The New Brussels Elite
The Swedish-speaking members of the Helsinki area have long been the elite of the Finnish society. Speak the right language and go to the right schools. But now a new elite is taking center stage: Swedish is giving way to French and Brussels is the place to be. At the same time that Finland’s public sector shrinks in size, the EU is booming. Brussels holds over 30,000 job opportunities for Finnish people, inspiring university students to apply. Thousands of applicants have been known to apply for a single position. The largest EU employer is the European Commission, led by Jacques Santer. It is divided into 40 central and specialty divisions and employs over 15,000 people. The second largest body is the Council of Ministers, composed of one minister from each EU country, employing 2,500 assistants.
Many university students begin their quest for work in Brussels with an internship. CIMO, the Center for International Mobility, offers information about jobs available and stipends. Internships can last from 1 to 6 months and aren’t paid, leaving students to fund the training themselves. Students of international politics Kati Rajala and Elena Uskola both think it is odd that students have to pay to be an EU intern, but don’t think it will deter anyone from trying. ”The EU elite is formed already in the recruiting stage. It requires a lot of daring and perseverence to go there and lobby yourself,” explain the girls. When former members of the EU club return home, they keep in touch with one another. There is a danger that this same EU elite will eventually control things here in Finland and information about the EU will be the privilege of the few.
Alcohol Jamboree Meets Its End
In late April this year, day trips by boat and hydrofoil to Tallinn, Estonia were booked solid. Why? Finns had to stock up for May 1st `Vappu’ celebrations before ”prohibition” set in. As of May 1, alcohol can only be brought back from non-EU countries if the trip there and back lasts longer than 20 hours. The Finnish Parliament has also decided that the current government should negotiate with the EU to limit the amount of alcohol permitted over the border to 6 liters, down from the current 15. Many Finns have become semi-professionals at bringing large amounts of alcohol back to Finland from Tallinn cruises. For them, the new EU directive is prohibition all over again.
A woman passenger of the Estonian Lines Alandia , with six cases of Koff beer in tow, complains, ”They are trying to keep the unemployed and small-wage-earners home! Can’t even go to Tallinn!” Another consumer of two strong beer cases wonders what she’ll do with her beer case cart, a specialty product created for day-tripers that don’t have enough hands to carry all of the cases they buy, ”What good will this be when the quota is cut? I certainly can’t make a baby buggy out of it!”
Many travelers begin partaking of their purchases on the trip over. Passenger Hessu Väisänen watches a drunken couple dance, ”Young people are better than the old crones. They don’t understand anything about alcohol use. Before you know it, she’ll have lost her passport and her husband will be in jail.” In between the boat and the pier, a man in his fifties who has consumed far too much tax-free liquid is crawling to the terminal on his way back home. His pants hang off his behind and his shirt is full of vomit. Keijo Mehtonen, Managing Director of Tallink Finland Incorporated, believes the new limitations could change the customer base of Estonia cruises, ”Perhaps people interested in their destination and a relaxing vacation will replace the beer hoarders.”
Academic Harbor Workers
Many of Helsinki’s dockyard workers are university students. 500 FIM a day and a paycheck every week attract those that are in need of money fast. Kimmo Korhonen, a student of geography, has worked in the harbor for five years, ”You can decide yourself when you come to work: in the morning or evening. No one forces you to be there and no one wonders where you have been, even if you are gone for five months.” Each morning, the list of workers for the day is announced and the lucky ones that are present get to work. On Sundays, the wage is tripled, but Sundays are reserved only for A-men, i.e. permanent employees.
B-men, on the other hand, are dispensable, temporary workers who have to work for a place and respect. ”If you are considered a nice guy, you get better work. It is best to keep your mouth shut if you think something is unfair or wrong – just swallow your pride and ask if there is any more work to be done,” explains Korhonen. After five years, he now has a place with the L-10 warehouse. ”I was there for a couple of days and they noticed how hard-working I was. Now I can just call my boss and ask if they’ve got any work for me. I can even reserve days in advance, which not everyone can do.”
The harbor prefers young workers these days, as alcohol rules have gotten stricter. In the old days, the harbor was a more dangerous place to work because many workers had drinking problems. Today, all operators of heavy machinery have to pass a breathalizer test before they can begin their workday. Each year, however, some workers lose their jobs. Korhonen continues, ”It is rare for someone under thirty to be fired because of their drinking. Younger people are hard-working and don’t drink. When older people are constantly being discharged, they need new labor.”
Fighting for Socialism
Student radicals of the Humboldt University in Berlin are eager to convince their classmates to participate in a university strike. Not only are they protesting against the ruling class, they are also protesting `the capitalist supremacy system’, the `elite’ and `neo-liberal pathos.’ But improving the everyday lives of the students isn’t enough – the entire world must be changed. These successors of Hegel and Kant speak of a better world order and social justice. Although few Finns would take such a group seriously, in Berlin, these students may just inspire their fellow students to strike. A European-wide strike to protest cuts in social spending is planned for June 15. The students hope to mobilize over 50,000 dissatisfied supporters in Berlin and Bonn. Unbridled optimism does have its weaknesses, however, and the students aren’t able to come up with any alternatives to the state savings plans. The question arises, Are the students defending any particular principle or are they simply against everything? The meeting ends with a consensus: everyone should be guaranteed a job.
Illusions at Heureka
Illusions are egalitarian phenomenon. Even the most intelligent of us can’t escape them. Sometimes what is heavy appears light and what is hot seems cold. The Science Museum Heureka is currently featuring an exhibit on illusions, with over 70 examples of how our senses of hearing, sight and balance can be fooled. The exhibit also focuses on brain research. Illusions are connected to brain activity, but cannot be fully explained. What we do know is that the brain couldn’t function at all without sleep. Humans sleep one third of their lives and scientists have yet to figure out why. While simple rest is enough to refresh our bodies, our mind requires sleep. The brain is very active during sleep, however, with periods of intense rapid eye movement during dreams closely resembling periods of wakefulness. The dream labs of Heureka, located in Tikkurila, are looking for volunteers to come and have their dreams monitored. Testing subjects are asked to stay up the night before to ensure they will sleep during the monitoring. For more information, call 85799.
Summer Academy Boosts Image
The closer the year 2000 comes, the year Helsinki awaits its coveted but shared Cultural City title, the more the city is polishing up its image. This summer, the Helsinki Summer Academy is hoping to raise the profile of all of the universities in the greater Helsinki area by advertising classes together under one format throughout Finland and Europe. The Rectors of the University of Helsinki and the Finnish Art Academy, Risto Ihamuotila and Yrjö Sotamaa came up with the idea last year when classes were advertised under the theme Helsinki Connecting Universities. Hellevi Majander, contact person for the project at Helsinki University, comments, ”If you go far enough, it no longer matters whether a university is an independent unit or not. It is only the quality of instruction that is essential.” Time will tell if one of the advertising claims will hold true: increased instruction in English. For more information, contact http://www.helsinki.fi/suvi96/ on the Internet.
Summer Arrives at the Film Archives
The summer season of the Finnish Film Archives once again promises some fantastic movies. Continuing the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the moving picture, the archives will celebrate the day of the first motion picture showing in Finland on June 28 by showing five Finnish classics, among others T.J. Särkkä’s Kulkurin Valssi and Valentin Vaala’s Ihmisiä Suviyössä. Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, Andrei Tarkovski’s Stalker , Stanley Kubrick’s Doctor Strangelove and Francois Truffaut’s Fahrenheit 451 highlight the summer series entitled `Utopias of Hope and Fear’. Harvey Keitel is the spotlight actor and Roman Polanski is the featured director. Stop by the Orion theater, located at Eerikinkatu 15, for a complete summer program.
Translation Pamela Kaskinen