Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A rant about nationalism and bad role models

Andreas brought up the nationalism inherent in the ice hockey world championship, and rightly so. This posting is a rant - or maybe rhetoric? - on nationalism, so a warning, especially to Andreas: you might stop reading here so that your day is not totally spoiled.

What happened after the Finnish team won the gold in ice hockey was an exercise in nationalism at large scale. When the aircraft of the team arrived in Finnish airspace, a fighter jetplane from the Finnish air force came to escort it to the airfield. I wonder what was the symbolism here?

Of course, there is nothing wrong in celebrating your team's victory, but why such use of patriotic symbols?

In the celebrations yesterday there were things which felt quite ok, but some which started to seem, today, quite bad. It seems that some Finns can't celebrate such a win without pointing out the weaknesses in the opponent, this time Sweden.

There was a national live tv feed from the celebration in the market square in Helsinki, and the presenter used the phrase "Lets batter the Swedes" (direct translation would be "Lets hit Swedes hard in the head").

A Swedish-speaking colleague - Swedish is a national language in Finland - went with his son to the market square, and met quite a reception, not liking it at all, especially related to what kind of example the people there gave to his son.

There were all kinds of acts towards foreigners and minorities last night - mostly verbal assaults of the kind "Who are you to celebrate the Finnish victory?" This is not good at all. Is this the way to act towards fellow human beings?

And then there was the matter of alcohol. Some members of the Finnish ice hockey team were quite intoxicated when they appeared on stage on national live tv and an audience of 100,000 people in the market square. This is not a good example to young people, that when you succeed in something you celebrate by getting drunk. Of course not all of the hockey players were like that, but some were - role models indeed!

But coming to back to the attitude towards foreigners and towards the Swedish-speaking minority, that was the worse problem. (These people I guess didn't notice that some members of the Finnish team were extremely fluent in Swedish.)

This is all the more surprising when we think about Finnish history, about the transfer of people from Karelia after the second world war, when we lost part of Finland to Russia. My mother was one of these people, and her family lost everything, without any fault of their own.

Her family moved to another part of Finland, and it wasn't easy to adapt in an environment where the talkative, enterprising and outward-oriented people met much more reserved Finns living in central Finland - not to speak of the distinctive Finnish accent the Karelian people had.

But we did have solidarity this time, and this resulted in the Finnish miracle, which brought Finland to the top of the knowledge-intensive global economy, starting with the reforms in education and health care accomplished in the 1950s and 1960s. And now some descendants of these people are insulting other human beings without any reason whatever.

I feel terrible about this, because I happen to have benefited greatly from this solidarity in Finland: it gave my parents a living, and it gave me education, all the way to the university level, in mathematics and physics and computer science, topics which - as it turned out - suited my particular set of abilities very well indeed.

But where does not arise this fear of otherness, this blindness to the fact that there are many people in this world who have trouble without any fault of their own. I'm obligated to those people who brought out the solidarity in Finland after the second world war. Why shouldn't we obey their example and help others as well?


Colin Griffiths said...

Love the picture of the path. The low contrast conditions were perfect.

Markus Spring said...

Juha, I share your feelings about bad role models, and during the last soccer world championships I have never felt at ease with the overabundance of national flags. Being young enough to know the Third Reich only from stories and books, I still feel uneasy when people gather under flags - only very rarely the best is achieved, only too often the primitive breaks its path. And public drinking/being drunk never had nor has any positive aspect. It's a pity, sport doesn't have to have such by-products - alas, it has too often.

Juha Haataja said...

@Colin: A clouded day often makes the perfect conditions...

@Markus: There has been a lot of discussion about this here in Finland today, the the two opinions are 1) hockey players should be allowed to celebrate and 2) one should have control on the use of alcohol. This may be a discussion topic with some legs...