Friends of the Earth Goes New Business Center
Can a national organization that is against consumer culture accept an new, ultramodern business concept?
This question was put to the test recently when an young entrepreneur from the Helsinki School of Economics and Business Administration, Janne Moritz, met with members of the University of Helsinki Student Interest Group Maan Ystavät, or Friends of the Earth.
Moritz is starting up a new company, selling various organizations a service that sends text messages onto mobile phones. ”It is easy to move into wap,” Moritz demonstrates. ”Then you can scroll through the options and chose the one you like.”
Markus Drake and Maria Svanström aren’t impressed. ”We could market our slogans, sure, but we need more than 160 letters to say what we want to say. I have a hard time believing that anyone would change their behavior after reading 160-character messages,” says Drake, a student of journalism.
Friends of the Earth, whose section at the university is going by the Finnish anacronym HyMy, works towards an ecologically and socially sustainable world. HyMy plans to concentrate locally on promoting light rail and bicycle transportation and the downtown tunnel. On a more general level, they hope to address problems with free trade and energy production.
”I don’t own a mobile phone. I’ve been abroad and was shocked upon my return to see that everyone here has these things!” says Drake. Moritz counters with: ”Well, now you are speaking for yourself. I’m thinking of your organization. Those that are active in new media innovations have their voice heard. I see this as a way for your organization to get funds.” He explains his motive: ”Everyone wants to get on board right now, because it is an easy way to make money. I want to try and make it more open, develop it in the same direction as the Internet. To make it a tool that each of us can build upon.”
Moritz has several customers already, mobile phone users can call in for their daily aphorism, daily poem or daily scripture reading. For every two Finnmark text message that appears, the organization sponsoring the message receives 30 pennies. The rest of the profit is shared between the service provider, Moritz and the operator.
So here is Moritz’s suggestion. ”My vision is that we could gather a sizable amount of people that care about the environment and they would order the service from us for one year. Every day we would send them a eco-tip.” An example of an eco-tip is a short message telling people to remove and discard any excess packaging from purchases before leaving the store.
Svanström sums up her position. ”I think that HyMy isn’t interested. We don’t want to encourage people to acquire more technology. We need to concentrate our energy on other things right now.”
Three Stories From North Korea
North Korea is probably the most closed society on this planet. 2 000 tourists visited North Korea last year, many of which were from Finland. Fifteen passengers signed up for the latest trip to North Korea at the Olympia travel office. The trip offers lots of bus rides from monument to monument and an unending explanation of how good things are in North Korea.
Pirjo Repo was the group’s guide. ”A tourist is always a tourist, they don’t see the reality, just what is shown. Everything can’t be covered up with bus rides though.” Repo refers to the country’s lack of food and mismanagement. The trip is North Korea becomes a mecca to the juche ideology, the official country-wide ideology left by their former president Kim Il-sung.
Repo describes: ”Pjongjang is a gigantic monument with wide boulevards and streets. Buildings are huge and the downtown area is beautiful. What is ironic is that there are no cars on the big streets and there are no people, except at the monuments.”
Renvall Institute Researcher Tauno-Olavi Huotari is writing a book about Korea. Huotari feels that Korea’s biggest problem is that its people strongly believe that their country is a paradise and nothing can compare. ”Pjongjang is a display area, but is probable that no trash or handicapped can be there. Kim Il-sung University is full of chairs and table covered in white that no one can sit on. Kim Il-sung visited the university to personally direct instruction and those places he touched are now museum property. The library has many places that are untouchable,” says Huotari.
Huotari is certain that it will be several years yet before North Korea will be able to supply enough food for its people. Estimates of the number of people who have died from malnutrition vary between a few hundred thousand and three million. ”The truth is probably in between there somewhere.”
Heidegger Arrives in Helsinki
Cult philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) has been introduced quite slowly in Finland, but several new translations of his works have been published recently, making him a hot topic among readers. What may be Heidegger’s most important text, the 500 page Being and Time, has finally been translated into Finnish by Reijo Kupiainen. It may be a good thing that it took several decades, however, for some say that the time has not been right until now.
Being and Time is the book that made Heidegger famous. He does not ask ”whatis a person?”, as so many other philosophers before him, but rather, ”what is person’s being like?” Heidegger felt that our impending mortality was largely responsible for the decisions of our life. Being is directly linked to time. He brings the concepts of guilt, curiosity and history into hisphilosophy as well.
Heidegger’s emphasis on being has gone on to affect other great thinkers, like Jean-Paul Sartre, Jacques Derrida, and Vaclav Havel. His ideas were also embraced by the Nazis, and unfortunately for Heidegger, the admiration was mutual. He wrote in his texts about the German difference and incorporated party ideology. Heidegger never apologized for his allegiance after the war, but he did publish some interesting texts.
by Pamela Kaskinen