No consensus on Finnish hospitality

Bare trees

The trees are almost bare now. Winter is coming and it’ll soon be even colder than it is now, and darker. What a time to arrive as a stranger. Particularly if you feel unwanted.

Mark Twain once said about land, “they ain’t makin any more of it” or something. Meawhile the global population is rather large compared to years gone and with income polarisation, endemic violence and environmental degradation pushing people out of places they once considered home (a process that’s happening within countries and cities not to mention across different parts of the planet) it’s the poor who are generally being squeezed. So anyone with an interest in the way places look, even lucky places like Helsinki, is going to have to factor that in.

This week a new reception centre for refugees is to open in Punavuori, as reported by Vartti online magazine. Like many others probably, I found out by reading the week-end paper’s interview. But it was an asylum article with a difference, a portrait of a group – OK, two engaged women – who have established the “Refugee Hospitality Club Punavuori” to make sure that as well as cries of “not in my back yard” we get a compassionate message of “why not in our back yard?” What exactly their activities will consist of is yet unclear (at least to me) but the idea is that there is a volunteering opportunity here for us already-locals that these folks are ready to organise. Oh, and they are on facebook!

The balance (?!) between mobile and sedentary, local and foreign isn’t one that Europeans (or many others, I suspect) have found that easy to negotiate, but it’s good to see that the shrill views of those wishing to restrict hospitality to a narrowly defined type of human being, are not the only ones circulating out there.

On which note, Finnish users of facebook have set up a rather lovely group, loosely translated thus: I accidentally wound up on Helsingin Sanomat’s internet discussion site: shouldn’t have

P.s. just some thoughts on the political background to all this. Finland has been known for its consensus politics, at least until recently. Some now feel that the country has lost the common sense of purupose it once had and that any consensus there might once have been surely is now gone. Related to this, Finland is now also a land of differences and that appears to be a problem. The Finnish media in 2009, however, is busily producing a new consensus or at least a political truth: asenneilmapiiri on kiristynyt literally translated = attitude atmosphere become tighter/tenser. Presumably they are trying to find an inoffensive way to say that racism, fear of difference and readiness to be hurtful have become understandable, even acceptable. I’ve read this phrase in 2 papers (not necessariy fresh) in recent days, and of course, on online discussion threads. Shouldn’t have.


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