A sad day at a sad time in Finland.
Tuusula citizens have been deprived of the chance to discuss ways that the community can help in preventing another Jokela High School tragedy after Tuusulan municipality officials over-turned an earlier decision to allow the public discussion to happen in Hyökkälä school. The reason given is that only registered organizations with insurance can use the school.
This much needed discussion event, which would have been the first of its kind, following the Jokela tragedy, had taken hundreds of hours to organise. Now it will take days to take down the posters and forum posts, cancel the press releases. In reality, it will be impossible to alert everyone about the cancellation. Outside the locked school gates volunteers who will hand out cups of tea.
But, despite these early “teething troubles” some good is already coming from this. Ordinary Finns and well-connected community workers are coming forward to enthusiastically offer support. They also have their own tales of frustration to tell. It ‘s becoming clear that local government needs to start listening to people in order to serve them.
Without a sense of community, Finns will continue to suffer in fear, silence and isolation – not because they really want to but because they are culturally bound. To solve this local government should support community-led initiatives. Instead, the newly formed crisis counselling team assigned to Tuusula has strongly stated that they will not support such community discussions and recommended they not happen. Their message suggests that talk is dangerous and to be left only to paid professionals.
There are no winners here. Only victims. Fear rules the day.
We should never forget, that in times of crisis, as in times of peace, people need to talk to people – not officials. They want their family, friends and community around them.
Tragically, it is this lacking sense of community which is destroying Finland from the inside. Finns care but they don’t dare to act publicly. Example, a mother steps on to a Helsinki tram. In one hand she carries a pram and in the other she balances the precious life of her new-born baby, about 3 weeks old – but no-one looks at her or offers her a seat – she does not even expect anyone to.
Finns were deeply upset by the Jokela school killings and wanted to donate money. Consequently, the Red Cross opened a special account. Of course, Finns know that chucking money at a problem does not make it go away, although it may slightly help the families who lost members 16 days ago. Finns want solutions to the social circumstances which gave rise to the Jokela tragedy – but no-one dares to be the first to step out and to show that they care. And worse, if they do take action they might find that not only does their local government not support them but actually resists them.
The frustrating experiences of grieving Finnish families who lost relatives in the Asian Tsunami Catastrophe was that their desperate attempts to get help were met with unnecessary and inappropriate bureaucracy. Government experts do not have all the answers. They need to listen to those they are meant to serve and not decide for them.
The real victims of the Jokela High School massacre are the children. They were the ones who were targeted. How can they ever feel safe about returning to school if their mothers and fathers attempts to discuss community prevention tactics fail due to lack of local government support?
The Finnish President Tarja Halonen said after the tragedy that people should talk to each other. She also hoped that ways to prevent such tragedies everywhere would be found.
Therapy will never solve the problems of today’s society, believes psychiatrist Jari Sinkkonen (in Suomen Kuvalehti 46/2007 article by Leena Sharma)
“Are professionals supposed to take care of all of the problems and
ill-being of children? That doesn’t work, we can’t endlessly grow the
quantity of therapists. We should think, what we are doing, as
parents, as neighbours, as grandparents. What is the life of our
children like? Interference with this is not the purpose of a
Is anyone listening to these Finns?
We need to build bridges in all areas of Finnish society between young and old, community and government, parents and children.
These are issues which I will return to in society.oshana.org