Thursday, March 22, 2018

Finland Is The Happiest Country In The World

To borrow a phrase from John McEnroe, “You cannot be serious!”

Let’s start with the weather.  It’s cold, dark, and dreary most of the year.  I first arrived in Helsinki in late May 1981.  The buds on the trees were just starting to open.  Even the long glorious days of summer can be wet and chilly.  The Finns cannot be happy about the weather.

Did you know that half of the people in the world living north of Helsinki, 60 degrees latitude, is Finnish?  Helsinki, on the southern tip of Finland, sits about halfway up Hudson Bay and Canada.

In my subsequent visits to Finland in 2000, 2002, and 2006, I never saw a Finn give a good belly laugh, or even smile.  A people that do not laugh cannot be happy.  Do a search for adjectives and nouns characterizing Finnish personality.  I think dour just about sums it up.

Finnish consumption per capita of coffee is the highest in the world.  Finns need an injection of caffeine to get from one hour to the next.

Food!  A few Michelin-starred restaurants serving the “Nordic” cuisine have popped up in recent years, but you might need to sell the family silver to pay for dinner.  Otherwise, ghastly.  In my experience, Russian restaurants are the best places to dine.

Culture.  Sibelius.

Language.  Incomprehensible (although most Finns speak good English).

Adult beverages. Mum’s the word.

Now to the most important reason.  The West is in the midst of a great  movement to increase diversity in top positions in all walks of life.  Diversity is almost impossible to find in Finland (although there is a no-go zone of Somalis living between the airport and downtown Helsinki).

The most recent population estimate of Finland is 5,516,872 (March 2018).  The foreign born population amounts to 6.5% of all Finns.  Those born in such Muslim countries as Iraq and Somalia amount to 6.9% of the foreign born, or .44% of the population.  Those born in Asian countries make up 8.2% of the foreign born, or .53% of the general population  Together they sum to .97%, just under one percent of the Finnish population.  The overwhelming majority of foreign born, 5.5% of Finland’s population, are from the former Soviet Union, Estonia, Sweden, and other European countries.

To all intents and purposes, there is no diversity in Finland.  It’s understandable.  Who would want to migrate to Finland when Germany, Italy, Greece, and even Sweden are better choices.

In the absence of diversity, Finns cannot be happy.

Having said all that, I’ve loved my visits to Finland as they were all in summer with the one in late May.  White nights are a wonderful experience.  Downtown Helsinki is easy to explore on foot.  The surrounding archipelago is gorgeous.

PS.  Please, no harsh comments from native Finns, those married to Finns, those who have relatives and good friends in Finland, or moved to Finland.  The reason is that you have no sense of what it is to be happy. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Red Guards 2.0 With American Characteristics For The Current Era

A large number of (self-defined) oppressed groups are actively fighting the White heteronormative male patriarchy for influence and power.  At present their influence is dissipated in fragmentation, with each group seeking its own redress.

What’s needed for greater success is to unify this myriad of intersectional communities into a brigade under a unified chain of command.

The solution is a little Red Book 2.0, modeled after Quotations From Chairman Mao Tse-Tung, first published in 1964. Each community should compile its slogans into a chapter (Mao’s quotations were categorized into 33 chapters).  The chapters should then be collated into a little Red Book 2.0 With American Characteristics.  (A photo of President Barack Obama could be placed on the inside front cover for inspiration.)  Then activists could wave their little Red Book 2.0 when shouting slogans at the privileged.

Here, in alphabetical order, is a partial list of chapters that might be included in little Red Book 2.0.

Abortion rights
Global Warming
Global Warriors
Marxist left
Safe spaces
Trigger Warning
Unconscious bias

I was in Hong Kong in September 1966 at the onset of the local Red Guard movement, which was unleashed as part of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution.  We (my spouse and I) were visiting relatives in Hong Kong, who had made plans to leave for Australia in October 1966.  They lived in Cosmopolitan Dock, which was surrounded by a Chinese-populated neighborhood.  Each time we rode into and out of the Dock, gangs of youths waved little Red Books at us chanting pro-Mao slogans.

Riots broke out in Hong Kong in summer 1967.  After months of disruption, Hong Kong’s police crushed the movement as mainland Red Guards and Mao watched quietly from across the border.  (It took another decade for the Chinese army to extinguish the mainland Red Guard movement.)  China’s earnings of foreign exchange in Hong Kong were too important to the mainland to allow chaos and violence to shut down Hong Kong’s economy.  Conservatives who have been shouted down at American universities and escorted off campus with police protection will understand this experience.

American universities are still in the early stage of Red Guards 2.0 for two reasons.  First, unlike the Black Power movement of the 1960s, this time is different.  The movement extends way beyond Black Power due to Harvey Weinstein and others like him.  #MeToo has exposed the hypocrisy of Hollywood, the media, and politicians.

Second, the professoriate of American universities is overwhelmingly White males.  At Stanford, for example, Women and Minorities make up only 28% and 29% respectively of the faculty.  In general, female and minority academics are more liberal than White males, especially older White males set to retire over the next 10-15 years.  As their increasingly female and minority replacements settle in, universities will lean even more to the left on social, economic, and political issues.  From the universities this narrative will spread through K-12 education, the media, Hollywood, business, and government at all levels.

The Black Power movement of the 1960s ­­faded away after a decade, almost exactly as long as it took for the Red Guard movement to dissipate in China.  Perhaps the multi-dimensional character of the Red Guards 2.0 movement in America will last much longer, for a generation or more, until it transforms the American cultural landscape.

This is an exceptionally interesting time to be a historian.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Words Vs. Deeds: Comparing Trump With Bush/Obama

How shall I criticize thee?  Let me count the ways.  Here is a list, in alphabetical order, of some of the harsh words that liberal Democrat and conservative Republican (anti-Trump) members of the Academic Political Media Industrial Complex (the establishment) use to describe President Donald Trump:

unacceptable presidential behavior
worst president

What about the words used to describe presidents George W. Bush and President Barack Obama.  Bush came in for his share of liberal criticism, but nothing remotely close to that of Trump.  Obama was uniformly praised.  To liberals, Obama walks on water.  To conservatives, save a very few, barely a peep of criticism could be read or heard.  Silence was acquiescense.

Perhaps some comparisons can put these markedly different treatments in perspective.

First, foreign policy.  Bush and Obama launched three wars:  Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya.  During their 16 years in office, U.S. military fatalities in Iraq and Afghanistan numbered 8,360.  Tens of thousands more were wounded, some requiring life care.  Several million civilians were displaced.  Trillions of dollars were spent.  Iran has gained influence in Iraq.  The Taliban still control large areas in Afghanistan.  Not a pretty picture.

Trump inherited this mess.  From his inauguration to March 15, 2018, U.S. war zone fatalities total 47.  Secretary of Defense James Mattis, fired by Obama, has stabilized the situation in both countries.

Second, economic policy.  Bush presided over the worst financial and economic crisis since the Great Depression.  Obama presided over the slowest post-recession recovery in decades.  Both presided over stagnant wages.  Between them, the national debt increased 300% (quadrupled), from $5 trillion to $20 trillion.

President Trump is presiding over the strongest job growth in decades.  He has managed, after decades, to cut the corporate tax rate to internationally competitive levels.  He has rolled back incentive-destroying regulations.

Third, social policy.  Obama set race relations back fifty years.  Trump has reached out to Blacks and Hispanics, who now enjoy the lowest unemployment rates since records have been kept.

I come from an older generation, guided by such phrases as “sticks and stones can break my bones, but names can never hurt me."

Now words are more damaging than deeds.  It’s alright to launch wars and shatter an economy, but  not to tweet!  I prefer tweets to wars and a financial crisis.

Is there anything that Trump can do to receive praise, however faint?  The only thing I can think of is for Trump to follow Nixon into history by resigning the presidency.  However, any such praise he receives at the moment will be short-lived and quickly give way to never-ending historical damnation.