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When the true Finns lost their false identity
by Thanos Kalamidas
2011-04-19 08:48:14
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Finland is still trying to understand what happened and most of the political parties look numb. The good news is that all of them try to find answers and the blue print to start negotiations in a reassuring climate. But the damage has happened and Finland woke up in a new era and in front of a dramatic social change that hopefully will realize and manage correctly instead of the damage control attitude that kept the country going the last thirty years.

Going from the poor 4.1% to the dramatic 19.1% in four years is not just a protest for the Greek the Irish or the Portuguese bail out, these are just the excuses; and it is not only the xenophobia of the increasing numbers of immigrants the last decade, actually it is that as well. Even the social democratic party has expressed doubts on the European bailout plan and the Christian democrats have preached far more xenophobia and homophobia than the True Finns. And yes the True Finns’ populist rhetoric was attractive but even the more naive of the Finns know that it is one thing what you say without carrying the responsibility of a state and another when you are actually responsible of a nation that act and lives in the contemporary global economy. It is easy to say that we don’t want a European Union with saying in internal and foreign issues maters as it is now but just a loose economic market and it is different when you find out that the majority of the working classes, farmers and the fishermen – main target of the rhetoric – survive thanks to the subsidies that come from this very same Union. Only the last year Finland took nearly 40 million Euros for unemployment programs that in long term help exactly the same people who probably voted for the True Finns.

The issue is with another message that the True Finns pass often and they cover with the immigrants and the European bailouts and it has to do with the national identity. You don’t need to go far, just stop to their name and you will understand how big problem is this national identity and how dramatic is the failure of the other parties and the state to adjust the Finnish society the last thirty years after the end of the cold war to the new reality. Is not the first time I’m talking about Finland’s lack of national identity and I’m afraid is not going to be the last, I just hope the political parties and the state – the ones who can do something immediately – act before a shocking rise of power becomes a nightmarish reality.

Since its foundations the social structure of this country was based in the necessity of absolute unity in an area dominated of a gigantic bully from one side with imperialistic views – the Soviet Union – an arrogant neighbour on the other who always made them feel second and a world that couldn’t take them seriously and always dealt with them as a soviet satellite. We often forget that Finland could not have free internal and foreign policy till the end of 1990s with the Soviet Union vetoing every single effect to join any other organization or institution except the United Nations – as a punishment of been part of the axis during the WWII - until 2000 the Nordic country was paying war compensations to USSR and Russia losing over 20% of the national income and production and the same time a lot of countries especially the ones who could actively help the country were counting them as an enemy terra with the UK as an example which was in war condition with Finland till late 1990s from the WWII. This meant that even commercial relationship with the UK were under strict control. And all that in a poor arctic country which has literally to fight nature every single day for survival. All Finnish history is a battle for survival against nature and the best example if you are interest is Finnish literature and specifically Väinö Linna’s books with “Under the North Star” a superb example where the man fights the ice, the long night and the swamp to survive not always successfully.

The Finnish leadership discover very early the practical advantages of “real politik” far earlier than the Germans and the main rod to succeed have been for decades the national unity under any cost and mercy. In Finland happened the bloodiest civil war in the modern European history and despite that the conflict lasted only for a few months the passions lasted decades, even today since they are alive memories from both sides. But in the name of unity and the paranoia the neighbourhood caused some of the worst crimes were committed and the winners wrote the history that served that unity. So four generations grew up learning the history that served the cause. In a paranoid situation where they felt alone surrounded from enemies the feeling of the superior nation grew as a defence and for example the schools back in 1970s proudly had on the walls the motto that “it is like winning the lotto to born a Finn”  The Finns started taking about the superiority of the Finnish worker, the superiority of the finish education, the superiority if the Finnish attitude even for the superiority of the Finnish summer. And then the cold war finished and the Finns found themselves one among equals and they found out that other nations have good workers and beautiful summers. Isolation was over and Finland became member of clubs where except equal rights had equal obligations and most of all a country that had a few hundreds of immigrants treating them as poor relatives found a few tens of thousand immigrating in their neighbourhood carrying with them cultures and habits and most of all ignoring and often reduce their superiority and hurting their pride.

In which European country the biggest gathering of the people would have happened for the winners of the Eurovision contest with the president presenting and decorate with medals a grotesque hard rock group and then give their name to a central square of their birth place? I have many examples like that from a football player to a formula 1 driver and minister who used to be an underwear model. But all of them converge to one point. A nation despondent to find its stolen identity – doesn’t matter how true or false it was after four generations - and national unity that was lost in globe full of equals.

And the True Finns gave them exactly that. You are the True Finns, this land belongs to the true Finns, we are the superior nation, we are the best workers and the best rockers, the best air guitar players and the best sauna users. And the 4.1% became 19.1% and now Finland has a problem. A problem that was never just political but it is social and demand social solutions and NOT political cover ups.

The next few months are going to be really difficult for the Nordic country because if they want to come out of this tunnel they are obliged to face the reality in many levels including the foundations of the problem and its solutions.

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Emanuel Paparella2011-04-19 15:31:59
The above historical background is an eye-opener which makes one understand a bit better current political behavior in Finland and other Scandinavian countries. Indeed, a nation’s psyche reflects the individual’s psyche: there are political traumatic experiences and humiliations which are not easily forgotten, they are simply repressed and then they surface unexpectedly in negative distorted ways. However, one thing remains certain: in a global multicultural era, a nation cannot have the cake and eat it too; which is to say, to embrace a political entity called the European Union and at the same time return to a rabid and intolerant 19th century kind of nationalism grounded in xenophobia and delusions of racial superiority, is to regress culturally. To continue with the psychological metaphor of the psyche of a country, it means to eventually become culturally schizophrenic and lose any hope of ever finding one’s genuine cultural identity.

Emanuel Paparella2011-04-19 15:36:49
P.S. To change the metaphor, one instrument never a symphony orchestra made. It takes many instruments to play a beautiful symphony. Xenophobes are those who think that one instrument, what they misguidedly consider the best instrument, will do it. Fat chance. Even the best instrument will not produce a symphony.

Juho2011-04-19 20:44:26
Few mistakes:

- Finns prefer modesty, never consider being superior to anything, never in public about it at least
- war compensations ended year 1952
- relation to the USSR is exaggerated

Thanos2011-04-19 22:23:51
Juho, modesty is one of the Finnish myths/urban legends they created for the obvious reasons just like the ones "Finns are straight" or "sisu" is a word that doesn't exist in any other language.

The influence and involvement of the Soviet Union in the Finland finished with the fall of the Berlin Wall. Finlandization is not an exaggeration and if you check the archives of CIA you will find a lot of interesting information - not necessary known to the Finnish people again due to the need for national unity.

Actually series of books about modern Finnish history are forbidden in Finland from the internal and foreign office most of them later published either in Russia or in Canada even though written from Finnish scholars and historians.

I would suggest you to read the memoirs of Rozanne L. Ridgway and the embassy's secretary the same period; you will find them very interesting. Another book you might find interesting is: From Grand Duchy to Modern State: Political History of Finland Since 1809.

Eva2011-04-20 09:16:21
I think Finns have a need to repeat to themselves things like "we are the best, we know the best. We are the most honest, hard-working blah blah" - due to the fact that in reality they have no self-confidence, no national self-confidence. By repeating things like this and shouting it out loud... well then it must be true, right?
In Finland it's an ugly thing for a person to say that he/she is good at something, it's considered bragging - Finns confuse this policy of never blowing your own trumpet with modesty.

Hank W.2011-04-23 00:32:56
Pretty good analysis on the whole.

The politicians forgot the common working man. Now they wonder where all this hatered stems from.

I told people to put the lid on that multiculturalism crap, but did they listen? You are yourselves the cause for this. Soini thanks you for doing his election work for him.

Mike2011-04-25 21:14:18
Finns have been under collective amnesia for quite some time. Finnish history books are watered down to the point of being complete rubbish. If you want to know Finnish history, read something written by a non-Finnish scholar. Finland is a great place, but Finns are xenophobic as hell, and now the world can see that. If Finns want Finland for genetically Finnish people, fine. We -- the rest of the world -- just won't buy Nokia phones or any other Finnish products. Finns need to remember one thing: Finns need the world more than the world needs them.

Steven2011-04-25 21:38:12
Finns always complain that immigrants don't adapt. The problem seems to be that Finns can't adapt to the world. Here's some facts:

1) Finns are the largest ethnic group in Swedish prisons.

2) A Finnish woman in Italy failed to adapt to Italian cultural customs and sued to have the Christian cross removed from schools.

3) A Finnish man in Poland faces a possible five years in prison on allegations he sprayed graffiti on walls in Krakow's old town, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

And the list goes on.

Frank2011-04-27 17:16:10
Teuvo Hakkarainen, a new True Finn MP, referred to black people as neekeri, which means "nigger." Call me crazy if want, but I think Finland is heading for some serious trouble. This is extremely bad.

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