lundi 27 juillet 2009

Love and faith

At once a problem: in Estonian we have a word "usk" with more or less same meaning as the German "Glaube". But there is no such word in English. "Belief" is too close to "opinion", has a hint toward relativism and subjectivity in it. But let it be. My idea is that what we call love and what we call belief (Glaube, usk, foi) are psychologically very close, nearly the same thing. Love is mostly love for a concrete person, but there have been and there are people who love persons they have never actually met. Some people love Jesus, Virgin Mary, even God himself/herself. Paradoxically, some of these people feel they have met their beloved.

We human beings are children, we never or nearly never become adults. Our needs are needs of children. In our love relationships there is a strong element of child-mother (child-parent) relationship. We need a parent figure. And if we don't have it, don't find it, we construct it. Both personally and culturally. We construct gods and spirits. We trust them, we believe they care for us, love us. And we love them.

God is our Father. We are God's children.

Love for God (Jesus, Mary) often excludes human love. Deep religious faith (religious love) doesn't tolerate erotic love. God is jealous...

Such are some of my thoughts on the subject. There is a lot to think and perhaps elaborate. For example, in the contect of hominization, our becoming who we are, intelligent beings with a big need for love. And belief.

samedi 25 juillet 2009

Not in my name

After having read the letter of a group of Central and East European politicians to "the Administration of President Obama" I thought I should write a letter to him too. I somehow suspect that this letter is connected to the campaign of the Republican Party conservatives against the new president, especially against his domestic policies, and in particular, against his attempts to introduce some elements of social democracy into America. As his plans to create a health care system for all Americans. It is easier to attack president Obama's foreign policy, and here, the voice of some politicians from CEE is welcome. I don't know whether they wrote the letter in their own initiative or were inspired to write it by some gentlemen from the GOP. But in any case, I want to say clearly that our politicians who have built their career on confrontation with Russia don't speak in my name. Not in my name. A friend of mine, a former deputy of the Estonian Parliament too, told me that a simple worker in the NATO air base in Ämari had told him that in his opinion we really don't need a confrontation with Russia. I believe many people in Estonia think in the same way. Here is the text of my letter to President Obama.

Dear President Obama,

After having read the open letter sent to you and to your administration by a group of high-level politicians and experts from Central and Eastern Europe including two persons from my own country I felt I must write a letter to you too. While there are many good ideas and propositions in the politicians' letter, there are some disputable statements in it. And there is something in the whole tone of the letter that it is hard for me to accept. In fact, the open letter was a petition to the only global superpower by politicians who have decided that the best guarantee of the security of their nations is becoming client states of the United States of America. Our politicians were asking you, President Obama, not to abandon them, not to forget America's most loyal servants. Such an attitude is humiliating to a citizen of a free and democratic country I really want to be.

The fact that the leaders of most CEE nations were willing to transform their countries into American client steates, became clear when, in early february 2003 a group of CEE foreign ministers signed a letter unconditionally supporting the imminent pre-emptive war of the US against Iraq. This unconditional support for the policies of George W. Bush was a signal to the "old Europe" that the special relationship with the US is more important for the nations of CEE than solidarity with older members of the EU and that they are more willing to take into consideration the American interests than the interests of their neighbours, first of all Russia. This gesture was followed with equally unconditional support by most CEE nations to the governments of Ukraine and Georgia in their confrontation with Russia. The spectacular military buildup of Georgia financed and masterminded by the US couldn't but confirm Russia's conviction that the West, particularly the US are busy surrounding it with a new "cordon sanitaire" of client states eager to support American policies without too much questioning and ready to install on their territories American military bases. This conclusion is nearly inevitable taking into account the history of Russia. It is understood and taken into account in some capitals of "old Europe", but more or less ignored in CEE where instead, politicians engage in rhetoric about "value-based" international relations and military alliances, and where open-minded political analysts are yet to be found.

In my opinion, Europe is nowadays divided by two approaches to Russia: conciliatory and confrontational, embraced respectively by the older members of the EU and the new ones. Both approaches have their strong and weak points. Conciliatory politics can lead to appeasement that has infamous precedents in our continent, confrontational politics can lead to open conflict. It is customary in my part of Europe to ridicule the "old Europeans" for their soft attitude to Russia and even accuse Western European politicians of being either naive or corrupt, and pretending that our leaders have a better understanding of Russia than the French, Spanish of Germans. In fact, some CEE politicians have built up their careers on confrontational rhetoric toward Russia, and it is hard for them to change their attitudes and rhetoric. I would not be astonished, if the letter to your administration were partly inspired by some politicians from the US Republican Party. In any case, the letter can support them in their campaign against your attempts to reorient the US foreign policy. But I am convinced that confrontational attitudes must change, otherwise the tensions with Russia along its western and southern borders is undermining the emerging common foreign policy consensus in the EU. Whether we want it or not, Russia will no more agree being only "an object of international relations" as several years ago expressed a Western diplomat in Estonia. Whether we want it or not, we must take into account what Russia itself sees as its security concerns, and not try to lecture it, to convince it that its policies are antiquated and military buildup in the proximity of its major centers is no threat to its interests. The distance from Estonian border to St.Petersburg is only about 200 kilometers, the Russians cannot forget it, and it would be wise for Estonians and their sponsors not to forget it either.

In CEE, Russia of Putin and Medvedev is often compared to the Soviet Union, even the Soviet Union of Stalin. Geopolitically the former is certainly the heir of the latter, however there are huge differences between them. I am more or less convinced that the present Russian leaders are no paranoics but pragmatists and it is possible to find a common ground with them. But it will not be possible without taking into account their security concerns. The alternative would be a return of a new cold war, of a deep mistrust between so-called East and West, to Russian attempts of sabotaging Western, first of all, American interests in many parts of the world. This would lead to the world becoming a more dangerous place, and sooner or later endanger the security of the CEE nations too. I am deeply convinced that the relations between the CEE states and Russia need a restart as the relations between the United States and Russia. Both are inextricably linked, and a restart, a reorientation of certain aspects of the foreign policies of all of us are unavoidable, if we want to avoid destabilization and desintegration of Europe. I believe that European security must not become a problem for the international relations in the XXIthe century as it has been in the XXth century. There are more urgent crises in other parts of the world that need a concerted effort by the US, the EU, and Russia. It would be very unwise to let the tragic memories from our recent history to determine our policies, to build up a new confrontation in Central and Eastern Europe. I do not believe that stationing NATO troops in the CEE states bordering Russia proposed in the politicians' letter is the best long-time guarantee of our security. Such a move is more likely to lead to more instability, and be counterproductive in the long run. Thus I sincerely hope that you and your administration will not make any steps that would lead to an escalation of present tensions between some CEE states and Russia, that you will not yield to those leaders of our countries who have gained their political capital with anti-Russian rhetoric and servile gestures toward the US. I hope that you will not yield to the pressures of your own military-industrial complex eager to sell weapons' systems to our countries. My deep conviction is that a new cold war, not to speak of a real war, will not be in the interest of our peoples. I believe that you, President of the United States of America, will avoid any steps that would lead to such potentially disastrous developments in our part of the world.

Your respectfully

Jaan Kaplinski

writer, former deputy of the Estonian Parliament

mercredi 15 juillet 2009

We were Homines Sapientes

Homo sapiens is not a valid definition of us humans any more. We are no more intelligent beings. Once upon a time we were intelligent, we were smart enough to survive in very adverse circumstances, in drought-stricken plains of Africa, surrounded by carnivores, decimated by fires and other disasters. Our intelligence was our most efficient weapon in that epoch, it was an adequate reaction, adequate answer to the environmental challenges. But then this same intelligence helped us to create a different environment where it is no more adequate. We live in a man-made (although not consciously engineered!) world we are not adapted to. Our intelligence is often not a means of adaptation, an instrument of survival, but an instrument of doom. What could save us? I think we should either lose some of our intelligence, become less smart, live in a more primitive way or we should become much more intelligent, become a kind of Übermenschen. Although it is not easy to imagine the challenges and problems waiting for such a super-mankind: we can by no means be sure that it will not present us new and more sophisticated problems. In a way, no intelligence can cope with all problems it faces: the world is always more complex than any intelligence, any machine that has to model, to imitate, to understand it, to react adequately to its challenges.

Коммунизм как козел отпущения

В Эстонии является страшной ересью сказать, что в советское время кое/что было лучше. Но определенно одна вещь была лучше: мы могли спокойно считать, что мы хорошие и умные, а правительство плохое и глупое. Мы были правы, а правительство нет. Так было иногда легче и удобнее жить. Теперь нам гораздо труднее валить все плохое и противное на плечи правительства, которoе мы сами избрали. Теперь в наших трудностях виновато не правительство, виновата не партия, не коммунисты и коммунизм, а мы сами. Это очень неприятно признать. Поэтому мы иногда так злые и агрессивные, поэтому мы и ищем других козлов отпущения, будь то даже евреи и массоны. Поэтому мы эстонцы в самом деле довольно похожи на русских, которые тоже заняты исканием козлов отпущения, виновников в геополитической катастрофе, которой действительно являлся развал советской империи. Империи, от которой простомy советскому русскому было мало пользы в личной жизни, но которая являлась своего рода протовоположностью козлу отпущения, универсальным утешением для униженного и оскорбленного всеобщей халатностью, всеобщего дефицита, всеобщей нахальностью советского человека.

Getting rid of myself

In childhood, we learn to accept and assume all kinds of roles, becoming members of a family and various other groups, of the society as a whole. I feel that, growing old, it's time to step out of those roles, to become more conscient of the fact that we are not identical to the sum of our roles and images. We are something different. Je suis un autre. The discovery of this otherness, this altérité is interesting, can give you some inspiration and consolation.

For me, it is also coming back to some childhood experiences: when I was four years old, I once thought that there is something strange in my being Jaan Kaplinski, and even in my being myself. Now I understand that, after all, I am neither Jaan nor Kaplinski, and I am not I either. I am something different, I am something else. And this understanding gives to this irreal me a feeling of deep satisfaction. My existence is deeply paradoxical, but it's possible to accept it and be happy with it.

République universelle des lettres

Reading once more news about the death of Michael Jackson and its possible causes I felt that I have had enough. I feel I am somebody for whom the mass media, even the best of them, have become nearly intolerable. I am different, I don't want this rubbish any more. I would like to say no to a big part of our civilization, to its politics, entertainment, economy and arts. I want something different, I want to live in a different atmosphere. I think there are many people like me, now we must somehow find one another, establish contacts, begin to communicate, create our own virtual environment. We could well call it "La République universelle des lettres", RUL, the Universal Republic of Knowledge in free translation. It would continue the project of the Enlightenment, Enlightenment 2K. We should say clear NO to ideologies, to most of what is known as religion, to entertainment, to consumerism. In a way, our Republic would also be a virtual monastery, a refuge from a world that is becoming more and more a parody of itself as my late friend Georg Henrik von Wright wrote in his last letter to me. We should try to influence the world but not let the world influence ourselves. We should feel ourselves and act first of all as citizens of our Republic. Maybe it would make sense to issue an official proclamation of such a Republic. There are many problems, as e.g. the citizenship of our Republic. But I think these problems can be solved. I will try to contact people who may think in the same way, the potential citizens of the RUL.

mercredi 8 juillet 2009

A language without Soul

I don't want to write in Estonian any more. This language has lost its soul, becoming a tightly controlled and endlessly engineered variety on Standard Average European. To quote the late Estonian-Swedish poet Ivar Grünthal:
... och dvärger läser lagen
för dig, mitt hemlands vackra vilda sprak.
... and dwarves lecture you
beautiful and wild language of my homeland.

My Estonian is extinct, unfortunately I am too old to adopt another language, although I have written some poetry and prose in English and Russian. And, of course, in Võru keel, the half-extinct language of my ancestors.

Once I wrote a long poem called Hinge tagasitulek (Soul's returning), it's there I tell how the Estonians gave away their souls. It's not just the Estonians, most of us live in a soulless world. The poem is a kind of an attempt to call back, to summon the soul we have lost. In this way it has some parallels with the famous Chinese poem attributed to Qu Yuan "Summoning the Soul". I didn't think of it when I wrote my own poem. I thought about shamans who sometimes had to go to another world to find out, to bring back the soul of a sick person. He/she was sick because his/her soul had been stolen, taken to another world by some malevolent spirits. It's what has happened to us.

dimanche 5 juillet 2009


Democracy is adulterated and killed by the same forces that once gave birth to it. People's power becomes power by those who learn how to manipulate people. Dictators are either "democratically elected" or rise to power with support of some mass movement. Neither a dictator or the ideology he uses to legitimize his power, neither the will of the people expressed via elections can tell us what is the truth. Society, human beings, ecosystems, technosystems -- to rule them, to transform them, we must know the truth about them. This needs different methods, not voting, not rulings, fatwas. In the past, the right strategy for living, surviving, ruling a state was to act in the traditional way. If you did what your ancestors did, you had some guarantee of success. Innovation, change was not welcome, it was dangerous. Nowadays we have changed ourselves and our environment to such a degree that the traditionalist way is no longer safe. We cannot any more live as our parents and grandparents lived. We must make an effort to understand the situation and act accordingly, to act in most rational way. Unfortunately our democratic system makes it nearly impossible to be rational. Our democracies are corrupt: in order to gain votes, to rule, politicians must give people tips, promise them a better, more comfortable life. They can do it conspiring with capitalists, those who make things, who are able to invent and produce more and more gadgets and entertainment. If this isn't corruption, what is? In fact, our politicians turn people away from politics, from analyzing real problems and finding answers to them. Politics is becoming a branch of entertainment, losing the touch with reality, alienating people from it, enticing them to live in an artificial world of fantasies, slogans, ideologemes.