A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘h&f

[H&F] [DM] “Refugee Crisis and the North”

Friend of the blog Jussi Jalonen has just posted, at the group blog History and Futility, the essay “Refugee Crisis and the North”. Here, Jalonen takes a look at the way the Syrian refugee crisis has impacted both his Finland and neighbouring Sweden, looking at the political climate in both countries. One thing I particularly liked is his prediction of different outcomes for refugee assimilation in each Nordic country, based on–among other things–the two countries’ very different recent histories of immigration.

Some time ago, my hometown on the West Coast made a decision to accept refugees from Syria. The decision was historic. Although the town of Rauma has always had a relatively substantial community of guest workers and immigrants, the town has not accommodated refugees or asylum seekers so far. This morning, the residential building which was supposed to be used as a reception center for asylum seekers became a target of arson attack. Only a few days before, an old garrison building intended for similar use was burned to the ground in Kankaanpää. Evidently some people in Western Finland do not like the idea of providing housing for asylum seekers.

Another piece of news today came from Sweden. The school teacher who was injured in the Trollhättan attack in October has now died from his wounds. The attack made international headlines two months ago, and was also a sign of the times; a sword-wielding masked young man with far right sympathies assaulted a local Swedish school, in a violent assault against the immigrant students. So far, no comparable incident has occurred in Finland, although occasional direct assaults against asylum seekers have taken place. Three weeks ago, an Iraqi asylum seeker was stabbed by three local men at the reception center of Kangasala.

While a good part of the people in both Nordic countries have participated in volunteer work on behalf of refugees and asylum seekers, the refugee crisis has also triggered a wave of xenophobia. The European refugee crisis has occurred at the moment when the Nordic countries are experiencing the apex of the ongoing radical right-wing populist reaction. Sweden, which appears to be accepting the largest number of refugees, is going through a massive political realignment, as the so-far isolated and solidly anti-immigration Sweden-Democrats have enjoyed record poll support, occasionally as the largest political party. The refugee crisis has contributed to additional political radicalization, and earlier this year, the Sweden-Democrats terminated all cooperation with the youth organization of the party. Already in the spring, a number of SD youth activists were discharged due to their links with neo-Nazi groups.

The situation in Finland is somewhat different from Sweden. The main populist party, the True Finns, which contains its fair share of hard-core anti-immigration extreme nationalists, is exercising political power, having accepted a position in the new center-right government coalition. The party has found itself in a very precarious position, especially since Finland, as the only Nordic member of the Eurozone, is now facing impending austerity measures, and the center-right coalition is also enacting new, tougher labor laws. So far, the True Finns have quietly abandoned their former social conscience and their commitment to the consensus society. The party has acceded to these packages, and even moderated their position towards the EU bailout programs. The disappointment of the party rank and file has been visible in the polls, and the support of the party has plummeted. This has generated additional pressure for the True Finns to somehow crack down hard at least on the refugee crisis, and the party has been clamoring for new anti-immigration legislation modeled after Denmark, including cutting the welfare benefits of refugees and asylum seekers.

I’ve also linked to this essay at Demography Matters, here.

Written by Randy McDonald

December 5, 2015 at 12:41 pm

[H&F] “Les Mis Review”

Over at History and Futility, co-blogger The Oberamtmann has posted a review of the new film Les Misérables.

I finally saw Les Mis: the movie . I have seen Les Mis the stage musical, including once in German in Berlin. I have not (yet) read the book that inspired the musical, so my review will not involve discussions of Victor Hugo’s original intents. I thought the movie was fine but not fantastic. Because I like to complain, the rest of this post will focus on my problems with the film.

I have two primary issues with the movie. One was that several characters felt either uninteresting or simply wrong. In combination, these problematic characters flattened a show that demands large, distinct personalities to drag the viewer in and make us care about them as distinct entities. The other complaint concerns the film’s treatment of the revolution.

Go, read.

Written by Randy McDonald

January 16, 2013 at 8:41 pm

[H&F] “Preliminary notes on N’Ko and language communities”

I’ve a post up at History and Futility noting the challenges faced by a particular language community–the users of N’Ko script, used by the Manding languages of Africa–and wonder briefly about the effects of the marginalization of relatively disadvantaged language communities. What’s getting missed?

Written by Randy McDonald

January 29, 2012 at 8:06 pm

[H&F] “Preliminary notes on N’Ko and language communities”

I’ve a post up at History and Futility noting the challenges faced by a particular language community–the users of N’Ko script, used by the Manding languages of Africa–and wonder briefly about the effects of the marginalization of relatively disadvantaged language communities. What’s getting missed?

Written by Randy McDonald

January 29, 2012 at 1:06 am

[H&F] “The Lions of Ethiopia”

My co-blogger Jussi Jalonen at History and Futility writes about Finland’s support for Ethiopia in the 1935 Italian invasion, with military volunteers and the Red Cross and all.

The international solidarity which emerged during the Abyssinian War did eventually spark a modest international volunteer movement. The Pan-African sentiments of the time are well-known, and one of the foreign military men who ended up serving in Haile Selassie’s ranks was the former Ottoman general Wehib Pasha. The potential Finnish recruits were regretfully given no opportunity to satisfy their desire to fight against Mussolini. According to Jarl Ahrenberg, the consul of Abyssinia in Helsinki, the number of these Finnish volunteers eventually reached four hundred – many of whom were willing to pay for their travel expenses – but the Abyssinian visa ban, issued after the outbreak of the crisis, made it impossible to organize any recruitment, even if Ahrenberg had been interested in such an undertaking.

Although the Finnish volunteer movement failed to materialize, the small Nordic country did support the distant Empire in East Africa on a more official basis. A fundraising campaign organized in November 1935 yielded over 150 000 Finnish Marks, and the Finnish Red Cross also equipped an ambulance unit to provide humanitarian aid for the Ethiopians, following the example of Sweden and Norway. This was a high-profile undertaking, and the initiative came directly from no less a person than marshal C. G. E. Mannerheim, who was, at the time, the chairman of the Finnish Red Cross. The ambulance was headed by the internationally-renowned surgeon Richard Faltin, Mannerheim’s very old friend, whose profile is engraved in the memorial medal portrayed below. Faltin was already 68 years old, and his former feats as a practicing physician had involved an attempt to save the life of Russian Governor-General Bobrikov thirty years before. The close friendship between Mannerheim and Faltin was demonstrated as the marshal cordially informed driver Birger Lundström that he would be “directly answerable for professor’s security on this expedition”.

Go, read.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 1, 2011 at 3:06 am

[H&F] “The Lions of Ethiopia”

My co-blogger Jussi Jalonen at History and Futility writes about Finland’s support for Ethiopia in the 1935 Italian invasion, with military volunteers and the Red Cross and all.

The international solidarity which emerged during the Abyssinian War did eventually spark a modest international volunteer movement. The Pan-African sentiments of the time are well-known, and one of the foreign military men who ended up serving in Haile Selassie’s ranks was the former Ottoman general Wehib Pasha. The potential Finnish recruits were regretfully given no opportunity to satisfy their desire to fight against Mussolini. According to Jarl Ahrenberg, the consul of Abyssinia in Helsinki, the number of these Finnish volunteers eventually reached four hundred – many of whom were willing to pay for their travel expenses – but the Abyssinian visa ban, issued after the outbreak of the crisis, made it impossible to organize any recruitment, even if Ahrenberg had been interested in such an undertaking.

Although the Finnish volunteer movement failed to materialize, the small Nordic country did support the distant Empire in East Africa on a more official basis. A fundraising campaign organized in November 1935 yielded over 150 000 Finnish Marks, and the Finnish Red Cross also equipped an ambulance unit to provide humanitarian aid for the Ethiopians, following the example of Sweden and Norway. This was a high-profile undertaking, and the initiative came directly from no less a person than marshal C. G. E. Mannerheim, who was, at the time, the chairman of the Finnish Red Cross. The ambulance was headed by the internationally-renowned surgeon Richard Faltin, Mannerheim’s very old friend, whose profile is engraved in the memorial medal portrayed below. Faltin was already 68 years old, and his former feats as a practicing physician had involved an attempt to save the life of Russian Governor-General Bobrikov thirty years before. The close friendship between Mannerheim and Faltin was demonstrated as the marshal cordially informed driver Birger Lundström that he would be “directly answerable for professor’s security on this expedition”.

Go, read.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 30, 2011 at 11:06 pm

[H&F] “How every detail counts in large amounts”

(Crossposted from History and Futility, the original is here.)

I owe my co-blogger Jussi Jalonen thanks for the superb job placing last month’s massacres in Norway in the context of an increasingly unhinged and conspiracy-minded ideology, Internet-based but spreading, whose protagonists claim that Muslim are taking over Europe (at least) through their superfecundity as enabled by traitorous multiculturalists. I couldn’t write the essay; I’m even now trying to avoid despair over the issue.

Everything I’ve written here about information it’s predicated on the beliefs that preserving information matter and that preserving as much detail as possible matters. Yes, that’s in part an emotional reaction of mine to my own personal circumstances, but it’s something that works very well for me from the perspective of scholarship. Detail does matter; everything counts.

My 2004 post on the non-existence of Eurabia was a product of my idle curiosity and my desire to seek some distraction from graduate school. Later, as I became more aware of what Eurabia was starting to do, I became more concerned, more strident. Breivik’s massacre was the sort of thing that I’d expected to eventually happen; I felt guilty, frustrated, despairing that this had happened. If the mass of details describing reality don’t register, what’s the point of any of it?

Jussi’s approach is best. Friend of the blog Jim Belshaw helped with this comment he posted at A Bit More Detail in response to my Eurabia-themed question wondering how you reach people who believe in unfounded things. Selected elements are below.

2. You can’t change people’s minds by direct attack on their views. You have to come at it indirectly.
3. Don’t deal in universals. Eurabia and Muslims have become universals, labels to which other things are attached. Each time you use them as universals, you carry other people’s labels with them. At a purely personal level I try to avoid the use of the world Muslim unless I am speaking about a faith with all its varieties.
4. Recognise diversity. Within Europe each country, and sometimes parts of countries, are different. Australia is different again.
5. Attack intolerance, but do not attack the validity of views on which that intolerance may draw. Precisely, recognise them and address them independently as different issues. Avoid culture wars. Don’t confuse issues.

Thanks, Jim, for the reminder. The details will reappear, here and elsewhere. It’d be an honour if you’d join us all here at History and Futility for the ride.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 16, 2011 at 4:01 am