Can Europe Make It?

The populist appeal – bottom-up perspectives: Finland and the loss of moral values

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These are extracts from citizen consultations in Kuopio, regional centre of 100,000 inhabitants in the middle of a vast rural area 380 kilometres northeast from Helsinki. Kuopio is famous for its easy-going, down-to-earth people, and its contribution to Finnish arts, philosophy and the nineteenth century construction of the Finnish nation-state. 

Juho Rahkonen
18 March 2014

“It’s strange. All the time there is some politician accused of something. They just say that it was the tradition of the country.”

“In our society things are moving too fast. That’s why we are losing the basic things; we are running out of control of our own lives.”

“I’m worried about the vanishing sense of community. An increasing number of people get a feeling that their contribution is not necessary. This causes a welfare-hangover, so to speak.”

“I consider the question of morality as a responsibility issue. Morality is inside everybody. There is no other measure than the experience of oneself.”

“But politicians have no conscience.”

“It comes through upbringing and education. In today’s society, no one wants to take any responsibility for his/her doings. One just takes care of his/her own things and doesn’t give a thought to anybody else.”

“In the society there is too much selfishness.”


“Big companies and listed companies don’t have any morals. Profit is worshipped, no matter how it is achieved.”

“Nokia is a case in point, as well as forest produce companies.”

“I am aware of cases where children are playing in a sandpit and if there are any problems, a young mother helps her own child only, not other children. Where are we going, folks?”

“If someone is lying on the ground, nobody goes for help. Especially when there is an assault, people just pass by. They don’t want to get involved or become a witness.”

“I have never seen such a thing passing-by. Usually more than one person stops to help.”

“Politicians should focus on other things other than just making their own salary bigger. Their salary could be a bit smaller and the money should be distributed to other people. I would like to see a politician living with a basic supplementary benefit for a half year. Then they would learn what life is like. I wish they would see that you can’t actually live with such an income. I hope they would renounce to some of their fortune.”

Moderator: “Do you really believe it would make a difference if the politicians gave a few grand away?”

“Yes, it would make things a little better. For example the city officials sent a message to parents saying their attempt is to take as few children as possible in the kindergarten during the summer holiday season. If a politician took one month of non-paid holiday, this money could hire three child minders for a month.”

“A safety welfare society [meaning welfare state]. Every child and elderly person should be taken care of.”  

“I wish the society would become freer. Now we have a situation where there is a strong social security but business is too limited; for example there are many state-owned monopolies. We have the worst practices of a free market economy and of communism. It should be the other way around: we should have their best practices.”

“Seniors are pushed aside, and their suicide rates have risen.”

“To what extent can politicians change things? Of course, the state employs people, but big companies move their production to other countries. They should keep their jobs in Finland.”

Moderator: What kind of country would Finland be, if the Finns Party were in power?

“At least there would not be any other race.”

“It is a dangerous party if they manage to get into a dominating position. They have such strong opinions and they are such a conflictive group.”

“All the gays and lesbians would have been hanged long time ago.”


“A True Finn-dominated Finland would not be very international. There wouldn’t be much equality. In my circle of acquaintances there is a Finns Party supporter who thinks that there are women’s and men’s work; taking care of children should be solely women’s responsibility.”

“On the other hand I don’t believe Finland would change much. Today the Finns Party is shouting from the opposition, but should they become a member of the government, I think they would settle down. I don’t consider them as a threat.”

”I agree with the previous speaker. The only goal of The Finns is growing the size of the party. Everything they say is a part of their endeavour to get into power. After succeeding, everything will be the same.”

“I would say that a True Finn Finland would be repressive and narrow-minded. Look at their policy on same-sex marriage and immigration.”


The statements in context

The political outlook in the Kuopio region is dominated by the agrarian Central Party and it is thus not surprising that the Finns Party supporters there are also more rural and peasant-like in their values, compared to other parts of the country.

In the Finnish Lutheran way of thinking, work has always played an essential role. It is generally thought that at the end of the day, everything depends on work. It is work what takes us forward, what produces the fruits of growth which can be then distributed in a way that fulfills people’s desire for social equality and a sense of justice.

Present-day Finland is wealthier than ever before in its history. However, the participants of this focus group think that resources are not allocated in an ideal way – some have too much money and some do not have enough. There is a sense of injustice.

The comments shared above, belonging to both Finns Party supporters and non-supporters, show that at the top of the list of concerns are the ethical and moral values of the society. Participants thought that the power of money has become too strong, to the point that even the value of a human being is determined by money.

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