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English Archive Volume 1 - September 1996 - September 1997

Paina tästä lukeaksesi suomenkielisen versio

The impressions of true life (in Finland and other places)

by the roving investigative correspondent

Ilari Sohlo


  • Volume 2
    1. Outrageous Finnair Prices
    2. Why Did Di Die?
    3. Questions of Love
    4. In and Out
    5. The Unbearable Lightness of Caring
    6. France 98 or The Flying Mothers-in-law
    7. Is Yeltsin Irish?
    8. No, it is...yes, it isn't, Qu'est-ce que c'est?
    9. Art Etcetera
    10. Finnish Patient
    11. Jozef K. in 1984
    12. Propaganda
    13. Velvet Revolution
    14. The Man from Vadso, Norway
    15. Earth Matters
    16. EU, Eastern Europe, and...Finland
    17. All Tourists Are Leaving Egypt?
    18. The Stupid Embargo
    19. Finland and EU Development
    20. Media's Selective Memory
    21. Finland's Business Life and Tourism Too Dormant

  • Volume 1
    1. Finnish Censor's Last Resort: Information Block
    2. The Scandal They Did Not Want Us To Know: Clear-cutting of Ancient Forests
    3. Scandinavian Medal Paradox
    4. We Are Losing the World!
    5. Bureaucracy Killing Garlic Night
    6. China and Finland Bear Resemblance
    7. Same Law For All! Mafia Shakedown Time In Finland?
    8. Brainwashing, Slave Labour, Imprisonment of Dissidents in Finland
    9. Underwater Love
    10. Cool Runnings in Athens, Greece
    11. The Israeli Dilemma
    12. Whatever is Happening to European Integration?
    13. Tallin - Estonia
    14. Illegal Immigrants in Holland and Belgium
    15. Telnetting in Holland
    16. Life in Prague
    17. Life in Auschwitz
    18. Plague - and Finnish Insurance Companies
    19. US Public Transportation - A Dismal Picture
    20. Come drink and sing along in our merry company? Not me.
    21. One Man's Bread, Another Man's Poison
    22. Spot the Difference
    23. Cultured by New York?
    24. Guilty Till Proven Innocent

    1. Finnish Censor's Last Resort: Information Block

        My history teacher in the Laanila High School in Oulu had told me that all school books had to be approved in Moscow before they could be circulated in Finnish schools.

        The high school was a chaos of fights, verbal and physical assault, where teachers grazed through blithely seemingly not caring for their students, who had been crammed in this small building, that was inundated with the stench of alcohol and cigarette and drug fumes.

        Apparently, the censors are still running strong, but not to Moscowęs bidding anymore, but for the good of the tax collector. Income from alcohol taxation is massive. That is why the Finnish Government does not want competition from other drugs.

        A subscriber of Harperęs in Oulu never got his issue last spring. The issue before and after did come. The issue was missing from all the shops as well. The issue contained an article on the fact that all poppy brands, not just the one in Afghanistan, are capable of producing opium, and hence heroine.

        It goes without saying how dangerous both these drugs are, but why would the Finnish censors go through this trouble?

        First of all, this shows the lack of democratic history. Second, it tells us a lot about the inability of Finnish ministries to fight ANY kind of drug, including alcohol, and to find solutions as to WHY Finnish people in the first place want to mess themselves up. If censorship, i.e.. information block, is the means to fight a problem, then there is something utterly wrong with this system.

        It is as if they know that they cannot offer you anything better and elevating than the drunken stupor. They cannot offer jobs, atmosphere, debate, multifaceted culture. That is why they fear that people will immediately start growing poppies in their homes for the purpose of intoxication.

        Meanwhile, on the local scene, Oulu students (Ed: From a recent report from the age of 11 and 12 years upwards!!) continue to show more and more disbelief in the academic life and education in general, and turn to the internet, their cellphones, and their alcohol for relief .

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    2. The Scandal They Did Not Want Us To Know: Clear-cutting of Ancient Forests

        Only small fragments remain of the old growth forests that once covered the whole of Finland. Despite of this, further cuttings of these unique products of nature will be implemented.

        Magic dwells within old growth forests, there are so many interesting smells, mist, creatures, flora and fauna, that a walk through a forest like this, not to mention to live in one, is a pure sensation.

        The Finns started clear-cutting these old forests extensively in the 18th century. Only around 2000 square kilometers still exist within Finland, 1800 of which in Northern Finland.

        These precious forests are the sole or primary habitat of many unique species. The Golden Eagle (Aquila crysaetos) needs a strong Scots pine for nesting. Rotting trees are the life source for many polypores; Phellinus populicola depends on old aspens for survival. Many lichens also depend on old growth forests where the microclimate is humid and stabile. Even small fellings in the forests change the microclimate and thus lichens, like Lobaria pulmonaria, may vanish. The Wolverine (Gulo gulo) has been close to extinction in Finland for some time. This shy wilderness wanderer lives only in the most remote parts of the country. The capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) is one of the numerous birds that dwell in the old growth forests; their number has sharply decreased due to cuttings.

        The mainstream media has not taken the issue of nature conservation up at all. Nature conservation organisations are presented in a bad light; its members are shown to be bizarre and dangerous creatures, and most of the time, protesters are taken in to police custody directly

        The government does not sponsor many nature conservation activities when you consider the huge chunks of tax money that are being directed towards supporting large industries and banks.

        In 1996, the Finnish Government decided to protect only one third of the remaining 2000 square kilometers of old growth forests that are left.

        This is outrageous when considering the fact that this is less than one percent of the original habitat of old growth forests that existed in the beginning of the eighteenth century. Especially when considering the fact that Finland is very sparsely populated, there are only about 14 inhabitants to a square kilometer.

        Friends of nature must only hope that foreign and domestic pressure together can stop the atrocious actions of the murderous Finnish government.

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    3. Scandinavian Medal Paradox

        The poor success of Scandinavians from the European Union at the IAAF World Athletic Championships in Athens is a paradox.

        The only Danish medal was won by a Kenyan settled in Denmark - Wilson Kipketer; the only Swedish medal was won by ex-Soviet Ludmila (ex-Narochilenko) Engquis; the Finnish silver medal (the sole medal earned by the Finns) was brought home by a Belorussian now settled in Finland, Eduard Hämäläinen.

        Engquist is a Swedish passport holder. It is reported that Kipketer is still Kenyan and Hämäläinen a Belarussian.

        The parents of Hämäläinen's grandfather left Finland for Russia some years after Finland became independent, which happened six weeks after the communist revolution.

        Norway, a non-EU Scandinavian country, performed in the games well with "born in Norway" citizens, taking back two gold medals.

        As the world gets more and more international and artificial boundaries become in one ontological level more transfluent, Finnish strict immigration policy still continues.

        Finland has as few foreign residents as Albania, at the bottom of the European ladder. In Sweden, for example, a student who has resided in the country for five years will most likely be granted citizenship, if that is sought.

        In Finland, after five years one can apply for permanent resident status, but the process is long winded.

        Apparently, there must be something wrong in the way Danes, Swedes, and Finns train their athletes, even though they throw a lot of money at them. Or, maybe, doping control is stricter (Ed: or doping technology is more inefficient) than in other athletically obsessed countries.

        (Ed: Sohlo has opened a huge can of stinking worms here.

        How did Eduard Hämäläinen get his Finnish citizenship, which he has, without speaking the Finnish language? He can only speak Russian!

        We know several cases of persons who have applied for Finnish citizenship, and have all the necessary qualifications, but they have been held up because they do not speak the Finnish language.

        Another example in Finland of the Same Law Not Being Applied for All!!)

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    4. We Are Losing the World!

        The Bering glacier is melting; there are holes in the ozone layer; the climate is warming.

        The reason is pollution, an awakening is the cure. We already have the means to stop pollution, yet people are not ready to get off the highway to destruction and open up a new route to happiness.

        Too often people realise their mistakes when it's too late. Scientists knew the ozone destroying features of CFC in the seventies, but too few wanted to think ahead. Now, when medical reports have proven beyond a doubt that ultraviolet rays cause cancer, small industries have been forced to introduce CFC free deodorants. But, the large industrial giants have not budged; they are still manufacturing jet engines. Only when the ozone is irreplaceably gone, will the manufacturing of jet engines stop.

        The reason of course is money. The multinational corporations have a lot of money, and with it, political power. Governments are not too willing to start funding alternative research, when they can get money today, instead of giving it away now, for a better future tomorrow.

        We already have the electric car; turnip rape oil has proven to be useful, and scientists know that alcohol makes a great renewable nonpolluting fuel. But oil companies have too much power. The only people who can make a difference is everyone. P> Too often it takes too much for people to realise. Maybe the sea water level has to rise a meter, and 25% of earth's population have to get melanoma before things start changing.

        The media can help. They should bring up these issues more. Of course, people will rather read about gossip on lady Di rather than about not using spray deodorants.

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    5. Bureaucracy Killing Garlic Night

        Every year there is a Garlic Festival in Oulu, our town in the north of Finland - the same town from where Findians Briefings emanates.

        This year the festival was smaller due to stupid bureaucracy.

        The Government Health Department issued a directive, according to which food products had to be prepared under professional supervision.

        This means that ordinary citizens were prohibited from selling their delicacies on the street.

        It has always been the independent small operators that have been most successful at creating unique food experiences.

        Now, it seems that government officials are bent on harassing citizens foodwise as well.

        There has never been a single reported incident of food poisoning during previous Garlic Nights. Hence, the ban could not have been based on health concerns.

        It appears that the politicians and bureaucrats will do just about anything to keep the citizens tightly under their grip, without permitting them to enjoy any of the harmless delicacies in life.

        This reminds me of George Orwell's "1984".

        Everything has to be controlled so that citizens are kept in check. They should passively receive all the stupidities that are passed down to them. The government is horrified of anything "cosmopolitan".

        Maybe someone should tell the Finnish politicians and bureaucrats that the Soviet Union does not exist anymore, so that they can start relaxing a little bit.

        (Ed: Sohlo makes a point that Findians Briefings made as far back as 1992 in its original hard copy version when it stated that prestroika and glasnost would come to Finland last of all - and it appears that they have not yet arrived. Watch out. Soon you will not be allowed to cook your dinner at home without professional bureaucratic supervision!)

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    6. China and Finland Bear Resemblance

        The flamboyant parliamentarian, Veltto Virtanenn is on the right track. He gave a speech at the centre of Oulu. He proclaimed that Finns have not yet reached their state of puberty as people.

        True. Many Finns dare not live a full life; dare not speak their mind; do not take responsibility of their lives.

        Virtanen claimed that Finns are the fattest nation after the Americans. He said: "We gather lard around us to shield ourselves from the outside."

        How true. Finns are, to a great extent, dislodged from society, they do not react to horrible decisions made by their government, they drift through life not really grasping onto anything. Many of them do not even drift anywhere. They just stay put and are immobile.

        The Finnish legislature makes sure people stay firmly put. The law says you cannot hold a demonstration without a permit from the police.

        Strangely, as this is accepted in Finland, Finnish Radio, TV and newspapers, were universal when they expressed that the Finns were flabbergasted when the new Chinese lords of Hong Kong introduced this same law to HK.

        (Ed: A few years ago the Finns were flabbergasted that a unelected person was appointed as the Prime Minister of Thailand. At the very same instant, the Finnish President appointed an unelected Harri Holkeri as Prime Minister of Finland. The wise Finns were, of course, unable to see the similarity of this situation!!)

        There is no history of spontaneous demonstrations in Finland like in most democratic countries.

        Apparently, China and Finland are brothers in this respect.

        In truth, a former Finnish Foreign Minister, Pertti Salolainen, now Finnish Ambassador to London, was the first western visitor to post-Tiananmen-square-massacre-China.

        In total disrespect of human rights, with only business in mind, Finland sent its delegate to a country that likewise does not cherish the western notion of human rights. P> Freedom of speech is of absolute importance.

        Once that is achieved in Finland, it can be expected that people will wake up to realise what they lack and want.

        It feels incredible that Finland does not have freedom of speech, which is a universal right of all respectable countries, the foundation of democracy.

        In Finland, the constitution says that "Finland is Republic, where the power belongs to the people, who select their representatives to the parliament which then acts out the people's wish."

        Yet the people are not permitted to hold a spontaneous demonstration to inform their elected representatives of their wishes - a fine state is this Finnish democracy..

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    7. Same Law For All! Mafia Shakedown Time In Finland?

        The state district attorney has decided not to prosecute Eeva and Erkki Wuori. Eeva Wuori is a member of the Supreme Court and together with her husband face severe allegations of tax fraud that have been directed at them. The parliamentary ombudsman stated that it is regrettable that the State Prosecutor's office decided not to prosecute, as the evidence was overwhelming.

        It is indeed an atrocious violation of the theoretical assumption that the law is the same for all in Finland. The decision by the State Prosecutor strongly points to the direction of corrupt practices at the top level in Finland.

        It will be interesting to see whether or not other Finnish media will continue its cherished self-censorship, which is, in Finland, a legacy of the Soviet era, when Finland was a Soviet satellite; universally self-censorship is always an impeachment to democracy.

        However, the two years of Finland's membership in the EU have meant an enormous increase in the level of internationalism, therefore, it is interesting to see if this internationalism means a free press or not.

        Also, the youth who were dealing out anti-fur-trading leaflets in front of Helsinki's leading department store, Stockmann, were taken in by the police and were given harsh verdicts. (Ed: It is the same Stockmann which has a division

        Stockmann claimed that the flyers harmed their business. The defence thinks the verdict passed against these youngsters was outrageous and pointed out that the skinheads who carried out vicious attacks against foreigners had been given more lenient sentences.

        The defence said it will appeal up to the Supreme Court, if necessary, to overturn the sentences against these protesters. Not to mention Eeva Wuori, who was not prosecuted at all for quite obviously swindling money of the tax payers, belongs to this august body which calls itself the Supreme Court of Finland!

        Obviously, there is no freedom of speech in Finland, as you not permitted express your opinion. It is now interesting to see what will be the public reaction to these atrociously undemocratic decisions.

        Most likely nothing at all will happen, because most citizens have been educated or brainwashed to be docile and uncriticising. However, internationalism has its funny ways of influencing people's thoughts.

        That, I guess, is the reason why Finland kept its doors closed during the era of Soviet satellitism 1944-1991.

        Things are slowly starting to change now. The Finnish mafia may just be pestered out of its hiding places, especially from their top seats in the political structure, the bureaucracy and in the cartels that control everyday life in Finland.

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    8. Brainwashing, Slave Labour, Imprisonment of Dissidents in Finland

        Finland is a country that most people would not associate with brainwashing, slave labour and imprisonment of dissidents. The western media focuses on atrocities that take place far away but it refuses to see wrong doings in their back garden, as became evident through the incidents witnessed in Bosnia.

        In Finland, compulsory army service is but a euphemism to what really takes place in Finnish garrisons. First of all, it is totally based on sexism; only men have to do it; this is, of course, in violation of UN declaration of human rights, the Geneva convention, and the CSCE treaty that Finland had the audacity to host, while violating the very treaty it signed. p> The Finnish government calls the 8-11 months period of brainwashing of MEN ONLY as compulsory army service, (Since 1995, due to EU legislation, women have been allowed as volunteers). Nevertheless, the acquisition of army skills, such as learning to kill by shooting and driving tanks, etc. is totally a secondary purpose - the first purpose is to school young men into becoming docile uncriticising citizens.

        Sohlo and co. have eyewitnessed dramatic changes in tolerance and views as young men have been brainwashed during their military service. For example, many friends have said how they, while marching, have been forced to sing songs where the lyrics go as:

        "Tomorrow we will invade Stockholm, Sweden will be colonised, women and children will be killed, and warm bodies will be raped."

        (Ed: Wonder whether Elizabeth Rehn, former Defence Minister of Finland, the investigator into atrocities in Bosnia and then someone who tried very hard to become the UN Special Representative looking after the Rights of Children, and who claimed that Finnish troops would never commit the atrocities committed in Bosnia - of course, she conveniently forgot the atrocities that happened in the 1916 Finnish Reds vs Whites conflict - wrote these lyrics in her spare time!)

        Also, soldiers are physically harassed; they are made to wade rivers in freezing cold, and then made to stand outside with cold clothes on, with a knife held on the throat, so that if they shiver they will get cut.

        These examples are just a few - the list is endless. In this instance, it would worthwhile to point out that in Finland, young men's suicide rate is among the highest in the world.

        If the young man does not want to do the army he can do slave labour for 13 months. The government calls this community service. This is the punishment for being unpatriotic and not selling your soul to the system. However, it is nothing but bonded labour, as Sohlo and co. have heard community service workers being called slaves by their bosses. The slaves are at the end of the line and have to all the dirty work, without pay, of course. The government gives the community service worker 19 FIM (USD 3.50) PER DAY.

        The Finnish education has guaranteed that 97% of Finnish young men choose the army and walk through the gates of the garrison, not knowing that this decision will erase many possibilities they would have had in business and elsewhere with their capabilities. The brainwashing violently puts an end to their inherent individuality.

        The third choice for the troubled young men is to GO TO JAIL for eight months. Imprisoned without a crime.

        AMNESTY Intl. keeps Finland on its black list for incarcerating dissidents - but who in the world hears about this!!

        There are a few ways out.

        If you are not suffering from a severe illness, or if you are not already handicapped, you could acquire one, for example, by mutilating one of your arms.

        An easier way out is of course to sneak out of the country, but then you will become a nomad, as you will not get your passport renewed. It is actually against EU legislation to deprive an individual of his passport, as everyone should be entitled to a citizenship.

        Sohlo and co. know of an individual in exile in the Netherlands, who has not been granted a passport either by the Finnish government or by the Dutch.

        The third option is to do something crazy so that psychiatrists can have you declared mentally insane.

        All of the above-mentioned is happening in a country that claims to be a democracy and which criticises countries like Turkey for imprisoning dissidents, while self doing the same.

        Finland has an unemployment rate of 20+%, and many people have left the country during its independence since 1917, most of them to Sweden, the US and Australia.

        And the suicide rate is among the highest in the world.

        I would like you cherished readers of Findians Briefings to email me and give your opinion as to what would be the wisest thing to do in a situation like this.

        Maybe there is a country which would grant Sohlo political asylum, as he, too, has to reach a decision very soon concerning the brainwashing, slave labour, jail, emigrating, getting crazy,....

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    9. Underwater Love

        Dahab is near to heaven on earth. I heard about it in Jerusalem from a friend. She told me that there was this place in the Sinai where you could have a perfect holiday, stay in a bamboo hut for US$1.60 and just relax.

        It was my first visit to Egypt as I crossed the border in Taba and embarked south to Dahab. I made friends in the minibus on the way over there who had been in Dahab before, so it was easy to find the best place to stay.

        I went completely mad (Ed: This must be an understatement!!) when I saw the shimmering sand and the glimmering Red Sea open up in front of me (Ed: Rather like the Prime Minister of Finland - Paavo Lipponen - who considers himself to be Moses reincarnated - now he has a competitor - our own SOHLO!).

        The beach boulevard in Dahab is lined up with restaurants and cafes, where you can lounge and sip away coffee or karkadi, an Egyptian speciality.

        The political aspect to Dahab is interesting. Amongst the Egyptians roaming around are the original settlers, the Bedouins, Israelis, who come south from Eilat for cheap and relaxing holidays, and a large number of British Commonwealth nationals, and other EU citizens - mainly Germans, Danes, Swedes, and the occasional Findian, and, of course, the ubiquitous Americans.

        The atmosphere is all about peace and harmony, Israelis mix with Egyptians and Germans and all the rest. The sun is hot, the corals in the Red Sea are absolutely fabulous, there is an odour of an exotic (Ed: Health Warning: Tar-filled!!) brand of cigarettes in the air.

        On the other side, about 10 miles away is Saudi-Arabia; one cannot help to think how stupid it is of them to not open up at least parts of their coastline to tourism.

        Behind Dahab lie magnificent mountains, where people go on picnics and can even climb Jabal Mussa, or better known as Mt. Sinai, from where, IT IS WRITTEN, the view of the sunset is supposed to be stupendous (b>Ed: Yet another SOHLO superlative!).

        There are countless cats roaming around the streets of Dahab. One should be wary of eating in some of the restaurants; there have been numerous reports of food-poisoning in Dahab.

        Let's be careful out there!

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    10. Cool Runnings in Athens, Greece

        I arrived at Omonia Square in Athens around 11 am with my mate, Rob, whom I had met in Egypt. Later that day I was supposed to go and meet my aunt and another friend who were flying in from Holland. Rob and me met this juggler who showed us a cheap hotel. Cory, the juggler, became our friend and we started roaming the streets of Athens together.

        The police would hassle Cory when he was making money juggling. One day they took him in and questioned him for three hours. This episode repeated itself four days a week. They would throw water at his face and call him "americano" and jeer at him. Once they said he could leave, and they literally kicked him out, only to be confronted by a policeman pointing a machine-gun at him, yelling "halt", and then bursting into laughter.

        Later we met some Kurdish people who told us we could stay at their place, which was an abandoned freight car. One night the police were after us again and started beating us up with clubs, with the result that one of us, Ali, broke his finger. So we fled into the night.

        The next day we went into a cafe where the menu on the wall read &qut;coffee 250 drachmas" (about US$1). Upon leaving, the bill read 400 drachmas. We objected upon which they replied there is a service charge of thirty per cent. We kindly pointed out that 250 plus thirty per cent sums up to 325, not 400, which would be the sum after sixty percent. So this gorilla is yelling at us and we point out EU laws that the price must be the same on the bill and on the menu. After about five minutes negotiating they take our 325 and we leave.

        There was also a time when the waiter does not speak English and throws us out, apparently frustrated at his incapability of producing or understanding a foreign tongue. I am also getting frustrated now and wish to write about something sunny and positive in the next edition of Findians Briefings, so stick around.

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    11. The Israeli Dilemma

        Having visited and spent time in Israel, somehow it seems difficult to see peace emerging from the shambles the peace process is in now. Hebron is the greatest problem. About 500 Orthodox Jews are enclaved in the city, surrounded by 100000 Palestinians.

        The reason for the impossibility of peace is just that it is mainly the fringe groups that are living in Hebron, as there are also many Hamas supporters.

        Tel Aviv is another kettle of fish. There, Arabs and Jews seem to live together without conflict. An Arab takeaway joint is the most popular nocturnal snack shop in Tel Aviv-Jaffa. The whole atmosphere in the city is more relaxed,

        Jerusalemites, on the other hand, are just too obsessed with religion. In any conversation in Jerusalem it is very hard to not veer the flow of conversation so as not to include questions about the participants' religion and other religious issues. Everybody seems to be so concerned about religion. I guess it is because so many religious people live there, not to mention all the tourists that flock there incessantly.

        In June 1995 when the German chancellor, Helmut Kohl, was visiting Israel, I was passing by Jaffa Gate in the old city of Jerusalem, when the above-mentioned Mr. Kohl came out of his way to extend his hand to me, also shaking the hands of some other people. When he disappeared to the bazaar, an Israeli soldier shoved me in the back with the butt of his rifle. Either something had flared up in him or maybe he was too anxious in following Mr. Kohl to the bazaar.

        An incident like this is, however, just enough for the Palestinians to start throwing rocks at the soldier. This would then have lead to rubber bullets, and the eventual death. Rubber bullets can be lethal as well, and after a casualty, the violence would have spread even more, and it would have stayed in the minds of people, and circumstantially have led to hatred, which would then have settled in to produce long-lasting feuds. That was the psychology. And it still is, as it is not too complicated. Major conflicts can start from a minor spark that has grown into a huge snowball rolling down the hill of human emotions.

        It is not always a Jewish-Muslim feud that is going on in Israel. There has been controversy within both the communities. Surely not all Palestinians accept the actions and atrocious crimes committed by Hamas and the like. Most of the people just want peace. p> My Sephardic Jewish friends told me a story from the past when there was tension between the Sephardim and Ashkenazim Jewry, and how the Sephardim called the Ashkenazim ashke NAZIs.

        The hottest issue in Jerusalem now is the building of new housing in East Jerusalem for Jewish Israelis. Again Orthodox. The government confiscated some the land from a Jewish guy who was going to build housing for moderate Israelis as well as Palestinians. It seems like Netanyahu wants conflict, as apparently he has no future in a peaceful society. He is mainly supported by the right wing hard-line Orthodox Israelis and some moderates who did not like Peres. Allegations of corruption have been directed towards him, although no charges are being pressed.

        Israel lacks a powerful opposition, since after Rabin's assassination by the Orthodox Yigal Amir, the Working Party has been left weaker than before.

        Only time will tell what will happen. Undoubtedly, Israel will not give Palestine independence, at least, not with the borders they would like. It is good to remember that not even Jordan gave Palestine independence. Now all the Arab countries are so much in favour of Palestine. All this is only politics, the truth is that no one really cares about the Palestinians well-being but themselves, and they should try to find a way to first control Hamas and the fringe groups and get them to stop their destructive actions. Then, possibly Israel can make a compromise and get the peace-destructive Orthodox Jews out of Hebron and other colonies, and maybe replace them with moderates. Also, if everybody brushes up their manners and treats each other like human beings, maybe the world will see peace in the Middle East in the next millennium.

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    12. Whatever is Happening to European Integration?

        I was very surprised to see three machine-gunned soldiers enter the bus as we were entering French territory. I had just read a brochure about how border controls have ceased between seven EU countries since 26 March 1995, according to the Schengen Treaty. Apparently France has signed on, but in practice does not give a hoot about the commitment that a treaty like Schengen requires from its members. Especially in the light that none of the passengers on the bus were actually even going to set foot in France, as the bus was bound from Amsterdam to London, and was only going to board the ferry in Calais to land then in Dover. In the one hour our bus spent in France, the machine-gunned soldiers managed to check everyone's passports three times, also they took one African American fellow's passport and made some phone calls somewhere. This actually caused us to miss our ferry. I was getting worried since I had a friend waiting for me at Leicester Square with tickets to a No Doubt concert.

        Well, Dover did not prove to be any better, well at least they had left the machine gun greeting out, but still they held the busload of people waiting for an hour, since the border control decided to do a full body search on a Pakistani-origin Dutch guy. The poor chap appeared trembling into the bus, after they let him go after the horror-hour. Meanwhile drug-dogs were sniffing all our bags. I had thought that with the integration of Europe the borders would get easier, and the police would co-operate in order to control international drug trade. Obviously France and Britain did not think so. Well, the British isolation is no news- they are not in the Schengen.

        I finally got into London Victoria and on to Leicester Square, but not in time for the concert. Well, at least I WAS there, unlike my Japanese friend who had not been let in the country, because the border officials had not believed he had some money wired to him in a London bank. He was sent back to Copenhagen. Also, in the pre-EU times for a Finnish passport holder like me, there had been a million questions at the border and when I answered them I was told that "In England we say "yes", not "yeah".

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    13. Tallin - Estonia

        I received an e-mail from my friends who had recently moved to Helsinki from the US. They were complaining about the horrid food prices in Finland.

        I had been with them to Tallinn, Estonia, in September last year and we had come to the conclusion that the city is a gem. Not only are the food prices extremely reasonable, the lax restriction on commercial activity make it the entrepreneur's heaven. No wonder why the rate of unemployment in Estonia is just four per cent, compared to the twentysomething percent in Finland.

        No one can tell you the real figure here in Finland, because the numbers are being fiddled with, for example by putting people on courses and thus listing them as students, or denying whole families unemployment status on the basis that one son is a businessman.

        The atmosphere in Tallinn is very encouraging, and not only because of the totally renovated Old City. Many Finns go there to buy alcohol, which is still mystified in Finland, with the result that there is still a state monopoly here, which draws in pots of money, only to be wasted on health care to take care of alcohol misuse induced illnesses. It is a vicious circle that no politician wants to tackle, since the Finnish state economy is extremely poor and would face dire difficulties were the income on alcohol tax (and tobacco) to be reduced. Hence there has evolved the myth around alcohol, and a vast majority think alcohol is the only way to spend the weekend.

        In Finland there exists little entrepreneurship: it is suppressed by cartels and subsidies, strict commercial laws, and numbed by alcohol. An individual has to develop her/his skills in survival, to provide a living for her/himself. The people in Tallinn revel in this, and it shows on their faces. The woman/man of the street is happy because s/he can and will provide a living, and fun and games for her/himself and is not suppressed by unwise government policies. On the contrary, s/he is encouraged to survive, which evidently reflects in the well-being of the whole society in a positive way. There is competition, interaction between people, whereas in Finland there is too much of one-way street influence from bureaucrats down to the people, and often in hindrance to the people, not as encouragement, as was proved by the revelations by Lisa Mariapori.

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    14. Illegal Immigrants in Holland and Belgium

        Belgium and Holland are tightening up. Many hotel, restaurant and cafeteria workers are scared because the police are doing razzias, looking for them, the illegal residents.

        The procedure to apply for an official residence/work permit is long and mostly a futile exercise. It requires a great deal of waiting, and money, to survive without a job. Therefore, in most countries there are illegal workers, who do jobs many work permit holders are not prepared to do.

        The difference, however, between police measures against illegal immigrants varies from country to country. In Holland, if caught, they are taken away in handcuffs, and after official investigations, and the like, they are led to the airport and deported.

        In Belgium, however, they can be taken into custody, and battered and kept on bread and water for a month of interrogation, if the police so wishes. This incident was disclosed to me by a Turkish man of the street, whose friend had received such treatment, so evidently there is no hard evidence that it happened.

        That is mainly because the victim of this police treatment does not get a chance to speak out, because he is already been beaten to silence and deported. Just as simple as that.

        Naturally, every country has the right for their own immigrant policy, but if such harsh measures are applied to people whose only crime was to work and live in a country, whose bureaucracy does not really permit immigrants, at least poor ones to work immediately upon arrival, or at least for the entirety of the process of issual or denial of the permit to the individual, then there lies a sadism within the bureaucracy and those who are supposed to mete out justice.

        This sadism must be exposed and torn out by its roots, and humane measures should be applied, or some laws should get changed..

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    15. Telnetting in Holland

        I was surprised to find how difficult it was to get access to my e-mail in Holland. In Poland I had found internet cafes, but when I asked for one in Amsterdam, the tourist information clerk told me promptly that there is no such thing in Amsterdam, and in fact she tried to convince me that there is no place in Amsterdam where one can access the internet!

        This, of course, was a load of rubbish, so I was once again on my own in quest for that close encounter of the telnet kind in a relatively new city to me.

        I saw a ptt telecom, the Dutch telephone company, advertising internet access in one of their facilities, but it turned out they only sold connections, and thus do not take guests. The salesperson directed me to an internet cafe, (of course, there was one) but on my way there I came across the university and after a couple inquiries I found my way to the computer lab where I could czech, sorry check (wait a minute where not in Czechia anymore, Sohlo) my e-mail, and write my findians article.

        Then, later in Leiden, an interesting city in the province of South Holland, I looked again for telnet access. This time the tourist information told me that unlike many other countries, The Netherlands does not have so many internet cafes, thus there was no such thing in Leiden.

        So I shopped around again. Here, the ptt telecom was willing to take guests but the system was shut down due to some malfunction for a week or two. Next up, I thought I would ask some experts, they would know, so I asked this sharp dressed salesman if they had access to telnet and he pointed the TOILET for me.

        I then went, naturally, to the university. At the library they told me that, officially, e-mailing was not allowed at the university, so I had to unofficially ask some students, who were then happy to show me to a computer where I then got access to telnet.

        All these procedures surprised me as I had thought of The Netherlands as so progressive in many aspects. For example, there is not so much racism in Holland as there is, for example, in Belgium.

        Throughout the times, Holland has been known for it's tolerance. The contrast with Belgium is large, especially as I know that some illegal immigrants were beaten in Belgian prisons before they were kicked out of the country.

        But that again is a whole new story.

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    16. Life in Prague

        Prague gets millions of tourists every year. I was one of them.

        I had been told that the influx of tourists is so big that the cafe personnel, for example, do not have the energy to be friendly to everyone.

        I guess this is understandable, but I was still surprised when, I and my friends, Fergal from Dublin and Harry from Sydney, were sitting in one. It happened twice that when we ordered coffee, my friends were served first and then five minutes later, me. The first time the waitress handed my coffee over the table, whereas she carefully placed the two cups of coffee in front of my friends.

        The second time around it was at the well renowned Hotel Europa, on Prague's main street, Vaclavske namesti. I asked about for a mineral water and the waiter snapped at me "wait for your turn."

        When he did bring my mineral water later, after my friends were well into their cups of tea, I inquired if not in fact it is common courtesy to serve one table at a time, as our waiter had served a couple of tables in between my friends' teas and my mineral water.

        Upon this, Fergal, Henry and I entered into a series of speculations about why I had received clearly second class service. I thought it could maybe be my long hair. My friends thought I looked German and they might not like Germans here. I wondered why they should not like Germans, as German tourists bring huge amounts of money to boost Checia's economy.

        Checia in itself, and Prague is an excellent choice for a holiday (if you stay out of places like Hotel Europa) to look at the splendid architecture or want to party out in clubs that are set in buildings dating back to the 12th century. There is something magical about (post) modern music in Medieval settings. You really do not need any substances to get high in this atmosphere.

        Prague is definitely worth "czeching out." Most major airlines fly there.

        From Finland it is cheap to go through the Baltics by train to Warsaw, and on to Prague.

        Have a pleasant journey. Don't go to Europa (the hotel).

        Or do, maybe they'll like YOU.

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    17. Life in Auschwitz

        The former Nazi concentration camp is nowadays a museum, where thousands of people come to witness the atrocities committed by the nazis.

        I have a friend working in the museum looking after publications, translating and the editing books and documentaries by survivors and historians.

        I got a first class tour around the camp. In the evening we went to the local pub.

        Oswiecim is a city of about 50000 people, and I heard some absurd stories there, like the one about the Jewish man, a camp survivor, who lives in Oswiecim and will not open his door to anyone, which is understandable, considering those years of horror he went through at the camp.

        At the same time it is touching to think of a man who stayed in his home town, and lives without talking to his towns people.

        One woman in the bar told me that when she visited Germany and she told people that she was from Auschwitz, they stopped talking to her. Why cannot people talk about history and especially the bad things that have happened?

        Otherwise, things went on in the bar as they could have gone in a bar in Finland for that matter. Almost everyone drank beer, and me, who did not like to drink that night, met with a lot of questions as to why I was not drinking.

        Then, around three a.m. people left and the bar starting quieting down. Suddenly, all the people were gone. Where had all the people gone that night brings one to think what this bar could have looked like sixty years ago, if all those people had not been murdered.

        Before the war there were 3.5 million Jewish people in Poland,

        Today, there are about 4000.

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    18. Plague - and Finnish Insurance Companies

        As devoted readers of Findians Briefings are aware, I, Sohlo, travelled in America earlier this year, and naturally, I had an insurance policy, from the Pohjola Insurance Company. This is one of the largest in this business in Finland (the former Finnish Finance Minister, Iiro Viinanen, having carved a nice niche for himself at the apex of this organisation in true Finnish political style).

        They gave me a neat plastic card, as well, in which the terms were printed, and which stated that medical expenses and repatriation were covered. (What a depressing option indeed, the repatrisomething).

        As it happened, there was a blizzard in New York, just as I was enjoying my last days there, and doggone it I lost my hat. While looking for a new deal that I hoped would equal or top my lost hat, first I thought of a top hat, but then I settled for a basketball toboggan. Well, in the meanwhile I caught a severe cold. The next day was that dreary flight to Pittsburgh, where I landed, sick of flying and down with tonsillitis. So, off I went to the hospital, shaking like a leaf, running a temperature. I was diagnosed with the above mentioned ailment. (In Finland they do not cut out the tonsils as it is a common belief that they protect the respiratory system).

        I was happy to use my card and get the medicine to nurse away my swollen "throat almonds" as they call the tonsils in Dutch.

        Three months later. I am sitting at home in Valtatie, Oulu, Finland, when the postman delivers a letter from West Virginia University (WVU) Hospital saying that the payment had not gone through on the card. Now they wanted cash ($120). Upon which, I race to Pohjola. They say I have to fill a form, and they will investigate my case. I was flabbergasted as I had supposed that the card was it, no strings attached.

        Then Pohjola takes so long investigating that I start receiving letter after letter (including a new bill of $59.50) from the WVU Hospital. Each time I galloped back to Pohjola HQ to be told that the investigation was in progress.

        Finally, Pohjola told me they have paid, but only the first bill. They do not react when I tell them that the $59.50 is probably because of the fact that they were late by three months in paying the $120.00.

        I am still receiving bills of $59.50.

        The same thing happened to my dad (also with Pohjola). My mother sent a letter to America, and they stopped sending letters.

        I wonder if my dad or I are on some black list somewhere, thanks to Pohjola.

        I am touring Europe this winter - I am moving my insurance business to another insurance company - and hopefully I may get better service with no strings attached.

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    19. US Public Transportation - A Dismal Picture

        I embarked on my American tour in early January of this year. I had planned my itinerary so that I was first going to see my friends, Mr. and Mrs. Lockard in Morgantown, West Virginia, then my friend, Sylvia Mullins, in Silver Spring, Maryland, followed my uncle and aunt in Florida, and finally my friend, Hailey Tytel, in Seattle, Washington. I also wanted to reminisce and see my old homesteads, El Cerrito, California in the San Francisco bay area and Jericho in Vermont.

        I bought a thirty-day Amtrak rail pass with which I intended to cover most of my trip. After eleven days in Morgantown, of which seven days I spent jet laggedly mingling with my friends and their most intriguing friends - a wonderful cavalcade of generation q? people, (too bad they all had like four cats, so the cat allergic me went through a whole shopful of homeopathic cat resistant products) - Mike Lockard gave me a ride to Cumberland, MD train station. Shortly after my arrival there another passenger informed me that there was going to be no train, and that he was opting for the Greyhound. Shortly thereafter, someone else (there were no ticket clerks at the station, nor customer service) informed me that there was going to be a bus in replacement for the train that had not been able to come through because of floods.

        Well, it was a long wait. I called the 1-800 number on my ticket and they told me I should wait half-an-hour. I was also worried because they told me that I could not use my ticket for travel, but that with my ticket, the ticket clerks could issue me a ticket I could use on the bus. When I had called them from Morgantown they had told me to come to the station and get it issued there, but alas there was no one there as it turned out. So they told me I could not use my ticket on the bus, but that, maybe the driver would be lenient. I waited five hours for their lenient bus driver calling them every half hour that the bus had not yet arrived. Nine times they told me I should wait another half-hour. On the tenth call they informed me that the replacement bus had arrived in Washington, D. C. and that I had missed it.

        I was furious at this - having spent five hours doing nothing, and with Sylvia waiting for me at the other end in Washington, D. C. half-an-hour away from Silver Spring, MD. I realized that now I would have to opt for the Greyhound, even though I had a valid pass for Amtrak. I was also aware that I was being told lies as the center had told me that the bus had been at the station and that I had missed it. Actually they told me "You say you were there, but...". I later discovered that the buses do not stop at the smaller scheduled stops so as to save time, because, as I was two weeks later taking another replacement bus from Seattle to Vancouver BC, in Canada, and back, the bus raced through in a hurry and did not stop at all the stops.

        The next day I went to the Amtrak customer service center in Washington, D. C. and received blunt service, as the representative accused me of not having been at the station on time.

        After a splendid stay in D. C.- Amtrak could not spoil that, even though the Mullin's' cat had tried to - I saw my aunt and uncle in Florida (and their cat), and then took a train across the continent to L. A., expecting to meet up with more cats again.

        Well, I made a few good friends in Hollywood, Marcio Leyser, from Porto Alegre, Brazil, and Takuya Tomooka, from Hiroshima, Japan.

        The next time I was in trouble was when there were floods on the west coast. I was informed that the train from Emeryville, just off San Francisco, to Seattle would have to cross some flooded areas and Amtrak could not vouch for my arrival in Seattle.

        This time I knew I would have to pay for an airline ticket if I wanted to see Hailey. In Seattle, Hailey and I talked (while Hailey's friend's cat meowed) to the Brazilian who had been on the train. He said Amtrak had flown the trainload of people over the flooded area.

        After the teary good-byes I embarked on a cross-continent train ride again, via Chicago and Albany to Montreal. In Albany, New York, I managed to fight and get an extension to my ticket as I told them I had not been able to use it in the beginning due to the floods.

        So I used my pass to come down from Montreal, to beautiful Vermont, where I saw my old neighbours, Mr. Vaughn, and the Rexfords, my dad's colleague, Professor von Turkovic and my friend from my school days, Jeff Clarke. The whole time in Vermont was full of a welted sense of memories and rendezvous that evoked a most sensational feeling within me.

        Later, I took a train down to New York City. From NYC I had to get myself across to Pittsburgh once again, since I had another three days before my return to London, Helsinki, and on to Oulu. The Lockards were going to pick me up again as I was going to spend time with them in Morgantown, which is two hours away from Pittsburgh.

        I bought a cheap Jet Train airline ticket. The flight was five hours late. I heard disembarking passengers from Orlando, Florida, making comments as "terrible", "never again", and "I thought we were not going to make it". To tell you the truth, I thought exactly the same as soon as the plane was in the air. I arrived in Pittsburgh sick from the rough ride and with a fear of flying ingrained in me.

        Summarising, I can say that I tremendously enjoyed visiting my friends, old and new, but public transportation in the US is horrid. I can also add that when Marcio and me rented a car, I could not drive it since I did not have a credit card. Marcio had to drive, so I did not have many options to move around by myself. Maybe I should have hitchhiked like Sal Paradise in Jack Kerouac's "On the Road". Or maybe in the US they want everyone, including us poor students without credit cards, to buy a car, even when we are tourists!

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    20. Come drink and sing along in our merry company? Not me.

        Students organisations are famous, the world over, for making up and using raucous songs at various frolicking occasions, especially at their drinking parties. Most of these songs are passed on by word of mouth over the generations and not committed to paper as they change with the times. They generally poke fun, only as students know how to, at society and the ills in society as well as what is bad and tasteless in the social structure.

        The guild of the technical students of Oulu University is no exception. To make their newcomers more at home, however, they have committed their drinking songs to paper. They deal this leaflet out at the initiation party for first year students. It includes the following songs (this is a translation from the Finnish):


        Jews were singing we are on our way to the fire
        We take our greetings to the soap factory
        The SS-man's whistle cuts through the air, peep, peep, peep
        The guard-on-duty draws an x to the list of names
        Sonderkommando nach Dachau

        Jews were singing we are on our way to the fire
        We take our greetings to the soap factory
        The crematoria doors go clunk, clunk, clunk,
        The guard-on-duty is so happy
        Sonderkommando nach Dachau

        Jews were singing we are on our way to the fire
        We take our greetings to the soap factory
        The barbed wire around the camp is electrified and goes sht sht sht
        The guard-on-duty drinks water to ease his hangover
        Sonderkommando nach Dachau

        Jews were singing we are on our way to the fire
        We take our greetings to the soap factory
        The Jew says: have mercy, argh, argh, argh
        Adolf tells us carry them to the fire
        Sonderkommando nach Dachau

        A HYMN

        The night is as dark as the nigger's soul
        The people at the back are sleeping
        The owl's scream is heard from the priest's back yard, so 1,2,3,4,5.

        Oulu has a history, like Joensuu, of racial discrimination. One hotelier who ran for the City Council in 1992 and who received the largest number of votes cast, was well-known for the apartheid policies he followed in his restaurants and hotels. The main reason for his large support base at the elections was the racial discrimination stance that he had adopted. He had refused to let foreign looking men into his restaurants.

        What was even more shocking about his election was that two of the three largest national political parties in Finland, the Centre Party and the National Coalition Party (Conservatives) had begged him to be their candidate at those elections.

        I have heard the drinking songs from Oulu, with racial overtones, being sung in public. People who pass by laugh. It would be sad if Finland's history of a low level of anti-semitism does not continue. Finland, like Italy, although a German ally during WW II, refused to pass on its Jewish citizens to German concentration camps. The then Foreign Minister, Tanner, and Field Marshal Mannerheim are to be applauded that they sustained their sense of humanity under intense pressure. The Valpo (today Supo, the Finnish Secret Service) chief Arno Anthoni, who was indeed less humane; he was a nazi, submitted eight Jewish refugees to death camps, and some people say the then Prime Minister, Horelli, was aware of his actions.

        Although Finland is renowned for its functioning bilingualism, the truth is that it is easy to get harassed, even in the capital Helsinki, not to mention in Oulu, for speaking Swedish, the second official language of Finland. Boris Grunstein recites, in his memoirs, that an officer told him during the war that he, as a Jew, would have nothing to fear. It was the Swedish speaking people that were "the Jews of Finland" and they were to be gotten rid of!

        It is sad indeed to notice that these drinking songs do not arouse public concern or outcry, as people laugh at them without stopping to think of the actual words of the songs and the racism in them. When I heard these songs a couple of weeks ago I had to listen carefully if I really was hearing correctly what some students were singing on the street. They were these above mentioned songs.

        I do not think the passers-by actually stopped to think, or at least I hope so, because if they were thinking about the words and still laughed and if the drunk students were conscious and meant every word, then I am really worried.

        In any case, if they were not thinking about what they were singing, it is the people who printed those leaflets and who have dealt them out that are a group of sick individuals.

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    21. One Man's Bread, Another Man's Poison

        Living in a flat can sure be a toil. And I am not talking about all the bills and stuff - what I am referring to far exceeds the misfortunes of paying stupid bills (and stuff). I am talking about neighbours who cannot take anything, especially not life. And there always is a neighbour who thinks you are doing something wrong.

        Picture a student new in town and all enthralled to give away a house warm-up party for his/her new friends. So, there is a little music, people mingling and exchanging ideas and enjoying the good things in life that are free, the company of each other.

        Well, there is going to be a neighbour who does not like life and thinks there was some noise. This person is going to file a complaint that will right there waiting for you in the morning.

        The hearing sense of your neighbour is also likely to be picky, because s/he did not get disturbed by all the trucks and lorries and cars driving by, but by human sounds of talk and music. It is obvious that your neighbour is not disturbed by noise but maybe is jealous of you having fun and friends. S/he is probably just shy, lonely and bitter. This lonely stressed, obsessed insomniac neighbour of yours would deep down want to reach out and touch, and the complaint maybe a twisted cry for help.

        A friend of mine told me about his neighbour, who was home at his parents place and was issued a warning for making noise. He tried to tell the committee - in vain- that there had not been anyone in his apartment the whole weekend (at least that he knew of anyway, maybe there had been burglars or some plain clothes secret service men applying bugging devices).

        Take a look at this type of neighbour - I was playing soccer a while back with two friends, when this individual emerged on her balcony, which is adjacent to mine, and said this had to stop. She said there was a soccer field a kilometre away. I asked what was the use of the yard if no one is ever allowed to do anything there. The only people I ever see moving around there are the caretakers who mow and rake and snowplough it. There is never a single resident out there having fun. Now there has been me there for two minutes and someone complains.

        These people really seem to hate people - go back to your pigeon holes I thought. I told my neighbour that it was the parked cars that bothered me more than people running about amongst the birch trees.

        Or get a load of this. I was studying in Belgium 1993-4, and I lived in the dorm for the first semester. One night, when my aunt had come over from The Netherlands, we were talking (Finnish) softly around eight o'clock in the evening. We heard a bony knock on the door and we heard this cold voice inform us that our language sounds weird and we should switch over to Dutch or English so that it would not bother her.

        Well, I was not going to leave my room even though my neighbour could have me thrown out of the dorm for my misdemeanour! A week before, you see, this neighbour had heard a laugh from my room at midnight, and without any investigation procedure or allowing me a single word in my defence the dorm council chairperson had informed me that one more misdemeanour would suffice for them to throw me out on the street. They were only giving me a second chance because I was a foreigner. A Belgian would be out already. I was surprised because I knew that my Belgian friend in the second floor always listened to music three times as loud as me and his neighbours never complained.

        So, me and aunt Lisi just had to talk real soft for the rest of her stay and I could never have friends over for the rest of the semester. We thought about all those fine sounding UN rights that ensure everyone their right for their language disregarding ethnicity. We also thought these neighbours should be directed to seek psychiatric help/psychological assistance.

        And the people at the committees issuing warnings should learn proper legal procedures (innocent till proven guilty, hearing both sides) and they should get warnings and have their diplomas taken away from them for unprofessional conduct.

        The stressed neighbours, and their groupies, the committee-members, should cultivate some hobbies or take courses like "how to behave like a human being" and stop persecuting people who want to live, dance, make friends, spend time with friends, argue, debate, love, do sports and speak a different language.

        Sohlo will spook you in a fortnight....

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    22. Spot the Difference

      Drug Peddler and State Monopoly

        Miika Kortekallio is back in police custody after a period of freedom of two years.

        Miika has been in and out of the claws of the prison system since 1980. He then received his first sentence of six years. He escaped in 1984, got involved with big time smuggling, was recaptured in 1986, and was sentenced to nine years four months. Miika served eight and was freed in 1994.

        His freedom lasted until about a month ago when he was caught again, allegedly with 26 kilos of cannabis.

        Miika Kortekallio, the cannibis advocate of Finland, entered Oulu University in 1990. He began his English philology course, first accompanied by a guard, and later, due to good conduct, on his own, with a curfew set at 7 pm.

        The first time I talked to him, in the university cafeteria, I did not know who he was. Of course, I had a hunch, when I noted the uniformed guard that constantly accompanied Miika. Obviously Miika was somehow important, either to some company, or else to the state.

        His importance proved to be to the state. I soon knew that the guard was there to make sure that Miika did not, anymore, carry on the business he had been convicted for.

        I was surprised at Miika's good command of the English Language and his knowledge of world history. We had a lot to talk about. Gradually I became aware of his ideologies.

        He had been an avid Marxist in the seventies; he had studied in Halle, in the GDR (East Germany), and simultaneously, also at Cambridge University (UK). He had shuffled between the two countries for four - five years.

        The consequence of his travels was that he spent his holidays in the country that lies between Germany and England, The Netherlands. From there he adopted a liberal and tolerant disposition to world affairs, including cannabis products.

        We entered into a series of discussions about drugs. (By now I had heard that the answer to the question: "Who is the biggest drug smuggler in Scandinavian history?" in the Scandinavian edition of the quiz game Trivial Pursuit = Miika Kortekallio.)

        Miika made me aware of his reasoning for a lenient soft drug policy. His stance on other drugs, the hard drugs, was negative, and he said that he regretted the amphetamine smuggling he had been involved with. He was keen to impress on me that he had not drunk alcohol, which he considered a hard dug, for twenty years.

        Upon this we developed a gusty topic for discussion and debate. This consisted of us wondering how the Finnish State Monopoly, Alko, was allowed to promote a hard drug, alcohol, and he, Miika, was put to jail for promoting the soft drug, cannabis.

        I had gone chemical and meticulously pinpointed all the affects that both alcohol and cannabis have on the system of an individual:

        • Alcohol destroys brain cells, causes hallucinations and results in violent behaviour, can result in heart disease, destroy the liver, deteriorate memory capacity, flatten emotions, destroy concentration, and can, in overdose or long term consumption, lead to death.
        • Cannabis does pretty much the same, except that it does not lead to violence or death when taken as an overdose, but can destroy the lungs and cause paranoia, psychosis and lead to schizophrenia.

        Miika agreed on the negative sides of alcohol, but was not prepared to accept the negative aspects of cannabis. So we bashed alcohol since we both agreed on the effects it has on people. We contemplated all the stabbings and violence connected to it, all the sick people lying in hospitals that the taxpayer pays for, and all those people on sick leave just because of alcohol consumption.

        Intermittently, I did throw in some critical comments on grass that my new friend so fiercely stood up for. I also watched him take part in a live tv debate on drugs. He had been given a weekend pass to do that - he had devoutly stood up for his drug. Consequently, he was grounded from attending university for a month.

        So much for freedom of speech in Finland.

        Miika gave me in inkling about atrocities that take place inside Finnish prisons. If the prison authorities had a suspicion that he was in possession of drugs they would organise a check. He would be taken to a room with an open window, when the outside temperature was -20 Celsius (-4 F). He would be stripped naked and left in this freezing cold for thirty minutes while they turned his cell upside down. On another occasion a hitman inside the prison charged at him and tried to kill him by trying to beat him to death.

        In short, it appears that it is perfectly legitimate, in contradiction to the Finnish constitution, for the Finnish State to undertake drug pedalling and carry out violence against its citizens!!

        Which private individual is permitted to do this?

        All in all, I was not disturbed - unlike many of my peers - about Miika's history. Instead, I related emphatically to him, for the simple reason that he had beliefs for which he stood for. He was not afraid of engaging in a debate and disagreeing, whereas, most other kids, straight out of high school or the army, have been brain-washed to be passive, docile, prejudiced, and this list of negatives just goes on.

        See you in a fortnight....

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    23. Cultured by New York?

        As one struts the streets of Oulu, Finland, the perceptive jaywalker may feel a cosmopolitan breeze blowing down, be it from across the Gulf of Bothnia or down from the Russian-Karelian highlands. This fresh wind has brought in, if not as many new faces of population, at least some new cuisine, some exotic features to supplement the Arctic elements. One can nourish on Chinese, Vietnamese, German, French and Italian products of the kitchen, or even go for some Russian delicacies.

        However, Italian pizzerias are the form of eat-outs that have especially mushroomed all across the cross-roads and cellars of Oulu. They have an ongoing price struggle at the moment. One can see good bargains constantly advertised.

        One of the pizza parlours is named after a city most Finns would like to visit in their lifetime - New York.

        Walking down the High Street on the way back from a gym across the town from where I hang out, I came by the New York. Being exhausted from my session of a karate workout, I felt could do with the fare offered by the big apple. I was especially drawn in by their sign offering all-you-can eat-and-drink for the price of US$9.

        I have always felt it a good idea to start with a soup, so that was my first course. Having so prepared my stomach, I helped myself from the salad table, and I got meself a lush ensemble of all-the-world's vegetables.

        I started going through the day's events in my mind and was so entwined in the labyrinth of my thoughts that I had to glance twice to visualise what it was, that was squiggling on my plate.

        I had to accept the greatly horrible and vaguely comical fact that it was a worm.

        I do not want to be misunderstood here - I am a tolerant and well-read man; I do not hate worms; I am aware of the fact that many Australians nourish on them. But, at this moment, I was expecting a vegetarian meal.

        I walked over to the waiter, slowly beginning to think of all this worm's buddies that now were, who knows where?

        I pointed to the worm on my platter. The waiter was quite blasé in asking where it came from. I responded that it must have been in the salad, since it would hardly have survived the soup, assuming that the concoction had been boiled.

        As a great act of compensation, he took my worm-laden plate and, generously, he must have thought, gave me a new one.

        There was no concern from his part to my, or the worm's well-being. He brushed us both off the scene. No apology!

        I did not feel like approaching the worm's lair again. I had a piece of pan pizza, that I wished would wash away my pre-occupation with immediate family of my worm and their whereabouts.

        It did not help, the failure of the kitchen to produce a vegetarian salad disturbed my belief in their pizzas as well. I ate a piece going through all the possible creatures that possibly were ground in my maze of pizza. The next piece, however, I had to discontinue eating, for the thought of meeting something else in my pizza proved to be an undeletable picture in my mind.

        I then went for the dessert, which was ice-cream, and had almost balanced back to my table with a happy serving of my favourite flavoured dessert, when the same stern waiter sullenly cut me off uttering something in the fashion of the dessert not being part of the all-you-can-eat-and-drink, but that it costs US$ 0.50 extra.

        I was taken aback at this person's absence of customer-friendliness, that I raged back at him, in my wrath for this creature, that this particular ice cream was going to cost this joint a world of a lot more than fifty cents when everyone learns about their cool worm-filled salad.

        At this, the waiter drew back a little and snapped that I could keep my ice cream for now, but that the next time I was going to have to pay for it. This person actually believed that there would be a next time.

        It is not fun to wrestle worms and waiters when all you want is just a fulfilling meal.

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    24. Guilty Till Proven Innocent

        Euromarket is one of the big four Finnish supermarkets. Occasionally I shop in this huge block of a department store. Their prices usually just are not right. This time I was passing by, fatigued from a session of physical workout, and needed something for my dinner - actually, I had my mind set on white beans. I felt that my system needed those proteins.

        Hovering around having found my beans, I detected a jar of Danish honey of 450 grams at an exceptionally low price from amidst some other overpriced products. I realised I needed something to drink as well, so I got a litre of apple juice to quench my thirst.

        I arrived at the counter and loaded my selection of goods onto the conveyor and paid for them. It was at this juncture I was asked by the cashier to open up my rucksack for her to examine it. I replied in the negative, as that is against the law. In Finland only the police can demand that.

        She yelled out for the security guard, and hollered that this guy (me) had refused to open his rucksack.

        The guard bore down on me and stopped about a foot away - a distance which made me feel uncomfortable - he then ordered me to open up. I repeated that they did not have the right for this procedure. I asked him to call the police.

        He pulled out his mobile phone and dialled the number of the police. The police station is just across the street. He told them that he was having trouble with a presumed shoplifter.

        I was told it could be up to almost forty minutes before the police got there, which resulted in me setting down behind the counter. So far it had been fun while it lasted; then came an abrupt cut to that comfort, for the guard chastised me, on the grounds that I was blocking customers.

        Wait a minute, I thought, was I not a customer?

        It began to dawn on me that I had, by now, become a shoplifter in the eyes of the public - I felt their gaze coming at me from all directions - I heard their message:

        despicable, low, scum shoplifter.

        This jury had already condemned me to the chair. I got up and sat down on another chair that did not have electric straps on it, which was a small relief.

        I decided I had better use for my time than to sit in this hot seat. The hour of justice had arrived. With a flourish I emptied the contents of my rucksack onto the counter. I was flanked by the guard and another cashier besides the one sitting behind the counter.

        I asked if they sold sweaty gym wear, library books or worn out note pads. I received no answer. Instead, I was told that I had behaved badly. Upon which I snapped if they were not indeed mistreating me, a customer.

        "Is the customer not always right?" I asked.

        One of them uttered it was not true that the customer is always right - this shocked me to the extent I automatically felt such aversion to these people.

        I retreated as quickly as possible away from their midst, and went out into the open without saying another word.

        Later that night I went through my ordeal in my mind to get it out of my system. I recalled that there had been not a hint of anything vaguely resembling an apology from their part. I also remembered the embarrassment.

        I had to tell myself that I was just an innocent student. I could surely face a new day with a fresh attitude. I decided I was going to stand up for my rights, or the rights of everyone else, if it was ever going to be put into jeopardy in the future.

        I was going to make the wrath of Sohlo known to the unjust.

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      Copyright © 1996 Ilari Sohlo

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