Friday, May 27, 2005

Finland Diary @ Washington Post

"Robert G. Kaiser and Lucian Perkins are touring Finland to find out why this rarely noticed little country has the world's best educational system, produces such talented musicians and architects and has more cell phones per capita than Japan and America."

I don't want to criticize this series of articles as such (after all, nationalist-patriotic Finns are always known for their special craving of international attention), but I'm afraid behind the hi-tech/high education facade you will find a very different Finland. A country where xenophobia, racism, militarism and intolerant stone-age machismo attitudes prevail under the veneer of cosy Social Democrat liberalism; partly caused by the age-old scare of the neighbouring Russia, who threatens to swallow this little country just any time, as many people constantly fear in Finland -- thus the continuing arm-wrestling over country's "neutrality" and the forceful pro-Nato lobbying campaign in certain segments of media and politicians' speeches. A country where there is at a time only one official truth, whether it was the Finlandization of Soviet era, or the predominance of economy in our own age. A country whose alleged high education system (or health care or taking care of the elderly) is all the time slowly eradicated by the crumbling of the traditional Scandinavian welfare state by the demands of the economic elite to increase "efficiency" and "competition" (thus the outsourcing and privatization of formerly public services). Which is in part caused the fear of globalisation and the fleeing of Finnish industry to such low-tax/low-cost labour countries as Estonia and China. A country which rarely recognizes its artistic talents until they gain an international reputation or are dead. A country which boasts of its hi-tech supremacy but which has never fully recovered from the early-90s recession, which left in its wake permanent soup kitchens and bread queues to the streets. A country where the rich keep getting richer and the poor getting poorer in the Social-Darwinist economy -- as they do all over the world. A country where people, instead of starting revolting against their worsening living conditions, just silently submit to their fates; at its most clenching their fists behind their backs.

Finland is like a little kid eagerly watching what big boys are up to now, doing his best to imitate them, and always standing on his toes, looking for those big guys' attention, and at the same time, constantly afraid of their slander or criticism of him.

Instead of clamouring Nokia's shining office buildings, just visit any corner pub in any Finnish suburb, where you can find a bunch of raggedy riff-raff of the local unemployed populace stinking of nicotine, stale sweat and old booze, crying to their pints while melancholic light pop blares in jukeboxes, and witness with your own eyes and ears what it is really like in this "model country". Visit unemployment and welfare offices, visit Salvation Army shelters. The truth is out there.

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