Th, 1.06.2023
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Editorial: all rules kept. All wrong

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Photo: Peeter Kümmel / Sakala

It’s not just what we do, it’s what we don’t that has consequences. With the tragic fire on the opening day of the year, in Laekvere, Lääne-Viru County, both came into play. Both to our shame, as society. 

Partly, the link came out thanks to Rescue Board director-general Kuno Tammearu who, on pages of Postimees, shone a measure of light on the indirect causes of the fire. In the house that burned down taking the lives of a mother and two of her small children, electricity had been switched off – and any house with no power is inevitably at greater risk. Especially in winter time, people need light and heat in their homes. Electricity absent, open fire will have to do – and that is always a hazard. 

Due to unpaid bills, the house had power switched off since last November. «As Rescue Board head, I do not understand how electricity can be switched off for a family with children. This is irresponsible,» said Mr Tammearu. He’s right – it is. But it still happened, like with many other families with unpaid electricity bills for whatever reasons. 

Sure, all is according to rules, as if: the power company is a business, and business comes with rules. According to the commune social worker, the family had no problems and was coping. Which may means they were not ones to go ask for help, wanting to make it on their own. No-one did anything outright wrong, but the result was so wrong that even the Rescue Board boss can’t understand how things got that bad. Seems that the thinkers who see a link between machinelikeness and evil are at least partially right.

This is the state side of the matter. The other are the people. In Estonia, people are glad to help those in need, the overall health and wellbeing of society leaves them not untouched. As also evidenced in interior ministry’s recent study on voluntary activity: close to a third in Estonia have, over the last year, been involved in voluntary operations. This is also seen during social campaigns when, as a rule, those in need will not go wanting. Rather, it the issue of how the information reaches from the needy to the intermediary, and from the latter to the public. This, it seems, is the ling that needs improving.

Obviously also, the state can’t cast its due burdens on the voluntary helper. 

Having indeed signed the European Social Charter, Estonia has not ratified the part that concerns people’s right to housing. A glance on the text of said charter will reveal that the housing ought to come complete with satisfactory conditions – electricity, evidently a given.

One will understand that Estonian state is not wealthy enough to assume responsibility for everyone to have satisfactory housing. Even so, we’d need some agreement to take us towards a law: like that, at least for families with children, power can’t be turned off.  

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