This is a brief follow up to my overly long post from the other day that I entitled “When is Something Over?“. In that post, I struggled with the question what Estonians should hold onto and what we should let go of from the recent past that we call “occupation”. It is a sensitive, big and difficult question. Oh … and BTW, I think it is an urgent one as well.
What is the urgency? Burke argued that power abhors a vacuum. For this reason, maintaining continuity and stability in governance can be seen as a value in itself. Maybe. But this dynamic applies more obviously to the imagination. Imagination abhors a vacuum. If we lose track of the storylines that inspire us, we more easily fall prey to hucksters selling inspiration by the thimblefull.
This was Drucker’s point about the nazi’s in his book “Adventures of a Bystander”. He argues that the inter-war period in Europe was singular for its huge failure of imagination. The horrors of the first war had created a vacuum of imagination that was filled with nostalgia for pre-war stability. He writes
The obsession with “Prewar” was like a miasmic smog pervading everything, paralyzing everybody, stifling all thought and imagination. The obsession with “prewar” explains in large measure the attraction Nazism exerted. … (and why) there was little resistance to the Nazis anywhere until a country had first been taken over by them. … Nazism was loathsome, but it was, in Charles Lindbergh’s phrase, “The Wave of the Future” when everything else was trying to be “The Wave of the Past”.
It is a sobering reminder that we need to look carefully at the storylines we live by now if we hope for a happier future. And if we cannot securely link past to present and present to future on our own terms, we are vulnerable. Put another way, we either create our own agenda, or one will be created for us.
So tomorrow will come, but it is still far from clear what type of tomorrow it will be. That is for us to shape now. And we start by clarifying what we should hold onto from the past and what we need to let go of.