Columns What do we Finns do with our freedom?

We if who could encourage each person to be their own unique self and support people in their own paths.

Your summer vacation starts tomorrow, my spouse stated. I thought for a moment until I said, “Free!”

They both started laughing. The freedom of a toddler’s parent is relative even on vacation, and the feeling of freedom at the start of the summer vacation is no longer quite as intoxicating as when younger. But that is why it is good to remember that, in fact, our humble daily lives are in many ways the culmination of freedom.

Finland it is often claimed to be a place where nothing can be done, no one is allowed to stand out and get rich now especially not allowed. In general, the whole country is reportedly going downhill.

And there is nothing wrong with Finland’s criticism per se. There is always room for improvement, and problems will only be resolved if change is required.

However, following the debate on Finland, the statement of the philosopher Richard Rorty comes to mind from time to time: “National pride means to the country the same as self-respect for the individual: it is a necessary condition for self-development.”

National pride is a complex feeling. Personally, I think a good way to be proud of our own country is to see all the good that our society gives us and strive to build on it more good not only for ourselves but also for other people in the world.

Where do we get back to freedom.

American Freedom House publishes an annual report on the state of democracy and civil rights around the world. By comparison, Finland, Norway and Sweden are the freest countries in the world.

Why? Because we have free and fair elections, a brisk multi-party system and genuine inter-party competition. Corruption is low and freedom of expression, religion and assembly are respected. The judicial system operates independently. Women and minorities have equal rights with others, even when harassment and hate speech occur.

The report is just one of the comparisons emphasizing Finland’s success. Last week, a study was presented according to which Finland has survived the coronavirus pandemic best.

Not everything is good in Finland either. There are problems and injustices here too. Still, the comparisons give perspective.

Hand in heart: have we internalized the uniqueness of our own possibilities on a world scale?

And now I do not mean our own uniqueness or excellence, but precisely the uniqueness of our possibilities.

We live in a society where we have genuine freedom to choose, influence and take risks. We have an exceptionally well-functioning society that can try new ways to create well-being. As individuals, we have exceptional safety nets that allow for a new attempt. If we fail, safety nets will ensure that our children still have access to good day care, school and doctor and that almost everyone has a roof over their heads.

Failure and misfortune come at a price here too. Some find it easier to succeed than others here. But still, our social system gives us more freedom and security than almost any other country in the world.

The question is: What do we do with our freedom? Are we seizing our opportunities?

Our society provides us with a framework that would give us exceptional opportunities to make, experiment, create, try and spread prosperity and freedom further. We if anyone in this world could encourage each person to be their own unique self and support people in their own paths. We if we could strive to build an even better and more equal society for all.

We could do it as individuals in our daily lives, and we could do it as a nation on the world stage. In a world ruled by dictators, we could show the world a model of a prosperous society based on equality and freedom. In the face of the climate crisis, we could lead a more sustainable way of life on the road. We if anyone can afford it.

Because we if we are free – believe it ourselves or not.

The author is a consultant and non-fiction writer.

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