Janek Mäggi: Sanna Marin has revealed what Finns are really like on the inside – and it’s bright and bracing!
, Eesti Päevaleht
Finland’s beguiling prime minister Sanna Marin has shown that her country can in fact be led by someone with a healthy emotional balance.
Well done her! Because how many people are there in Estonia who never let their hair down? Why should a prime minister be some bleary-eyed teetotaller, a dried-up husk of a human being, whose every thought sticks to the brains of the population like a tongue to a frozen metal pole? They shouldn’t! Indeed they mustn’t. They have to be one of the people. They have to be normal.
Being young is brilliant. Being prime minister, running a country, leading its people while you’re young even more so, especially if you have the courage to remain a mere mortal. It’s great that Sanna has friends: not all top-tier politicians have such luck.
The only thing that burst this bubble was that one of her own – possibly with the help of another nation’s secret service – turned out to be a traitor, leaking a video from a private party which, in the view of many, damaged Marin’s reputation.
In granting access to state secrets, security organisations attempt to make sure that those given access are not open to blackmail. They’re asked whether they have a lover, or lovers, and whether their partner knows about them; they’re asked whether they’re gay, and if they are, then who they’re sleeping with; they’re questioned as to why they use cash as much as they do; they’re quizzed about who they make calls to, and why; and they’re probed on other delicate matters.
The people asking aren’t interested in the passionate life you lead: they’re interested in whether you’re being forced into lying to them and whether you’ve got skeletons in the closet. Being open to blackmail is the very reason quite a few people in high-up positions in Estonia as well have stepped down from them. Life’s for the living when you’ve got nothing to be ashamed of. It’s a crying shame when life goes unlived.
Running a country while well-oiled is hardly out of the ordinary
Given what we know so far, all that happened with Marin was that she was stabbed in the back, possibly by one of her own – she clearly knew she was being filmed, she just didn’t want it to go public. It was sweet, sweet grist to her opponents’ mill, but to many of her supporters Marin was just being human: a real person out to enjoy life, like millions of other Finns.
The fact that a prime minister was forced into taking a drugs test because a frisky video leaked was, to some degree at least, extraordinary. After all, it’s worth pointing out (not entirely seriously, mind) that the public words and actions of some politicians from both Finland and Estonia have been far more threatening than the video of Sanna Marin. Perhaps they should screen people for drugs as well as getting them to blow into a breathalyser at the door of the Riigikogu or Stenbock House. It’s perfectly possible that certain MPs and ministers would be pulled aside because of dodgy smells or substances, and in the middle of the day at that...
Also wrong is the notion that a prime minister leads the country 24/7, that they do so entirely on their own and that they have to be ready to make hugely important decisions at a moment’s notice. True, they have to be in a fit enough state the whole time they’re in the job that they can hold a proper conversation at any time, but just like everyone else, they need to unwind as well. Winston Churchill only ever led his country while well-oiled, and he won the war. The permanently plastered Boris Yeltsin and inveterate tippler Martti Ahtisaari got their jobs done, too. Not that either of them could dance as well as Sanna Marin, of course – who, it’s feared, is far too often sober rather than sloshed.
How to make yourself more likeable
Marin nevertheless has a few lessons to learn from the incident. Firstly, prominent positions come with their fair share of crosses which ordinary people neither want nor or capable of bearing, but which they expect their leaders to: being upright, being dedicated, being indefatigable; A+ all round. The British royal family are constantly having to deal with exposés of their private lives, since they regularly fail to live up to expectations, even if the culprits themselves fail to recognise this basic fact.
Secondly, just because your political opponents want (and try) to rub your nose in the dirt, that doesn’t necessarily mean voters want to as well. Sanna Marin could in fact gain supporters because of the leaked video of her dancing.
Thirdly, you need to keep your guard up even around your friends, especially when you’re so squarely in the public eye. Photos and videos you wouldn’t want the average Joe clapping their eyes on are an obvious no-no. Why document a moment that could leave you open to blackmail?
That Estonia’s leading politicians party less (or less entertainingly) is not something I can confirm. Still, it’s unlikely. Either way, Sanna Marin gets Estonia’s 12 points! Finland’s brilliant! The Finnish prime minister’s cool!