Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Amber Apostaspiphatry of the Beautiful Baltics

Never let it be said this tiny blue-green globe I keep all my stuff on fails to regularly surprise. Case in point:
If you're wondering what it is you're looking at, that's a tweet from the current sitting president of the sovereign nation of Estonia. Yes, that president of Estonia. The unexpected Deadpool (that's a compliment, Toomas) showing up at the doorstep of Charles Xavier's School for Gifted Freshwater Macroeconomists.

Let me explain why I find this particular tweet worth sharing (almost none of it having to do with the shock of seeing a head of state pick a fight with an American economist of note). First off, the obvious. The link there is to a The Ümlaut piece, which as you know by now, is if not a big sister publication to EE, at least a kissing cousin. I'm irl pals with more than one of the authors there and their work is pretty frequently highlighted by yours truly. So that's cool.

But then there's this whole series I've only just started on about big bad regime changes, constitutional formation, heresy, apostasy, game theory, and the euvoluntary continuum as it applies to governance. Well, one of the wee little inspirational thumbtacks to the buttocks that got me going on this project was scotch-taped to my chair by Steve Horwitz (he of the band-who-must-not-be-named fandom). For the upcoming APEE, he's put together a panel on Francis Spufford's Red Plenty, a "novel" in the same same sense that a Herzog film is a "movie": they both fit the form, but the function is to reach an upturned hand into the light shone by an ecstatic truth. Those of you old enough to remember a befuddled Dan Rather covering the collapse of the Soviet Putsch in the brisk winter of 1991 should remember well the alacrity with which the noble Balts and Ugro-Finns (Latvia/Lithuania and Estonia, respectively) shrugged off the rusty scales of their musty Muscovite oppressors. Hence the timely academic appeal.

But it's the personal touch that really does it for me. My wife of 12 years, mother of my darling daughter, is Lithuanian. I lived in Klaipėda and Jurbarkas for the better part of 2001, and of all the wonderful cities I visited while I lived there, the one that still sticks in my mind like no other is Tallinn. And yes, that includes crown jewels like Prague and Vienna. Don't get me wrong, I adore Prague (I merely kind of like Vienna), but I don't think I'd really want to live there full time. Not in walking distance of Prague 1 anyway. Tallinn is a totally different story. I'd move there tonight if I had a decent job waiting for me. And I don't even know how to say "hello" in Eesti keel. It's a Medieval deep sea port, and here's the amazing thing: its original walls and fortifications from when it was an outpost for Livonian knights are all still intact! Both Riga's and Vilnius's got blown to smithereens between Napoleon and Hitler marching back and forth, roughing the joint up. Seriously you guys, if you ever get the chance to visit the Baltic states, set aside at least a couple of days to hit Tallinn. You will not regret it.

But personal jubilance aside, consider seriously the underlying game theory leading up to January 13, 1991. Ask if the backwards-looking resentments that had been brewing since re-annexment in 1945 contributed to the drama at the Vilnius TV tower. Ask if the two-faced political kayfabe dripping like venom from the forked tongues of party elites had anything to do with the quiet, dignified, white-hot rage that prompted unarmed men and women, descendants of the doughty pikesmen who bent the point of Genghis Khan himself as he was stabbing westward, to stand up to a tank brigade atop a well-worn hill, plant their earthen feet and glower, "no more." Ask if overthrowing tyranny is a prudence-only endeavor, or if it might, just might draw on the strength afforded by the faith of a mighty ancestry, a strength given vigor by the hope for a future free of the twisted talon of oppression, a strength shared through the love of a shared identity, yet a strength tempered by a patient resolve, a clear dedication to justice, and the sort of prudence that comes from surviving first the Blitz then the Purges. My hat is well and fully off to the people of the Baltic states. It has been ever since I lived there. I eagerly await the day my own countrymen show the same unwillingness to toil under increasingly coercive domestic institutions. Till then, I'll simply giggle and titter to myself that my little network of cherished friends isn't going unnoticed by my home away from home.

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Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?