One of the matters I have admired most about Finland is its underdog spirit. When I grew up part of the year as a child and adolescent in Finland with my grandparents, that fighting spirit was ever-present. It was the fuel that led the country forward and turned it into a model society today.
Despite our successes as a nation, you don’t have to search far to see social ills like greed, narcissism, apathy, totalitarian far-right ideology and ineffective checks and balances threatening our society.
Finland’s anti-immigration sentiment, based on greed and collective jealousy, is a part of the general malice that has spread like cancer in our society.
I remember reading in the 1960s a National Geographic feature on Finland, which claimed that there were so few auto thefts in this country that all of them could be listed on a single sheet of paper!
That sheet of paper has, unfortunately, grown into many volumes. Tragedies at schools in Jokela and Kauhajoki, tragic family killings as well as Hyvinkää, which caused the death of two people, reveal the serious illness that has inflicted our society.
Helsingin Sanomat reports today that the general managers’ salaries and bonuses of Finland’s 43 largest stock quoted companies rose on average in 2011 to 918,000 euros versus 792,000 euros in the previous year.
How can any human being be so valuable that he or she can make twenty-four times more money than an average worker? Weak checks and balances are certainly to blame.
It’s difficult to say what is more shameful, the avarice of general managers like Finnair’s CEO Mika Vehviläinen or his insistent denial of any wrongdoing in a suspected bribery case.
A number of politicians who should know better have rightfully got their fingers burned. One of these is National Coalition Party veteran MP Ilkka Kanerva, who was convicted in April of aggravated bribery.
Like the Vehviläinens and Kanervas of the business and political world, far-right parties and politicians capitalize on general discontent by repackaging and simplifying social, political and economic problems into 1 + 1= 2 terms.
In Finland the Perussuomalaiset (PS) party is a good example of how far-right ideology bloomed in the April 2011 election.
Like the CEOs that make hefty salaries and enjoy fat bonuses, politicians like PS MP Jussi Halla-aho, James Hirvisaari and others have struck gold with their racism and far-right rhetoric.
It’s so easy to attack defenseless people like refugees escaping war-torn regions and make up fairy tales about them. It is a shameful case of political opportunism, cowardice and chicanery.
Finland must and can do better than today. One of the ways of changing matters is to reinforce those very values that made us into a great nation today.
Those values are nothing more than social equality, empathy, modesty and patriotism, or a sense of community where everyone is accepted and included.