Mesikämmen interviewed Tuomas Tähti via email in April 2014. The original Finnish version of the interview was published on Mesikämmen’s blog Mesikämmenen blogi on 17 April 2014.
Tuomas Tähti is a young man who lives in Turku. Mesikämmen has been observing his actions for a few years now. Tuomas is politically active and his words and deeds speak for themselves. It is about time to ask him a few questions.
The following interview reveals quite a number of things, for example Tuomas’s past in politics and his opinions on his hometown Turku, the ”Turku disease”, good music, hypnotic-magnetic stare, the Bible, Gambina, politics (both locally and nationally), Tony Halme, Jussi Halla-aho, Timo Soini, Pekka Siitoin, nationalism, Finnish immigration politics, Finnish media, independence, the European Union and many other topics.
Ladies and gentlemen, Tuomas Tähti speaks!
M (Mesikämmen): Who are you and what do you do?
TT (Tuomas Tähti): I am a 27-year-old [note: this interview was made in 2014] member of the Finns Party (Finnish: Perussuomalaiset) and I live on unemployment support. I am the vice chairperson of the Finns Party’s local association in the city of Turku. I am also the secretary of the Finns Party Youth in Southwest Finland, a lay judge in Southwest Finland district court, a member of Turku Youth Committee and a vice member of Turku Audit Committee. By training I am a Master of Science in Technology.
M: You live in the city of Turku. What kind of a place is Turku? What are the best and the worst things in the city? Is Turku the ”asshole of Finland”, as some people say, or is that just badmouthing from the jealous people who live elsewhere? Is the ”Turku disease” still showing symptoms?
TT: Turku does not have much to offer for a tourist, but Turku is a cosy place as a permanent residence. Turku is probably more compact than other Finnish cities: Almost everything here is within a walking or biking distance. The buildings of the city are aesthetically pleasing and the city has enough greenery, too. Turku is also the rock music capital of Finland.
The ”Turku disease”, which means a situation where construction companies have lots of influence on the city’s building policy, is unfortunately still alive and kicking. This is not an opinion but a fact. We had Raimo Huhtanen from the Left Alliance (Finnish: Vasemmistoliitto) as the chairperson of Turku Building Committee in three different decades. He worked as a trustee in the construction company Hartela for more than 20 years and the paper Rakennuslehti described him ”the best friend of speculative builders”. He is completely disqualified to be in Turku Building Committee. These days, fortunately, he is not the committee’s chairperson anymore, but he is still the vice chairperson. Moreover, this is just one example of all the dirt in politics in Turku. Less than two years ago it was revealed that the city of Turku has illegally concealed more than one hundred political decisions (Turun Sanomat on 28 August 2012).
M: You are a music enthusiast and your Facebook profile has several photos of you posing with musicians. Which are your current favourite artists and why? Which gigs have been the most memorable ones? What kind of music appeals to Tuomas Tähti? What is the magic of good music?
TT: Songs are poetry accompanied by music. Instrumental music is an exception, though. I listen to instrumental music very rarely, because I prefer songs that have storytelling in them. The message does not have to be unambiguous. It is good if a song can be understood in more than one reasoned way. When an ambiguous song is being interpreted, the listener’s interpretation tells more about the listener than about the song. However, it is OK for a song to have a simple story if it pleases the listener. W.A.S.P. is a band that creates lyrics that please me personally. W.A.S.P. is primarily famous for their early albums from 1984 to 1992, but they have recorded excellent material also after the mid-1990s. When it comes to more ambiguous bands, I think Laibach is the most interesting group. Laibach is still very relevant, although the group was founded 34 years ago.
There are less than 50 artists whose music I listen to on a regular basis, but I am strongly committed to these few artists. When I was a kid, the first rock artists whose music I heard were probably Uriah Heep and Cat Stevens (nowadays he is called Yusuf Islam). Back then I didn’t speak English, so I didn’t understand the lyrics. I still like both of those artists and I even met the current Uriah Heep members last year.
According to my own notes, I have seen about 190 gigs. I could put a few on a pedestal, but all gig experiences are subjective, so any list of the best gigs would be worthless for your readers. If the readers wish to experience spectacular live shows, I personally recommend at least Emilie Autumn and Lady Gaga.
M: You have had your eponymous blog since 2010. Has it been rewarding to have a blog? Have you considered other types of writing, for example writing a book at some point? Which of your own blog entries do you find the best?
TT: The blog includes many kinds of texts, all the way from a Michael Monroe gig review to the pedagogical possibilities of interactive storytelling. The topics reflect my own interests and that is why writing the blog is indeed rewarding. In my opinion, my best blog entries are those which discuss nationalism and Finnishness. Those texts are also a good introduction to anybody who is new to my blog. I have thought about writing a book, but that project is not timely right now.
M: Last year you participated in the Finnish Championships in hypnotic-magnetic stare. You ended up being the fifth in the contest and you also received an honorable mention for the propaganda work you did for the Championships. Are you going to participate this year, too? How have you practiced your hypnotic-magnetic skills this year? How did you like the taste of your honorable mention prize, which was a bottle of Gambina?
TT: I was the fifth in the Championships, so I barely made it to the final round. Considering the fact that the quality of contestants has been getting higher year after year, I doubt I could even regain my earlier success if I tried again now. When I saw the competition photo of last year’s winner Sini Eloranta, I instantly realized that I am going to lose to a person whose skills surpass mine. During the 2013 Championships I practiced hypnotic-magnetic stare at my workplace every day, but not anymore.
Gambina was tasty and plentiful. Thank you! When it comes to alcohol, Gambina has the best quality-price ratio in Finland. That charming mix of vermouth and gin is a great choice for both mundane days and special occasions.
M: Have your hypnotic-magnetic skills been useful in your political activities?
TT: The hypnotic-magnetic stare is a real conversation opener. In both the good and the bad sense.
M: You are a Christian. What is your favourite part of the Bible?
TT: Generally I do not like to pick any short part of the Bible, because then it would be out of context. However, now that you specifically asked about my favourite part, I could mention Matthew 22:35-40: ”Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
M: When did you get interested in politics? What were your first steps in the amazing world of politics? How did you end up being a member of the Finns Party? Why not some other party?
TT: I got interested in politics at the age of 15. Back then I read the official platforms of all political parties in Finland. I realized that there are no perfect tools in politics (I see political parties as tools), but some parties are less bad than the others – in terms of justice and the benefit of the Finns. By dropping bad alternatives one by one I eventually began to support the Finns Party. The chairperson Timo Soini was the first person whom I voted after turning 18. However, I did not become a member of the party until I was 24. This happened after the Finns Party won the 2011 parliamentary election. Before joining the party I wanted to see which direction it grows in.
M: Which political issues do you focus on?
TT: The most important things are national sovereignty, Finnishness, the benefit of the Finns, employment, safety (here I refer to two things: national defense and national self-sufficiency) and the equality of all citizens. In this list, I did not mention resisting the Swedish language as a mandatory school subject, nor did I mention resisting humanitarian immigration, because these issues are covered by the umbrella themes ”supporting Finnishness” and ”the benefit of the Finns”.
M: Who are your political role models and inspirers? Why them?
TT: The terms ”role model” and ”inspirer” mean different things. A role model is someone whose behaviour you want to emulate, but an inspirer can for example be a trainer. I do not have role models in politics, but some politicians have inspired me. About ten years ago, when I was in upper secondary school, I considered Tony Halme a great guy. I still have respect for Halme, but nowadays the reasons are different: Ten years ago I was very interested in Halme’s political actions, but now I admire the persistence he showed as he started off with virtually nothing and managed to build his career and life. When it comes to the politicians of today, I respect Jussi Halla-aho and Olli Immonen, among others. Halla-aho argues calmly and uses facts, which pleases me. Olli Immonen I had never heard of until he was elected to the Finnish Parliament, but he has proved to be a very rational and hard-working nationalist. We need more politicians like him.
M: How has your impression on politics changed – on local and national levels – since you took your first steps in the world of politics? Have your political views altered?
TT: Nationalism has been the political content of my mind for more than ten years now, but when I was underaged I was more undisputed and more radical than now. It was also visible to others: From 2002 to 2004 I published some stupid texts online. Anyway, I have no regrets, because I can laugh at myself.
M: What do you think about Timo Soini?
TT: During the time of Soini’s leadership, the Finns Party’s seats in the Finnish Parliament have multiplied by about 40. This is historical and Soini will be remembered for this.
M: Have you read Soini’s new book Maisterisjätkä? Any thoughts about the book?
TT: I guess you mean Peruspomo. His earlier book Maisterisjätkä was published in 2008, so it is not new. I read Maisterisjätkä two years after it was published, but I am planning to read the new Peruspomo very soon.
M: You are right, I got confused with the book titles. What are the good and the bad things in Finland’s current immigration politics? Do you share the immigration concerns of Jussi Halla-aho?
TT: I agree with Jussi Halla-aho that immigration to Finland is nowadays not a quantitative problem but a qualitative problem. The bad side of the current system is simply this: Finland allows such immigration that does not benefit the Finns. We should welcome those immigrants who are well-educated and able to work. It would be good if foreign students would stay in Finland and work here after graduating. We provide foreigners with free education at university level, but our government does nothing to keep them here after they have graduated. If the situation remains like this, we should introduce tuition fees for foreigners at Finnish universities and academies.
If somebody is uneducated and does not know any language that we speak here, that person should not be allowed to move to Finland. Those immigrants do not benefit our people. I accept immigration mainly when it happens because of working or studying or because of a marriage. Moreover, immigrants should be law-abiding. Of course I also accept the repatriation of Finns.
I think we should not let refugees come to Finland. I would also grant less residence permits and be more selective. This would benefit not only the Finns but also the foreigners: With the resources that we have, we can help a bigger number of people if we send the aid to the trouble spots, instead of bringing those people here where the living costs are higher. The money that we now spend in the refugees’ housing, basic healthcare, rehabilitation, translation services, senior services, special services in social work and so on, could help a significantly larger group of people in trouble spots abroad. This would be sustainable development. Trouble spots do not disappear by letting a small percentage of people move here.
M: Has the Finnish mainstream media treated the Finns Party in a fair way? If not, then why not?
TT: The mainstream media has given many kinds of treatment to the party and its members. Some reporters clearly feel strong antipathy towards the Finns Party. We have seen some exaggerations, such as comparing the Finns Party to the extreme right-wing groups, and predicting in the media that our party will face dissolution, and insulting some individual party members. For example, Jussi Halla-aho was called a ”bothersome race doctor” on a state-owned TV channel (Yle TV1 on 7 February 2009).
On the other hand, shortly before the 2011 parliamentary election the mainstream media gave our party lots of visibility, although we were a relatively small party back then. Without any doubt, that media coverage helped us win the 2011 election.
M: Is the Finns Party really an opposition party? The Finnish alternative media has criticized the Finns Party for being actually pro-EU and pro-NATO, although the general impression is that the party is against the EU membership and against joining NATO. Antti Pesonen, the chairperson of the Independence Party (Finnish: Itsenäisyyspuolue), has made similar statements. How do you respond?
TT: This is the first time when I hear someone saying that the Finns Party would like to see Finland as a member of NATO. When it comes to our EU politics, I have read Antti Pesonen’s texts. I would like to quote the Finns Party’s platform from the 2011 parliamentary election: ”The Finns Party is an EU-sceptic party, because in our politics we highlight how inoperative the EU is in practice. On the other hand, the Finns Party is also against the EU, because in our opinion the very idea of a supranational EU system includes the inoperative nature of the Union, and this is a problem for democracy. Thus, the EU is not a democratic system even on the theoretical level. The Finns Party sees democracy as the best way to organize the decision-making of a society. The Finns Party stands for co-operation of the governments of independent nation-states. Our goal is to take the power from the EU and give it back to the nation-states.”
M: What does independence mean to you? Is Finland still an independent country?
TT: Independence gives the nation a possibility to fulfill itself, build its own well-being and make its own decisions. However, people’s well-being does not require independence, and independence alone is not enough to guarantee well-being. The Sami people are doing fine without an independent country. Haiti, on the other hand, is independent but life is hard for the Haitians. In the case of Finland and the Finns, I believe that independence would be good for us. I use the word ”would”, because Finland has not been independent for years. Article 47 of the Treaty on European Union clearly states that the Union shall have legal personality. Hence, the Union has the power to negotiate and sign international contracts, as well as to join international organizations and conventions.
Much of our legislation comes from the EU. Even the mainstream media admits that a member of any major political party in the European Parliament has more power than a minister in the Finnish government (read for example the issue of Turun Sanomat on 15 April 2014). The leaders of Finland are not in Finland.
We do not even have our own currency anymore! The Finnish markka should be reinstated, so that the value of our currency would be determined – at least partially – according to the needs of our own country. Having your own currency gives opportunities to improve the employment rate. Having your own currency is an essential keystone of an independent nation-state.
M: What do you think about people who do not vote? Why does politics matter and why should people care about it?
TT: There are multiple reasons why some people do not vote. Jehovah’s Witnesses have religious reasons and I somewhat respect their decision. On the other hand, I have also met some self-centered people who actually go around bragging how they do not pay attention to politics and how they only focus on their own business. I have no respect for such attitude. The citizens of democratic and uncorrupted countries have the fantastic chance to participate in the decision-making. By default it is a waste if someone does not vote. However, skipping the voting might be a smart choice if you have not paid any attention to what the politicians have been doing between the elections.
M: If you were not a member of the Finns Party, what party would be the second best option for you?
TT: If I remember correctly, I have voted for candidates of three different parties in national elections during my lifetime. Those parties are the Finns Party, the Finnish People’s Blue-Whites (Finnish: Suomen Kansan Sinivalkoiset) and the National Coalition Party (Finnish: Kansallinen Kokoomus). In the election for the Student Union Council of the University of Turku I have voted for Social Democratic Students. In the year 2010 I signed an official support card for the new Change 2011 party (Finnish: Muutos 2011) [note: a support card is not a membership application]. I have occasionally regretted that I signed that document. If the Finns Party did not exist today, I would vote either the Independence Party, the Blue and White Front (Finnish: Sinivalkoinen Rintama) or Change 2011.
M: You are a nationalist. What does nationalism mean to you?
TT: In the nationalistic mindset, nations are the basic units of humankind. Each and every nation must have the right to live peacefully in its own nation-state without being ruled by any other nation or any supranational dominator. These simple sentences are, in my opinion, the very core of nationalism.
When a nationalist talks about ”a nation”, he or she means a community of a certain ethnicity and culture. National identity and the feeling of togetherness come from common origins, common language, common religion(s), values, cultural heritage, and so on. Multiple ethnicities and multiculturalism become problems if the feeling of togetherness vanishes.
Nationalists know that ”a nation” might not always be the same thing as ”citizens”.
Nationalism should not be confused with patriotism. I see patriotism as mere sentimental attachment to one’s homecountry. The purpose of the state as an organized societal community is nothing more than to be a guardian for the citizens’ benefit and a defender of justice. The state has value only as an instrument. States can also be formed for non-national reasons.
M: How would you like to see the local politics in Turku develop in the upcoming years? What kind of effort have you made and what are you going to do in the future?
TT: The National Coalition Party and the Social Democratic Party of Finland (Finnish: Suomen Sosialidemokraattinen puolue) have together dominated the decision-making in Turku for a long time. Politics is a team sport where there should be space for more than two teams. Otherwise the decision-making gets dirty, and in Turku it definitely is dirty. I believe and I hope that nationalists will play an important role in changing the political culture here.
In the 2012 municipal election I got 179 votes and became a member of Turku Youth Committee. In that committee I have tried to address less funding for political youth organizations and more funding for scout groups and other non-political youth groups. I am also a vice member of Turku Audit Committee. If the full member Anneli Suominen cannot attend the Turku Audit Committee meetings, I fill in for her. However, Suominen has attended every meeting so far, so I have not been in any of the Audit Committee meetings.
179 votes were not enough for a seat in the Turku City Council, but there are other channels for political actions. Last year myself and two other local members of the Finns Party made a residents’ initiative to cut the unnecessary public expenses in Turku. While the politicians are cutting the budget of elderly people, children and ill people, the oversized administration of Turku spends money on its own lunches, event tickets and traveling. Tax money should be used exclusively in ways that benefit the people of this city.
Zone planning, as well as all long-term decision-making in the city, should be based on comprehensive ideas. The city should not be planned one square inch at a time. Business premises should be built near the current and upcoming public transport routes, so that people would utilize public transport when they go to work. The best way to make public transport more profitable is to increase the number of users rather than decrease the number of routes.
M: What is your view on Finland’s current political situation? How would you like Finland to develop in terms of domestic policy and foreign policy?
TT: Finland’s political situation is stable: This country is heading towards troubles at a stable speed.
Finland’s independence must be restored. One possible way to do this would be turning the EU into a free-market zone instead of a federation. Another urgent thing is to exit the euro area. Euro currency strengthens globalization: Production is being centralized and environmental problems get worse just for the sake of short-sighted pursuit of profit. Finland needs a government that defends the benefit of the Finns today and in the long run. We must also invest in security. Going to either army or civilian service should be compulsory to all healthy young people, regardless of their sex. From history we can learn that in dark times we should not put our trust in the help of others. NATO membership would not be beneficial for us.
M: What do you think about Pekka Siitoin?
TT: The album Nauravat natsit is something very unique. I feel that I got value for my money when I bought the CD.
M: If Pekka was still alive, what would he think about members of the Finns Party?
TT: Siitoin would probably think that the members of the Finns Party are doing too little too late.
M: In general, what do the party members think about Pekka?
TT: In party politics, people can be divided into two groups based on this question: Would their party membership application be approved or not? It does not even matter what existing party members think about an individual, if that individual’s membership application would be disapproved anyway.
M: The active users of the online guestbook of Jussi Halla-aho’s blog Scripta founded the Finnish Internet forum Hommaforum in the year 2008. According to a rumor, the name Hommaforum refers to the Finnish phrase ”homma on kovassa nousussa” which was said in the documentary movie Sieg Heil Suomi. Is that the real origin of the name Hommaforum?
TT: That question keeps me awake at nights. I never was an active reader of Halla-aho’s online guestbook. Back in those days I wrote messages on the Internet forum of the Suomen Sisu association, but not on Halla-aho’s guestbook. I do not know the true origin of the name, but I find it possible that your anecdote is correct.
M: In your opinion, what is the reason for Pekka Siitoin’s cult-like popularity these days?
TT: Pekka Siitoin’s popularity is an instance of the same phenomenon that explains why several politically passive young people voted for Paavo Väyrynen in the Finnish presidential election in 2012.
When today’s youth takes a look at the deeds of Pekka Siitoin or Paavo Väyrynen, the conclusion is similar: Both of these men are well beyond the parody horizon, and obviously many of their voters were not serious when they voted. Another important thing is the strong character that Siitoin had. But these things are not enough. Siitoin has been dead more than ten years now, so his rising popularity means that he is being promoted by someone or something. There are two operators doing this: Mesikämmenen blogi and YouTube.
M: What kind of future plans do you have, both politics-wise and other plans?
TT: Our ability to control the future is weak. The world is affected by so many variables that we do not have enough capacity and strength to process them. Each year I have to change my plans – whether I want it or not. Plans are not that useful, but planning can train your mind.
M: What makes you happy?
TT: The Immanent Consistent Spirit.
Mesikämmen thanks Tuomas Tähti for the interview!