Most of the things that come into your mind when you hear the word “segregation” have a negative connotation; racial segregation for one has caused much unnecessary misery over the long history of that idiotic behavior. Gender segregation, separation or discrimination is another stupid policy, with lots of dysfunctional societies to show for that. And there are many more.
But we have none of that in Finland. Right? Something that, for a long time, was claimed to be a particularly wonderful and cherished feature of Finland was that the whole society was very much on the same level. Income differences were small and there were no “good” or “bad” areas to live. It was all one big happy family – if somewhat poor, uniform and a bit of an alcoholic one, but one family with a single set of values anyway.
Or so we wanted everyone to believe – not least Finns themselves. Since that illusion was at its strongest, income differences have risen in the past couple of decades and there are the occasional calls that the society is getting too split between the rich and the poor. And no matter what people say of East Helsinki not being a worse area to live in than other areas in the metropolitan area, by many standards it is. There are big differences in the housing prices among different neighborhoods, and there are actual, real-life reasons for that.
Let’s just say that the reasons are not all about distance from downtown or related to building quality and leave it at that.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I don’t want a society where the rich are isolated from the poor. I don’t want to live in a gated community with armed guards, able to only drive out in a huge SUV and feel safe to roam only at my exclusive club, which is what actually happens in some places around the world. No.
But I do want to get rid of – or be separated from – the people whose behavior is a menace to society. Not only the murderers et al but I also want to get rid of those literally blowing smoke in my face, leaving dirty needles around to stumble upon, the parasites who refuse to work but would rather live on social support off of my taxes, spending their lives in a drunken haze shouting at passers-by. First help them. If that fails, force some help on them. If they insist on continuing behavior that is promoting breaking down a society instead of building upon it, I’d rather they do it amongst themselves. Why would any society need to continue to support elements that are, in one way or another, actively acting against it?
All this may make me sound like an elitist *uck who’s totally detached from the realities of life. Let me assure you that’s not the case. I’m not advocating a prison-world, an Orwellian Big Brother-nation where civil liberties and freedom are stifled or a paradise where everyone lives happily ever after. No. And I’m also painfully aware that most people in the world are struggling with much bigger problems than is the topic of this post.
All I want is a world – or, lacking that, just a limited area of the world – where I can walk around peacefully without being harassed, enjoy the evening on my balcony without being surrounded by cancerous smoke, go to the local store without pinching my nose shut because the alcoholics came to get their daily fix of booze, play and walk at the beach and the parks without the fear of infected needles, have my daughter enjoy life without the fear of being assaulted verbally or physically…
Is that too much to ask for in todays world? Or is it just too much to ask for in Finland?
If – and it seems when – there are people who are happy to live their lives in a manner that disturbs and hurts other people, should we allow them to do that? Yes, in fact, we should. But only if we make sure the only people they hurt are the ones that share their values, or the lack thereof.
Now then, what would be the best realistic way of accomplishing this goal of (a more) peaceful, healthy & safe living nowadays? Since higher education goes, on average, hand in hand with taking better care of yourself and leading a healthier life, the best way to do that is to live in an area with lots of other highly educated people. If education also happens to go hand in hand with higher incomes and thus leads to socioeconomically divided neighborhoods, so be it. See if I care. If we can’t get people to behave in Finland, I for one would welcome a class society – but one based on behavior, not family ties, income or social status – with open arms.
Mind you, Finland is still one of the most equal countries in the world by design. I don’t know if it’s the reason for that or a corollary from that, but the people here cannot handle the inequality as well as many other nations, seeing someone better off (whether the target really is better of in reality or only in the beholders imagination) more as a target of hatred, jealousy and sabotage than an inspiring example to strive for.
If an American sees his neighbor has bought a cool new car he’d also want to have, his first thoughts are likely to be along the lines of “Cool car, I want one too – so I’m going to work even harder to get that.” If a Finn sees his neighbor with a cool new car, the likely first instinct is to “accidentally” scratch it with his key.
Which is a healthier approach?
What we need is to extend the No Asshole Rule from corporations to the society.