“They are trying to take our guns!”

In light of years of school shootings, staggering numbers of all sorts of gun related violence, and tragicomic amount of gun related accidental deaths, one might expect the US government and judical system might take a nother look at the regulatory laws on gun ownership. One could expect, that the frequent and needless deaths of children at least would have evoked a nationwide and fairly universal popular demand to set better laws to regulate guns more. Alas no. There are wide swathes of people with enough presence of mind to have done all this and even a few presidents who have tried to address the problem, but they have achieved hardly anything. Why?

“In countries where the government has all the guns, tyranny and dictatorship reign.”

The excuses people give in defence of their “constitutional right to bear arms” are mind numbingly stupid. These seem to be either appeals to personal insecurity due to a society where crime is abundant and every numbskul might be toting a piece, or insecurity about the chance that their own government might turn into tyranny and it needed to be opposed by the citizenry. One would think that the solution to the first source of fear would quite obviously involve attempts to develope a more efficient police force, a more equal society with less desperate people to turn to crime and at very least better regulation of guns, but for some reason there are plenty of people, who do not see any of those as solutions. Instead they would arm the teachers. The second problem stems from the time when the US constitution was written. It was made by revolutionaries wary of a global empire they were braking of from, in a time when the native nations of America were still strong and the firearms mentioned had not seen rapid development from the flintlock musket in over a hundred years. The “founding fathers” had very little reason to expect weaponry to change in the foreseeanble future. Certainly they could not pass laws concerning modern automatic firearms, or what the future may hold for us in that regard. Their concern about armed militias was a question of federal army being too weak to protect the land but powerfull enough to set up a dictatorship. The modern US military is one of the most powerfull and certainly the most expensive armed forces on the planet. It really does not require any help from some random militias and even less from some individual gun owners. None of the reasons it remains unused to set up a dictatorship in the USA is a deterrence of the abundance of gun owners in the country. Any insurrection based on the efforts of random dudes weilding their AR-15 rifles would propably be fairly one sided and short lived.

“Criminals can always get illegal guns.”

Where do illegal guns come from? They were all at some point legal. There are no hidden factories making illegal guns from scrap metal anywhere. Many illegal guns are left over from wars and smuggled across borders. Those are mostly military grade assault weapons professional criminals use, but weapons smuggling is a risky business, though profitable. But hey, why make aquiring guns difficult for the would be criminal? Just sell them what they want at the local supermarket. Many illegal guns come from burglaries. A weapon in the house is not a deterrence, rather an incentive for a burglary, even in places where anybody can just step into a shop and buy one without any backround checks. Just like jewellery is an incentive for burglary in places where they are readily awailable in shops. The guns used at school shootings are however hardly ever illegal. The disturbed individuals who decide to commit a suicide by proxy and go to a school, or some other public place to shoot at some innocent bystanders most often got their assault weapons legally from the shelf of a store, or from some relative or other who had their guns legally even though they were happles enough to keep their automatic guns not in locked steel cabinets (as required in many countries) but at something like their night desk – I guess for children to find and play with it.

“from my dead cold hands…”

From the excuses given to not restrict gun ownership in the USA it becomes obvious, that the underlying reasons come from fear. That makes the discussion difficult, because the people who defend the all extending “right” to bear arms do it from a deeply emotional standpoint. They have abandoned reason to the extent, that they do not want to discuss various options, rather their view is this fierce black and white set up, where the options are reduced to everybody should be able to have a gun, or none at all. Their world seems to not hold the option of restricting guns from people who obviously can not handle the responsibility of carrying kone . This raises the question of how many of them are so dangerous imbecils, that indeed they do have every right to fear the possibility of being the type of people who would and should not be allowed to own a gun, if ever the licence to carry a gun (as in the rest of the western countries) was restricted.

Finland has now applied to join NATO. Honestly I would not have guessed this just few months ago. Not even despite the Russian invasion and annexation of the Crimean peninsular. All my adult life this issue has been discussed as if the decision would only be made after a referendum and joining NATO was never very popular for rather obvious reasons. We are a self reliant nation and keeping good relations to our eastern neighbour has been a political and economic virtue. The last time Finland relied on western help it all went sour fast. When Finland was attacked in the Winter War, western powers promised to help, but what ever help came, it was too little too late. When the fighting stopped Britain had the nerve to ask back the tanks only half of wich (some 30 in total) had been delivered, even though Finland had paid for them. Then Finland found itself in the same camp with Nazi-Germany, all the while the western powers had failed to stand up to their assurances of protection to Poland. Eventually Finns had to drive out the Nazies.

NATO has appeared as belligerent and obsolete alliance of not equal partners. The USA has played the role of leader, simply because it is the biggest spender. Some of her presidents have appeared as not at all reliable partners and indeed it is a country that openly declares wars appealing to its “interrests abroad”. Often those interrests are of economic nature to benefit their super rich capitalists (oligarchs). During the Trump administration the popularity of joining NATO hit the bottom in Finland because he – deliberately, or by sheer ignorance and stupidity – presented himself as an unpredictable type of leader. To any enemies, that may seem dangerous, but to all allies it appears as unreliable. Finland is and has been an ally of both the US and NATO as a peace time partner, but not a member of an alliance. The Finnish military has sought to unify it’s equipment and methods of leadership to those used by other western countries. Partly to be ready, if the desicion to join NATO was ever made, but also just to be able to better work in international joint operations, such as in Afganistan (and what a success that turned out to be). A lot of cheap solid and reliable weaponry has been bought from the Soviet Union, especially before her fall and from Germany after that, when Finland emphasized neutrality as a means of survival policy, but it also allowed us a role as a mediator and a dealer of peace. Finnish soldiers have succesfully acted as UN peacekeepers around the globe, while militaries of major powers have failed to bring peace, or even victories over smaller developing countries. Politically Finland has “kept the doors open for joining” for decades, but because of the unpopularity of it, it has not looked to join into NATO.

Suddenly everything changed. The Russians invaded Ukraine with the most absurd and obscure excuses. Any one of those could have been used to justify an attack on Finland. The general opinion turned totally around and media stopped referring to NATO as a military alliance, rather they now speak of it in terms of defensive alliance.

I guess it is ultimately a good thing, that the Russians finally forced us to make this desicion and in so rapid timespan, because now there seems to be a political and national consensus on an issue, that has divided us for ages and could have turned into an ugly cause for polarization, if a referendum had been organized and people would have joined their identities to one or the other side. Ironically one of the Russian excuses least absurd for their invasion was to stop eastward expansion of NATO. If and when Finland enters the coalition, Finland will become the frontline and battleground for any possible future war between Russia and NATO. A problem most Finns seem to have not thought. Putin has responded minimally only by saying that the joining is a “mistake” on part of Finland and that it is not important, because Finland was already a partner of the NATO. Of course, that is what the Kreml has to say, because otherwise they would appear as total nincompoops for not anticipating this development and especially so as their forces are tied in Ukraine. For the attack there they had to take units of their standing army from Finnish border. In that sense the war in Ukraine has provided Finland a unique opportunity to join NATO.

What remains to be seen, is wether Turkey is going to let Finland join and how will Russia respond. The current Finnish coalition government consisting mainly of socialists and the greens, is not likely to compromise our understanding of human rights and both Finnish and international law by handing Kurds to Turkey just because they are regarded terrorists by the Turks.

The great victory over the Third Reich and end of that Fascist regime in Europe deserves remembering. The Russians still do celebrate, but do they remember what it was, that was overcome all those decades ago?

President Putin has been throwing around accusations of Fascism and demanded for some obscure “de-nazification” of Ukraine. If he really was so posed against Nazies, he could have started at a lot closer to home, like for example from the founder and boss of Putins own private military contractor mr. “Wagner” of Wagner mercenaries (Russian equivalent of Blackwater) who is an unashamed Neo-Nazi and even has tatooed a couple of runic s-letters on his neck. Or perhaps the president could have looked for a fascist even closer, simply by looking into a mirror. For what else is it, if not Fascism, pure and simple, that there hardly is any free press in Russia and that dissidents will be murdered? All the traditional values he has appealed to are at core more or less Fascistic, because they are against plurality and the individual freedom of the person. His vision of family values is an attack against sexual minorities and the equality of women.

The casus belli of the war in Ukraine is bogus and ordinary Russians should be able to see that. Do they? Sometimes it seems, that every time Russians as a nation have to make a choise between two options, they invariably choose the worst one. Authoritarianism over democracy again and again. However encrusted the Russian media is by propaganda, they must see, that their president is engaged in crazy talk that has almost no connection to the real world.

One thing the Russians hate is a perception of a weak leader. They loved their Brezhnev for pumping up their military budget at the cost of everything else, but they hated Gorbatshov for stating out loud the obvious, that they had failed at building the Communist state. The Russians have ousted their rulers before because of lost, or badly going wars. Perhaps they will now. Though l doubt it.

The internet has enabled the fast spreading of all sorts of conspiracy theories, from the moonlandings being staged to evolution theory being a lie set against religious faith and from flat earthers to the Q-onanists starting, from the “Pizza-Gate” that must have originally been a joke, growing into a political movement, that tried to overthrow the US government.

Last few years have seen the spread of anti-vaccination dis- and misinformation. Now the very same social media networks (mostly consisting of happless individuals and not the members of some grand conspiracy) have spread obscure claims about the war in Ukraine. We are looking at fairly obvious Russian propaganda with made up claims about US funded biology laboratories in Ukraine. The idea is to sell supsettible people in the West some vague justification for the Russian agression. While there are such laboratories in Ukraine, they are not designing biological weapons, as claimed by these rumours. If they were, just about the most stupid thing to do, would be to attack them with missiles, like the very same social media rumours claim Russians to have done, because that would risk compromizing the facilities and the alledged bio-weapons to escape and spread among the population. Instead of precision strikes on labs creating WMD, we have seen Russian missiles and artillery hit civillian housing, railway stations and theatres full of people.

The Russian military may be faltering, because their plans of attack have been made on bad intel about the ability of the Russian standing army and on the patriotism of the Ukrainan people. However, their “troll factories” have fared far better in charting out the most voulnerable element in western civilization. They are the disgruntled conservative right-wingers under populist political influence. People who demand their very freedom of speech is threatened if anybody questions their opinions. Opinions based on hearsay, rumours and propaganda of their irrisponsible leaders, who have a tendency to appeal to the worst of human emotions, such as base fear in the issue of immigration. They have rendered the whole question into a non discussable form, because it has given the nationalists and “ethno-nationalists” (racists) somehing to identify to and thus they cannot face it without a volume of emotion.

The nationalist conservatives are perfect victims for this sort of influencing, because their position tells any intelligent individual, that their obviously clumsy use of logic has led them to the dead end of tribal moralism. This means they already have a diminished ability to recognise it when they are fed propaganda, or when they are used to further obscure political agenda, or even personal ambition of a populist leader. They are perfect victims for this sort of propaganda also because they feel disenfranchsed, as if robbed of the wonderful life described in commercials. No expensive car that gives a sesation of liberty (in a real life traffic jam). No beautiful body, or spouse to wich hang all those fashionable clothes on, just to show the neighbours. They are like some silly atavists, or remnants of a bygone era, that promised them priviledges based on accident of birth to a particular nation, or skin colour, that never came to be and who else to blame, but those who oppose priviledges and strive for equality.

There are, of course, other as easy target audiences, like people who have interrest for alternative “medical” treatments. Or even some people on the fringes of the political left, who have become disappointed at western democracies using power & influence to further capitalist interrests.

The alternative “medicine” is a conceptual trap. It often draws people who desire hope when facing a malady, or just the fear of one, that the medical science has no remedy for. This desperation makes them put aside scientific facts and opens the door for all sorts of “alternative facts”. Usually none of wich are facts at all.

To Putin it has been an ongoing campaing to undermine western democracies, because their succes sugsets, that his authoritarian leadership might not be the best option. He has supported the nationalist conservatives (often referred to as the far-right in Europe), as they do share his values, like homophobia, position of both church and women within the society and so forth. Mostly fascistic, anti-humanist stuff. Also because they sport the fading fossil fuel industry, on wich Russia depends. Mainly though because these movements are led by opportunistic populists who court with authoritarianism (because they have no moral compas to tell them why it is wrong) and because, win or lose, such behaviour undermines democracy. If the populists lose elections, they may continue growing by spreading evemore discontent and spreading lies, if they win they have more power to disrupt the society and when they ultimately fail to fullfill their promises, it only works to create more distrust in politics and democracy.

Ultimately democracy and the truth may prove to be more durable than Putin would want them to be. The Russians might get onto the streets and get rid of this authoritarian leader because of a failed war. They have done it before. Let us hope, that if they do, they shall not fall under yet another authoritarian leader.

Recently I wrote about an oncoming trial and about some international reactions to it in my previous post the Religious Rights. Now there is more. A nother international player has made a big entrance to the play. The Citizen Go – an ultra-conservative advocacy group, based originally in Spain – has started bombarding the Finnish Justice Department with letters. In addition they tell us, that they have collected some 200 000 names in defence of the accused. Altough, this has not been confirmed, since the memory stick by wich these names have been sent to the Finnish Justice Department is still being processed for potential viruses. The office of the Finnish National Prosecutor has recieved some 1600 letters, each with approximately 100 signatures, that demand that former minister and Parliamentary Representative Päivi Räsänen would not be condemned to prison for her (rather vile) Christian opinions about homosexuals.


The loathsome and underhanded nature of the right-wing ultra-conservative religious groups is well demonstrated by this, as in real life there is no danger whatsoever, that Päivi Räsänen would serve jail time as a result of the prosecutions she is facing. The most severe punishment – if found guilty – would be for her to pay fines. If the Citizen Go does not know this fact about the trial they dample in, it is extremely poor and soddy work from them. However, it seems much more likelier, that they are just using poor old Päivi (who might well be enjoying her position as a martyr for her cause) for their own ends to make up statistics to show how threatened the Christian conservative world view alledgedly is and how they are supposedly persecuted, when in fact – as in this court case – they are only being limited in their attempts to attack the rights of others. It seems the Citizen Go has simply lied, or deliberately “misinformed” the 200 000 people, if these even exist, into subscribing a petition for much more severe sounding punishment. It might be, that even the supporters of the Christian right might not be interrested in signing a petition for some obscure person in an obscure country to not be fined for speaking their Christian opinions aloud in public. So, I guess lying for Jesus to his supporters (once again) was seen as needed in this case.

This entire affair has not yet enjoyed much public attention, or interrest here in Finland, other than possibly within the Christian conservative minority. I guess, it does not really make good publicity for them here, since the larger Finnish public would not react well to the silly petitions about threatening prison sentence, wich simply does not exist.

The pandemic has revealed how stupid and sheep-like many people really are. The surprizingly deep division between those who wear masks and those who do not is quite revealing. Generalizing with a rough hand, those on the left of the political spectrum worldwidely have mainly abided to what their societies demand of them while many of those on the right have declared indipendend thought and decided not to wear masks. Why?

What it boils down to is how people see the society. What values make a person to support or even identify with leftist or right-wing policies? Where do those values come from? The entire division to left and right in politics is a bit outdated. The Liberals of one country seem like left wing there, while their values may seem like coming from the right in a nother country. The Green parties in many western countries join in a lot of their core issues about nature preservation with Socialists, but may otherwise have very Market Liberal values and be seen as less leftist in that respect. The populist extreme right hold very Conservative values, but their answers to most issues are radical to say the least. Some of the Communist parties in the world today are – paradoxically – the most Conservative in their approach to politics. How could this mess ever be defined to have just one divisional line on any issue. Even such as a pandemic? Especially since the pandemic should not even be a political issue, but a medical issue.

Some people are simply ignorant. Some have been lied to. Some may seem like idiots, but simply are unable to confront threats too big for them to handle individually. Some follow an authority with blind sheep-like attitudes.

The issue about how the pandemic has been met around the globe and among population is in many ways about responsibility. People whose values are about putting their short term self interrest at the front every time do not feel responsible for others. People whose values are based on a long term responsibility to make the society and the world a better place for all, most often act accordingly. This is naturally a groce simplification between what we percieve the right or the left in politics, but if I try to put that division down in as simple terms as possible, this is what I get.

The issue of wearing masks kind of demonstrates this. In my experience it is the right-wing extremists who have told me, that the pandemic is a lie, because the governments of this world are in cohoots with “Big Pharma” and we are being herded into obidience by forcing us to wear the masks. There is even a member of the Finnish parliament who has made such claims, and even added that it is a plot by the Communists. Do not ask me, how he came to think the Communists are somehow able to pull this off, or how/why they have some affiliation with pharmaceutical industry. His thoughts have taken of on such a tangent, that even his populist party has kicked him out.

Others, less extreme right-wingers, have suggested to me, that there is no point in wearing the surgical masks, because they do not protect the wearer enough, or that at the very least one should use a better mask. This is exactly where their values crawl in to the discussion and affect their behaviour. It seems like they were somehow impeded from seeing the big picture, where if I wear a mask that protects the next man if I happen to sneeze or cough, and the next man wears a mask that protects me and so on, creates a situation where our individual protection does not even need to be of the highest quality. This failure in attitudes reminds me of a dude who thought it was OK for them to drive illegally fast and take unnecessary risks in traffic, because his own car had airbags. Putting aside how airbags do not necessarily protect him in a head on collision, it had not occurred to him, that the other car he may hit, might have a family in it, and that they might not have airbags. It was in his short term interrest to drive as he pleased, but he did not even care, how dangerous he made the traffic, let alone, what it would be like, if everybody behaved like him.

The right-wing policies and values in general are about the liberties of an individual and about holding to tradition. While these two would seem like at odds with each other at times, they spring from the same problem. The need to adhere to tradition provides a sense of security to a person who has problems of knowing what is right or wrong. Tradition offers them the answers, and if they think otherwise, traditions are handy in that they are flexible enough to be bent to their will. For example, somehow Jesus has been made into a character, who would support Capitalism and free ownership of military grade guns.

The constant demand for individual liberties is not the same as demand for individual rights. The demand for human rights often annoys the right-wing person in aggravating terms, to wich they these days react by sad and poor attempts at sarcasm, or even blatant hatered. Historically it used to be outright violence. Rights and liberties are not the same. Liberty is a beatifull word and everyone should be able to enjoy liberty, but not at the expense of the liberty of others. This is their right. Right as human beings. The same applies to the issue about the masks.

We do not ask the people whom we meet at shops or public transport, why some of them do or do not wear masks. We assume, that if someone does not wear a mask, it is because they are somehow medically, or otherwise impeded from joining in to this common effort to stop the disease from spreading. Some of them are impeded by healt issues, some are impeded by unhealthy attitudes and values.

Recently no less than ten professors from the USA signed a letter to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom demanding to impose economical sanctions against the Finnish national Prosecutor General Raija Toiviainen because they see her actions as a human rights violation. Precisely the two lawsuits against Finnish parliamentary reperesentative (and former minister of interior) Päivi Räsänen and Bishop-Elect of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland, Rev. Dr. Juhana Pohjola. Räsänen has written and Pohjola has published a 2004 booklet entitled, Male and Female He Created Them: Homosexual Relationships Challenge the Christian Concept of Humanity. Räsänen has been charged with three counts of “ethnic agitation” and Pohjola, with one count of ethnic agitation.

The professors argue that: “The Prosecutor General’s pursuit of these charges against a prominent legislator and bishop sends an unmistakable message to Finns of every rank and station: no one who holds to the traditional teachings of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and several other religions on questions of marriage and sexual morality will be safe from state harassment should they, like Bishop Pohjola and Dr. Räsänen, express their moral and religious convictions.”

Actually, the prosecution has nothing at all to do with what values people “hold”, but it has everything to do with how and where such values can be expressed and what sanctions may follow for doing so if they brake the law. In Finland religion is seen very much as a private matter and is rarely put forward to the public and especially the political arena, exept by the small minority party of Christian Democrats represented by Räsänen.

The American professors have acted according to the U.S. values of liberty and individual rights to express oneself peacefully. It is a great ideal, that everyone should have the right to represent their own views. In Europe we have, however a long history and an abundance of experience about how hate speech can cause very real harm.

Does religious freedom mean, that any opinions should be publicly displayed, just as long as they fit into the interpretation of some religious tradition? It is easy to say, that if they demand direct violence against some other group of people, no matter what god alledgedly sanctioned it, such should be illegal. Or is it? Should freedom speech be unlimited? Do we think that the blame and responsibility lies on the person acting up on the suggestions of a nother, but not on the person who did nothing else exept spoke?

Hitler never personally killed anyone, but after gaining political power he persecuted minorities ordered millions to be murdered and plunged the entire world into a destructive war. How did he gain his power? His main political message was racism and hatred. He spoke about these issues and even appealed to “higher authority” of a god. He managed to influence the entire German society (the most highly educated nation, consisting of many, many minorities) so, that these issues became normalized by repeatedly bringing them up and eventually dehumanizing the minorities. Convincing the German nation, that they were this imaginary super race!??? In his inaugural speach he specifically promised to protect both the German churches status. All politically motivated violence starts by dehumanizing the target group of people. Päivi Räsänen is not likely to reach power equal to Hitler or to act as fiendishly if she did, but her religious feelings put in to public display may indeed have serious impact on how many people feel about homosexuals, based on the imaginary authority of a god.

The professors continue: “These prosecutions cannot be understood as mundane applications of a European-style “hate speech” law.  No reasonable balance of the goods of public order, civil equality, and religious liberty can ever support this suppression of the right to believe and express one’s beliefs.  The prosecutions are straightforward acts of oppression. “

The Prosecutor General has acted according to Finnish constitution and specifies her descision to prosecute by saying that the statements of Räsänen both in print and in social media have been offensive, oppressive, dehumanizing and an attack on the human value of homosexuals. It is illegal to degrade a group of people like this in Finland. In addition it should be remembered, that Räsänen as a ranking politician holds authority and prestige, but equal responsibility over how people react to her words. The Prosecutor General has no say on the constitution. Punishing her personally by U.S. issued sanctions would be a clear violation of Finnish sovereign government and Finnish constitution as based by the Finns. Perhaps it would serve her and the Finns right? So, is the Finnish constitution in conflict with human rights as it puts secular law before the religious feelings and their peacefull expression?

Is it really “oppression” to demand that a person stops to dehumanize and continuously attack a group of people, who have done no other harm than to not live according to the rules of one specific god, that they may or may not even worship? Is that issue not between said god and the person braking the arbitrary rules? Has the secular society no right to step in even when tradition demands that psychological harm should be allowed to be done to people who have not chosen their sexual orientation, just because there is a religious interpretation, that sees that orientation as against the will of their god? Should we discuss, the plausibility or morals of a god, that is unable to controll their alledged creation even to the extent, that this god created people who are unable to choose to become homosexuals are displeasing to said god and somehow as a result alledgedly deserving of an eternal punishment for what they did not even choose upon themselves?

It all boils down to where the rights of one person begin and a nother person end. Where do you draw the line between “peacefull expression” and a violent one? If the goal of the speech or text is to dehumanize a group of people, is it still “peacefull expression” of religious beliefs? Religious freedom as a concept has it’s orgins in the realization, that if one interpretation or divine message from gods is put over others by the society, that leads to violence against believers of other religions and sects. History is full of sad examples of that and they continue to pile up. Secularism in society level and in law as it is, is an attempt to find morals outside of any alledged divine demands. That makes it superior to any religious feelings or moralism offered by any gods. Because it is based on the actual real world and not on anything alledgedly transferred to it from outside of it.

Neither Räsänen or Pohjola have been condemned by any court. The legal case is very much about if it is accepted by the Finnish society to attack homosexuals from the hiding bush of religion.

The US professors claim, that: “These prosecutions constitute serious human rights abuses.  They violate Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights…”

However, the declaration of Religious Freedom Artcile 18 actually says under paragraph 3. “Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others

Wich is pretty much what the prosecutions are all about. That the prosecuted may have broken the law, may have somewhat violated the public safety, order and certainly morals and indeed the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.

Frankly I am appalled at the state of U.S. educational system, that professors from famous universities, such as Princeton, Harward and Yale would draw their names under this pamphlet. That they who teach on such high levels of education in the first actual secular Western country in the world, have not grasped the point of secularism – at all.

In general, Freedom of speech has become a hot topic of lately globally and in the Western Countries it has been increasingly often seen as a topic by the right-wing extremists and their symphatizers. It is curious as how the very people who do not regard all people as of equal value, or deserving equal rights demand that they should have the equal rights as everybody else, even (and most often) in situations where nobody has deprived any rights or freedoms from them. Typically only given criticism as to how they use their freedoms to hurt people they do not see equal to themselves.

Do not fix it, if it ain’t broken. I guess that is the leading rationell behind conservatism. Any self proclaimed conservative, or a person who otherwise knows better, may naturally correct me, if I have gotten it somehow wrong. I may have said this over and over again in different words, but as it does not stop to wonder me, I keep trying to analyze what is happening here.

To me it seems, the appeal of the conservative thinking lies in evolutionary survival trait of doing things the way they have been done before, because it has allowed us to survive this long and in the fear for the unknown. The future is always unknown, but us having not yet died out by doing things as we have always done them, does not by any means mean, that we could not improve our future. Infact, it is evolution itself, that suggests we also need to change to survive, because the circumstances of our existance change all the time.

What I find curious about conservatism as a set of values, is how random it is what from the past or present is found to be worthy of protecting and conrserving at any given time. Yes, there are some recurring themes, such as “traditional family values” and the upkeep of “status quo” in any society to secure the priviledges of those who happen to have achieved any. However, even the interpretation of those so called “family values” vary greatly. Sometimes meaning simply a support for basic nucleous family with two parents of different gender and some children (and this is how it is marketed to the rest of us), but at times extending all the way to opposing abortion or any other forms of families, as if there were no good reasons for abortion, or as if it was somehow magically possible for all families to hold such basic structure. People do become widoved, end up in prison, have to work far away from their families and have very good reasons for divorcing and not all people who have and desire families are heterosexual.

Fear seems to be a very strong motivator for us humans. Fear of the unknown, the untested, but also of the new and of the outsider. Fear seems to bring up the worst in people. Sometimes we are right to fear things. Some things are bad, worse and down right terrible. Yet fear, it seems, causes people to decide upon important issues by their gut feeling. That is, to use their intuition and emotional stress, rather than rational evaluation of things. This is revealed best by the way conservatism is so often defended in high emotional appeals.

A nother thing is how often the purely intuitive and emotional reasons for conservatism are masked as having some sort of rationell behind them. I do believe, that people who defend their conservative positions by making the claim, that they are only demanding what is rational, all too often believe in their own excuses. It is very easy to decieve oneself, because we all are already biased towards our own viewpoint. There is – however – a kind of dishonesty involved, when a person who gets frightened by something and wants to “run home to mama”, specifically proclaims their view is the rational and that any opposing view represents mere emotional nonsense. Emotions are not nonsense and intuition is a valuable evolutionary survival trait. Dismissing them as worthless may reveal an attempt to deny them. There are situations in life where we have no time for deep analysis and in such situations our intuition may save us. Our emotions are very real, but most of the times we have time to analyze wether they are correct or fair. Fear does lead to anger and anger leads to hatred, wich in turn may manifest in violence.

Fear also makes us subject to all sorts of manipulation. We are social animals and if a demagouge or a populist wants to influence us, like the advitizer, they do not need to convince the most intelligent of us, but only the critical mass of ignorant and as a result reactionary people. I find it at the same time both curious and terrifying how many people believe something to be true merely because of what they first heard about it. How they internalize the information as part of their identity and after that refuse to see the subject from any other view. It is also ironic how often the very same people who have this habit, tell me and others how the rest of us do not have an open mind, or that we refuse to look things from other angles, when they themselves only have the one angle from wich they will allow themselves to look at anything.

Meanwhile in Finland. The Finnish military bishop, a field bishop to be exact, the most high ranking officer with a religious title in the Finnish Defence Forces has written and published a controversial blog. The blog was in Finnish, but some of the points that caused a stir were, about how in his opinion free sex had a deteriorating effect on the Finnish society and how he thought gender duality was important to the society by keeping up birth rates.

Having met the man and even having had a few drinks with him many years ago (altough I was rather pissed, so I can not remember really  did he drink all that much) in a party, I had this notion of him as a fairly decent bloke and a typical Finnish moderate Lutheran, I must say, I was rather surprized to see what he had said. Perhaps he has radicalized since, or my first impression on him was totally off. Most likely the latter, because I am not known to be much of a judge of character.

It was reported, that in the blog he quoted a Finnish author, from one of his books, where a character says: “A woman should produce children, take care of them, sew and prepare food. It is the responsiblity of every man and a woman to to have sex, so that there will be new people on earth.” (Translation is mine and bear in mind, that I am not qualified to translate the dialect nuances of the original text.) Here I have to make a point of the fact, that in Finnish we have a long literary tradition, when an author wants to put one of their characters to address some controversial issue, they have the character speaking in some thick dialect, wich may seem a bit funny at the same time, so the subject matter does not seem so blunt.

Both the head of Finnish Lutheran Church the acrhibishop and the public relations office of the Finnish Defence Forces condemned the blog text content and made their own public announcements of it. The archibishop said that everyone has equal rights and that they must be upheld and respected and the Finnish Defence Forces announced their apology, while the military representative reported, that since the field bishop withdrew his blog post and after having had a talking to, has apologized for it, submitted, that the content was not proper, agreed to align himself with the moral values of equality in the Finnish Defence forces from now on, no further sanctions will be issued.

To be sure, the office of a field bishop is equal to a general in Finnish Defence Forces, altough it is a reservist position. It is a bit of a historical remnant and represents the fact, that the clergy has had a visible role in the Finnish military for the duration of our indipendence. The students of theology still today have a separate training branch for them during the Finnish conscript service mandatory for all young Finnish men and voluntary for all Finnish women. In the reserve these soldiers who undergo the special training serve as field chaplains. There is separate training at least for both of the official state Lutheran and Orthodox churches.

For those of my potential readers who did not get why the field bishop was repremanded by his seniors only for expressing his honest opinions, I have to explain something about the Finnish society. First of all Finland is a very gender equal country. Genger equality has been such a big thing in Finland for such a long time, that it is starting to be a conservative value of the Finnish society. The Finns were among the first nations to give women the right to vote. Free sex has not been a point of discussion in Finland for over several decades. It is a given part of our culture. Only in the most extreme religious minority groups this is an issue at all. Traditionally it has not been such a big deal ever. The ancient cultural rules for sexual behaviour in Finnish culture have never really dictated that only married couples should engage in it, only that you should not get pregnant, but if you do, marriage follows. Another thing to consider is the fact that Finnish birth rates have been going down ever since the baby boom after the WWII. The main real reasons for this are better education, increased access to sexual education and contraception and the increased incomes and the wellfare state that provides for the elderly regardless wether they have children or not, and even if the children are not in speaking terms with their parents. One more thing to understand is, that Finland has been for long on the move towards a more liberal and tolerant society, where nobody has the say on what sort of sexual behavior is OK for others as long as it is between consenting adults.

Why I found this story interresting is, that it is fairly representative of what is happening at the very moment in Finnish society. The bishop’s blog seems to be a sort of backlash for the slow social change. The conservative in him could not understand why these things are happening, so he tried to come up with both a reason and some sort of a solution to them as he saw these phenomena as problematic.

It is also interresting how a fairly nice and seemingly level headed chap like him who really and honestly thinks he is representing some conservative values made such a blunder on his otherwise brilliant and respected career. To me it seems like he has, after all, been living in a bit of a bubble to think, that his notions would not face both damming critique and at least some form of talking to from his superiors in both organizations. I find it a bit scary, that this sort of otherwise smart fellow made the quote, since to put forward the same idea, he could just as well have quoted Mussolini, who thought that the job of a woman was to give birth equally as the job of a man was to fight wars – and we all know how well that went for him and his followers. Indeed he was a radical conservative and it seems even in Europe this radical authoritarianistic conservatism and even racism is rearing it’s ugly head once more.

In my opinion the field bishop was totally wrong about it all. There is more than enough people on this planet as it is. During my lifetime the Human species has doubled it’s number and the growth seems exponential. If the Finnish society has a problem of too many old people in comparrison to too few young people it can be compensated by more young people from where there are too many of them. Only “reason” to prefer Finnish born kids over immigrant kids is racism, but I wonder if all people who do not get this, such as the field bishop of the story, have thought the issue as far as that. I am not sure wich is the worst case, if they have, but dare not say, or if they have not, but inadvertantly support a racist worldview never the less.

The field bishop referred to the free sex as being practiced by some sort of “cultural elite” who has replaced the former Marxist revolutionism. I guess in his Finnish cultural conservatism the idea of the enemy being Marxists is a long lingering thought from times like our civil war when the White Guard Finns fighting for the Finnish parliament (and the priviledges of the elites) won the Red Guard Finnish rebels who were mainly organized by the workers unions, Finnish Communist Party and Finnish Social Democratic Party. After and during the war a piece of propaganda, that the socialists wanted to give up Finnish indipendence and join Finland back to Russia or effectively the Soviet Union was spread to motivate the White army and later to hide the guilt for destroying most of the Reds in concentration camps right after the war, was eagerly spread. It still lives on, altough no documentation has ever been presented (even after the data banks of fallen Soviet Union came to light) to back it up and altough it should be well known, that the socialists were at very least as eager to gain Finnish indipendence as any other political group. As well as times like when the Soviet Union invaded Finland and Finland more or less consequently aligned itself with Hitler.

The talk about “cultural elite” however is new and not at all in line with the former conservative talking points. It is a reference to an increasing and loud minority of extremist right wing populists, who worldwidely have come to blame the undefined “elite” for the brake down of social structure where things like place of birth, race and birth right defined the position of a person within a society. To me it seems, that this notion has been produced by the reality, that the most educated part of the society has better access to knowledge and instead of the former elites, they are not there just to stand for their own elitist priviledges by way of class status quo, but have actually turned towards some progressive ethical aproach, that has led them on the path of tolerant liberalism and even socialism. Yet, since the move towards socialism is hard, because it challenges so many priviledges, there are those who do not benefit from this, and in increasing numbers the begrudging group is people, who come from lower middle class or from the working class and even from among the poor, who would not want to see themselves as needy of help, rather that they have been robbed of some position, that they would have had in their romantic fantasy of an “ideal world” as some sort of a birth right.

I guess the field bishop thought, that he was representing some age old conservative Finnish values widely held within the society. However, it is not that simple. He could not recognize when had been had, by something that was not so very conservative or Finnish to speak of.

This case reminded me of why in so many societies and so often the military is led by conservatives and considered to be a conservative element of the society? It seems really idiotic, considering the fact, that if an army is conservative about the technology, tactics, or grand strategy they use, they are almost bound to lose to the more modern and flexible enemy. Even if the army is otherwise very modern, but represents age old values, there is an increased risk, that the society in general will not support and stand behind it. If the army is not popular, it will not get proper funding and it most certainly will not get the most capable individuals for it’s operational and field professionals. Simple as that. Of course the job of the field bishop is merely a ritualistic role, but they also stand out as one of the spokespeople for the military, and in a conscript army, such as the Finnish Defence Forces, it is more than important, that the publicity the army gets, is good, for it to function and attract talented people. Yet armies are authoritarianistic organizations and they do need that command structure to function, when what they essentially do is killing humans, even if it is motivated by the best of reasons to save people’s lives and I guess, that creates a gap for the conservative value systems to creep in. Personally I think such conservatism is merely a hindrance to the functions of any army, but since it is typical, it only goes to show what idiots we humans are.

Pekka Särkiö on kenttäpiispana Suomen puolustusvoimien kirkollisesta työstä vastaava johtava viranhaltija.

You may wonder about the seemingly nazi uniform of the field bishop in this picture of him, but do not be alarmed. It is the Finnish defence forces old dress uniform still in use, that was originally modelled after German counterparts some hundred years ago, then renovated during WWII when Finland was in league with the Nazi-Germany and once more right after the WWII, when Finland had taken a neutral position, but could not afford much of new things, since as one of the losing side the country had to pay compensations to the allied. Today Finnish military uniforms are mostly allied green, as Finland has tried to adapt to the role of a western nation and not one of the former Axis countries altough it of course causes the sorry mixup, that now the Finns have fairly indistinguishable military apparel from the Russian ones, since first Russia and later Soviet Union were with the allied.

Two main issues for me however, were that the values inherited from religious superstition and nationalistic romanticism, equally not based on the real world, but a distortion of reality have made an otherwise wise and succesfull person woulnerable to spread the most vile nonsense and effectively harm himself on the way.

I am sorry but I just had to post this here:

This is a video released by a Finnish political satire program “Noin viikon studio” just the other day. In a short slot of the program first they tried to make sense of the US political system (in Finnish), and then after having more or less failed to explain it in good sense, they gave up and as a summary played this joke video (in English), wich was based on the ideals leading political candidates for the presidential election in the US have been gracious enough to give credit to Finland for, such as free healthcare, free (supported) higher education and well – raking…

The video is satire, but the problem seems real enough. Democracy as a concept comes to us from ancient Greece, where the leading males of the merchant city states, would vote for issues rather than take orders from a king or a dictator. The slaves and women were excluded from this system of governance. One would expect, that as democracy has become so widespread during the past two and a half millenia, we had moved quite far from such ancient cultural burdens in what we call democracy.

Even the ancient Greeks knew the importance of a closet ballot, that was called the “ostrakon”, the votes were skrivelled onto a piece of pottery shards, so that anyone who votes could do so privately without having to reveal their thoughts in public and thus being influenced by the expectations of others – possibly individuals with influence on them otherwise. In the USA – a country that likes to boast as the leading democracy in the world – however, even today, a voter may have to stand in the open public arena behind a sign with the name of their candidate to give support to their candidate, for the candidate to get elected. How is it any business of the boss of the voter (or anybody else really) to be able to find out whom their employee is giving their vote to? Yet, in such a system it takes no effort at all for a boss to find out whom their employees vote for, if they bother to vote at all. But this is not the worst problem in their electorial system.

It is hard to say wether the worse problem is that to vote the US citizen has to pay to register to vote, or that some voters have more political power than the others depending on their place of living. The first problem means that the poorest people have to make the choise wether to spend their hard earned money on something necessary to them personally, or to spend it on their “right” to vote. Combined with the previous problem, and the fact, that most candidates and both of the parties, that have had any chance at elections in ages, do not reperesent the poor, but are led by the richest people and for the richest people. In effect, this means that the “slaves” are once again excluded from political power. The latter problem means that even if a person gets less votes, they may still be elected in place of their rival who has clearly gotten more votes. Add to injury, that the religious leadership – I hear – has a tendency to try to influence the voters in a secular vote.

It seems, that even attempts to make voting easier by new technology has failed the US citizens over and over again. Technology can not mend what is fundamentally wrong about the thinking behind the system.

Certainly USA as a democratic culture has come a long way from the times of the Greeks of the antiquity, like finally making slavery as such illegal and providing women the right to vote. Still, looking at their situation from outside last time they voted for a president, it seemed like the worst fault a candidate could have was and may still be to be born a woman.

I am not saying that we have a perfect system here in Finland, but I have trouble understanding how bad things can be for democracy in a leading western country and how it seems like such problems were not even recognized by the US public. Yet, they have spread their military all over the planet to further the cause of democracy. Or is democracy only an excuse for them to make their military actions across the globe seem morally justifiable, when in reality they are defending and furthering “their interrests abroad”? That is to say, the interrests of the capitalists using the nation as means to their own goals.

In any case democracy is only as good a system of governance as the education, empathy and humanity of the majority of the voters and this applies to any country. That is, if good is measured by a government achieving as much human wellbeing and minimizing human suffering as humanely possible for it’s own citizens, and all humans, any sentient beings and for the future generations as well.