About politics

There were parliamentary elections recently in Finland, and as the news from the results have already told: there was a massive shift of power to “True Finns”, a nationalist populist party with openly anti-immigrant (sometimes racist) and anti-EU agenda, pushing extremely conservative values to all areas of Finnish society. Currently the National Coalition Party (Kokoomus) as the biggest party is leading the negotiations to form a government with True Finns and Social Democratic Party.

My own response, like that of hundreds of other people, has been to join to a party that is supportive of multiculturalism, liberalism and is politically responsible in a way that a group with a simplified, populist message cannot be. I joined the Green Party of Finland, but also the Left Alliance has been getting many new members after the elections. I have never been a member of any party before, but it felt like the political situation is getting so bad that everyone who does not agree with the current development needs to do at least something.

It is perhaps easy to wave away such reactions as short-lived responses that will have no real significance to our way of life. Political alienation has been a growing concern for decades in Finland, as well as in many other Western countries, but when the alienation of the 1960s produced an outburst of ethnic, racial, female and student radicalism, no similar march to the barricades appears realistic in the political climate of 2010s.

Politics is closely related to values, choices and conflicts of interest in different areas of life. Politics is easily emotionally charged, and political decisions do not necessarily boil down to logical calculations of benefits and losses. Even the perspectives different people have to the politics are multiple: for some, politics is primarily about the individual advantage and concerns of daily life, for some it is about issues that primarily relate to class, social group, of some wider societal level.

My own personal history has been very apolitical; I have mostly been concerned with the academic work that deals with art and cultural theories, and have been drawn to discuss e.g. the posthuman future of humanity, or the different trajectories of techno-culture. Not very down-to-earth. Like many others, I have vaguely felt that politics is something that needs professionals to be done properly. Expressing any fixed, definite views about taxation, legislation or other political issues has felt often uncomfortable and even intellectually dishonest – economic and social systems are after all rather complex, and it is not easy to say what the real, long-term consequences would be, if one variable is changed in the system. (I would love to try out a detailed simulation of our society, or rather the entire globe, where it would be possible to see in action the street-level consequences from various high-level political decisions.)

Yet, like these elections have proved, lack of knowledge or certainty does not stop people having views about the direction of their lives. And it should not: we all are competent political subjects, however imperfect our understanding may be.

I have voted the Greens for my entire adult life, and their/our failure in these elections has led to a bit of contemplation, why I continue to do so.

There have been many different analyses in mass media and social media of the reasons behind the current situation: the growing dissatisfaction towards the rising economic cost of supporting “irresponsible” economies in the European Union, failing public sector and growing insecurity in the society – which paradoxically led to the political right wing prospering, rather than the left, which would have been the logical direction to strengthen the welfare society. This was a “protest vote”, and the Greens had been in the previous government, making there perhaps too many compromises to stand out as a credible alternative to the dissatisfied protesters.

The traditional political axis between the political left and right has become messier, and the axis between conservatives and liberals has become the more dominant one. It is suddenly the right thing to do to question the rationale for development aid, and claim that no money or effort should be spent outside of Finland, before everything wrong in our own society has been fixed for good.

For me, the left-right division line between the strong state and the individualistic (capitalistic) freedom has not been particularly interesting, but when coupled with extreme cultural and social value statements, even those classic questions come to new light. What kind of vision of good life and the future society provides the guiding principles for our political decisions? It is suddenly the details, such as the statement of taking state support away from contemporary “postmodern art” and instead providing state support to educate people to the works of Albert Edelfelt, Akseli Gallen-Kallela and Jean Sibelius (all national-romantic classics from the late 19th and early 20th century Finland) in the True Finns’ programme that start to feel symptomatic.

There are thousands of reasons to vote or not vote for some political coalition or another; the major reason of one voter may be a minor issue for another. I think that the essential distinguishing factor in the Greens is that it is a party based on a global vision, and one where the human place is not at the centre of the universe, but rather as one species in an inter-dependent web of life. It might be that in the days of economic recession it is not the most burning message that people want to hear, but I believe that several viable alternatives for daily politics can be based on enhanced awareness of how all people are dependent on all others (and other life-forms) on this planet, not set apart from them in some imaginary isolated bubble. And as long as the Greens pursue to clarify what such a vision means for our social, economical and ecological politics, I will continue to support them.

Interested in joining? More information about joining the Greens of Finland can be found here: http://www.vihreat.fi/liity-jaseneksi

Author: frans

Professor of Information Studies and Interactive Media, esp. Digital Culture and Game Studies in the University of Tampere, Finland.

2 thoughts on “About politics”

  1. I admit the situation with True Finns does not look very good. However, I’m assured that a great deal of their pre-election publicity has been just political rhetorics and playing for the publicity. When the real governmental negotiations and Parliament votings start, the apparent extremists will probably have a much more pragmatic approach. But having said that, they could have the deciding position on some close calls. And what I also find disgusting is that so many people voted for them to begin with. Probably not every voter agrees with them on every question, but many likely just wanted to give the previous administration a signal of being displeased. But voting such a party for just that is plain irresponsible.

    We’ll definitely see some interesting times – hopefully not in the Chinese meaning of the phrase. I bet that after some loud mouthing, even the True Finns will accept the Portuguese support as one of their first decisions.

  2. It is hard to tell what is the direction this country is taking — or where Europe is heading now, for that. What is clear is that everyone needs to be awake and following what the new policy makers are actually doing with the mandate they have now reached. It should be remembered that actually less than 20 percent of those who voted supported True Finns, but since no other party managed to get more than 20 percent either, it will be a bouncy road ahead as a truly mixed bag of political views will be pushed together to establish a majority government.

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