When I moved to Finland in December 1978, I wasn’t naïve about Finland, but super naïve. I was so confiding that I actually believed all Finns were honest.
If happiness were a spider, it would spin a web to catch our good thoughts.
Apart from a strong admiration for the forests and people who inhabited this quiet corner of Europe, you may ask why I moved from a bustling metropolis like Los Angeles to a country that was thirty years ago provincial, far-flung and even hostile to outsiders.
I don’t have a good answer except that of all the countries I had lived in, Finland was the most difficult one to adapt back to. I didn’t want to return to California and the year and a half I had lived in Argentina during one of its most violent periods (1976-83) had changed my life completely.
One of the first matters that shocked me when I moved here was how little I knew about my former home country.
Today, nothing shocks me anymore about Finland.
Some of the biggest threats that we face today aren’t the challenges caused by our abuse of the environment and ever-growing cultural diversity, but by the weakening of our comprehensive social welfare system and taxing less the new rich.
The most important fact we forget when we become greedy is that we’re social animals. When the 1% forget that we thrive best in groups, that’s when the 99% starts to seek radical changes in our society by peaceful or violent means as we are presently seeing in the Arab world.
I stumbled by accident on an article written in a Chicago daily by Finnish-born Elmer A. Forsberg. The article, written in the 1930s, headlined Finland is called U.S. of Europe, claims that our country is like the U.S. because of its “business methods and efficiency.”
Forsberg continues: “The nature of the people seems to hold something in common with the [US]American people in their progressiveness, and the Finns might today well be called, in that sense, Yankees of northern Europe.”
The affirmation by some, that we are the most USAmerican country in Europe, is ludicrous to say the least. Being the most USAmerican country in Europe is just as absurd as claiming that USAmerica is the most Finnish country in North America.
Finland is different from the United States because it has a comprehensive social welfare system and laws that promote social equality. If USAmericans speak of “freedom” as an inalienable right, Finns speak of social equality (tasa-arvo) in the same manner.
Setting aside the recession, which is threatening our social welfare system and fueling social inequality at an ever-growing pace, we are being weakened as well by our weaning belief in social equality.
While it’s clear that social inequality is more prevalent in our society, nowhere is it more present than in the immigrant and visible minority communities.
Even if I was naïve about Finland when I moved here, I don’t regret making this country my home for so many years.
Returning back to my roots has helped me uncover one crucial fact: This is my home and I should do everything to defend my place and that of others in it.