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

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

(Crossposted.)

http://historyandfutility.wordpress.com/2011/08/16/how-every-detail-counts-in-large-amounts/

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 15, 2011 at 11:59 pm

[FORUM] Do you think friendship between men is difficult in our culture?

Sesame Street‘s beloved characters Bert and Ernie–best friends, living together in a Manhattan apartment, doing everything together–have been subject to rumours that they’re a same-sex couple for decades, as illustrated by a 1980 quote from novelist and radio broadcaster Kurt Anderson: “Bert and Ernie conduct themselves in the same loving, discreet way that millions of gay men, women and hand puppets do. They do their jobs well and live a splendidly settled life together in an impeccably decorated cabinet.” A recent petition has asking for them to marry on the show to promote gay rights has been met by the official note that, well, no, that is so not happening.

Bert and Ernie are best friends. They were created to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves.

Even though they are identified as male characters and possess many human traits and characteristics (as most Sesame Street Muppets™ do), they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation.

Muppets can have sexual orientation–look at Missy Piggy’s near-stalking of Kermit–but this notable point aside I agree. No, it’s not just because Ernest & Bertram is so grim.

Rather, it’s because I think there’s I’m inclined to believe that in contemporary North American culture, there’s no way for two adult men to express their closeness outside of the context of romance. It’s something I touched upon only very briefly if that in a review of Joseph Epstein’s Friendship: An Expose–for whatever reason, there’s a gap in the language people can use, hence in the sorts of relationships that can be talked about and that could even be pursued.

Am I right? Or not?

Written by Randy McDonald

August 14, 2011 at 11:59 pm

[H&F] “The Massacre and its Context”

Over at History and Futility, my co-blogger Jussi Jalonen has written about how the ideas that inspired Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik to go about his mass murders this Friday past are pretty far from being idiosyncratic to him, that they are actually the product of a disturbingly broad and productive Internet-based movement of ideologues proclaiming the existential threat posed to Europe by anything and anyone at all relatable to Islam.

The entire essay is well worth reading, three paragraphs of which are copied below.

Breivik wrote a manifesto where he openly stated his motives and clarified his political opinions in detail. Published in the internet, the “European Declaration of Independence” – which can be downloaded from here – is essentially a grotesque compendium of blog posts and columns, tied together with Breivik’s own narrative. The quoted writings all have in common an openly islamophobic, anti-immigration theme. According to Breivik’s twisted, but coherent logic, the “multiculturalist Marxist establishment” is attempting to convert the European Union into a “Marxist superstate, the EUSSR”; these “cultural Marxists” are also responsible for the “mass Muslim immigration” and “islamization” of Europe. Breivik is, in other words, a true believer in the so-called “Eurabia”-predictions previously discussed also on this blog, and he also believes that an open discussion of these threats was impossible due to the pervasive European “political correctness”. In his own words, Breivik was using the mass murder as means to “send a message” to the “Marxist, multiculturalist elites”. His chosen method was to wipe out the next generation of the left-wing politicians whom he saw as the culprits of the immigration policy and the destruction of his cherished European civilization.

What’s important to remember is that Breivik’s ideology was not original, and his sick ideas were not of his own making. In essence, he was a product of the internet age, a dedicated consumer of the radical anti-Muslim political propaganda which has circulated around the websites and weblogs ever since the 9/11 attacks and the controversial Muhammad cartoon episode. Breivik maintained a lively interest in the most notable anti-Islam bloggers, such as “Fjordman”, with whom he occasionally seems to have corresponded, advertising his book project; one example of their dialogue can be found here, in the comment section. The title of Breivik’s book, “Declaration of European Independence”, is actually borrowed from a column which “Fjordman” wrote for the cultural-conservative “Brussels Journal”-blog. Breivik describes his ideology by the name “Vienna School of Thought”, which is a reference to another well-known paranoid anti-Islam blog, “Gates of Vienna”.

This internet sub-culture where Breivik spent his pastime has not been without political significance. The very same post-modern, radical, fanatic cultural-fundamentalist atmosphere which produced Breivik has made serious inroads to the mainstream politics in the Western World, basing its success on populism and fear. The writers who inspired Breivik included known Muslim-baiting hate-mongers such as Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller and Daniel Pipes, and he was fascinated by the Tea Party movement. Geert Wilders, the head of the Dutch PVV and the producer of Fitna, was among Breivik’s heroes, and his book even mentions – in one of the quoted posts from “Fjordman” – Jussi Halla-aho, a Finnish anti-Islam blogger who was elected as an MP of the populist “True Finns” party in the last elections and became the chairman of the parliamentary committee in charge of police, border guard and the immigration affairs. Breivik’s book endorses several “anti-immigration, cultural conservative organizations”, ranging from the Sweden-Democrats to the Polish PiS, all of which he saw as the possible salvation of the Continent from the supposed evils of multiculturalism and immigration. The only thing which made Breivik special was his conviction that this parliamentary political activity needed to be supplemented with direct action, and he saw himself as the man who could provide it.

Go, read.

Written by Randy McDonald

July 24, 2011 at 7:00 pm