Finlandia, a short piece of wonderful music composed by Sibelius in 1899 as a rightful protest against Russian censorship of the press in what was at the time meant to be an autonomous duchy of the Tzars empire. The region had to wait for it’s own civil war in 1918 to establish itself as the independent state that we know today which makes it one of the younger countries in Europe, not yet 100 years old.
Written as an objection to Russian policies the music captured an essence of the Finnish character that would appear very much alive and well today for you meet a firece pride and determination for the country wherever you go in Finland. However, it is not the sort of faux nationalistic fervor generated in the British soul whenever the Empire or Spitfires are mentioned, indeed it is quite the opposite, it is a celebration of the certainty of who they are and what they stand for. On the other hand one rather feels that the state sponsored British and US patriotism is a cover for a deep felt unease over their now diminished role in world affairs, but that’s another story.
I am brought to these thoughts by a recent trip to Finland where I visited several factories and sites to gather material for the magazines I submit articles to. My hosts for the week were, without exception, keen to demonstrate the worth of not only their company’s products but also impress upon me the strength of the country as a whole for they are incredibly proud of their past and the success they have so far enjoyed in keeping the Russian bear at bay, although this is more often implied rather than spoken for one has to be diplomatic about so powerful a neighbour in these days of global trade. The relationship with Russia is, one feels, an uneasy truce, yet I should imagine that the focus it brings to society and the economy has played a large part in the country’s success and when compared to Ireland, a country with much the same population, success is indeed the appropriate word.
If you can tell a country by its roads then Finland is leap years ahead of this emerald isle. Motorways with sweeping junctions deliver you effortlessly to your destination while the smaller trunk roads provide a width and surface quality that is the envy of any major route at either end of Ireland. The Finnish railways are not only direct and well maintained but also busy with both freight and passenger traffic even though, or maybe because of, there being roughly six times as much Finnish track as there is Irish. Naturally it will be pointed out that with forestry being such an important part of the economy railways are required for the transport of the bulky materials involved, but there is more to it than that I’m sure, for it is quite plain that for any government to undertake and maintain such public works there has to be a national consensus and that, in large part, is no doubt fueled by the unease with which they view the bear across their eastern border.
I would be the very last to demand that Ireland somehow adopt a unifying figure of oppression by which it might gather the people together to work for a supposed common good, that was, after all, one of the warnings contained in Orwell’s 1984. But I really don’t see it emulating the progress of Finland with the childish bickering and self interest that characterises the present political establishment. While the people of that Nordic nation talk of building future prosperity the politicians of Ireland have sunk to arguing over how to best manage their country’s decline which amounts to little more than leaving it all up to the Troika.
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