Archive for the Finnish politics Category

The Pondering Philautic: An Introduction

Posted in Finnish politics, Politics, rant on June 2, 2011 by Pandesmos

Greetings all, and thank you for a hearty and jubilant welcome. I am not wholly sure whether I can live up to all the epithets thus presented, but as a popular green space dwarf once put: “Do or do not – there is no try.”

I might as well take a few lines for a short introduction: a young philosophy major in search of ultimate reality, omniscience and power, I see myself as an heir to the awesome and immense wisdom of the sons and daughters of Greece and Rome. I am also an avid friend of sarcasm and lyrical presentation, so you will do well in disregarding my grandiose choice of words and constant self-glorification. After all, a play of words is akin to a play of swords.

I see myself as one not too prone to producing long rants on recent events; rather, I am interested in the more fundamental subjects concerning knowledge, existence and our possible place in it – surely you know the pattern. The following must, then, be understood as a healthy deviation – one must be open to new venues as well.

Formalities having now been laid aside, there is something I wish to discuss concerning the status of students, at least the status of those studying in Finnish universities. It was only this morning that I was once again treated with a cup of fresh disappointment, flaming moron-brew, when I stumbled upon an item of news. The title, sublime in its wittiness, requires little analysis: “AN END TO SLACKING: ARE YOUTH NOT BROUGHT UP TO WORK?” The cornucopia of such brilliant spouts of wisdom, the Confederation of Finnish Industries, has once again targeted students and newly graduated people with accusations of laziness and lack of willingness to work. These allegations have almost become somewhat an annual, displeasing tradition – “If something’s wrong, I bet it’s because of those damn students. My poor tax monies, my poor alimonies…”

The corporate powerhouses criticise the tendency of taking a sabbath year before applying to a university which some 25% of Finnish youth do at the moment. The reason for this, the magnates argue, is that young people are either provided with too little career guidance or they “have not been taught the ethos of work enough” whatever this ethos may be. If a sabbath year seems to be the best option at hand for some, they clearly lack a well-founded picture of where they are headed in life.

These pillars of society seem to think that it is not far from malice that young Finnish people, eager to immerse themselves in the best possible education and knowledge by enrolling at a university, take so dreadfully long to complete their degrees and start doing something useful to the rest of us, that is, get a job. “If you are not ready to give your share to the society, you should not expect to get much in return” claims Markku Koponen, education director of the Confederation of Finnish Industries. This kind of talk about being useful, doing one’s share, even repaying a debt of some sorts I find both unnerving and unappealing – are we, for one, to tread down the road of assessing the worth each occupation and individual has, or are we perhaps to lay down dicta to ensure that the individual must always bend to the will of the many? Besides, Koponen fails to acknowledge that students are doing their share to the society – they pay taxes just like everyone else and approximately 70% (study published in Yliopistolainen 7/2011) of them work alongside their studies. Many of them, id est almost every male one of them, have also sacrificed a year to universal conscription, an institution I cannot possibly see as a part of a modern society. Plus ultra, another lapse of judgement is the possible assumption that a society could do well without students; while I am not certain whether this is what Koponen suggests, I find his disdain for people not immediately entering the job markets either short-sighted or misguided, possibly both.

What about the ethos of work, what in Helios’ dread name could that mean? Is Koponen arguing that there is some metaphysically intrinsic value in the very substance of work – if so, what could it be and why would it be? In the traditionalist’s opinion not any kind of job will do, oh no – it has to be a respectable one like a doctor or the kind; what good is an archaeologist or a historian for? Being a theoretical philosophy major myself, this is a question I have dealt with numerous times. Ipso facto no occupation, no lifestyle can in itself justify its existence and practice – historians are good for history, but what is history good for? What are doctors good for if humans are good for nothing? If we are to independently prove that something and something are good and reasonable pursuits in life, we ought first be able to present the instrument with which these assessments are carried out. Take happiness, for one; if an occupation brings happiness, it is a justified pursuit in one’s life. Clearly, this kind of metron will not suffice – I, for one, have not got the slightest clue about what happiness actually is. The challenge Koponen and his ilk face is demonstrating that either there are intrinsic qualities and predicates (and that they are knowable and applicable) or that work, in contrast to studying or unemployment, is arguably a superior way of life; being no diviner myself, I do foresee some foreboding troubles for that kind of a project.

Instead of bickering about this and that person’s duties to the society, I have in mind a scenario in which the society acts as a sort of fail-safe organ providing a progressively better minimum framework for every individual while also enabling the gifted and the talented to become as good and great as humanly possible. Koponen, along with his pals in the CFI, seem to think that investing in education carries too great a risk to pay off enough in the immediate future, and that contrasting this with the immediate rewards of manual, menial labor ultimately tips the scales. Yes, it may be and it is a fact that investing in education and youth will generate instances where funding goes down the drain and chocolate turns into shit – another fact is that in some cases we turn chocolate into gold, id est science, innovations, new ideologies and new welfare. Even if we accept the viewpoint that labour is the summum bonum of every society, I fail to see how education, through which new approaches to labour are developed, is detrimental to it.

The way I see it, humanity, of which Finland, as much as any other piece of heaven on Earth, is a part cannot afford holding back on progress and research. It may be costly, it may all be in vain, but upon the brink of extinction we, the merry few, will face Terminus, the boundary-setter, with bold, stern faces and shout: “Be it as it may, we did our best! There was a try, and for that, our greatest triumphs and most monumental failures, we will be tried.”

The world needs more romantics.

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Alea iacta est

Posted in Finnish politics, Kokoomus, Liberalism, Parties, Pirate Party, Politics, right-wing conservatism, SDP, True Finns with tags on April 19, 2011 by SatanicBunny

Once again, a new page has been turned in the book of Finnish political history. The reign of the centrist party is now over, and the right is now taking the lead together with the more left leaning social democrats. This type of coalition cabinet is not a new thing here or in European history. But what is new is that now – as predicted beforehand – thanks to the huge success of the right-wing conservatist party True Finns (whose name in my opinion would be more truthfully translated as “basic Finns”) Finland has joined the ever-growing group of European countries (such as Switzerland, the Netherlands, DenmarkSweden and Hungary) in which right-wing nationalism is a significant force in political decision making. These elections have also gained unusually high amounts of international media attention because of their potential implications for the upcoming decision about the loan package to Portugal.

The public seems to be divided in two; the first part rejoicing of the huge success of TF, and the second one being confused and even scared about what this means for the country’s future. I confess that I am in no way a fan of TF or of their values. In fact their leader Timo Soini, a catholic populist armed with a strong set of “home, religion and the fatherland” -values and rhetoric which sounds like something out of the 1930s, is the very opposite of me in pretty much every conceivable manner.  Nevertheless, ridiculing their success or their slogans and values does not help. The fact is that they are now the third largest party in the country with 39 out of the 200 possible seats. And that tells us something: people are frustrated with the current state of affairs. Not just in here but all over Europe. That frustration has been channeled into conservatist parties partly because people tend to long for the bygone times and be lulled into a false sense of nostalgia of how everything was better before the euro or before the EU.

I claim however, that a much more important factor in the success of TF was the fact that for the majority of people they were the only truly different option. This is also a trend that is by no means limited only to Finland: The increased stability and co-operation of the post world wars Europe that the EU has created means that politics has become mundane and uninteresting in this day and age were massive wars, revolutions and uprisings don’t shake the political map of Europe like they used do every so often in previous centuries. All the traditional parties look and feel the same except in name. The biggest disputes are about economic policies and taxation but the people have rarely had much interest in getting excited about such things. Angry and frustrated for sure but the differences tend to be so small that they don’t create enough polarization for people truly to get involved in politics.

Right-wing conservatives have changed this, both in history and now, by being the only group vocal enough and different enough at the same time to provoke people’s interest in politics for the first time in years. For the majority of people there was no equivalent “radical” option in the liberal end of the scale because even the economically liberal biggest party Kokoomus is liberal only in matters of economy and international/EU-politics, they didn’t exactly counter the so-called “traditional” (ie. mostly outdated) values and ideals of cultural protectionism and isolationism that the TF, at least in part, stand for. The Green party tried but they have long since lost their credibility in the eyes of the people and are now seen mostly as treehuggers with lots of idealism but very little or no sense of realism.

The truth is that there was such a party in the elections: The Pirate Party of Finland, whose political ideology originates from Sweden and is still young and taking shape, but they were the best option for those people – such as myself – who were looking for a change forwards instead of a change backwards from the current political apathy and blandness. They got over 15 000 votes which would be enough to get them one seat in the parliament but unfortunately the votes were too scattered among different voting districts and none of the districts got enough votes to get a candidate through. The party is too new and strange yet to attract a lot of older voters. But it is a new force especially in northern and central Europe (PP has candidates in the Swedish national parliament, in the European Parliament and in municipal governments in Germany for example) and I am still pleased with the result, because taking into account the fact that these were the first elections in Finland in which the PP took part, the result is very good. It instantly became the most popular party out of the parties that were left outside of the parliament and polls done before the elections show that the PP has a wide range of supporters in the young people who are currently in high school and not yet allowed to vote.

The result is promising because the next elections will be the municipal elections in two years, and in those the PP has a realistic change of getting candidates through, and in four years in the next nationwide elections most of the young people mentioned above have reached adulthood and are able to vote. The True Finns have shown that they know how to convince the voters, now they must show that they are capable of acting in a way that is in accordance with their conservative values while simultaneously pleasing the two other larger parties and not plunging this country into a dead-end in the politic/economic field of the EU as, for example, sabotaging the Portugal’s loans would do, since EU would most certainly “retaliate” by decreasing the amount of agricultural support funds given to Finland (among other nasty things).

So dear Mr. Soini: Your party broke records in the elections and you have left your name in the history books for sure but I remind you that the elections are now over and the political Olympiad has begun. This means that you have four years of time to please the general public, but it demands actions – rational actions – instead of just rhetoric. I am skeptical of your competence to do this, and we might see new elections sooner if your likely to be formed coalition cabinet cannot form a clear line. That remains to be seen.

So enjoy it for as long as it lasts but don’t forget to keep and eye on the horizon. Black ships are coming, and on those ships are men who – unlike you – think homosexuals are equal people, that  neither racism veiled in the cloak of patriotism nor religion should have anything to do with politics and that censoring the internet is never a good thing. We’ll be landing ashore and confronting you in four years – or sooner if you screw up and manage to break the cabinet – with our eyepatches and liberal values.

So until then my friends and adversaries, I will be following the example of captain Jack Sparrow.

Democracy – it’s a party

Posted in Democracy, Elections, Finnish politics, Politics with tags , on April 12, 2011 by SatanicBunny

Election time is here and the public discourse on all fronts is raging on. There are tons of topics and issues from taxation to immigrants that I could rant about but I’ll leave those for another time. Today, while walking around in the close by city centre I stopped to discuss for a moment with a candidate of the Finnish green party. The discussion was quickly ended however, since a man appeared and started babbling on to the candidate firstly how the right-wing “lunatics” don’t care about the poor and secondly that the system of elections that is in use here in Finland (a form of proportional representation called the D’Hondt method) is undemocratic and that because of it the state of democracy in this country is, according to him, “on par with north Korea.” I’m going to leave the right-wing accusations aside for now and focus on his later claim of the election method being “undemocratic” because I think it’s a topic that pops out fairly regularly and stems from people’s misunderstanding of the existing system.

For those of you who might not know what proportional representation means, the basic principle is as follows: when all votes have been counted the candidate of a party who got the most votes gets the entire sum of the votes as his/her “final vote count” AKA quotient, the one after him gets half of the entire vote count of the party, the third one gets 1/3 and so on. After these numbers have been calculated, seats on the parliament are given out to the candidates based on their quotients. This means that it is entirely possible that a candidate from party A gets fewer votes than a candidate from party B but A gets in and B doesn’t since A’s party got more overall votes. If this truly is the state of democracy in North Korea I have missed a revolution or two. I do of course understand why this bothers some people and why it might seem undemocratic but let’s think for a while what is democracy and how it is affected by the existence of proportional representation.

Democracy is defined as the rule of the people. The people can – in most cases through voting for a candidate – affect who is going to make the laws and thus have a say on the way they want their country to be led. But in order for that to work the people must have a choice. Since the stranger took up the example of North Korea let’s look at it, after all it is officially called “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea”.The last parliamentary elections in North Korea were held in 2009. According to the official records nearly everyone (over 99%) voted. That’s because they were forced to. And each district only had one candidate so the results were clear from the get go. Now, anybody over the age of 5 can tell you that if you only have one choice and you are forced to take it, then it’s not really a choice. This is why I’m in favour of the propositional representation: it increases the amount of choices people have by making it feasible to vote even for a new or a relatively unkown candidate without having to fear that your vote will be in vain. After all,  even if your candidate doesn’t get elected, your vote still counts in favour of the party.

This is what people seem to forget year after year. In parliamentary and in regional elections in Finland (and many other countries including all the Scandinavian countries) you are voting primarily for a party so you should select the party first and the candidate afterwards, not the other way around as is the case with a saddening amount of people who haven’t realized the way the system works.

I do have my issues with the system as well: the D’Hondt method slightly favours larger parties over smaller ones. There exists another method of propostional reprsentation quite similar to D’Hondt’s called Sainte-Laguë method which differs from D’Hondt’s in that it attempts to balance the scales and give smaller parties an equal chance to get seats by calculating the quotient of each candidate with a formula of V/S2+1, where V is the entire vote count of the party and S is the number of seats already assigned to the party, initially being zero. Our beloved neighbours the Swedes have used this method for quite some time and I do think we should follow them and change the system, since it would increase political diversity and – in my opinion – better fulfill the ideals of democracy.