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A Brax out of the Green
by Thanos Kalamidas
2008-02-27 09:59:36
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I met her for the first time in a panel for civil engineers before the elections and she was representing the Finnish Green Party. I didn’t speak Finnish – I still don’t - so the only thing I could do was profile the people on the panel with their body language and the little I could catch here and there and all that combined with the reactions of the audience, which was all civil engineers and architects. What I was doing was getting paid by another candidate who participated on the very same panel that included candidates from the extreme right to the communist left.

I have to admit that after three hours in the room I was more impressed from Ms. Tuija Brax than my own candidate who apparently got a bit angry when I mentioned my impressions from the Green candidate. Ms. Tuija Brax looked pretty confident with herself, she had open body language that showed that she believed in what she was saying, and she didn’t try to patronize the audience, on the contrary, she joined them in their questions and concerns.

During the same period I had done the same job with a lot of candidates and I had somehow become familiarized with the profile of different parties, their styles, logic and ideology. I have to admit here that all the parties – except one, have a wild guess! – had been very welcoming to a foreigner who doesn’t speak the language and they gave me any information I could not find on the internet or in leaflets in English regarding their ideology and government plans.

Most of the candidates were equally easy to talk with and explain things in English, including Ms. Brax, that very same evening, who didn’t show any surprise or hesitate to speak with somebody about her opinions with someone who couldn’t understand the language. After that day I had the chance to meet her a couple of more times and watch her speak a few more so in the end I had a better idea about her.

I have often expressed my opinion about the Finnish Green league as the Greens prefer to call their party, and I’m going to say exactly the same thing I have said before: it is good Petra Kelly is dead because if she knew what they have done to all the things she believed in Finland then she would definitely have killed herself. So what was Ms. Brax doing with them? I got the impression that she was leftist who didn’t want to be with the Left Alliance or the Social Democrats, so the Greens were the only solution for a person who wants to fight for a better world.

I have to explain why not the Left Alliance. In a country where the feeling of the Cold War are not dead and the spirit of Marshall Mannerheim is not just a ghost but a fog all over this beautiful land and the bitter memories of the Reds and Whites still live, it is very difficult to be left or communist. You must be crazy, romantic or an idiot, or all three together! The Social Democrats, from the other side, seem more conservative than the conservative Kokoomus. What remained as the safe choice for an ambitious young politician was the Finnish Green League.

As I said, I’ve been watching her even now when she had to compromise and partner with Keskusta, the centre right party, in an alliance to govern. This week Ms. Brax came out with something that excused why I liked her and my opinion of a very brave person in a questionable party. In an interview she stated that she has concerns about democracy in Finland! She added that a crisis in democracy combined with increasing feeling of establishment in Finnish society can lead to a clear upswing in crime and violence, including the alienation of youth!

Ms. Brax was mainly talking about the will of the people to participate and fulfil their obligations to democracy with main concern the vote. She’s afraid that people are distanced from their democratic obligations and rights suggesting the improvement of the state of democracy. She wants to make it easier for the citizens to initiate legislation, initiate dialogue between government ministers and voters in online forums and increase feedback to the voters of parliament’s work, especially parliamentary committees formulating legislations. Amazing and revolutionary, I have to admit.

Being a foreigner hosted in Finland makes it difficult to be heard when you point at things like that, but it is really good when somebody brings awareness to one such big issue with suggestions, somebody who is young and a member of the government. It doesn’t matter if you are coming from a country with centuries-long democratic history, a democracy earned with a lot of struggle and blood. It is true especially comparing the Finnish democracy with the central European democracies that there are issues.

My excuse has long been that the Finns never had to struggle and fight for it, so they didn’t learn to appreciate it. A country that earned its independence 90 years ago, that never existed as independent in the past but always been part of either the Swedish kingdom or the Russian empire and the holiday place for the Czar. It's a country that gained its birth through one of the bloodiest civil wars in Europe against, not ideas, but a visual enemy, the reds who were motivated and assisted by the Russian communist leadership, cannot appreciate what they had and what they could lose.

A democracy that was based in the hate and the blood of the opposition for the first fifty years and governed in balance between a hostile neighbour and an ignorant west kept the people away from the decisions asking constantly from the people trust based on faith. But that put the governments into a distance with the people and this is the distance the politicians are obliged to cross. It is their turn to put faith in the people who vote for them.

Coming to the young people, I have to say that Ms. Brax said the magic words, the youth is highly ignorant of democracy but perhaps it is time for the state to teach these people what is bad and what is good and not what worked for the good of Finland at the time. The alliance with the Nazis during the war perhaps was a logical decision at the time but that doesn’t mean that the Nazis were the good guys and unfortunately the young people see only this part because this is the part they were taught, this is the part the media often emphasize and this is the part the books and memoirs from the WWII remind.

One recent small example was while on our way back from the radio station on the metro, Asa and I sat next to a group of young people around fifteen year-old, tattooed with swastikas, skinheads with t-shirts full of hate slogans. What could I say to these kids? The problem is with the state and the state is obliged to tell them the beauty of democracy and the crimes of the people they support. Most likely these kids have no idea what these symbols mean but under the manipulation of the right people these kids can be instruments of racism and hate crimes and it is not necessary to have a lethal incident to start acting. Action should start here and now.

Finland has changed a lot the last ten years, I have seen it with my very own eyes and partly this is due to the increasing number of foreigners. The young Finns should learn tolerance and democracy before it is too late and I hope Ms. Brax, with the power her position as Minister of Justice, does something before it is too late.

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AP2008-02-28 01:27:09
hum... very pertinent thoughts. style symbols are not innocuous.

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