Perceptions of the idea of (a Finnish) Man

There are 9 parties in the Finnish Parliament. One of them, True Finns (Perussuomalaiset), was recently split in two and the dominating part of it, although not in the Government, is now called Finns Party (Perussuomalaiset). The strongest parties at the moment are the National Coalition Party (Kokoomus), Centre Party (Keskusta), Social Democratic Party of Finland (Sosiaalidemokraatit), and the Green League (Vihreät).

At the writing of this, according to a recent opinion poll (HS-gallup) the leading political party with approximately 21% is the National Coalition Party and then comes the Social Democratic Party of Finland with 19%, the Green League 16%, the Centre Party with 15%, and the Finns Party with about 9% support.

You may wonder why are so many parties required, and do we really need them all? Why not have only two strong ones like the Democrats and the Republicans in US or the Conservative and the Unionist vs. the Labour party in UK? Are we Finns so multi-dimensional in character?

An educated guess would be that indeed, we Finns, like all humans are so different that any democratic system that wants to address and represent all of us must have a number of political parties, with brains and voices to serve this valuable purpose. We, the citizens, have our personalities, cultural habits and background, values, various forms of intelligence and creativity and the socio-demographic background. You would assume the parties to be deeply interested in understanding this wonderful human variation in order to represent and treat us well and to know what is and will be good for us.

I took a quick look at what the Finnish political parties think about us, the citizens of Finland (and about the citizens elsewhere on the globe, I would guess). After all, when the politicians and their parties decide about our health care, social security, pay systems, education, universities, legal conditions and our life and living in general you would expect them to rely on trustworthy knowledge of what we are like, what is of crucial important for us and how we see and experience things and people in life. You would expect them to be the masters of knowing the nature of man – knowing us.

My findings were somewhat hilarious in their blunt and straightforward simplicity – unless you take them seriously. They can make you think, where do these views come from, is there any data to support the views?  I can assure, it’s impossible to support them all by any coherent data.

So, if you want to learn to know us Finns, please don’t search for the information and insight about us from the home pages of our parties. You will find out that we are not fun people and we misunderstand each other. On the other hand, if you want to understand the political discussions on our TV-talk shows or the political-journalistic reporting on the front pages of our main media, then the information from these home pages may come handy for you to understand our leaders, what these guys and girls, men and women, think and talk about us.  In the following I’ve shortly explained how they see us.

I scanned through the home pages of the leading four parties some two years ago, searching for their description of the idea of man they rely on – I don’t think they have gone through revolutionary changes (I hope they have, though) – and this is what I found.

According to National Coalition Party (Kokoomus) we are constantly balancing our individual lives between the challenges of freedom and responsibility. The party would like to see us even more as entrepreneurial individuals than at present is the case. In summary, according to them, we are free, responsible and entrepreneurial individuals, the whole bunch of us.

The Social Democratic Party of Finland assumes that each one of us can act according to the personal strength, skills, competences and resources, in trying to work for the well-being of our neighbors and the environment. According to them, we are responsible but, unfortunately, we are weak.

The Centre Party has a strong agricultural history. According to them, we are responsible people but mainly to ourselves, just like the hard-working farmers used to be. However, we try to take responsibility for others as well.  In summary, we are responsible and communal people.

For the Green League, the belief is that freedom increases the human chances for happiness and opportunities to participate in the society, to contribute to its development in various ways. They think we are (or should be) free, simple as that.

The Finns Party, might have changed their views slightly after the split, but when I checked it, the overall belief outlines had not changed much. Accordingly, spirituality and search for the truth are the core elements in being a human. There are different truths and perspectives, which means that mankind is divided into different cultures. In essence we are spiritual, and the party sees there exist different cultures in the world.

What should we think about this? There is no doubt that these political images of man are mostly fun confabulations or fiction to read, nice and important though in spirit, but they hardly represent us as individual citizens. On the other hand, having seen this, it makes one wonder what happens in countries where there are only two major parties? The idea that a party could then have a coherent image of man in its program is impossible.

Perhaps then, there is a positive secret hidden in these Finnish confabulations about the idea of man by which our parties think about us and orient their activities when trying to get our vote, to explain their political behaviors or in making decisions for our own good. Interestingly, our parties are so different in how they think about us that there indeed is a slight chance that this opens parliamentary spaces and gives voices to various, rather different views of man – of us the citizens. Biased as these images of us may be, they allow the politicians to argue about us – in a plethora of ways.

There is a snag or two, though. This is hardly the way things should be during the times of open knowledge and big data. Then there is the serious aspect of it all: there is no doubt that the idea of man, the way we think about us and others, is the most powerful force there is in the world, it beats the nuclear arms. The parties could think about it. Twice.

Göte Nyman, Professor of Psychology, University of Helsinki, Finland
Columnist for FinnishNews; http://www.finnishnews.fi
His blog: http://gotepoem.wordpress.com/
His almost latest book -“Perceptions of a Camino” (available from  Amazon & as Kindle)

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