Ülo Vooglaid




The central issue of the world around us is culture and the self-regulation based on it.
A society without culture is nonsense.



There are many definitions of culture. Each point of view contains something essential. In this book, we will proceed from the notion that culture is a set of values, norms, virtues, myths, and taboos that order human attitudes, thinking, and behavior.

Social regulation takes place on the basis of fixed rules, while regulation arising from culture relies on unwritten rules. Every culture has its own customs, rituals, and traditions that have evolved over time (see 5.1.).

There is a universal culture, a national culture, a local culture — different, and at best when also in line with each other.


Functions of Culture:

  • identity;
  • integration;
  • social control;
  • education;
  • socialization;
  • role structure;
  • status structure.



Each of us is a member of society and a representative of culture. In order to represent a society, it is necessary to have the appropriate authority (prime minister, foreign minister, president, etc.), while each of us is always and everywhere a representative of culture, whether at home or abroad.

To represent Estonian culture, it is necessary to know it. If you don’t understand St Martin´s Day (Mardipäev), Midsummer Day (Jaanipäev), and the rituals connected with them, it is difficult to imagine the culture. Anyone who has only heard of these customs will also find themself in a difficult position as a representative. A representative of Estonian culture can be a person who has mastered these customs, rituals, and traditions. This is how personal affiliation is set.

The erosion of identity (see 2.3.) leads to the destruction of culture. When cultural connections are severed, self-regulation cannot function, and people become objects of manipulation. It is here that the dog is buried, if we talk about processes whose hidden goal may be destruction — the dreams of globalists come true as they manage to reject the norms of morality inherent in the people and break the foundations of national cultures.

People are representatives of a culture, while remaining representatives of a community and a family. Note here that everyone is a representative of their family or community in any case. In contrast to the representative function at the level of society, where this already requires authority. Authority must first be obtained by anyone who intends to conclude any contracts, make promises, or assume obligations that concern everyone.

It should be noted that representation can also be departmental. A police officer is a police officer even when they are not wearing a uniform. An officer is always an officer. The presence or absence of a uniform does not matter in cultural connections, but it is essential to social connections.

A teacher is always a teacher, the salt of the earth. Cultural connections create expectations, and a teacher is required to be a teacher wherever they are, whether in school, church, or during military exercises. In Estonian culture, the teacher has always been and will always be a kind of absolute.



Customs are the concepts according to which everyday life goes on, from cooking and washing to gardening. Established customs shape the way of life. For example, boys are supposed to have a blue blanket, and girls a pink one, and no one even thinks about which one is really suitable for whom. They are just following the custom. Essentially, the color of the blanket does not matter, but is done as is customary in our cultural space. By following customs, a person emphasizes their cultural affiliation (identity). It is customary to look askance at violators of customs, and this is social control (see 1.0.).

Rituals are behavioral stereotypes, ideas about how to behave within a given conditions and situation. There are, for example, table rituals, wedding rituals … By knowing and following the rituals, a person shows their cultural connections and belonging to educated people who wish to behave politely with each other, based on principles of mutual understanding. Rituals have social significance (i.e., meaning to other people). Ritual behavior shows a person’s respect for others.


  • Customs, rituals, and traditions together constitute a system of unwritten rules and an indescribable force in detail, through which a person fixes their identity.
  • Respect for customs and adherence to traditions contributes to the formation and preservation of a sense of community (“we” feeling).
  • This is how people form a cultural connection.


Greeting is also a ritual, which has its own characteristics in every culture. In some places a handshake is expected, in other places a kiss on the cheek is accepted, and somewhere else, they rub noses. In many cultures, a greeting is accompanied by the question “How are you?”, and the polite response would be “Good, thanks!” A long and thorough answer in this case is a sign of being clueless, because it is not expected by custom.

It is customary to be diligent and hardworking — this is reflected in the saying “The early bird gets the worm.” In many families, it is customary to help each other. In some societies, it is customary, for example, to sit in the twilight (sitting without a fire at dusk, discussing the past day), and to recite a prayer before eating. Some people drink a glass of beer before they eat. In some societies, motorists have a habit of talking on the phone and speeding while driving, while somewhere else, it is common to ignore the law and lie all the time.

Traditions are regular events held in honor of a significant date, in accordance with established rules and expectations. For example, the celebration of Midsummer Day and Independence Day is a tradition. Tradition is preserved when a person has a fairly accurate idea of what to expect, but there is still room for surprises, because each time they are offered something new and special. In this case, the tradition does not get tiring or boring…

Everyone in our country knows that in the evening of Midsummer Day, people make a fire, play, and dance, but all the details of the program are not advertised in advance. The original Estonian national tradition of singing festivals has contributed to the formation and preservation of cultural identity from the Age of Awakening (mid-19th century) to the present day, despite the repertoire imposed by the authorities at various times.

Customs, rituals, and traditions together constitute a system of unwritten rules by which a person sets their identity (understanding of who they are). Respect for customs and adherence to traditions contributes to the formation and preservation of a sense of community (“we” feeling). This is how people form a cultural connection.


The feeling of «we» is an important factor in the formation of identity.
FIGURE 5.1.1. The feeling of “we” is an important factor in the formation of identity.


Every institution and enterprise and every family, as well as the state and the nation, has its own customs, rituals, and traditions.



People who find themselves in a different cultural environment have several opportunities to go through the process of socialization (see 2.2.). Having chosen the path of integration, they preserve their customs, rituals, and traditions, while mastering new ones. When assimilating, people adopt the language of another culture and, along with it, behavioral stereotypes. The lack of conditions or willingness to integrate or assimilate can result in people becoming dissidents (see 3.3.) — persons who ignore the customs, rituals, and traditions of the cultural environment in which they find themselves, behaving defiantly and aggressively imposing their point of view and concepts.

Socialization and the whole process of upbringing are an entry into the culture. A person’s behavior is considered satisfactory if they behave according to the customs, rituals, and traditions of that particular culture and conform to expectations. How one perceives oneself and others, environments, relationships, and what one desires, thinks, and feels is shaped by culture.



Customs and rituals form the basis on which people understand who is who. For example, if they say that “such behavior is not appropriate for a man”, or that “women do not do this”, then what is said is true only in our culture. Maybe in some other culture women do exactly what is not customary for us here. What is normal for one culture may be unacceptable for another.

Statements about how a father and mother act or, on the contrary, do not act, first of all indicate the customs and rituals existing in the family and society. For example, a child won’t mindlessly pick flowers because it’s not the norm in Estonian culture (“mom doesn’t do that”); we respect life, nature, and beauty.



An important role of parents is to be an example and guide for their children (see also 2.1., 2.2.). The upbringing of a child depends on the parents’ communication with the child before birth, as well as the experience of birth, which leaves its mark on everyone’s life.

Intuitively, we realize that prenatal education plays a very important role in the formation of every human being, but there is very little academic research in this area with unquestionably reliable results. We know that in this period of life, the makings of trust, faith, respect, tenderness, affection, and care necessary for the emergence of a feeling of love are formed, as well as, apparently, the foundations of musicality, poise, etc.


  • All upbringing is a process of entering the culture.
  • A child’s maturation depends on the parents’ communication with the child even before they are born.
  • An indispensable prerequisite for upbringing is love. Love cannot be replaced.


In the next period of a person’s life, covering the first three years of life, the so-called “nest education” is formed (pesaharidus in Estonian). On the border of the third and fourth year of life, a person should master their native language and clearly distinguish between themself and others, “I” and “we”. They should also have a clear system of moral concepts and a list of procedures that can and should be performed, and an idea of what not to do.

When a child understands that everything that is not forbidden is allowed, they feel free, and step by step a thinking person begins to form, whose personal qualities take on increasingly clear outlines. In accordance with the educational environment — with customs, rituals, and traditions — interest is born and grows; will and diligence are strengthened; and kindness, affection, tenderness, and love appear. The child’s way of feeling and thinking are formed: manners and attitudes, behavior, communication, and virtues — hard work, accuracy, politeness, the ability to sacrifice something, the ability to behave reasonably both in case of victory and in case of defeat.


  • From the moment the child understands what the concepts of “must” and “cannot” mean, and understands that everything that is not forbidden is allowed, they will feel free.
  • If these concepts have not been internalized and only what is approved is allowed, even a child feels like a slave or a prisoner.


What should be done if the child does not listen, does not consider the prohibitions, does not follow orders, breaks things, hurts and someone is hurt? Some will probably advise ignoring it, letting the child play around, and it will pass by itself… But it may not! And it usually does not go away.

It is possible to assume that a mistake was made somewhere on the border of the first and second year of the child’s life, when the concepts “cannot” and “must” were not mastered. One may, of course, ask, where were the parents at the right time for upbringing, and how could it be that the child rampages and does not obey at all? Often the issue is that no one managed to notice when it was the “right time,” and still has no idea what should have been done at that “right time.” Every year, there are more and more children with whom other children cannot learn together.



In Estonian culture, it was historically customary to fear the rod and to use the rod on a child who categorically refused to obey and on whom words no longer had any effect. This is the way out in a difficult case when, due to the mistakes of upbringing, a child no longer considers the norms of behavior, smashes everything around, destroys, and causes pain.
Estonian psychologist Tõnu Ots believes that such fear helps to realize that there are boundaries that should not be crossed.

Tõnu Ots explains:

  • Violating the boundary should be accompanied by a slight painful sensation, otherwise the little child will not notice that they have crossed the boundary and will not learn to feel it. And if the child learns, then over time they will understand the line between the permitted and the impermissible, and in the future this understanding will be transformed into conscience, behavioral norms, and morality.
    If a young child has never burned themself on the stove, they have no fear of fire. If they have never been pricked with a needle, any sharp object is potentially dangerous to them. All of this also applies to the emotional pain that a child must experience in safe concentration during the period of “nesting” education, before the age of three or four and the age of the “asking why”. The human subconscious contains six basic emotions (anger, joy, surprise, sadness, fear, disgust), the manifestation of which cannot be stopped by reason, but with some skill it is possible to suppress and tame. A child should be allowed to experience an outburst of euphoria alongside with the joy and experience alongside surprise also fright, and fear, etc. If these feelings come into the life of a child during the period when they are in their family, then the child will learn, with the support of loved ones, to protect themself from uncontrolled outbursts of emotion.
  • A little fear of the rod contributes to forming the concept of prohibition. A prohibition should be a preliminary signal to the child of possible punishment (pain). If the child ignores prohibitions, fear of a little punishment can help the process of upbringing. It is important to know that you can only be punished for violating a prohibition, but not for disobeying an order. A prohibition is observed, an order is obeyed. If punishment follows the violation of a prohibition, the child will understand that they have overstepped the boundaries of what is allowed. If punished for disobeying an order, the child will feel suppression of their will.


  • In Estonia, an almost sterile, pain-free approach to raising a child is spreading.
  • This approach prevents the development of immunity and the child’s ability to cope with possible dangers and other difficult situations.


In Estonia, an almost sterile, painfree approach to raising a child is spreading. This approach prevents the development of vital immunity and the child’s ability to cope with possible dangers and other difficult situations. If there is no such ability, the child reacts to pain with the help of “self-defenses” coming from deep within the subconscious, which are most often aggressively hysterical, less often lethargic (distraction, inconsideration), or even an ignoring reaction.



Each culture has its own customs. What may seem rude in one culture may be considered special care in another.

In South Korea, for example, it is known that naughty children should have hot iron placed on their bottoms. Why? The fact is that there is such a custom in the local culture. It is believed that a disobedient child is possessed by a demon, and it is the parents’ duty to cast it out. It has been known since ancient times that demons can be cast out by means of a hot iron. Usually it is not necessary to carry out such a procedure, but there is an understanding that if you put a piece of red-hot iron on a person, the demon will immediately leave them alone. This knowledge in the context of culture has more significance than in the form of an actual parental procedure.

Among the northern peoples, children are obliged to take the infirm old people away from home and push them into a snowy ravine. The cultural norm/custom stipulates that children should not leave their parents to live in a helpless state.

In ancient Egypt, there was a custom (a cultural norm as a parental obligation) to throw children with any kind of developmental disability into the abyss.



A society without culture is nonsense. The central issue of the world around us is culture and the self-regulation based on it. If people have no respect for one another, do not consider one another, are not accurate and decent enough, then self-regulation cannot function. Self-regulation is a function of culture.


The essence of something is revealed behind a system of functions.


Administrative methods can interfere with various processes in society and culture, but it is impossible to arrange so that social, communal, family, and any other life would bring people joy and satisfaction. Management in the context of society is necessary, first of all, in order to create all the necessary prerequisites for its (society’s) self-regulation.

Targeted intervention can move one, another, or a third, but change can only take hold if it has a cultural anchor. If this is not supported by culture, then the formation of meaningful and expedient regulation will be more of a miracle than the expected result.


  • A prerequisite for the development of the subject is creativity.
  • A prerequisite for human development is freedom and independence.


Culture pervades all areas of life. There is a culture of traffic, building and commercial culture, management and governance culture, school culture, parliamentary culture, etc. For example, traffic culture means not only people respecting existing regulations, knowing, enforcing and following them, but also a sense of respect for each other on the road. Before making a difficult maneuver, drivers meet each others’ eyes and make sure that all participants in the traffic assess the situation correctly. Everyone is comfortable living in an environment where social control operates, in which members of society try to behave in accordance with the expectations of other people and consider it unworthy to break the rules.


  • A prerequisite for the exercise of freedom is the internal order of a person and respect for order in relationships: that is, culture.
  • Spirituality and inter-generational continuity are prerequisites for the formation of cultural connections.
  • Freedom is a function of order. It is impossible to take advantage of freedom in the midst of disorder. Discipline is a manifestation of respect for order. Discipline is a prerequisite for productive activity in any sphere of life and at any level of regulation.


Freedom is a function of order. It is impossible to take advantage of freedom in the midst of disorder. Discipline is a manifestation of respect for order. Discipline is a prerequisite for productive activity in any sphere of life and at any level of regulation.

A culturally mature person behaves correctly not only behind the wheel, but also in other contexts, not because they are afraid of fines, but because they want to be a decent citizen.

If someone is speeding, it’s not as if they don’t know what they’re doing. And those who endlessly change lanes are well aware of how this can annoy others. Audacity and disdain are uncultured everywhere, not just behind the wheel of a car.



For a person who has had their cultural foundation destroyed or for whom they were never formed, the opinions of others do not matter. Behind major social shifts there are always great social contradictions that unexpectedly break cultural foundations and draw attention to themselves. Often the leaders of such processes do not aspire to anything more, because they have neither the skills nor the desire to create any ideology.

In behavioral regulation, the psyche (individual characteristics) plays a role, as well as group connections and social tensions (see 3.3.) formed under the influence of the macro-environment. Apparently, it does not matter whether a person lagged behind the “train” (of cultural connections) of their own free will, or was thrown out of it; repression remains in any case. In most cases, it is accompanied by a desire to show that everything is fine or, at least, quite different than others believe. To do this, a person has to behave defiantly and be so brave that they have to fight the whole world — to ignore cultural values, norms, myths, and taboos.

Knowing and honoring customs, rituals, and traditions is selfevident in stable times. During periods of transition, the system of regulation and human behavior changes.


  • Ideologies can be as dangerous to society as viruses are to the body.
  • Like AIDS, society can begin to be destroyed by some immoral semantic constructs.


For some reason, people who have gone through cultural repression and cultural conflict behave more or less the same everywhere. In some areas, such as the aforementioned traffic, behavioral distortions come to the surface. But in some areas, they remain invisible because people become apathetic, stay on the sidelines, and simply do nothing.

Ideologies can be as dangerous to society as viruses are to the body. Of course, society has its own defense mechanisms and immune systems, but these too can be destroyed, and immune deficiency can occur in society. Like AIDS, society can begin to be destroyed by some immoral semantic constructs. If, through some manipulations, the system of dispositions is destroyed (see 2.0. and Figure 5.3.1.), including the system of values, norms, customs, rituals, and traditions, then this will have an impact everywhere — at work, in the street, in bed, etc.

Culture is indispensable for everything — from society as a whole to the individual citizen. Culture is supported by all fine arts, all museums (and other memorial institutions), institutions of communication, education and science institutions, and the family and community.


Functions of culture
FIGURE 5.3.1. Functions of culture


A society that neglects cultural connections is doomed to a miserable existence.

If universal, national, and local culture are no longer interconnected and do not function together, then the system of upbringing is destroyed, and learning is no longer of any use. Learning without upbringing and experience is as meaningless as upbringing without learning and experience. People who know a lot and know how to do a lot, but have nothing sacred and ignore culture, including human care and love, are simply dangerous.



At the center of the cultural value system is language.

All the fine arts that support culture (from music and poetry to prose and fine arts), all forms of expression of art, touch the soul and connect people — beauty, form, rhythm, silence, the whole, eternity… Religion and religious cognition, (see 8.1.) play a role in helping people to distinguish between the temporary and the timeless, the present and the eternal, the general and the concrete, as well as to comprehend their own insignificance against the background of eternity and the universe.


The road to understanding the essence of culture
FIGURE 5.3.2. The road to understanding the essence of culture


The functions of culture are also intelligence, prudence, industriousness, diligence, poise, honesty, justice, tenderness, humility, moderation, etc., thanks to which the meaningful environment in which we live is formed.

In the context of culture, an understanding of the norm, the ideal, the optimal solution, the way to achieve the norm, the way to protect the beautiful, and the ability to stay within the frameworks and, if necessary, go beyond them, is formed. Beautiful and ugly, moral and immoral, right and wrong, appropriate and inappropriate — these are all things that one can understand through cultural connections.

Cultural phenomena such as purity, accuracy, mutual recognition, and the creation of mutual prerequisites for success are often important in an organization. The way people relate to each other, consider each other, complement each other, inspire each other, encourage each other — all these are cultural phenomena that cannot be recreated by fiat.



When characterizing values, it is necessary to emphasize at least the following:

  • talking about values, it is necessary to clarify which values are meant, because a crook also has their own values;
  • values are valid only in conjunction with norms;
  • in addition to values and norms, there are also myths and taboos: that is, super-values and super-norms. Myths are values that are not disputed, and taboos are norms that are also not up for debate.


  • Myths are super-values that are not disputed.
  • Taboos are super-norms that are also not disputed.


Values are convenient for people to discuss among themselves; they can be arranged in order of importance, but for one person the order will look different than for another. Behavior depends on the whole system of dispositions. In addition to values and norms, myths and taboos, beliefs and attitudes, ideals and lofty ideas must be considered. No one can ever unravel what makes a person behave in one way or another and why. A human thinks, creates, discovers, and denies… The meaning of the elements of the system of dispositions depends on their role, circumstances, conditions, situations, as well as goals, etc.


Disposition model
FIGURE 5.3.3. Disposition model


A person’s behavior is determined by their spiritual qualities. A wellbehaved person is virtuous at heart. A system of virtues could be the basis and ideal of upbringing. Since Plato’s time, intelligence, moderation, courage, and justice have been considered the basic virtues. The willingness to fight for virtue and against deception, violence, and meanness is also a virtue. [1].

[1] Those who wish to learn more about this subject can read the works of Plato, Aristotle, the ancient Greek Stoics, or Alexandre Havard.



In this book, we present the human as a multidimensional space in the same way we consider activity and environment: that is, we try to think in terms of multidimensional space in a multidimensional environment. It’s quite complicated, and so it’s only natural that people start simplifying, and, unfortunately, they get too carried away with simplification.


FIGURE 5.3.4. Virtues


A person is characterized by their culture of communication, culture of behavior, culture of knowledge, culture of work, culture of production, culture of governance, culture of thinking, etc. These concepts are still in their formative stages.

It depends on cultural connections whether people find it necessary to look in such a way as to simultaneously see the whole and the details (e.g., see in the forest not only trees but also mushrooms, moss, birds, animals, all parts of an ecological system, elements, and subsystems). Can they generalize and concretize, consider everything in motion and in static: that is, as a process and, at the same time, as a phenomenon or thing, distinguish the important from the unimportant, the present from the apparent, the cause from the effect. These are the prerequisites for thinking systemically.

A culture of thinking is characterized by a demand that is shared by all, which does not allow for the superficial consideration of significant things. A citizen tries to interpret the present in such a way as to comprehend the past and at least somewhat anticipate the future.


  • Understanding comes through thinking.
  • Mutual understanding is formed in the process of communication.


Understanding comes through thinking, not studying. Mutual understanding is formed in the course of communication. Communication involves cultural connections, subject-subject relationships. A person is able to come up with everything reasonable by themself, but if it is possible to comprehend the system and the dependence of its elements on each other, it becomes possible to see, hear and capture it, relying on one’s own and others’ experience. No one is able to come up with everything on their own. Therefore, it is necessary to value the previously accumulated knowledge and keep in mind that blindly, without critical analysis, it is not worth assuming anything.