Culture as Mental Security
The Riigikogu Toimetised (RiTo) conversation circle on 26 November discussed the Estonian culture. The discussion dwelt at length on the development plan „The Fundamentals of Cultural Policy until 2020”, which had been drafted by the Ministry of Culture in partnership with several specialised organisations.
The participants of the conversation circle were theatre historian Ott Karulin, Member of the Riigikogu Mart Meri (Social Democratic Party) and Editor-in-Chief of the journal Vikerkaar Märt Väljataga. Ott Karulin and Mart Meri had also been the members of the working group that drafted the Fundamentals of Culture Policy. RiTo Editor-in-Chief Helle Ruusing acted as the moderator and compiled a summary of the discussion.
Touching upon the issue of how to guarantee that the Fundamentals of Cultural Policy would not remain just a beautiful paper, the participants of the conversation circle found that first of all the representatives of the fields of culture themselves have to take care of that by defending all the ideas that have been written down in the document. Fundamentals of Cultural Policy give the people of culture a possibility to be active in their communication with the state and other fields of life. The important issue is that nobody should think that now that the important document is ready, everything is in order. Actually the work only begins now. The Fundamentals of Cultural Policy contain the issues about which it is possible to ask questions from the Ministry of Culture and the Government, and they should be able to explain their activities and political choices in the context of this document. Another issue is how much the state should and has to deal with culture, whether it is enough to finance it and pass regulations and keep away from everything else, or it is necessary to interfere more when there seems to be a need for it. The main problem is how much of the culture can be left alone to struggle with the mechanisms of market economy. Or in other words, what is the minimal amount of culture that is necessary for fulfilling the purpose of the preamble of the Constitution of Estonia – to guarantee the preservation of the Estonian culture through the ages. At the same time we know – Prime Minister Andrus Ansip often likes to repeat it – that in Estonia the allocations to culture form almost the largest percentage of GDP in Europe. It is logical, because the smaller a country is, the more expensive it is to maintain its culture.
We should look for more general values in the creation of culture, the values that, figuratively speaking, give us the possibility to breathe in the Estonian way. The most important aspect of culture is its meaning to the Estonian society. By supporting those who make culture, we actually support all people. This is an issue of our mental security. When we spend on national defence without any hesitations, we can regard the whole sphere of culture as an environment of ideas where we live, and call it mental security.