The Myth of Finnish Book Reading Revealed
Finns spend an average of 23 minutes a day reading literature. This statistic can be misleading, however. The majority of young Finnish people grew up believing that reading is alive and well in Finland. Off there, somewhere, is the bookworm Finnish nation that reads voraciously in the name of some sort of national integrity. This thinking had some foundation in the 70’s and 80’s perhaps, but today, the self-contented message distributed by the elementary schools has resulted in a generation that feels no need to read. `Everyone else reads for me.’ 15 years ago, a significant number of twenty years old were reading an average of two books a month. Today a tiny fraction of that amount can say the same. More and more young people are lucky to read two or three books a year, some none at all. Only one-third of Finns have bought a book in the last year. People are twice as likely to buy music, jeans, face cream, flowers and tennis shoes before they’ll buy a book. Why is FIM 100 too much for a book but not too much for a concert ticket?
Some try to explain the phenomenon in postmodern terms. Our society has been broken up into smaller and smaller subcultures, each of which has its own story to tell. No great national novels like The Unknown Soldier are expected anymore or should be. Readers are changing, literature is changing and publishers and literary critics are adjusting themselves. Perhaps talk about a literary crisis is useless polemic, but one thing is true: literature no longer inspires people with passion in Finland. Young Finns were never taught that a person that reads is indeed a better person.
A New University Student at 77
Kerttu Poutiainen has made a career for herself, cared for her husband who was wounded in the war, raised children and led a senior citizens organization. Now, at 77 years old, she has begun her studies at the University of Helsinki. Kerttu is part of a growing group of seniors that were tired of just listening to lectures. The Aged Person’s University was formed to offer older people the opportunity to actively participate in research. Kerttu comments, “There was a time when I didn’t have a chance to study. Our age group should be doing things that contribute to our society. It makes a difference when you don’t have to study, rather you are free to study.” Poutiainen is currently doing research on office work before the arrival of the computer. She plans to interview 30 former office assistants and determine what the office traditions of yesteryear were like.
Norwegians Students Are Living the Good Life
As Sweden and Finland saw the recession eat away at the high standard of living of their welfare states, they choose to join the EU. Finnish students today would have very little chance of studying abroad without EU study grants and EU funding of academic institutions. Norway decided not to join the EU, meaning Norwegian students aren’t eligible for EU study grants. They aren’t too upset about it, however. Norway’s natural resources have made Norway the last bastion of the Nordic welfare state. Thriving Norway pumps money out from its endless oil reserves and distributes it evenly and generously among its people. Should a young person decide to study in his home country or abroad, Norway picks up the bill. Norwegian graduate student Johan Pettersson studies photojournalism at the London Institute. Entrance requirements are experience in the field, good recommendations and 6,000 pounds, or approximately FIM 42,000, per semester. “Norway automatically pays students’ semester fees,” says Pettersson, and continues, smiling, “Student loan interest rates are really low. Just three or four percent.”
Are We All Natural Born Killers?
Pulp Fiction, Terminator, Texas Chainsaw Massacre… What is with us, anyway? Educated people and all. Why does violence bring us satisfaction? Could each of us be capable of the kinds of atrocities seen in Nazi Germany, Yugoslavia and Ruanda – if left to our instincts? Martti Hämäläinen looks for and proposes answers to these questions in his new book Eros, väkivalta ja uskonto (Eros, violence and religion). Hämäläinen explains that there is nothing strange about our fascination with violence. All humans have a primitive attraction to brutality and sex. The fact that they are forbidden makes them all the more appealing. Nietzche once said that watching someone suffer brings pleasure and that making someone suffer brings even more pleasure. Hämäläinen believes that all people approve of violence deep down and each of us is a potential killer. “The violence secretly inherent in humans manifests itself regularly when the opportunity arrives.” But how can we control our violent nature? Admit our violent tendencies and study past violence to abstain from such behavior later. “The lessons of Nazi Germany haven’t been worked through yet and communal blame hasn’t been taken. That’s why it is happening all over again in Europe,” Hämäläinen explains.
Children of the Modern World’s Idea of Happiness
It is early in the morning as we sit around together in the kitchen. Our party buzzes begin to wear off and someone asks, “What is the best thing in life?.” Eeva, 26, answers, “That you can choose what you want to do. You don’t have to create an old-fashioned career track. Little jobs here and there and traveling in between. That is life!”Jaana, 25, is working on her dissertation, “What is best is that these days you really have to work hard. You have to think carefully about what you are good at while you study. To get work you have to be the best. People reach their peak when they are forced to constantly break their limits.” Techno-dreamer, daily net surfer Jarno, 23, smiles and says, “I think its great that I don’t have to watch the TV news or read the paper. The people I hang out with don’t expect me to know anything more than that which I happen to know. I can define my own world, create my own information.”
Tuomas, 33, has been married, has had two kids, been divorced and is now gay. He responds, “It is great that we no longer have to define our sexuality. You can sometimes be hetero, sometimes homo, or bi or decide that you are not sexual at all. I am really upset when people are expected to fit into particular moulds even today. People should choose their own identity.” Leena, 24, finds all the identity searching frustrating. “I think it is hellish that I have to decide what I am, even down to my sexuality. I feel lost because nothing is stable. How can I defend women’s rights when there is no common femininity?” Jaana agrees, “I’ve also wondered what I believe. If everybody can be anything they want one minute and then something else another minute, am I supposed to tolerate everything? “Anne, 26, answers with a tear in her eye. “I can’t stand a life where nothing is sure. I was brought up to believe in school, career, and retirement. Now I’m told I can maybe have a temp spot for three months or so. I want to plan my life!”
Are Finnish Banks Racist?
A letter was recently sent to the banks of Finland from the Ministry of Education imploring banks to grant loans as universally as possible. It seems that several international students, refugees in particular, have encountered difficulties in receiving state guaranteed student loans. Virpi Hiltunen of the Ministry comments, “Of course, it is not possible to point any fingers, but it makes you wonder whether skin color has had something to do with it. It seems unfair that some refugees aren’t approved for a student loan, even when they are entitled to the same study aid as Finns.” The final decision concerning the loans still lies with the banks in Finland, but the Ministry hopes to encourage banks to grant loans on a more consummate basis with its letter. Hiltunen adds, “You’d think that the opinion of the one backing the loans would have some effect.”