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Not the end of the world: 9 ways Finland made 2016 rock

Demonstrators in Helsinki on Kansalaistori near the Parliamanet on November 2014, before and right after the passing vote of the Tahdon 2013 marriage equality bill, based on a citizen initiative.
For the Western observer of news and politics, 2016 seemed pretty terrible at times. Truly awful election outcomes in both Europe and the USA, high profile celebrity deaths and frankly, fairly unsettling geopolitical rumbling. Let’s not forget Western incapability to deal with refugees and climate change either.

However, the world didn’t stand still. Before we have a look at some of the truly nice stuff that went down in Finland in 2016, let’s take a deep breath and study some global trends, as pointed out by Swedish writer Johan Norberg.

 

Reality checked? Still sceptical? Well, let’s have a further look at some nice Finnish news from 2016.

1. Finnish kids proved that long holidays mean better school grades

Some believe this is one of the numerous factors behind Finland’s continued good marks in international benchmarks.




 

2. Finnish suicide rates continued to fall

Finland does, unsettlingly, have a comparatively high rate of suicides for a European country. However, this tragic number in on the way down, as it has halved since 1990.

View from shore of tiny lake with summer cottages. on a beautiful summer day.

Finnish summer: if you get a couple of months per year with some a chance of this, get outside. Photo by Anne Frölich

 

3. Finland decided to launch basic income, to replace welfare bureaucracy with no-strings handouts

Social security nets are tremendously important, and one thing we should count ourselves lucky to have in the Nordics. However, these systems were built in a different era, with the assumption available work and limited understanding of the realities facing those who need support the most.

These systems fail tragically when they actually stop people in the system from improving their income with gigs. By just handing out cash that gets cancelled out with income tax if the recipient earns more, proponents of basic income hopes to inspire creativity and activity instead of passivity.

Whether the current Finnish experiment, as written up by the New York Times, will work or is kinda misconstructed, we’ll just have to wait and see. But it’s being done and that’s a massive step forward for an idea that really could change the world.

4. Finland legalised same-sex marriage

LGBTQ rights are taking a clear step forward in the next year as the bill legalising same-sex marriage is implemented in early 2017. This legislation augments an existing law granting some rights to civil partnerships.

With this change, Finland may be relatively near the top of best LGBTQI rights in Europe.

However, the situation is far from perfect. Trans people still face cruel and usual bureaucracy, including forced sterilization(!). Likewise, intersex children are still maimed at random. We wrote up a summary of these glaring omissions as of mid-2016.

 

Tove Jansson and Touko Laaksonen

Two 20th century icons of Finnish culture, Moomin author Tove Jansson and Touko Laaksonen (Tom of Finland) managed to pull through long before being gay was cool, let alone legal. (Images: Wikipedia (1 & 2)).




 

5. Finland embraced the benefits of multiculturalism

This writer is far from a fan of religious traditions and could easily fill up this entire with dank, snarky memes on holy people with silly hats before the adults stepped in.

However, I make room for one exception: food and good company. Whenever religious traditions give everyone an excuse to settle down, eat and chill in the company of family and friends, I can look past my inherent differences with dogma.

So, I was naturally delighted to see the Itis shopping centre in eastern Helsinki staff up and otherwise accommodate Eid al-Fitr, a Muslim holiday marking at the end of the Ramadan month of fasting.

As a native of Helsinki’s eastern suburbs, known for its Muslim communities, I’m wondering why this took so long. But as a marketing professional here at Ink Tank Media, I’m glad to see our colleagues Qufi Creative stepping up to the task and leading the giant Itis mall towards being more inclusive in devouring the money of its clientele.

 

Tallinannaukio square and exterior of the Itis mall in eastern Helsinki, summer 2007.

Tallinnanaukio square in the Itäkeskus district, by the Itis shopping mall in July 2007. Photo by ikkoskinen.

 

6. Political violence met with staunch opposition

The worrying rise of far-right groups does not exclude Finland. This fall, a neo-nazi fatally attacked a 28-year old demonstrator. The young man died a week later. Finland did not take this sitting down and 15,000 people, including the Prime Minister, took to the streets to protest violence and racism.

Just in the last day, the killer, Jesse Torniainen, was sentenced to prison for the attack.

Needless to say, it’s terrible news that someone representing an anti-democratic nazi group fatally attacked an opponent. What’s great, however, was the response which that these assclowns are far outnumbered.

 

7. Finnish musicians rocked the world

2016 was the year when two young Finnish women, in particular, were met with interest and admiration on the international music market.

Saara Aalto ended up second in the X-Factor, a British reality TV/singing competition thing. Not only that but up and comer ALMA, likewise with a reality TV background, caught the attention of the international press.




 

8. A Finnish library installed a karaoke booth

The role of books and libraries are changing. What is clear is that libraries continue to be essential places not only for access to books, which aren’t going anywhere. There’s public access internet, lending of media other than books… and potentially endless ways to put the library space to use.

Some Finnish libraries have conference rooms one can book, but one library in Vantaa, in the capital region, takes this a step further. By soundproofing a booth and installing karaoke equipment, anyone can let go and sing all they want, with no-one judging.

 

9. The Uber of restaurant leftovers reduced food waste

Did we mention we like food? Well, Finnish cities don’t exactly have the cheap street food of Berlin, but one company is bringing us closer to something like that, while also reducing food waste.

ResQ lets restaurants reduce waste by selling portions of what is typically leftover lunch at a reduced price. The food is paid for through the up, and needs to be picked up before closing time. For restaurants, profits are obviously smaller, but if someone has the time to pack up the food, there is some money to be had.

Also, someone gets cheap dinner or dessert without having to cook. Win win!

Kurvin Grilli: Old school Finnish grill kiosk in Kurvi, Sörnäinen.

Old-style Finnish burger kiosk in Helsinki’s now cool Kallio district, back in 2008. That kiosk remains today, but let’s just say that food culture in this neighbourhood has diversified a bit in the last decade. Photo by Peter Robinett

There you have it, some good news from Finland to button up 2016 AD. If we blatantly missed something, let’s hear it in the comments below!

 

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Title image by Thomas Nybergh

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