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Three score and ten or more

Sunday, October 09, 2005

A few days ago I read articles from the Helsingin Sanomat that discussed a current problem in Finland. It seems that a number of people had been mugged and one murdered recently in some of the parks and in the Helsinki Railroad Station by what appeared to be groups of Somali young men along with some Finnish youth. It was, to be honest, a shock. When I was in Finland in the fifties their seemed to be very little crime of any kind. I left a very expensive camera in a booth in the Helsinki Railroad Station and when I returned two days later it was still hanging from its hook (which would not have been true in New York City). In general, as foreigners and missionaries who, even though we were not the favorite people of many of the Finns, were treated with courtesy, kindness and curiosity.

The one time in Finland when that was not true was during the general strike of 1956. I was interested when the strike was announced because my father was a railroad man, and he had been out on strike many times during my youth. This was different. I don't remember how long it lasted, but it was at least a couple of months, and when I say general strike, I mean general. Everybody went on strike except people who worked in bread and milk distribution, and some of the restaurants, and they were prohibited from striking (I guess so that people could get food). If you happened to be riding a bus from one city to another when the strike occurred you were stuck wherever the bus stopped. I lived in Pori at the time and it seemed that everyday the strike went on, people became more and more tense, not just with us foreigners but with each other. For awhile we went along proselyting as we always did, but gradually people on the street began to say cruel things to us, and, for some reason, to blame us for the problem.

The pictures above were taken from a second story restaurant (which closed shortly after the pictures were taken) of general strike meetings in the kauppatory (central square) in Pori. About two weeks after these pictures were taken, I witnessed one situation in which a number of people who had been stranded in Pori had (if I understood correctly) arranged for a bus driver who owned his own bus to take them to their home city. The loaded bus was surrounded by several hundred people who literally lifted the bus up from one side and tipped it over. The military (which was mostly draftees in the Finnish Army) were called in to disperse the crowd, and it was very tense. I don't know if the strike achieved its objectives, I don't even remember what those objectives were, but we gradually quit going out in public except to go to church on Sundays. It was the only time in almost three years when I didn't feel totally secure, and I said some prayers of gratitude when it ended. I don't know if the strike created long term divisions in the people. If so, they were not easily discernable to an outsider. There are divisions in our own country that make me very sad, and I worry about where these will take us and how permanent they may become.


At 7:54 PM, Blogger Bstermyster said...

Thanks for the comments on my blog. I appreciate your point of view. You have been a member of lots of unions. It is rather fascinating.

These pictures are interesting. They look like peaceful protests.

At 3:33 PM, Blogger Three Score and Ten or more said...

The ones in the pictures were peaceful. The one where people turned the bus over and the military broke it up was not peaceful. (scared out of my britches I was cowering against a wall and didn't even think of taking picutres till I was half way home. Actually I dont think taking pictures would have been a hit with the folks involved anyway.

At 7:37 PM, Blogger Patrick Joubert Conlon said...

Another good read - and something I learned that I did know. ;)


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