Being a Finn doesn’t make me proud

People can feel proud for just about anything. Many nationalists say that they are proud of their nationality. The nationalistic organization Suomen Sisu used to have a leaflet that said: ”You have the right to have your own opinion! You have the right to be a proud Finn!” Indeed, everyone has the right to think whatever they want. But is it rational and well-grounded to be proud of your nationality?

The Finns Party made a historical breakthrough in the 2011 parliamentary election. This drove some citizens (?) to organize a demonstration against the party in the capital city Helsinki. According to the tabloid Ilta-Sanomat, protesters were against e.g. national arrogance (Ilta-Sanomat on 27 April 2011). I voted for the Finns Party, but I agree that arrogance should be avoided.

”I’m proud for being Finnish.” What do you mean by that? Is it your own accomplishment that you happen to be Finnish? When you were born, you didn’t choose your folk. If a kid is Finnish, it’s not the kid’s achievement but rather the parents’.

Or does the quoted sentence mean that you are proud of the Finnish culture or some part of it? Remember that the Finnish culture is the result of a process that has taken many generations. It wasn’t created by you. It’s not your achievement, so why are you proud of it? As individuals we can merely maintain our culture and improve it a little bit. You can say ”I’m proud for being Finnish” but it would be more justifiable to say ”I appreciate the Finnish culture and I’m proud of the way I have improved it”.

Many Finns feel proud when some Finnish sportsman wins something. They ignore the fact that there are over five million Finns and the number of different sports is huge and perpetually increasing. It would be surprising if no Finn were internationally successful in some sport. Besides, even if most Finns were better shot putters than any foreigner anywhere, it still wouldn’t mean that I’m a good shot putter. Comparing the sport statistics of different nations gives you information about masses, not individuals. No ethnic group is completely homogenous.

What I wrote about sports can also be said about intelligence. Let’s assume, hypothetically, that some research would state that Finns are the best mathematicians in the world, and I were to meet an exchange student who asks for my help with the Fourier transform. The exchange student would think that I can help him because I’m Finnish. Unfortunately, the national average and median numbers don’t reveal anything about my personal skills. If I were feeling proud of some Finnish guy’s sport achievements or the mathematical skills of the Finns, whilst not being talented in sports nor mathematics, my pride would be completely irrational and groundless.

Then again, there is another aspect to this topic.

If a Finn is travelling abroad and he claims to be proud of (his) Finnishness, he might be seeing himself as a spokesperson of Finnishness. This is different from being arrogant. However, it would be more precise to say that you appreciate Finnishness and then set out some of its good attributes.

Finns, as well as many other nations, have some special features. We are said to be silent, honest and hard-working. If a Finn uses the term Finnishness as a reference to the good features of Finnishness, and if he actually has those features in himself, he has a solid reason to say that he is proud of his Finnishness.

As for me, being Finnish is a part of my identity and I’m a nationalist, but I find nationality-related pride a deceptive seductress. It can make you arrogant and passive and it can be based on untrue suppositions. When I watch sport games, I usually cheer for the Finnish competitors, but if they win I feel happy rather than proud. The nationalistic feeling of togetherness is more constructive and advisable than arrogance.

Not feeling proud for being Finnish doesn’t mean that I’m ashamed of being Finnish. Pride and shame are healthy feelings mainly when they are caused by one’s own deeds. When you meet some foreigner for the first time, it’s perfectly OK to think that he might have some positive or negative special features that are typical for his folk, but it’s also necessary to realize that this might not be the case. Individuals should be faced with an open mind.

Tietoja Tuomas Tähti

Kategoria(t): 2011, blogi, English Avainsana(t): , , , . Lisää kestolinkki kirjanmerkkeihisi.


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