Himanen To the Rescue
Sleepiness slips over the hall, moving from the back rows towards the podium. Time moves at a snail’s pace. The lecturer places one transparency after another on the overhead projector. No need to strain his intellect, he has taught this same class last year and the year before and the year before… Everything is as it has always been, when suddenly – the doors fly open and a task force bursts in. The students are shak en out of their apathy and begin to think furiously. The `Shock Troops’ have struck again. Pekka Himanen, philosophy lecturer, feels that instruction as it currently exists at the University of Helsinki must be changed. “I thought up the shock troops in a conversation once,” he laughs.
Himanen’s actual tactics are just as unique, however. In his lectures at the University for Art and Design, Himanen has an invisible assistant, Symposiarkhos, in charge of keeping the lecturers fun. Last year, a `dialogue test’ was arranged after a lecture series by Himanen and theologian Matti Myllykoski and this fall, Himanen’s students can chose one of three tests: Create 30 `shock questions’, write a new, creative `birth essay’, or participate in the `horsefly test’, in which a excerpt of philosophy must be criticized. Each year, the Eino Kaila award goes to the best university teacher. Himanen suggests an award for the worst teacher as well. “Perhaps the fear of student feedback will motivate some teachers.”
Artist Frida Kahlo – A Life of Pain and Joy
The paintings and photographs of the famous Mexican artist Frida Kahlo are scheduled to appear at the Helsinki City Art Museum this spring and the Finnish people, long admirers of her work, are excitedly counting the days. Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) created a series of art that poignantly reflect the span of her life. From the time she was a child, Frida Kahlo suffered from a number of illnesses. At 7, she was inflicted with polio from which she never fully recovered. At 18, a streetcar accident broke her back and hip. During the short 47 years of her life, she had over 30 back operations. Her marriage to the artist Diego Rivera was her greatest passion, although both partners had several affairs during troubled periods. Kahlo herself has said, “Anguish, pain, joy and death are nothing more than the process of existing.”
Frido Kahlo – If I Could Dance is a play based on Kahlo’s life, written by the American Claire Braz-Valentine. Theater Jurkka will present the play in Finnish beginning October 31st, as directed by Kaija Viinikainen. The play consists of two dialogues by Frida. Two women, Erja Manto and Katriina Rinne, portray the two selves of Kahlo: the artist and the woman. Both women have identified themselves strongly with their roles, traveling to Mexico and visiting the places Kahlo used to frequent. Despite her sufferings, Kahlo loved life. “Although Frida couldn’t dance, she loved to have parties and dress splendidly,” explains Rinne. Manto adds, “For Frida, love, parties, pain and all feelings were her way of holding on to life.”
The Uncertain Future of the Young Finns
The political party nuorsuomalainen puolue, Young Finns, was established in 1880 by a group of liberals wishing to split from the established parties. Achieving a peak of 26 parliament places in 1902, the party dissolved in 1918. Two years ago, under the leadership of Risto E.J. Penttilä, the Young Finns were born again. The neo-liberals of the Young Finns appeared on the scene at the opportune moment. Finnish politicians were struggling with the problems of a heavy welfare state deficit and a half a million unemployed, with no solutions in sight. Despite critics’ labeling the group `an even tougher version of the Conservative Coalition’, the future of the party looked bright. In the spring 1995 parliamentary elections, the Young Finns received seven percent of the vote in the Helsinki region, and Penttilä and Jukka Tarkka joined the team on Arcadia Hill.
Unfortunately, recent elections for European Parliament representatives and City Council members in Finland were a major disappointment for the fledgling party. Only 29 city council spots were secured in the entire country and Jaakko Iloniemi, the party’s hope for Europe, didn’t make it to Strasbourg. Now party members are left to speculate the cause of the slump. Eero Iloniemi, a Young Finn elected vice-member of the Helsinki City Council, comments, “Perhaps we were overconfident after the parliamentary elections. Maybe we directed what we had to say too much towards the elite. We haven’t succeeded in our marketing to the average Finn.” Just what is the essence of the party that needs to be sold to the nation? “I think the central values are tolerance and a certain kind of conservative, right-wing economic policy. This means that the doors should be opened so that people can do work for lower wages, too,” answers Juha Pohto, a Young Finn working for the party’s parliamentary group. Pohto thinks the party should throw out all of the “bandwagoners that don’t subscribe to our ideology.” He feels that a lot of the people that joined the party during the boom don’t promote tolerance, rather “right-wing bullshit.” Iloniemi agrees. “We have grown so quickly that we have basically taken on the principle that, `we don’t care what you think as long as it’s renewal-oriented’. We need to create a explicit liberal platform regarding social questions and economic policy.”
Powers of Light Come to Helsinki Darkness
The long Finnish summer nights are ending now and giving way to the afternoon darkness of winter. Fortunately, a festival will begin in November in Helsinki that will focus on light. The working group responsible forValon Voimat ,The Powers of Light, explains the festival’s objective. “Our goal is to inspire people with thoughts and questions about their surroundings. With the help of light, we hope to stress the grandeur, architecture and maritime proximity of Helsinki. In this way, we can show the positive side of the darkness: the light festival needs it to work.” The festival will begin with the Valotila Maininki Installation at the Cable Factory on November 7, continuing from 7 p.m. through the night until 7 a.m.
The Revolutionary Nature of Falling in Love
The Italian sociologist Francesco Alberoni believes that two people falling in love is like the initial stages of a revolutionary mass movement. In both instances, a person isn’t satisfied with the situation they are in and wants a change. The feelings both phenomena create in their early days are similar: solidarity, joy and the feeling of being born again. How do university students remember the moment they fell in love? “Timi had long hair, a leather jacket and a studded belt. I fell in love with him the minute he entered the lecture hall,” sighs Sari happily. Timi took a bit longer to come around. “Sari appealed to me immediately, of course, but it was only after going out a few times that I fell for her.” Kai and Johanna fell in love in high school, a long, drawn-out process. “I even asked Kai’s friends if he was gay at one point,” says Johanna. Helena and Sami met at a student nation party. “Neither of us made a pass or anything – we just talked and it took off from there.” Arto and Tiina met selling candies at Stockmann. Arto recalls, “We flirted a bit behind the counter, but it wasn’t until the Christmas party that things really started to happen.”
Bombings in San Sebastian – Basque Reality
On a normal weekend in San Sebastian, Spain, five busses are bombed, and numerous banks and travel agencies are destroyed by molotov cocktails. The Basque People’s Independence Movement, ETA, reminds inhabitants of its presence. Young people living in San Sebastian are used to the violence all around them, but whether they condone it or not is another matter. Eva and Exitixu study law in San Sebastian and are strongly against ETA terrorism. “Of course, we hope that our country will be free someday, but at this point it just seems like utopia.” The Barrio viejo region of town finds students more sympathetic to the ETA. “Terrorism makes people think.” For them, the ETA is the only solution to the problems confronting the Basque people. The ETA was formed under Franco, whose dictatorial regime tried to eliminate all minority culture in Spain. Today, the language and culture of the Basque people are experiencing a revival. Euskera, the original, linguistically-unique language of the Basque, is once again being taught in schools alongside Spanish and traditional mutxiko music and dance is becoming more and more popular.