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Something changing
by Thanos Kalamidas
2007-10-24 00:09:13
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Over the last few months something has changed in Helsinki and even though in the beginning I believed it was just me lately coincidences started becoming more often to stop my doubts. But I think it is better explain what I mean with an example.

It is only a couple of weeks since one day in the metro with Asa we sat next to a couple of young women on their way to the centre. There was something odd in the way they looked at us but then when you see two men speaking in English you always get some kind of odd reaction. Asa and I kept talking when I happened to notice the tattoos one of the girls had on her arms, especially the …swastika.

Not only one, there was one on her arm and then a series of smaller swastikas in every finger of the left hand I could see. Suddenly I felt a bit weird, the girls were acting oddly next to us and that was not because we were two men speaking in English but after a bit that it was because we were foreigners. Later the two young women stood up to exit the carriage and I noticed that one of them had another swastika tattooed on her neck.

Over the last few years I’m in that strange position that when I see somebody young either they are fifteen or twenty-five and they look young - I cannot easily say who is fifteen and who is twenty-five, yet being young means that you are at the beginning of life, the beginning of an academic life, the beginning of a professional life and the beginning of a life on so many levels.

What then made these young girls feel the need to stamp out the rest of their life in such an ugly fashion? Do they feel or, better, do they understand the meaning of the symbol they have marked their body in so obvious places for life? Despite the fact that Nazism represents everything evil for most countries, why is Finland so soft regarding this issue?

I have often heard the excuse that in front of the USSR that was going to take over Finland the only chance left was to ally with the Nazis during WWII and I have heard it often and I always find it very poor. Finland is not the only country neighbouring with the horror. The rest of us learned since we were very young how much horror there is behind this symbol and there are countries, including Germany, that considers the symbol illegal.

Often in Finland I have the feeling that people are proud for this past and it really makes you wonder. How much history have they learned? Hitler was worse than Stalin and the Nazis much worse than any kind of Red Army or Bolsheviks. Do young people in Finland know that?

Just two days after that I was again in the metro when a young boy sat opposite of me. This time the swastika was set in a gold ring that he wore very proudly and tried to show it often. I really wanted to ask him what he was proud of. Finnish history has a lot of moments her people should be proud and, after a lot of effort, let's say that I do understand this peculiar and odd alliance, but seeing young people fifty years later marking their bodies and their future with symbols of hate really worries me.

I’m not going to blame these young people for what they did, I’m going to blame the state that never bothered to teach them the truth but let them believe that the Nazis were allies to help them defend their country from the bad Bolsheviks who were coming to …eat them!

While thinking of all that, today on my way back home I saw a young girl wearing a jacket upon which she had drawn a swastika with a pen. This girl was definitely a high school kid. Something has definitely changed and one big change is the increasing number of foreigners in Finland. If the government will not do something then something will dramatically change soon and it will not be tolerance!

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Emanuel Paparella2007-10-24 11:34:57
Disturbing phenomenon, indeed. Let us however imagine that those young people were sporting the symbol of the sickle and hammer on their skin, would that mean that they had read Marx, Lenin and Trotsky and were now knowledgeable committed Communists? I kind of doubt it. Those young people probably don’t have the foggiest who those people might be and even less about their ideology. In any case, would assessing who was the worst monster, Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Pol Pot, Pinochet, etc, etc, determine whether or not a symbol ought to be admired or outlawed? (continued below)

Emanuel Paparella2007-10-24 11:39:29
One of Jung’s greatest insights was hat Man makes symbols but equally true is the fact that symbols make Man. So, one possible interpretation of the disturbing phenomenon here examined is that of Dostoyevsky’s in “Notes from Underground”: place Man in a wholly deterministic universe and he will blow it up just to prove that he is free. Since Aristotle quipped that “youth is wasted on the young” we know that the young will consistently rebel against the utopias and the deterministic universes prepared by their elders just to establish their identity and prove that they are free.

Emanuel Paparella2007-10-24 11:42:09
(continued from above)
But that will not stop the rationalist. He will take paper and pencil and do the math: Hitler exterminated some eleven million people in the lagers. The whole operation was rationally planned in two hours and carried out in four years. For Stalin it is a bit more complicated the rationalist will inform us, for he did not intend to exterminate anybody in the gulags even though the unintended results were one million dead people there between 1934 and 1953. Then there were the Trocka trials where an estimated 436,000 were purged, i.e., exterminated via kangaroo courts. Moreover there was the industrialization process in which millions of farmers (80% of the total population of the Soviet Union in 1928) were forcibly mass deported for collectivization. It is estimated that five millions of them died in the famine of 1932-1933. The rationalist-ideologue will add it all up and come up with a grand total of 7, 437,000. Compared with the 11,000,000 victims of Hitler’s ideology, that makes Stalin not as bad a monster as Hitler. Disagreeing with Aristotle and agreeing with Jung, I would aver that young people would not be terrible impressed by that math lesson and the argument following it and would in fact continue choosing the greater monster and what they consider the more powerful and shocking symbol. There is one solution in my opinion, and it is to persuade them by example, not by teaching or comparing ideologies and monstruosities, that to violate the human dignity and the inalienable human rights of one single soul is to dehumanize oneself and transform oneself into a monster and that to gains the whole world and lose one’s soul is not much of a gain. Indeed, mere praxis is not light.

Emanuel Paparella2007-10-24 16:36:55
P.S. A corollary question to the above comments occurs to me and it is this: how can a nation that refuses to remember and acknowledge the past crimes against its own people ever muster the moral courage to admit those against other people? That it is impossible can be gathered by the lack of willigness to do so of the present, so called, president of Russia.

Giustino2007-10-25 20:50:14
Maybe the reason Finns have a hard time buying the "Stalin was better than Hitler" line is because Stalin attacked Finland in 1939 at a time when he was allies with Finland.

In neighboring Estonia, Stalin had all pre-war heads of state, save one, either executed or sent to die in the GULAG. What fate would have awaited Mannerheim, Ryti, Svinhufvud, and others if Finland had simply bent over to the murder machine of Stalinist Russia?

I find this black and white interpretation of WWII quite boring. World War II was not about good and evil. It was about great powers fighting over territory.

Stalin didn't fight Hitler to save the Jews of eastern Europe. He had already deported a sizable chunk of them before the Nazis even showed up. He fought Hitler for power and land. World War II was just like every other war between European states.

Don't be fooled by the nifty symbols and ideology.

Helen2007-10-25 21:29:07
Thanos has it spot on. Countries defeated during WW11 did not teach their students about the dreadful years of war. We entertained some 14year old boys from Germany. After an encounter with some English youths in the town they asked me why they were disliked. When we started talking and used the internet to show them about Germany's part in the war.The boys were stunned they has no idea of their history in this conflict. But youth of all eras (a small number) just want to be different and shock hence 'teddy boys, skinheads, greasers, hells angels,goths plus piercing, tattoos, outrageous clothing and foul language, all the more intimidating if there is a group. It is all done for effect. Gangs in England are commonplce in some towns and cities if you do not belong to the gang I am sure your life would be at the least difficult! Just misguided and misled and certainly they do not know the full history of the swastika-or their own countries history, Its not until later in life that we piece together things about our countries never taught at school. As we all know most of it will NOT make us proud.

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