Kersti Kaljulaid: Let’s complete the green transition and end the reign of the virus and segregation in the school system

Before Christmas, I managed to see Martin Crimp’s Attempts on Her Life at the Estonian Drama Theatre. A masterpiece! Oddly enough, the play echoed The Love for Three Oranges, which soothed the brutality of the subject matter of the piece and made it watchable and thought-provoking.

On my way home, I began to think about the dissimilarities of the worlds of different generations and how they affect art. My life and that of the generations before me was shaped by the Soviet era, where the responsibility of an individual for their welfare was cut down to the bare minimum, as people without freedom do not have responsibility either. One of the cultural phenomena of this peculiar era was casual joking on ‘permitted’ topics, which we took with us into our new-found freedom.
Once we gained our freedom, all sorts of restrictions and taboos vanished. This led to the birth of Kreisiraadio and other similar relaxed, carefree, risqué humour that left no room for a deeper subtext. Admittedly, some jokes were tasteless even back then, but there was no condemnation for moral, ethical or even environmental reasons.

Something began to change some time before the current pandemic – the carefree freedom and forward momentum characteristic to my generation left room for younger minds to reflect on the burden we are capable of carrying. How do we take responsibility for ourselves and our fellow citizens, but also for the future of Earth and humanity? Responsibility first entered art and culture in the form of playing with the idea of reuse in fashion, worrying about disappearing ecosystems and the rights of women and minorities and designing sustainable urban spaces for the future (which, admittedly, still remains in exhibition halls for the time being – visit the Museum of Estonian Architecture or have a look around Oaas).

In any case, we, a generation who rushes through their working life, largely motivated by consumption, have, in a way that is still a bit confusing to me, raised a new type of Estonian who is more reflective and perceives the worries of the world as their own. The welfare of humanity as a personal responsibility.

Our young theatre people and artists are constantly addressing the evils of this world. They are hardly more melancholic by nature than we were back in the day. They are simply more sensitive and attentive. Even the most comic plays of their generation carry a certain sombre worldview. There is still laughter because you need to get rid of the angst, but it is as if there is no room for carefree joking.

I am very grateful to this generation of 20-40-year-olds. The future is likely safer in your hands.

However, some of those future builders can still be found among current decision-makers. These are the people who have the will to break through the grey wall of bureaucracy and move forwards with offshore wind farms. Or with hydrogen plants or pumped hydro storage. Or with last-mile vehicles. Or with sharing economy. Or with Estonian-language schools by 2035 if there is no way we can manage it earlier. Or with topics concerning the mental health of young people. Or all of those nurses and doctors who sigh but still treat those who could have had it easier if they had protected themselves. And so on – wherever you look, people are building the future of Estonia. At home and away, by coming back and leaving again.

If the state does not take action, people will, either voluntarily or as entrepreneurs, show the state how things can and should be done. We have achieved a lot in the last year.
This sensitivity towards future needs and personal responsibility is very encouraging. We are going to complete the green transition, thus ending both the reign of the virus and segregation in the Estonian school system. On the international scale, we will take increasingly more responsibility for the world. Each one of us is making Estonia better because future-sensitive Estonian people see that this is necessary. Even if the role of leadership is too big a job for those we have elected to do it, we will certainly move closer to these great objectives in 2022 thanks to Estonian people, who are increasingly more considerate and sensitive.

And with one big difference – we have learned from the impetuousness of the 90s that nobody must be left behind. Changes, even if they are positive and necessary, inevitably affect all of our people. Transitioning from oil shale energy to oil shale chemistry is good, but this change is difficult for many people in Ida-Viru County. We need time to get used to and adjust to seeing wind turbines on the horizon. The birth of a unified Estonian-language school triggers concerns in some schools over how to ensure that everyone in class makes progress in accordance with their abilities and receives sufficient attention. The macroeconomic numbers are reaching new heights, driven by Harju County, but we can no longer speak of many county centres as hubs of local life.

All positive changes also entail something complicated, unknown and difficult. People affected by change must feel that their greater than average contribution to the greater good is noticed, acknowledged and compensated. Many people will certainly have to adjust to something new for the common good, but as a society, we can make this adjustment as easy as possible.

Let 2022 be a year of decisions that are considerate yet still bold. We cannot make any mistakes. We are living in a time where some of us are doing exceptionally well and others really poorly. We are likely to continue to move forwards rapidly in 2022 on average, but we have the power to do so by being considerate of one another.