A little over two weeks of my ordeal at Lapinjärvi educational center has now gone by. Another two weeks lie ahead. During my stay here I have been forced to ponder why I have chosen this alternative.
Ever since I started thinking about these kind of matters, I have strongly resented the army. I wouldn’t go as far as calling myself a pacifist, not today. There was a time when I was naive enough to truly believe that war and violence could be eradicated from this earth of ours. I still believe in the theoretical possibility of this, and I think that it is a utopia worth striving for, but it is not a future that seems realistic until something very drastic and probably horrifying takes place.
But one thing I know is that violence and cruelty feed more violence and cruelty. And where there is a machinery of war, there will always be someone pouring fuel into the tank. Without bombs there would be no bomb raids and without guns no-one would die by the bullet. “Oh yes, let’s all hold hands and sing We Shall Overcome and smoke some pot” I can hear some of you saying. And, yes, there will probably always be feuds, disputes and wars and without standing armies we would have renegade warlords and so on. But how can a world in peace be possible if no-one believes in one? Can I truthfully say that I could never hold a gun at another person? No. I am no Ghandi. If it would be a choice between my life or the life of someone I love and shooting another person, I would pull the trigger. But that is beside the point.
The point is that I object to a state-financed institution, which main goal is to learn all men of this country to kill other human beings. I do not want to learn how to take a life in cold blood. That is the main reason to why I chose the civilian service instead of the military service.
The second reason has to do with the way the Finnish army is constructed and with the values and practices that are connected with it. Most of my friends who have done the military service say “I met a lot of interesting people, but overall it was just a lot of pointless crap”. The Finnish military education serves to make a smooth and unquestioning killing machine. Most guys who serve don’t see the point in getting awakened at four in the morning and start running around in a circle, neither do they see why it is so important that there are no creases in the bed sheets – and indeed why everyone must make their beds all over again if one person has been sloppy. Well, the point is just that – to make people stop looking for a point. Sooner or later it becomes easier to just stop thinking and do all that you are told, no matter how ridiculous it may seem – to become a robot. Listen, register, obey and follow routines. Never think for yourself.
And this, my friends, is what scares the living Jesus out of me. An army of cloned machines at the whim of whoever pulls the strings. People killing, bombing and burning – just because they are following orders. I will not be a part of that machinery.
Then we have the moral and ethical issues connected with the army, Home, God and Fatherland. We are supposed to worship a concept which is called Finland. It shall be a fortress and an ideal. We shall serve and protect its values, its honour and its pride. All shall salute the Flag and sing the national anthem with hearts bursting with pride. Why? I ask. I like my country, yes, but I don’t see why it is more worth saluting than Sweden, Russia or Zimbabwe. What is the national state but a theoretical concept, often extremely artificially constructed? Why would the people of one country recieve more reverence than those of another? In the army they still speak of The Russians with hushed voices, warning that the The Russians are hiding behind our borders with loaded guns. Why pose ordinary people of one country against ordinary people of another? I say we should unite against those why try to poison and destroy our brothers, stand up against tyranny and hatred, greed and war mongering (and bad movie quotes), regardless of what colours we see when we look at our flags. It is seldom the soldiers who wish to go to war. I suppose they would rather stay at home, in peace.
The problem here is of course the closed borders. We make walls and barriers to keep the world outside. There seems to be a strange concensus that he who is born on a patch of land should stay put and be content. Why does no-one question the bizarre notion that one who arrives on a spot of earth can lay claim to it? What if the first human being would have looked out over the Earth and concluded “This is my Earth and all who tread here must have my approval or move to the moon”? The Zimbabwean did not choose to become a Zimbabwean. Does the fact that he was unlucky to be born in a country in chaos and turmoil mean that he is forever doomed to povery and misery? How many wars could not have been avoided if the were no national states, no national anthems, no national pride? No institution that went on and on about The Russians.
And feeding this institution is a generation of war lovers. It is a strange paradox, that the generation born in the aftermath of the war, in the late forties and the fifties, is the one that is completely fixed on our Winter War. Most war veterans don’t want to talk about the war and if they do, they rarely have anything good to say. Many of them welcome their grandchildren performing the civilian service. My grandfather once said that he was happy that I didn’t want to learn how to kill people, and he served in both wars. But the next generation is completely war crazy. They can’t get enough of films and books and newspaper articles that discuss the Winter War. They stand proud with the hats in their mits shedding a tear when Maamme Laulu (the national anthem) is played and stand as guardians over Finnish Ideals. These are the guys who call us civilians servants faggots, enemies of the state, traitors, pussies, cowards. I am generalizing, of course not ALL of the generation share this view. But a large portion.
And all this also serves to feed opinions that I find freightening, which are now again on the rise in Finland. Xenophobia, militarism, egotism, isolation. The myth of Finland and The Finn is strong. There is a strong similarity to the fascist aryanism of the Third Reich. The Finn is caucasian, has a Christian upbringing, speaks Finnish and is, of course, born in Finland. He is preferably heterosexual, knows how to use an axe and a knife and guards his family with a shotgun. He is not corrupted by books and universities, but has a good heart and a strong will. If called to defend his country, he will leave all to engage in battle with red blood pulsating in his veins. All this leaves me with a distaste for the military.
But I do not deny that we, in this day and age, need some form of an army. The political realities of today makes it impossible for Finland to completely scrap the army. But a question that is hotly debated is the onw between the compulsory military service and an elite army. And in this case, I do believe that the compulsory service is the lesser of two evils. An elite guard of fanatical war crazies does not compell to me. But in my opinion the Finnish army is a dinosaur of a world that no longer exists, and one that is fed and fueled just because no-one really seems to know what to do with it. The army chiefs themselves say that they could only use a third of all soldiers if a war broke out today, there are simply too many. So why do we all then have to run around in the forest shooting at targets? Wouldn’t it be smarter to train all these young men in something that they really would have some use of? That the country and the people who live here would have some use of? Such as medical work, enviromental protection, cooking skills, social skills, history teaching, languages, technology, philosophy?
The army is outdated. Sometimes you have to invent the wheel again.