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Globaliseringen tystar svenska rum

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Gästen

Skrivet av Olav S. Melin Fredag, 15 November 2013 11:43

I veckans gästkolumn skriver journalisten Henrik Helenius om globaliseringens konsekvenser för bruksorter i Svenskfinland:

Nu känns följderna av globaliseringen av också i Svenskfinland. När den ena fabriken efter den andra stänger och avskedar folk tystnar även många av de finlandssvenska industriarbetarnas rum. Kanske för alltid.

Metallarbetarförbundet arrangerar varje år svenskspråkiga rådplägningsdagar där metallare från hela Svenskfinland möts. Under 1980-talet var det den starka tron på ständig tillväxt och ökat välstånd som präglade stämningarna på rådplägningsdagarna. Ekonomiska resurser fanns för ett bra och jämlikt samhälle med utbildning och sjukvård för alla. Vid årets rådplägningsdagar var framtidstron definitivt borta. I stället känner metallarbetarna oberoende av modersmål en stark oro för vad som komma skall. Bilden domineras idag av nedläggningar och samarbetsförhandlingar över hela linjen, vissa ljusglimtar till trots.

Man talar ofta om de svenska rummen i Finland. Nina Wessberg som är svenskspråkig organisationsombudsman vid Metallarbetarförbundet har ställt den berättigade frågan vad som sker när de finlandssvenska industriarbetarnas rum tystnar. Den gamla sociala gemenskapen slås sönder, arbetarnas traditionella fackliga, politiska och andra lokalavdelningar läggs ner, medan krympande skatteintäkter sätter hela det ekonomiska fundament som välfärdssamhället vilar på i gungning.

Sommaren 2012 drabbades Svenskfinland av två verkligt hårda smällar när FNsteel i både Dalsbruk och Koverhar gjorde konkurs och flera hundra arbetstagare över natt blev utan jobb. Bara för en kort tid sedan kom två nya smällar. Ingå kolkraftverk läggs snart ner och åttio får gå. I Jakobstad stänger Componenta sitt gjuteri och likaså åttio blir utan arbete.

I Arbetarbladet, numera nättidningen www.arbetarbladet.fi har två metallarbetare i Svenskfinland nyligen vittnat om hur det känns när konkursen slår till. Familjer måste strama åt ordentligt, butiker stänger och skolor upphör allt medan kommunerna tvingas till allt mer omfattande nedskärningar. Kirsi Nylund var arbetarskyddsfullmäktig vid FNsteel i Koverhar där man tillverkat billets när chockbeskedet om konkursen kom den 12 juli 2012. Exakt 263 arbetstagare var plötsligt utan jobb. Trots att många av dem hittat nytt arbete eller går på sysselsättningskurser är hundra fortfarande arbetslösa. Kirsi Nylund berättade att många uppmanats bli företagare. Problemet är bara det att alla inte har den förmåga som krävs för att komma på en företagsidé. Hon konstaterade också att ingen mera tror att metallindustrin i Koverhar någonsin återuppstår. Inom tvåspråkiga Koverhars metallarbetarfackavdelning nr 100 diskuterar man därför en eventuell nedläggning av verksamheten.

Jarl Karlberg, metallarbetare från Dalsbruk, blev arbetslös samma dag som Kirsi Nylund när FNsteel i Dalsbruk lade ner sin produktion av järntråd. Där blev 170 utan jobb. Spåren förskräcker. Butikerna i Dalsbruk stänger antingen helt eller håller enbart sommaröppet under semestersäsongen, skatteintäkterna minskar drastigt i Kimitoöns kommun och nu undrar många vad som ska ske nästa år. Dalsbruks metallarbetarfackavdelning nr 54 var en gång en en livaktig organisation med sina av partipolitiska orsaker förr rätt så stormiga möten i Folkets hus i Dalsbruk. Risken finns för att också detta svenskspråkiga rum snart tystnar.

Både Kirsi Nylund och Jarl Karlberg kunde peka ut boven i dramat, nämligen globaliseringen och den stenhårda internationella konkurrensen inom stålbranschen. Framförallt Kina har med sina lägre lönekostnader, billigare material och satsningar på specialstål bidragit till att FNsteel slogs ut. När vi i Dalsbruk körde med tung brännolja hade kineserna naturgas, konstaterade Karlberg resignerat.

Inom den finländska Utvecklingscentralen för teknologi och innovationer, Tekes, har en arbetsgrupp med Konechefen Matti Alahuhta i spetsen grunnat på globaliseringen. Slutsatserna är ganska entydiga. Länder som Kina, Indien, Indonesien, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia ,Brasilien och Argentina växer så det knakar. Här talar man om en tillväxttakt på mellan fem och tio procent. Dessutom är det inte fråga om några tillfälliga konjunkturfenomen utan om grundläggande globala förskjutningar i världsekonomin som leder till strukturella kriser av den typ som drabbat bland annat Dalsbruk och Koverhar. De industriella arbetsplatser Finland förlorat har med största sannolikhet försvunnit för alltid. Precis som Kirsi Nylund trodde om Koverhar.

Jag hade ifjol möjlighet att bekanta mig med dagens framgångsrika industri i Indonesien där tillväxten är sex procent. Det indonesiska metallarbetarförbundet hade gjort upp ett digert program med flera arbetsplatsbesök. I regionen Bekasi utanför huvudstaden Jakarta finns sju stora industriområden. Här råder ingen brist på vare sig optimism eller framtidstro. Toppmoderna fabriker som bland annat tillverkar bildelar, motorcyklar, vanliga cyklar, kameror och komponenter har i snabb takt vuxit fram. Rena och snygga arbetsplatser där arbetstagarnas kunnande tas till vara av företagen ger konkurrenskraftiga produkter som säljer bra både för export och hemmamarknader. Här upplevs inte fackföreningarna som en besvärlig motpart. Tvärtom har de fackliga verkstadsklubbarna fått ett stort ansvar för att sköta yrkesutbildning, arbetsintroduktion, hälsovård, bespisning och liknande på arbetsplatserna. Detta har i sin tur skapat en vi-anda som ytterligare stimulerar företagsverksamheten och konkurrensförmågan.

 

   

Aika herätä aitoon kielitietoisuuteen

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Gästen

Skrivet av Olav S. Melin Torsdag, 29 Augusti 2013 09:35

Viikon vieraskolumnisti, toimittaja Kari Arola, kirjoittaa ruotsin kielen asemasta ja sen turvaamisesta:

Kansalaisaloite ruotsin kielen opiskelun vapaaehtoisuudesta on jälleen nostanut kielipoliittisen keskustelun. Joka kerran kun kieliväittely roihahtaa, äärimielipiteiden edustajat pääsevät esille ja saavat mediatilaa. Niin nytkin.

Järkevät, tasapainoiset ja asiaa monelta kannalta harkitsevat näkökannat jäävät helposti huomaamatta varsinkin, jos ne ovat pienessä mediassa. Paikallislehti nimeltä Pitäjäläinen, jonka levikkialue on Pohjois-Savossa Nilsiässä ja Rautavaaralla, teki loppukesällä mainion reportaasin Nilsiän lukiosta. Siellä ruotsi on aina siinä missä muutkin, eikä mikään pakkoruotsi.
Toimittaja Antti Heikkisen jutussa kerrotaan, että Nilsiän lukiossa ajatus ruotsin muuttamisesta valinnaiseksi ei ole herättänyt tunnekuohuja suuntaan eikä toiseen.

"Minun mielestäni meillä ei opiskella pakkoruotsia, jos ei riemuruotsiakaan. Ruotsin kieli on meillä aine siinä, missä muutkin, opettaja Anna-Inari Savastola sanoo paikallislehden haastattelussa.

On helppo olla samaa mieltä nilsiäläisen opettajan kanssa, kun tämä sanoo, että Suomessa pitäisi käydä laaja kielipoliittinen keskustelu, koska kielten opiskelu on vähentynyt radikaalisti ja englannin ylivalta on huolestuttava.

Itä-Suomen pakollisen kielten opiskelun muuttamista venäjäpainotteiseksi opettaja tyrmää, ja perusteet ovat hyvät.

"Jos lännessä opiskellaan ruotsia ja idässä venäjää, niin entäs sitten jos lapsi muuttaa kesken koulunkäyntinsä toiselle puolelle maata. Silloinhan sitä vasta tyhjän päälle pudotaan."

Pohjoissavolaisen lukion opettaja on oikeassa, koska hän on pohtinut asiaa perusteellisemmin kuin monet muut, myös sellaiset, jotka ovat kirjoittaneet nimensä kansalaisadressiin.

Jos idässä opiskeltaisiin venäjää ja lännessä ruotsia, se olisi paluuta historiassa taaksepäin. Tuolloin Pähkinäsaaren rauhan raja ja myöhemmin Täyssinän raja jakoi Suomenniemen kahtia. Länsi oli osa Ruotsia ja itä Venäjää.

Toivottavasti kiihkeän ja populistisia piirteitä saaneen kielidebatin tiimellyksessä saa huomiota Suomen kieltenopettajain liiton puheenjohtajan Kari Jukaraisen asiantunteva näkemys.

Hän sanoi Ylen haastattelussa, että pakollisesta ruotsista luopuminen köyhdyttäisi kielellistä osaamista entisestään. Osalle oppilaista opetetaan toisena kotimaisena suomea, johon myös mahdolliset muutokset kohdistuisivat. Kyse ei ole yksin ruotsista, vaan myös suomen kielestä.

Ruotsi on toinen kansalliskielemme. Ruotsinkieliset ovat vähemmistö. Johtuneeko siitä, että osalle suomea äidinkielenään puhuville suomalaisille on ollut kautta aikain kompleksinen suhde vähemmistöihin vai mistä, että aika ajoin ruotsin kieli joutuu puolustamaan asemaansa, kuten nyt syksyllä 2013 kansalaisaloitteen eduskuntakäsittelyssä?

Ruotsin kielen professori Nina Pilke toivoi Helsingin Sanomien mielipidekirjoituksessaan päättäjien olevan kielitietoisia ja tekevän syksyn aikana molempien kansalliskielten ja Suomen tulevaisuuden kannalta oikeita ratkaisuja.

"Velvollisuus opiskella ruotsia takaa sen, että suomalaisilla säilyy oikeus molempiin omiin kieliimme, suomeen ja suomenruotsiin."

Kansalliskieltä ei voi hinnoitella europerusteisesti, kuten ei monia muitakaan elämän arvoja. Sivistyksen mitaksi rahasta ei ole. Kansalliskielten ja oman kulttuurin merkitys on oivallettava niin kotimaassa kuin myös kansainvälisissä yhteyksissä. Kielellistä asemaansa ymmärtämätön kansakunta jauhautuu englannin ja muiden suurten kielien ylivallan alle.

Suomen on hyvä tuntea historiansa ja nähdä eteenpäin. Pohjoismainen yhteys ja arvot ovat myös tulevaisuuden voimavara, jos niiden tärkeys oivalletaan oikein. Pohjoismaisen demokratian, joka pystyy parhaiten ratkaisemaan tulevaisuuden haasteet, valtakieli on ruotsi. Sitä on hyvä osata mahdollisimman monen suomea äidinkielenään puhuvankin.

On aika herätä aitoon kielitietoisuuteen Helppo Heikkien humpan asemesta.

 

 

   

Political Islam Fails Egypt’s Test

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Gästen

Skrivet av Olav S. Melin Tisdag, 9 Juli 2013 11:44

The op-ed columnist of The New York Times Roger Cohen writes about the situation in Egypt:

Heba Morayef voted for Mohamed Morsi last year. The Muslim Brotherhood candidate was an unlikely choice for a liberal Egyptian woman, the director of the Human Rights Watch office in Cairo, but she loathed Hosni Mubarak's old guard, wanted change and believed Morsi could be inclusive.

"I have been extremely conflicted this past week," Morayef told me. "I don't support the military or coups. But for me as a voter, Morsi betrayed the trust that pro-reform Egyptians placed in him. That is what brought 14 million people into the streets on June 30. It was not so much the incompetence as the familiar authoritarian agenda, the Brotherhood trying to solidify their control by all means."

Morsi misread the Arab Spring. The uprising that ended decades of dictatorship and led to Egypt's first free and fair presidential election last year was about the right to that vote. But at a deeper level it was about personal empowerment, a demand to join the modern world, and live in an open society under the rule of law rather than the rule of despotic whim.

In a Muslim nation, where close to 25 percent of Arabs live, it also demanded of political Islam that it reject religious authoritarianism, respect differences and uphold citizenship based on equal rights for all.

Instead, Morsi placed himself above judicial review last November, railroaded through a flawed Constitution, allowed Brotherhood thugs to beat up liberal opponents, installed cronies at the Information Ministry, increased blasphemy prosecutions, surrendered to a siege mentality, lost control of a crumbling economy and presided over growing sectarian violence. For the Brotherhood, the pre-eminent Islamist movement in the region, the sudden shift from hounded outlaw to power in the pivotal nation of the Arab world proved a bridge too far.

As Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel-Prize winning diplomat put it in a recent article in Foreign Policy magazine: "The uprising was not about changing people, but changing our mind-set. What we see right now, however, is just a change of faces, with the same mode of thinking as in Mubarak's era - only now with a religious icing on the cake."

This was Morsi's core failure. He succumbed to Islamic authoritarianism in a nation whose revolution was diverse and demanded inclusiveness. The lesson for the region is critical. Egypt is its most important experiment in combining Islam with democratic modernity, the only long-term way to overcome the sectarian violence raging in Syria and elsewhere.

ElBaradei is a liberal modernizer. Yet he appeared beside Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi as a takeover was announced that deposed a president chosen in a free election, suspended the Constitution and installed an interim government. For all the generals' efforts to insist they have no interest in politics and avoid the word "coup," this was a coup. It placed the military front and center again - a bad precedent and blow to civilian democracy. ElBaradei's presence in the choreography of this act - like Morayef's conflicted state - demonstrates just how desperate Egypt's situation had become.

"The rejection went far beyond the liberal community," Morayef said. "The vast majority of the women at the demonstrations were veiled. Practicing Muslims, non-Westernized Egyptians, were saying no to political Islam and religious authoritarianism. We have never seen anything like this in the Arab world."

Avoidance of a coup would have been far better. If Morsi had called new elections when 14 million Egyptians appeared in the streets that might have been possible. He did not do so, proving tone deaf yet again. So, conflicted, I say he had to go.

Now all will depend on whether the army can uphold the spirit of the revolution. This demands that nobody hijack Egypt's modernizing aspirations - not the Brotherhood, not the military, not the illiberal liberals who only like democracy to the point it backs their candidates, not the old guard's thugs.

It is critical that polarizing violence be avoided and that the Brotherhood continue to play an important role in the nation's politics (forcing them underground would be the death of democracy). New elections must be held soon and the army must uphold its commitment to "remain away from politics." A new Constitution must be drafted. Egypt's liberals, who have proved a squabbling bunch, must overcome pettiness and cohere into a credible political grouping. Without effective management of the economy that restores order, all attempts to establish consensus and reset Egypt's course will fail.

All this is an immense task. But Egypt, the world's oldest nation state and not some Arab country sketched on a map by dyspeptic British bureaucrats, has immense reserves of talent and wisdom. It is not an impossible task: Egypt's inspiring youth have shown their determination.

All the anger in Egypt over the past couple of years was once deflected outward at imagined enemies or conspiracies. This was a colossal waste. It is now focused where it belongs - on the Arab failure to deliver the new "mind-set" of which ElBaradei wrote.

The army cannot deliver that but - just conceivably - can still be its incubator. Islamist authoritarianism, just like secular dictatorship before it, could not.

 

   

Vihapuheet syyniin

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Gästen

Skrivet av Administrator Måndag, 17 Juni 2013 10:35


Netti on oiva viestin ja sosiaalinen media nopeasti reagoiva keskustelufoorumi, mutta ei ongelmaton, sillä nimettömän verkkokirjoittelu antanut tilaa tuomittavalle vihapuhetta ja törkykirjoittelulle, kirjoittaa toimittaja Kari Arola ja vaatii vihapuheet syyniin:

"Entinen pääministeri Paavo Lipponen arvosteli kesän alussa maan poliittista johtoa saamattomuudesta rasismin ja vähemmistöjen syrjinnän vastaisessa toiminnassa. Lipposen mukaan ruotsinkieliseen vähemmistöön kohdistuneet kaunan purkaukset kertovat henkisestä taantumasta. Myös SAK tuomitsi jyrkästi ruotsinkielisiin kohdistuvan uhkailun.

Mitä porukkaa nämä kaunaiset ovat? Sitä sietäisi tutkia perusteellisesti.

Olettavasti yksi tyyppi on sellainen, jonka järjen valo on himmentynyt ja joka purkaa sekavaa ajatustenjuoksuansa nettiin. Ehkä joku naputtaa päätettään aamun pikkutunneilla nautittuaan muutakin kuin kansalaisluottamusta.

Osa törkyviestin kirjoittajista on tietämättömiä. Nämä eivät tunne Suomen historiaa ja uskovat sokeasti heille syötettyyn myyttiin puhdassuomalaisuudesta. He eivät ole oivaltaneet, että Suomen länsimainen kulttuuri, lait ja yhteiskunnallinen arvomaailma ovat syntyneet pohjoismaisen yhteyden kautta ja että pohjoismainen yhteys on yhä tärkeä.

Suomen alue oli pitkään osa Ruotsin valtakuntaa, ja ruotsi oli hallinnon ja kulttuurielämän kieli myös Suomen suuriruhtinaskunnassa Venäjän vallan aikaan. Suomalaisen kansallisuusaatteen virittäjinä oli nimenomaan ruotsia puhuva sivistyneistö, joiden jäsenistä moni jopa suomalaisti nationalismin huumassa nimensä ja alkoi käyttää suomea. Tätä taustaa vasten Suomen virallinen kaksikielisyys on luontevaa ja oikea ratkaisu.
Törkykirjoittelujen takana voi olla myös osattomia, katkeruuden ja kateuden myrkyttämiä.

Varmasti mauttomien nettipäivitysten lisääjänä ovat myös ne poliitikot, joiden puheet ruokkivat ennakkoluuloja. Tällaisia vihan siemenen kylväjiä on eräässä suurehkon kannatuksen mielipidemittauksia saaneessa puolueessa merkille pantavan paljon.

Netissä mielipiteitään voi esittää nimimerkin suojassa. Ehkä nettikahjojen määrä on paljon pienempi kuin oletetaan. Voihan sama tai samat tyypit tehtailla tyhmyyksiä usealla nimimerkillä.

Tein Ylen radio 1: een kolumnin vuosi sitten ja käsittelin siinä suomalaisuuteen liittyviä myyttejä. Palautetta tuli tavattomasti. Sisältö oli solvaavaa, loukkaavaa, jopa vihapuhetta. Kukaan ei tohtinut sanoa mielipidettään nimellään.

Outoa.

Yle joutui siivoamaan kovalla kädellä törkeimmän palautteen, joka mielestäni ylitti laillisuuskynnyksen.
Kuinka monta kertaa nimimerkkien takana oli sama henkilö? Sitä en tiedä. Oletan, että ainakin muutaman kerran.
Toivottavasti joku taho tekee perusteellisen tutkimuksen siitä, millaisia ihmisiä nettihölmöilijät ovat. Siinä olisi tärkeä ja hyödyllinen akateemisen opinnäytteen aihe. Vai kuuluuko asia sisäisen turvallisuuden piiriin niin, että tutkimuksen alulle panijan pitää olla sisäasioista vastaavan ministerin? Ehkäpä Suojelupoliisilla onkin asiasta tietoa.

Kun myrkyn kylväjien taustat ovat kunnolla tiedossa, on helpompi puuttua törkyviestinnän syihin ja arvioida faktojen pohjalta tilannetta.

Silti on koko ajan pidettävä mielessä, että nettiyhteisöt tarjoavat samanmielisille piirin, jossa joku voi kiihottaa itsensä sellaisiin sairaaseen hurmokseen, että päässä naksahtaa lopullisesti. Ja kohtalokkaasti."

 

   

Beyond the Bedroom

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Gästen

Skrivet av Olav S. Melin Onsdag, 20 Mars 2013 14:10

Op-ed columnist from The New York Times, Frank Bruni writes in this column about the challenges of the Catholic church and the new pope Francis:

"On the far side of all the church scandals and all its misspent energy, these Catholics still see a fundamental set of values, a compass, that they don't want to lose touch with or give up on."

IT was too much to hope that after the white smoke rose and the TV anchors began nervously filling time and the cameras lingered for what seemed an eternity on that balcony over St. Peter's Square, the man who stepped onto it would be someone open to revisiting the most archaic, obsolete matters of Roman Catholic doctrine. The group electing him was assembled by the last two popes, both conservatives. Its choice was bound to be more carbon copy than new page.

But it's not too much to hope that the man who did appear there - and who has lived a willfully humble material existence until now, and took the name of the poor's patron saint - will change the church's emphasis. That's the great opportunity before Pope Francis, whose biography and style make him an ideal candidate to point the church toward a new conversation and a better focus for its spiritual energies. To have it dwell less in the bedroom, more in the soup kitchen.

It's time for the church to stop talking so much about sex. It's the perfect time, in fact.

It's on matters of sexual morality that the church has lost much of its authority. And it's on matters of sexual morality that it largely wastes its breath. By insisting on mandatory celibacy for a priesthood winnowed and sometimes warped by that, by opposing the use of contraceptives for birth control, by casting judgment on homosexuals and by decrying divorce while running something of an annulment mill, the church's leaders have enraged and alienated Catholics whose common sense and whose experience of the real world tell them that none of that is wise, kind or necessary.

The church's leaders have also set themselves up to be dismissed as hypocrites, unable to uphold the very virtues they promulgate. Just weeks before the conclave, the most senior Catholic prelate in Britain, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, resigned his post, forgoing a trip to Rome and a vote on the next pope, because he'd been accused of, and admitted to, sexual misconduct. His case suggested the potential loneliness of a Catholic clergyman's circumstances, and those circumstances, in the eyes of many Catholics, cast priests as odd, flawed messengers and counselors on the subject of a person's intimate life.

The new pope's own story includes a bold lesson on Catholics' estrangement from, and defiance of, church edicts in this regard. More than 90 percent of Argentines identify themselves as Catholic, and in 2010, as the country's politicians debated the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, Pope Francis - who was then a cardinal, and arguably the most prominent church official in the country - lobbied vociferously, even venomously, against that proposed law. He called it nothing less than a "plan of the devil." It nonetheless passed, with some observers speculating that the stridency of his opposition worked in its favor. Argentina is now one of 11 countries that have legalized gay marriage. Two of the others, Spain and Portugal, also have populations that are overwhelmingly Roman Catholic, at least nominally.

The child sexual abuse crisis, of course, has factored mightily into the church's eroded credibility on sexual morality. And the media's sustained examination of that crisis has made it difficult for church leaders to redirect attention toward the church's concern for economic justice, its ministry to the needy and the extraordinary work that many of the church's servants perform on those fronts.

But new cases and new revelations are ebbing or certain to ebb. Fewer cardinals and bishops now indulge the kind of denial that protected molesters and abetted cover-ups. And there's not a watchful parent anywhere who would unquestioningly let a son or daughter go off with Father Bruce for long periods of time. Years ago, such permission aggravated the problem: priests - men of God - were trusted in situations where no other adult with an unusually intense interest in children would be. That epoch is over, that innocence lost.

POPE Francis comes along at an opportune juncture. There's a growing consciousness and worry about inequities of wealth in a world in which the estimated 1.3 billion people living in extreme poverty, with an income of $1.25 a day or less, outnumber the roughly 1.2 billion Catholics.

That desperation is fertile territory for the church, whose voice is most persuasive and essential on the landscapes of hunger, homelessness, sickness, war. To many Catholics, active and lapsed, the beauty of the faith and the essence of Jesus Christ reside in a big-hearted compassion that has been eclipsed and often contradicted by church leaders' excursions into the culture wars.

Pope Francis could pull back on those excursions. He'd be wise to, and he's well positioned to. In Argentina he was known in part for his rejection of material wealth and his concern for those without it. He opted for a simple apartment over a baronial residence. Did his own cooking. Rode the bus. Advised supporters not to travel all the way to Rome for the ceremony in which he became a cardinal.

The money necessary for the trip, he told them, was better donated to a good cause.

And during his first 48 hours as pope, he clung to that sort of humility, riding with other cardinals in a minivan rather than alone in a papal chariot. The vigor with which fellow cardinals and Vatican spokesmen heralded this suggested their eagerness for a new image for the church and their understanding that the pivot from Benedict XVI to Francis - from furs to frugality - might provide it.

It's a gilded enclave that Francis is entering, one of grand rooms, majestic artwork, regal costumes. From my time on the papal plane a decade ago, I remember sumptuous meals wheeled up to the first-class section where Vatican officials sat. They ate well.

And that has turned off many Catholics: the perception that these officials are coddled, arrogant and out of touch. Francis could challenge that and, in doing so, have a real impact.

I know more than a few Catholics who, despite no other involvement in the church, make it a point to have their children christened. I always figured them to be superstitious. They're hedging their bets.

But there's more to it. On the far side of all the church scandals and all its misspent energy, these Catholics still see a fundamental set of values, a compass, that they don't want to lose touch with or give up on. The church's stubborn attachment to certain negotiable traditions and unenlightened positions has distanced them, but they're not entirely gone. It'll be interesting to see how, and if, Francis tries to bring them back.

 

 

   

Finland is a hostage of its history

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Gästen

Skrivet av Olav S. Melin Onsdag, 27 Februari 2013 11:24

I gästkolumnen skriver Alexis Kouros, chefredaktör för Helsinki Times, om sin egen erfarenhet av krig och om Finlands roll i historien:

"I have been in a war and I want to share with you the two most important things I learned form it. One: Wars are unfortunate mistakes and primitive acts of violence. Two: There are no winners in any war.

Finland, as a young nation, has had its share of conflicts. While the people have been able to forgive and forget the brutal civil war to a great extent, memories of the two wars with Russia have been kept alive with painstaking effort.

When a few years ago Ilta-Sanomat published a special "Winter War" supplement, the whole first edition of the magazine was sold out in just a few days. Additional prints also sold out swiftly. The 68-page supplement, among other heroic tales of war, told the touching story of a seven-year-old girl who became the symbol of the child victims of the Winter War- 70 years ago! Later the newspaper published a second supplement about the "Continuation War" with similar success. Every year new books and reports are published about the two Finnish wars fought more than half a century ago. They all sell very well.

Listening to the radio on my way to work, I heard a broadcast about a project to erect a monument in memory of the Finnish Winter War against Russia. At first, I thought I was listening to one of those "This Day, 50 Years Ago" archival broadcasts, until I heard that the €1.7 m monument, to be placed in Kasarmintori, is to be inaugurated in 2015 and is protected by no less than former President Ahtisaari.

Why would a Nobel peace prize winner want to be the guardian angel of a war memorial? And why would Finland, in 2015, want to erect yet another monument in memory of a war fought 75 years ago? This is certainly one of the important dilemmas in Finland today; that of attitude and direction. The conflict between looking back and moving forward.

At a time when war monuments are being uprooted to museums and graveyards, we are erecting yet another one in a central square. Why can't we build a monument in celebration of the 75 years of peace and friendship that has existed between Russia and Finland? Why can't we celebrate the huge amount of benefit our neighbour is bringing us in the form of business co-operations and tourism.

Today, Russia is the main trade partner of Finland and every year record number of Russians visit Finland, spending millions of Euros in shopping and services. Yet according to a Russian documentary, the Finnish media is the most anti-Russian press in the world. All we hear about Russia is negative news. There is even a word for Russian (ryssä) is considered an insult in the Finnish language.

The ability to forget is probably more important to individuals and societies than the ability to remember. Fixation on the past is as disabling a disease as dementia.

In fact, fixation on the past is one of the main symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSS); an ailment common in soldiers back from the battlefield. Seeing threats where there are non, is another symptom of this disease.

Getting rid of our pathological social disabilities is the key to a healthy future. El pacto de olvido (agreement to forget) was a fundamental cornerstone around which the democratic future of Spain after the civil war was built. What we need today is a global pacto de olvido. In fact many of the countries which fought against each other in the second world war, such as France, Italy, Germany and Britain, are now in excellent terms with each other.

The war I participated in, where my birth country Iran defended herself agianst the aggression of Saddam Husein's Iraq, lasted eight years. This is twice as long as the Second World War. Casualties were also plenty, up to a million people for each side. Today, just over 20 years later, the two countries and people are in excellent terms. People think of Saddam as the cause of the war, not the Iraqi nation. We can almost certainly agree, that it was also up to Stalin to start a war against Finland and the soldiers fighting it had probably no animosity against Finns per se.

Of course we must learn the lessons of war. Let me also make it clear that I respect and value the sacrifices given to keep Finland independent, but at the same time, fixation on events which happened more than 70 years ago, are harmful to that independence and blur our clear thinking today.

We had a fight with our neighbour more than 70 years ago, so what? Lets get over it!"

 

 

   

The Blight of Return

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Skrivet av Olav S. Melin Måndag, 21 Januari 2013 12:42

The Op-Ed Columnist Roger Cohen writes in the New Yok Times about the sitaution in the Middle East:

 

A COUPLE of years ago I had an exchange with the Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayyad, that went like this:

"You're working for a two-state solution?"

"Correct."

"And Hamas is not."

"It is true."

This fundamental issue, at the core of the division of the Palestinian national movement, endures. As John Kerry, President Obama's nominee to become secretary of state, prepares for office and talk stirs for the umpteenth time of a push for Middle East peace, it is critical to confront the problem, whose dimensions have recently been underscored.

First there was Khaled Meshal, the Hamas leader, and his awful speech on his first visit to Gaza last month. "Palestine is ours from the river to the sea and from the south to the north," he declared. In other words, forget compromise on the 1967 lines with agreed land swaps: Annihilation of the state of Israel remains the goal.

Then there was Mohamed Morsi. Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. Morsi, now the Egyptian president, was chief of the Brotherhood's political arm. This week it emerged that in this role in 2010, he said: "We must never forget, brothers, to nurse our children and our grandchildren on hatred for them: for Zionists, for Jews." He called Zionists "bloodsuckers who attack the Palestinians, these warmongers, the descendants of apes and pigs." And he called for all Palestine to be freed.

Morsi's vile anti-Semitic remarks are of a piece with the old blood libel: Jews with horns, Jews with tails, goats and devils defiling Christian women. And nursing children on hatred? Instilling hatred in the innocent is tantamount to instilling self-destruction.

And so it has been. When the United Nations called in 1947 for the partition of Mandate Palestine and the establishment of Jewish and Palestinian states, the proposed Palestinian state occupied about 42 percent of the territory. Arab armies went to war and lost. Today, with the West Bank and Gaza, Palestinians stand to get about 22 percent of the land under any two-state peace. The annihilation ambition has been a recipe for Palestinian defeatism, victimhood and loss.

Wide swaths of the Palestinian leadership have drawn the lesson. The West Bank, under President Mahmoud Abbas and Fayyad, has seen dramatic change over the past several years. New policies - of nonviolence, responsible governance, elimination of militias, central control of security and economic growth - have been embraced to lay the groundwork of statehood, a state explicitly envisaged as existing side-by-side in peace and security with Israel.

The achievements in Ramallah have been widely lauded, including by the World Bank, but Israel has held back, one reason for its current isolation. Rather it has pursued West Bank settlements, to the dismay of Obama, who, according to a Bloomberg column by Jeffrey Goldberg, is convinced that, "Israel doesn't know what its own best interests are." The settlement expansion is indeed self-defeating. It precludes the two-state peace Israel needs to remain a democratic and Jewish state. But it is in line with the platform of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party, which says that, "Settlement of the land is a clear expression of the unassailable right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel."

Netanyahu may be returned to power in elections this month at the head of an even more right-wing coalition. The ambition to hold all the land is not the exclusive preserve of certain Palestinians. Extremes feed on each other; a majority in the middle is ready for a reasonable compromise that places the future above the past.

That, in part, is what the two-year-old Arab Spring has been about: the future over the past. However faltering (what revolutionary movement was ever smooth?), the awakening has been about overcoming an Arab culture of victimhood, conspiracy and paralysis in the name of agency, engagement and debate. The dinosaurs of the Palestinian movement, like Meshal, should take note.

Pursuit of all of the land, with its accompanying "right of return," is a form of perennial victimhood, one that has spawned some 4.7 million Palestinian refugees, several times the number who were driven from their homes in the war of 1948. The right of return would be better named the blight of return. It is a damaging illusion that distracts from an achievable peace in the name of Palestinian children and grandchildren nursed on hope. There is the possibility of compensation, but there is in history no right of return. Ask the Greeks of Asia Minor, the Turks of Greece, the Germans of Danzig and Breslau (today Gdansk and Wroclaw) - and the Jews of the Arab world.

When I was in Cairo recently, I saw a senior Western official who meets regularly with President Morsi. She told me she has no doubt of his belief in Israel's right to exist and the urgent need for a two-state peace. Power is responsibility; it can change people. The United States should test Morsi by pressing him hard to forge Palestinian unity in pragmatism. That would remove an Israeli excuse for oppression that tramples on the Jewish state's own best interests.

 

   

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