proves that the for most of us, having male or female mind is something inborn, although in traditional, and necessarily non-affluent societies we cannot make full use of our inborn characteristics.

Now, we may ask whether this is true also of our "animal-like" characteristics, of the features we have in common with chimps, bonobos, gorillas, orangutans. Are we nowadays more similar to the big apes than in the past? We have indeed more sexual freedom, more freedom to play, to socialize, to chat and to have bodily contact with other people. We spend a lot of time boasting, competing, our aggression is canalized into entertainment and sports. Our inquisitive, explorative behavior finds a more or less free outlet in science and technology, as well as in tourism. These are but some of the parallels between the modern Homo sapiens and his/her primate cousins.

For many moralists, especially religious ones, re-emergence of our primate-like features is a clear sign of our degeneration, and points to the urgent need of returning to the traditional way of life, to "family values", to God-given rules, etc. However, the fact is that in our modern "decadent", "immoral" societies, there is much less violent crime and much less theft too than there was and is in more traditionalist, religious ones. And often the perpetrators of violent crime are precisely the moralists, traditionalists, fundamentalists. In some countries, it's a crime for a widowed woman to have sex with a man, but it is not a crime to stone her to death. One of many horrific paradoxes of the modern world.

mercredi 27 avril 2011

The environment we need?

I feel I am a somewhat archaic human being: I really feel a forest, a beach, the cloudy or starry sky are more interesting than any man-made environment. It fits well into the theory: we humans are foraging animals who had to be keen observers, the complex natural environment of savannah and seaside shaped us, made us what we are. And most probably this is the environment we still need, where we feel well. The rush to beaches, to seaside resorts seems to prove this. But why then there are many people satisfied with urban environment that is necessarily (Shannon's theorem for example is a proof of it) poorer than forest or seaside? Why are so many of us alienated from forest, from nature? Are the urbanites and modern farmers whose environment consists of buildings, monocultures and TV, somewhat their own pets, domesticated animals who are accustomed to live in their cages and don't feel well in more complex environments, are afraid of forest, of night, of mosquitoes, bees, mice and frogs? Why do we accept destruction of natural forests, replacing them with tree plantations? I feel so well in my own forest where every tree has a character of its own, where there are so many other plants in addition to trees, so much buglife and birdlife. And it's hard for me to understand how many other people don't feel like that and are not interested in preserving the nature in its real complexity, in fighting against excessive humanization, simplification of our environment. Do I belong to a small and powerless minority with my desperate need of Nature?

mercredi 13 avril 2011

Лица и морды

Людeй, особенно людей мужского пола можно разделить на имеющих лица и имеющих морды или хари. Конечно, чистых мордастых и чистых обладателей лиц (личностей?) немного, большинство из нас имеет признаки и тех и других. А по моим наблюдениям, мужчины сидящие за рулем своих дорогих машин чаще попадают в первую категорию, являются более мордастыми чем остальная часть населения. Поэтому я чувствую себя плохо на бензостанциях и в авторемонтных мастерских. Глядя на мужчин там, вдруг чувствую, что мир или та его часть, где проживаю я, мне чужд и враждебен.

Mis on Tartun hirmus

Kevväi om käen ja lumi Tarto liinast lännü. Ja nigu Joel Sanga luuletusen, sulas lume alt vällä pallo aska ja muud. Tarto liin on varra keväjelt peris hirmus. Ja toda hirmsust tege viil suurembas seo, et liinan ole-i õigit parke. Tuust asast ole pallo kirotanu ja ei taha pikembält inäp kirotada. Parkest ja "hallasallust" roogitas vällä puhma ja tulemus om "rohilane kõrb", kon saisva samba ja kõk paistus läbi. Inemise silmi kotsil ole-i midägi rohilast, ole-i ello. Lätsi üle Ülikooli käen oleva suure nurme Ravila uulitsa veeren, koh saisva tehnoluugiainstituut ja kiimiamaja. Innemalt olli tolle nurme pääl inemiisil aiakeisi ja kasvi puhmit ja puid. Olli midägi varolist. Nüit sis om kõk tuu varoline är häütet, paar salgakest kõive inne om jäetü, näide ümbert om aga pajovitsakese ja kõk madalamp är ragotu. Kai toda ja vihasti. Mõtli, et kas om jälki parke ja hallasallu asjamehis võetu politseiniku, kinkä mure om tuu, et es olessi puhmit, sis ei ole pättel ja asotsiaalel kohegi hinnäst käkki. Nii vai tõisilde, tuu politselik pargiarhitektuur om Tarton iks võimul ja nii või üteldä, et Tarto om politseiliin. Kas sis Eesti om ka politseiriik? Jummal sa tiiät. Tahtmine Tarton ellä kaos kül är.

samedi 9 avril 2011

Стихи и тишина

Хорошее, настоящее стихотворение, как и настоящая картина или музыкальное произведение -- в них больше тишины чем звука или красок. Настоящее искусство создает островок, оазис тишины посреди повседневнего шума, забот, потока сознания. А тишина -- это свобода. Свобода -- это возможность снова найти себя, прийти, возвратиться в себя из забвения, из иллюзий, шума звуков, образов, мыслей. Наше сознание полно такого шума, искусство иногда помогает нам избавиться от него хотя на несколько минут.

lundi 21 mars 2011

Too little imperialism?

I am not a fan of the US, I have no sympathy for the American way of life, for the fundamentalists, for the fast food chains, for Hollywood and the hypocritical talk about value-based politics. And for many other things. I wouldn't be happy to live in America. But looking at the mess the world is now I think that the Americans have missed a historic chance to put this world in order, to make it a better place. In my childhood the Soviet press was full of attacks against the "American imperialism". But perhaps the mistake America made was not to become really imperialist. It would have meant to issue in 1946 an ultimatum to the only real competitor, the USSR, and to make the whole world the US zone of influence. It would have meant that all other nations would have been in a situation similar to what Western European nations were in the times of the Cold War. But there would have been no cold war, no arms race, no big wars in Asia and Africa, probably also no mad dictators as Idi Amin or Pol Poth. Tamerlan is quoted to have said that the world is too small to tolerate many rulers. This is nowadays more true than ever. The tragedy is that it is no more possible to unite the world under one ruler, under one centre of power. The only chance to make the world a better and safer place would be something similar to the Vienna Congress in 1815 that established a consensus between European powers guaranteeing peace for nearly a century in the continent. Nowadays it would mean finding such a consensus between the main big players -- the US, China, Russia, Europe (although Europe still has not succeeded in finding a common denominator in its relations with the outside world), India and some emerging nations of Asia and America.

mercredi 9 mars 2011

Der Wille zur Macht

I think Nietzsche's famous phrase "Der Wille zur Macht" has many possible interpretations. The most banal -- and the most fatal -- of these is the political-military one. Here, the hero is the fair savage ready to kill, destroy. Power here means power to do to other people what one doesn't want to be done to himself, blatant, sadistic negation of the "golden rule". This notion of the will to power was turned into an ideology, and we, children of the XXth century, know what this meant in practice. It is one of the paradoxes connected with interpretation of Nietzsche. There are others. Let's think of his well-known hatred for the German nationalism, "Vaterländerei", his attempts to find Slavic or Jewish ancestors. The facts that were ignored when Nietzsche was more or less proclaimed the philosopher of the German military (in the beginning of the Ist World war every officer got a free copy of the "Also sprach Zarathustra") or the Nazi gang leaders. But I would propose a different interpretation: I would like to compare Nietzsche to the shamans, to these (often as eccentric and ailing) men and women who were also striving to get more power. This meant power to enter other worlds, to bring back souls stolen by spirits, to heal, to see the unseen. This power was called śart in Ostyak (Khanty), it was called vägi in Estonian. There are many parallels in European languages, although I hesitate to say that the Latin numen or Greek pneuma (or Hebrew ruach) meant the same thing. Egon Fridell has written that Nietzsche was the last great Father of the Church. Perhaps. But we can also say that he was the first proto-neoshamanist, one of the precursors of the New Age. He too did not think intellect is our most precious, our highest gift. This highest gift is precisely the power, the pneuma, the vägi. This was one of his messages to us, a message a Siberian shaman would agree with. The difference with most New Age would-to-be shamans and prophets and Nietzsche is that he had the power, and he was able to use it to deconstruct most of the classical philosophy, to use intellect to blow up the edifice intellect had built during the last millennia. He understood that in real power there is intellect too, although intellect is not power. But abandoning intellect, abandoning science doesn't give us power. Intellect by itself is not power, but neither is absence of intellect power.

lundi 7 mars 2011

Граждане и подданные

Результаты выборов в Эстонии показали, что что-то изменяется. Но медленно, с трудом. Пока еще большинство народа не граждане республики, а подданные правительства. Как, по-видимому и в России.

Toward chimpanzee politics

Following the recent election campaign in Estonia, especially the show-like debate between the prime minister candidates (that strongly reminded me of Eurovision and similar contests) I cannot but feel that the theatrical element in politics is already stronger than the rational one. What we often see is ritual performance by rival males (or females playing the role of males) striving to become alpha-males, leaders of the herd. What the onlookers evaluate, is not the practical abilities of the candidates but their histrionic talent. The challenges candidates face in this theatrical combat, are very different from the challenges they will face in real politics, in managing state affairs. The book "Chimpanzee politics" by Frans de Waal tells a lot about our political show-business that is becoming more similar to the struggle for power in primate groups. But after all, we all are primates.

mercredi 2 mars 2011

Technology as thought-booster


About thirty years ago I wrote in an essay that our technology is a kind of an amplifying system, a booster that transforms the biocurrents in our brain measured in milliwatts into much more powerful currents and processes: here we can speak about megawatts, gigawatts and terawatts. Technological progress means more amplification, but does not change the basic fact: everything we create, every process we unleash, begins in our brain. This means that our mistakes, our erroneous thoughts are boosted, made more powerful and more dangerous too. This is something that should be taken into account in our discussions and disputes on the use of nuclear energy, e.g. when we must decide whether to build a nuclear power plant in Estonia or not. Such a plant doesn't exist by itself, it too is a part in a complex man-technology system. It cannot but amplify processes, thoughts, images, emotions in our brains. Thus, to calculate the risks of any such project, any plant or mechanism, we must take into account these mental processes. It is not enough to know the tehnological components of the system. We must know ourselves, otherwise we don't know how risky a technological project can be. A simple way of assessing these risks is to look back at our recent history. If a nuclear plant is designed and built to be operational for several decades and its waste remains dangerous for millennia or even for tens of thousands of years, then such looking back may well serve as a warning. Can we be sure that during the next decades, not to speak of millennia, there will not be people determined to use our technology to fulfill their destructive impulses, and capable of finding ways to do it? We should not be afraid of the nuclear, we should be afraid of ourselves, of our destructive, aggressive instincts, our lust for power and simply our stupidity, our avidya. As there is probably no way for us to radically change our brains, our mind that the evolution has given us, we should at least be very careful in getting in our hands (and in the hands of our descendants for many generations) the powerful instruments we have invented and constructed. We cannot be sure how they will be exploited in future. And, of course, we should make a huge attempt to understand ourselves, to study our psychology, our brains, our emotions, to see more clearly what we want and what we need. If we want to survive we must find a way not to think dangerous. I don't know whether this is possible.

dimanche 27 février 2011

Taha-i vanur olla

Ku küsütäs, et mille ma inäp ei saa kirotada eesti keeleh, sis vastus om peris prostoi: eesti keeleh võidas minno kutsu vanuris, võro keeleh säänest sõnna ole-i ja loota om, et ei tule kah. Ma või olla vanamiis, vanataat, vanapapi, a vanur ma küll olla ei taha ja olla ei saa.

samedi 26 février 2011

Prisoner of one's own past

These last years I feel often quite desperate: I got many invitations to come and read my poetry or talk to some audience about my work or about Estonian history and culture. But all this means I have to take the role of a certain J.K., Estonian writer and ex-politician. It means I have to be what I was ten, twenty, thirty years ago. I have difficulties saying "Thanks, no" to people who invite me, but feel that I simply cannot play the role of this J.K. any more. I have some years left, my brain is still capable of thinking and formulating some ideas, I want to use the time and energy left to think about some problems that interest me, to write something about language and philosophy of language, about the human condition, about Drake's equation... I don't want to be a prisoner of my own past, of my poems, of my renommée. I want to be what I really am: somebody else, un autre, kiäki muu. And to have a better understanding of this somebody and something else.

mercredi 23 février 2011

Birthday present

A most extraordinary present I got on my 70th birthday:

http://ssd.jpl.nasa.gov/sbdb.cgi?sstr=29528

Some demonological observations

We like to live in stories. We admire fictional figures more than real people. Our heroes are such semi-fictional persons, we prefer them to real people, and they use this our predilection for their own ends. They let us create them, transform them into heroes from epics, legends or fairy tales, ancient and modern. And sometimes we bring to life mythological figures, spirits, gods, devils. Thus these non-existent creatures become real figures, although they still behave like their fictional prototypes. One of our most popular figures is certainly the Devil with his legion of avatars, servants and impersonators. I have met him (them). One of his avatars, one of the many devils I happen to know is the Missionary. A little devil travelling in exotic places fishing or hunting for souls. I heard from a friend of mine that this type of devil is an especially common species in the black Africa. In some Ghanean villages people have learnt to play an original game with the devil: they change their denomination, go from one church to another. Of course inspired by some material benefits the devil promises or gives them. In this way he demonstrates his ability to go on with his job in our buy-and-sell world. But in fact, as we know from our old folk tales, this is not a real innovation: even in good old times the Devil could pay quite a huge price for somebody's soul. Thus, the Devil can well be a Businessman too. In this way this classical Devil is a close relative to the very modern one. To the devil who is always busy flying, driving and speaking with his mobile phone at the same time. But even this modern devil has an old prototype. In an Estonian tale we encounter a man whom the Devil befriended (nothing human is alien to the Devil!) and once took flying, carrying him piggyback. The Devil flew with such a speed that the hat of his friend was swept from his head by the wind. He shouted to the Devil to stop so that he could look for it, but the Devil said that they are already tens of miles from the spot where the hat had fallen. This devil is a real precursor of the people we meet in business class lounges in airports around the world, to people who fly around the world once per month. They are the same type of personality they play the same role as the medieval Devil from the folk tale. Although the scope of their business interests is wider: they buy and sell many other things besides human souls. Certainly the Devil is not the personification of Absolute Evil as some Missionaries and philosophers try to convince us. The Devil and his friends and servants are neither better nor worse than most of us. They have read something of Adam Smith, and they can quote Milton Friedman and Margaret Thatcher. They probably believe that there is no such thing as society, there are only inidividuals, and the more easily each individual can follow his/her interests, the better for us all. They believe that they deserve some privileges, they have earned the business class seats and tax cuts because they have really worked very hard to maximise their profits.





jeudi 3 février 2011

Gods as parasites

Gods and similar beings are among the most successful parasites of our mind, our memosphere. They are most often not violent, but can become very dangerous both to the person infected and other people. They realize their aims in manipulating us, taking control of our actions. Probably they are relatively new parasites, thus a stable, in ideal mutualistic relationship has not yet evolved, although it is not guaranteed that such a mutually beneficial relationship could ever emerge. It is quite possible that either of both, gods or humans will kill the other. It would certainly be better if we could get rid of the gods or God and their consorts, but so far the attempts to achieve such a godless state have not been very successful. Instead of one God or gods, other, often quite dangerous beings creep into our minds and do a lot of harm. Still, a dictator whose aim is only to secure his own power, not to build a God's realm on Earth, is usually better for his subjects and us all than one who thinks he fulfills God's plans, is an instrument in the hands of Providence. As thought Hitler and some of his entourage.

Stanislaw Lem has a little story about a plant on an exoplanet that grows and blooms if insulted and cursed. I think that perhaps the God/gods are somewhat similar: they can grow stronger if attacked, they become more entrenched and can take more dangerous, sometimes hardly recognizable forms, if we try to cast them out. Thus, I think the best chance to get rid of them is to ignore them, being neutral to their lure and their menaces can step by step turn them into harmless mythological beings or literary heroes. As such, they can even serve us well.

I think that sooner or later gods, in our case God (Allah, IHWH, …) will, with the help of men he has successfully turned into his slaves, get in his hands weapons of mass destruction, and unleash an Armageddon. And unfortunately I don't see the world leaders taking decisive steps to stop such potentially dangerous development. Our leaders too seem to be to some degree manipulated by their godly parasites. Still, these parasites are not absolutely evil as some of them have made us believe of their rivals. Thus, there is some hope that they will not made a well-aimed effort to destroy the world. This is most probably not their aim, but they can achieve it unwillingly, just neutralizing some of our vital instincts, including the instinct of self-preservation. One of their ploys is suggesting us that our instincts, our human nature is nothing but evil and only following their instructions, obeying their will, can we do good and live a good life. They want us to believe that they have given us our moral code, without them we would either not exist or exist as savages without any ethics, any moral rules. A widespread belief that is definitely not true: all human beings have rules regulating their behaviour, and even most mammals and birds, first of all primates seem to make a difference between what is just and what is not.

Thus, paraphrasing the famous maxim of Confucius, the best way of dealing with God/gods is to keep away from them, avoiding fighting against them too.

A dice-throwing God?

As we can read on the Science Daily website on January 6, The Pope Benedict XVI has said that “the universe is not the result of chance, as some would want to make us believe." But what if the God whose “infinite creativity” he appraises in his sermon, is also a dice-throwing God, a God who is free to use stochastic rules? Why do we think of God as a god as a creator of exclusively strictly deterministic systems? Can we prescribe him what logic he uses?

dimanche 23 janvier 2011

Мужественная страна




По Чарльзу Дарвину маори Новой Зеландии были самой воинственной народностью мира. И сейчас, по-видимому, Новая Зеландия является, если не воинственной, то по крайней мере довольно мужественной страной, как видно по фотографиям. Для владеющих русским и эстонским языками комментарии излишни.

dimanche 2 janvier 2011

WE humans are an invasive species

On the website http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101230100050.htm we read:

ScienceDaily (Dec. 31, 2010)An influx of invasive species can stop the dominant natural process of new species formation and trigger mass extinction events, according to research results published December 29 in the journal PLoS ONE. The study of the collapse of Earth's marine life 378 to 375 million years ago suggests that the planet's current ecosystems, which are struggling with biodiversity loss, could meet a similar fate.

It's us, humans who are the foremost invasive species at present! Together with some of our commensals and parasites as rats, cats, opossums, some viruses and bacteria. But they are not the most important ones, their expansion is a result of our expansion. Will the result be similar to the result of the big collapse described in this article?

Extinctions are most probably quite sudden events measured on the geological time scale. The biosphere as most if not all ecosystems are non-linear systems, and are stable only in certain limits. There are thresholds, tipping points and other such things that our linear thinking most usually doesn't like to accept. We think as somebody recovered from a serious illness who thinks that he will certainly not die: he as recovered several times, and all the sinister prognoses are simply inventions of paranoid pessimists. There is no death despite so many dismal talk about it: we have lots of examples of people recovering after an illness called fatal.