I couldn’t resist the temptation to borrow the following post from a Nordic-related discussion on Quora.com, keeping the original intact:
Kurt Edlund: I know how the Finns act. Lived with them for almost 50 years. But because I am not a Finn (Finlandssvensk) and my grand, grand, great parents emigraded from Gävle in the 1750-ties to Åbo. They were book printers. I decided to move back to Sweden. Why? Just because as an FinnshSwede I felt now welcome in the Finnish communities. Allways when they notised that my finnish wasen’t proper enought they begun acting wery Finnisk. In other words: Bullied me for who I was! I could stand out 50 years with their low self-asteem. So now I am back at my real roots and I feel really great being a Honest Swede fully!
My point is not to draw anyone’s attention to, look, a discrepancy between what we know about the broad-minded, tolerant Nordics and the everyday practice, and shit happens, etc. We’re all people and no one is perfect. The thing is that the Nordics really are tolerant and way more broad-minded than what I can say about the Baltics. This is a fact of life.
At the same time, they don’t need a lecture on how one feels to be bullied for what he/she is. Another fact of life is that the Nordics are all but restrained in expressing their mind. And yet, we see very few complaints of this sort or any evidence of ethnic bullying, although the author refers to the bullying as to “acting very Finnish”. And if people don’t complain, it may just as well be an act of tolerance. I guess this is because low self-esteem is a bad choice of weapon against low self-esteem. I hope I don’t overestimate.
What’s then a good choice of weapon against low self-esteem?
Now, when reposting this text, I am of course thinking of the ethnic row in Latvia. Here we are experts in bullying each other for what we are and what we’re not. Here we restrain each other in looking for what we have in common as well as in looking into the future. Here we are good at convincing each other there is no future.
I often listen to the podcast of the popular early-afternoon discussion show Krustpunktā on the state Latvijas Radio, which receives calls from frustrated and unhappy listeners, mostly seniors or jobless ones and extremely often same people one day after another. That’s what I call a school of ethnic bullying. Yes, on a state-owned radio. The calling opinion makers may even not fully realise what they do is the propagation of ethnic hatred and low self-esteem. I’m afraid this is a whole culture of bullying. However, I must add this is an act of bullying without the bulled ones, the Russians, being directly involved. Bullying behind the bullied one’s back.
Yet, again, this is going on on a state-owned radio, and practically with no moderation, as the moderator chooses not to take sides, neither supporting the bullies nor protecting the victims. To the credit of this radio, I must say the invited guests of the show are by far less vocal in the propagation of the ethnic cleavage in the country. The most reputable of them are keeping it neutral at best, fearing a label of a cosmopolitan and even an enemy thrown at them from the crowd, should they try to find a word in favour of the ethnic understanding. This is the crowd the intellectuals fear the most. Isn’t it typical that the intellectuals have least to say to the crowd? Well, so much about the intellectual power—and courage—of those talking to the crowd.
A very similar school of bullying is being practiced on the privately owned Russian-speaking Radio Baltkom. Here the bullying seems less as the ethnic hatred, much less attacking the Latvians for their ethnicity, but focusing more on the wounded ethnic pride. The moderators and guests on this radio are much more prone to share and even amplify the low-self-esteem-fuelled “grief”. This radio chooses to bully the entire state for its Latvianness, or for that matter, un-Russianness.
In one of my posts in Russian here in this blog, I called this stance the palestinisation of the Russians (borrowed the term from a Russian liberal commentator Yulia Latynina). No doubt, Latvian political leaders did their best in alienating the Russians from the Latvian nation-state idea in the 1990s, grossly miscommunicating and misinterpreting it to both language audiences. Closely following the same tradition, the Russian political leaders of the 2000s keep alienating their supporters from the Latvian state. Everything is wrong and awkward when it comes to the state, the parliament, the government, its ways and decisions. Everything, except the Riga municipality, ruled by ethnic Russians. Those guys are above any criticism. As simple as that. Bullying doesn’t require much creativity, does it?
One low self-esteem is up against another low self-esteem. A wall too high for a low self-esteem to get over. Does that in fact mean Latvia’s two linguistic communities are not going to achieve a common language? Figuratively, rather than literally, speaking, as it’s crystal clear that both languages will stay functional in Latvia as long as it will exist.
My answer is yes, as long as low self-esteem is prevailing in both communities. And it obviously will as long as the community leaders cultivate it. Just like the Riga mayor, Nils Ušakovs, does when demanding higher self-esteem for the Russians, as if one can demand it from anyone. In his interpretation, the Russians should claim back their self-esteem they once were deprived of by the Latvians who enforced Latvian as the only state language, thus making the Russians learn and speak it, and this is after generations and generations of the local Russians had never bothered with it. Now the suggestion from the mayor is to support a referendum aimed at giving Russian the state-language status so that also the new generations of the local Russians could happily continue the ignoring attitude.
No, amassing low self-esteem, appealing to the collective low self-esteem of the crowd would never change its quality. Then what would be the weapon against low self-esteem, if any? I guess it’s all about just not giving in to it. Don’t help humiliate yourself, don’t bathe in the mud someone may enjoy throwing at you.
Is the mud throwing inevitable? I don’t think so. What would stop a jerk, turn a jerk into a reasonable person, prevent a reasonable person from becoming a jerk? Really tricky, I’m sure there are zillion theories. Does any of them work? Does anyone care? Look at the London riots in August 2011. Looting, setting houses, buses, cars with innocent people on fire, attacking ambulance crews as they were trying to help the injured. Where does this stop, where’s the line? I mean for the bullying, like in our case, or all hell broke loose as it was in London.
Well, I have no answer for London. They didn’t expect it, did they? Didn’t see it growing. Or rather self-esteem in so great many people collapsing. There could just be a thought for Latvia in all that. I believe in the power of an individual to cope with his or her attitude. There should be incentives. Some find them in life and don’t need, or don’t notice, help in finding incentives, like the right attitude, tolerance and respect pay off greatly. Some need more help but don’t know it. No one can replace the intellectuals in this quest for ethical incentives. And this is definitely no place for intellectual modesty, which I hope the Latvian intellectuals will put off one day when talking to the crowd.