Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Kauhajoki Tragedy: Finnish men and violence, part II

Below are some comments on Finnish men and violence in the context of the Kauhajoki tragedy excerpted from an email discussion I had recently with Saku, a Finnish Canadian friend of mine (and former neighbour). Saku is a Phd student studying in Leicester, England, but currently in Kerava (near Helsinki). Like my family, Saku and his family hail from Kauhajoki, but now call Canada home. He is also completing a film with Dave Clement, of Thunderstone Pictures, on Finnish Canadian men who joined the Spanish war resistance, told through the story of Jules Paivio.

me: Someone should do research in Finland on young Finnish men, guns, violence, media culture and senseless killing. Can you believe Kauhajoki of all places? It is almost unbelievable, but shows the problem is everywhere, in our own backyards.

~ an old lato found along Sillanpäätie in Juonikylä, Kauhajoki ~

Saku: I actually heard about the school shooting in Kauhajoki while on the train on my way to the airport. This one, again, hits very close to home. My father lives about 100 metres away from the school in question - he claims to have heard the shots that morning.

Anyways, I agree that there needs to be some serious research into Finnish male youth violence and its connections to media/culture. What is very disturbing is the fact that the Kauhajoki shooter may have known and been in contact with the perpetrator of the Jokela shootings last year. There are many similarities between the two which might form the basis for a more in-depth examination, especially, the profound, hatred of humanity that both Kauhajoki and Jokela shooters professed. I think this hatred of humanity is only the flip side of a fundamental sense of nihilism, hopelessness, and extreme individualism apparent in much of youth culture: the more familiar variety being a mixture of apathy and hedonism, generally expressed in an ironic or detached disposition to everything (the "everything sucks" South Park-style conservativism), binge drinking and drug use (escapism), and consumerism as the ultimate (and only) expression of freedom/individuality/choice.

~ joki running through Kauhajoki county~

me: Your comments on the K and J shooters are very good. That's it! The core of your thesis for this research already written up! You just have to plug in some work, some narratives, some media analysis, etc. You should SERIOUSLY think of writing a paper on this---hey, it could be a groundbreaking timely book…This kind of work is SO necessary. Too much stuff focuses only on psychology or other reductionist argument, rather than tying in global media culture and constructions and practices of masculinities with neoliberal capitalism.

Have your notebook with you in your travels in Finland!

That "hatred of humanity" is so troubling. It is sad and unfathomable at the same time. How does a mind get so negative? Finns tend to think in negative ways to begin with.....ala vain....ei vain...you know that whole stream of 'momisms' that were drilled into our brains.

Also, tied in to this is the uber nationalism and obsession with past wars that many Finns hold dear to their hearts. So, they live in this conflictual space of fast forward into cyberspace and instant messaging etc but mired in WW1 and II militarism and the dogged belief to protect one's borders....especially from “foreigners”

~ me and my sister on a wildflower strewn roadside in Kauhajoki county ~

Saku: I really wish I had more time to concentrate on this. In fact, writing the rough draft of the second chapter for my thesis was a very welcome distraction from the events in Kauhajoki. However, if I find the time, I might take you up on your suggestion. Writing, I find, is a good way to really think through things, and on a personal level, may help me to digest these horrible events. Maybe we could collaborate on something?

It's really weird, because this documentary film that Dave and I are working on deals with very intense violence. War is, of course, the ultimate organized expression of violence (terrorism originally used to refer exclusively to *state* violence). But there's a huge difference between the Spanish Civil War and Jokela or Kauhajoki. Jules Paivio, the subject of the film, the other 116 Finnish-Canadians, and some 40 000 internationals who volunteered to fight against fascism in Spain illegally did so because they *believed in something*: a better, more equitable, free society. The young men who took the lives of their class mates carried out their acts because *they didn't believe in anything*: they hated humanity and only wished to take as many lives as possible before killing themselves.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello Northshorewoman:

I read your blog with interest although I am not absolutely convinced that there is anything particularly violence-prone among Finns. I think the problem is more likely related (as in the US) to the gun culture issue.

What caught my attention though was your comment on a possible film project about the Finnish-Canadian fighters in the the Spanish Civil War. It sounds an exciting project and I wish you every success.

It was also your Canadian nationality which caught my attention since I am originally from Ottawa although I have long lived away from Canada and am now retired in Italy.

I know quite a lot about the Finnish contribution to the International Brigades whether as Finns, Finnish-Canadians or Finnish-Americans, which was truly enormous, as was the cost in dead and wounded alike.

As almost all Finnish participants were active members of the Communist party or the Young Communist League, I think it is a safe bet that their usual prime motivation was political. You may or may not know that Finns and Ukrainians comprised a clear majority of the Canadian Communist Party in the 1930's while the party was run by a small anglo and Jewish clique in Toronto.
In that sense, the number of Finnish-Canadian volunteers is not surprising.

I suspect you will encounter trouble determining and distinguishing who was Finnish, who was Canadian and who was American, since their eventual battalion assignments (Mackenzie-Papineau, George Washington or Abraham Lincoln) may or may not have been based on nationality. For example, the last commissar of the "Canadian" Mac-Paps was Frank Rogers,who, in spite of his name, was a Finnish-American. Also many Finnish immigrants of the time did not speak English well or at all. Jules Paivio, as an elderly man still had (or has, if still alive) a noticeable Finnish accent even after a post-civil war career as a teacher in an English-language institution.

If I can help you this project in any way, kindly let me know. In return I would only request that your film honors one Finnish-Canadian hero above all: Niilo Makela. This man was the outstanding Canadian in the war without any doubt whatsoever. I have lots of information about him.

You can contact me most easily by e mail.

Wayne Woodrow
via delle sezioni 7123
55040 Mommio Castello (LU)