This is not a blog post about Finnish grammar.
Nor is it a post about the Guggenheim feasibility study which is drawing such impassioned commentary in the blogosphere. It is also not a post about the rather ignorable building pictured below. (The photo is from 2009, when the potential costs of archictectural globalization first really got to us here on this blog).
It is a blog post about words and how they are used.
As Arkkivahti notes, there are many people who are sceptical but not against the Guggenheim scheme. JHJ would like to add that though Helsinki has a glorious past it was never perfect – it can always do with some additional beauty!
The odd thing now is that we know very little about the Guggenheim scheme feasibility study. Nevertheless, there are plenty of words in circulation that might make you think that a branch of the Guggenheim’s expanding family of art museums was about to open in Helsinki.
Recently we were surprised to read an article about the feasibility study in The Usual. Baffled, rather. We had, of course, noted that the Foundation have been positive about the idea of gracing Helsinki with their brand. But JHJ had not however been aware that a decision to build had been made. And so it was that this kind of language in the paper sparked a double-take:
Guggenheimin museon voi hyvin rakentaa Katajanokalle
Rakennuksen alle tehdään vesitiivis patoseinä, joka ankkuroidaan peruskallioon 15 metrin syvyyteen. Suurilta lisäkustannuksilta vältytään.
Or, as is customary on this blog, in our own translation:
The Guggenheim museum can easily be built in Katajanokka
A water-tight barrier wall will be constructed below the building and anchored in the rock at 15 metre’s depth. This will avoid substantial extra costs.
We were not aware that a decision had yet been made to bring the G. to Helsinki, that a preferred location had been chosen by the G. and ratified by Helsinki. Nor had we kept abreast of the “debate” of which the peculiar-looking headline was a small part. Hence the raised eyebrow.
But then The Usual frequently reports stories as if they had happened already (in some cases just cutting and pasting the press release as is…). One day it reported that Mayor Jussi Pajunen was confident that the G. would come and would bring megabucks in its wake. Once this had been reported, this reporting itself became news. A careless reader might have suspected that national broadcaster YLE were saying that the G would come and it would be ready in 2018.
This kind of language is not quite the same thing as another interesting feature of contemporary political rhetoric, what Stefan Collini calls the “dogmatic future” tense. His wonderfully fluent, perceptive and empirically supported essay in the London Review of Books Vol.33(16) he considers the prose that makes it appear as if consumerist metrics were the best way to assess everything.
… official discourse has become increasingly colonised by an economistic idiom, which is derived not strictly from economic theory proper, but rahter fromthe language of management schools, business consultants and financial journalism. British society has been subject to a deliberate campaign, initiated in free-market think tanks in the 1960s and 1970s and pushed strongly by business leaders and right-wing commentators ever since, to elevate the status of business and commerce and to make ‘contributing to economic growth’ the overriding goal of a whole swathe of social, cultural and intellectual activities which had previously been understood and valued in other terms
Effectively, we end up (and not just in Britain) with a kind of consumerist relativism. What is not, however, relative, is the injunction to imagine everything as part of a ‘market’ transaction.
Collini also mentions the ‘mission-statement present’ as another aspect of this already killing Newspeak. The mission-statement present disguises “implausible non sequiturs as universally acknowledged general truths” (Collini’s words) such as “if you pay for it you value it”, “choice is an obvious good”, “privatising businesses enhances everything” (examples by JHJ).
So back to Finland. Beware, users of the rather lovely but increasingly erratically performing national rail service, VR!
Future dogma = privative, privatise, privatise!
The Usual (not the online version) reports that Tatu Rauhamaki, the conservative politician at the helm of Helsinki’s regional transport, believes that simply privatising the railways would fix the ongoing problems. This, as anyone with a smidgen of critical acumen, is the most elementary form of the future dogmatic. But he backs it up with a bit of comparative pseudo-economese:
Siitä on hyviä kokemuksia esimerkiksi Ruotsista ja Britanniasta: vuorotarjontaa ja sitä mukaa matkustajia on tullut lisää.
For instance Sweden and Britain have had good experiences of this: more choice of routes and with it more passengers.
Er … has he actually used Swedish or British trains recently? Or followed the news about them? Then he’d know that they are extraordinarily expensive to run compared to ones that are state-owned.
Alas, we Finns are terribly susceptible to international fashions. Particularly if they have a whiff of the anti-communist about them.