i took some time this morning to read the piles of newspapers we have accumulated next to the sofa. i have not had a chance to read the paper for almost a fortnight and i looked forward to spreading the large sheets on the coffee table. a beautiful snowfall, a steaming cup of coffee and, finally, a less congested head capable of understanding written material – it started as the perfect morning.
profoundly fitting for the day of finnish independence were the already old news of the finished work of the country brand committee. i had browsed through the book mission for finland! – how finland will solve the world's most wicked problems and clicked their flash filled website. i found the work thoroughly finnish and optimistic – a paradox, as i was to find out this morning.
i had read some reactions to the publication from online journals, but while they were carefully positive or only slightly snickering, i was not prepared for the loathing that hit me in the face from the newspapers' opinions and editorials.
my problem with the entire project was that i do not recognize the sort of nationalistic sentiments in myself that seem prerequisite for partaking in something like this. for me, feeling proud about being a finn seems alien. it is my cultural heritage, heterogeneous as such, but my process of an identity is too multifaceted to support such statements as national pride in all honesty. still i can grasp the objective at hand. or so i thought.
the thing is, it seems many finns found the project with the objective of defining features of finnish society that could be our strengths lacking because the end result wasn't a state of the nation report. the most common source of whining was that the problems we face – longtime unemployment, terrible mental health care, youth marginalization – were not discussed. that the perspective was not that of an average or disadvantaged member of society.
i am sorry but at what point did a listing of strengths need to include the problems? the country branding report was not meant to tell the world (or ourselves) what was wrong with finland, but what was great and unique about it and its people.
moreover, anyone with culturally sensitive reading glasses can infer from many of the tasks where our problems lay: lack of communication, lack of personal social support (in lieu of institutional support) and lack of intergenerational connections. there are suggestions for improvement and change but their focus is on the positive, not the negative.
and that's where the report fails to reach (some) finns.
i guess they got that much right.
happy independence day!