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Ilves to Estonians: We're our own enemy

“Let us show we are not indifferent.”

In a speech which ought to be copied and sent to apathetic non-voters around the world, Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves delivered a matronly admonition in his Independence Day address for Estonians to either put up or shut up: “...those who do not vote will be voiceless for four years, without the right to criticize the wellbeing of the state. Thus, let us use the opportunity to create, with democratic choices, a state for ourselves that we like. Let’s show that we are not indifferent.”

Estonia’s Independence Day was impressive for many reasons, perhaps most so because of the demonstrative open-mindedness of Estonians. In a room lousy with politicians, poet Peeter Volkonski took the stage with a rock band, citing politicians by name and challenging them to be reasonable people. Volkonski shouted “aru” (“sense” or “reason”) and was rejoined by a children’s choir singing “pähe” (“into your head”) from behind a curtain. Following his performance he received a whistling ovation.

In his speech, Ilves was not short on criticism of his own people. “If Estonia has enemies, we find these in ourselves: indifference, cold-heartedness towards others, arrogance, and not caring about others. Lying, corruption and buddy-protection are our enemies. Hatred, pointless criticism of others, envy and self-centeredness are the enemies of Estonia doing well.” Bravo, Mr. Ilves, for saying what needs to be said.