Freedom is not enough!
The mass carrying torches is impressive. About fifteen thousand people are marching, mainly in silence, through the streets of Riga, Latvia. It’s November 18, Independence Day. “The 99th,” people say when I ask about the year. Some do not know exactly, but most say: “1918.” This I find interesting, because Latvian independence lasted from 1918-1941, and then independence was declared again in 1991. So they ‘forget’ about the 50 long years that were so painful for many Latvians, during the Russian occupation.
The Latvian woman walking next to me whispers: “I’m so happy there are also Russians joining us!” I notice that often, when Latvians speak about Russians, they lower their voice, probably unconsciously, but it happens. Half of the population of Riga is Russian.
Over the four days I am here, I meet many people and get the opportunity to work with leaders in various types of organizations: multinationals, ngo’s, governmental organizations and associations. And slowly it dawns on me: Latvians and many of these organizations are struggling with their identity. Somehow it seems ‘easier’ for them to derive or borrow an identity from a mother company or an international organization than to create their own identity and leading principles, fit for Latvian society. (Leading principles comprise the answer to the question: “What type of society are we?”)
And what also becomes clear: If they don’t build an identity of their own, chances are that others will impose an identity on them. And in a certain way, that would mean that the pattern of systemic occupation will continue…
In his speech at the monument of independence, I hear the Latvian president talk about: “We are part of Europe now…”
You really would grant them the opportunity to do this from a strong own identity.
Freedom alone is not enough…
In deep gratitude for what I was taught by the Latvians.
Jan Jacob Stam
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