Finland’s worst enemy at this time is not Russia, nor is it immigrants, Islamists or even extremists. It is alcohol, according to freelance journalist and opinion writer Wali Hashi. The following is an English version of Hashi's most recent opinion piece.
I occasionally work as a security guard in downtown Turku. During the course of my work I constantly encounter alcoholics – or my “customers”, as I like to call them. One of them is Pekka.
Pekka is a harmless alcoholic, whom I always have to remove from the premises of certain businesses. One evening we got to chatting.
Pekka enjoyed his bottle of vodka and said, “I was a doctor and I had a wife and children, a happy family. I lost everything, and this was the reason.”
I asked him, “Why don’t you just stop?”
“That’s easy for you to say,” he returned.
“Where do you get the money for all this drinking?”
“From social services, of course,” Pekka said.
Alcoholism a personal problem
When I speak with my Finnish friends or co-workers they rarely talk about personal matters such as family, illness, their background, beliefs or who they voted for. But on a daily basis I hear that they were drunk, got pissed, got plastered, and so on. Then they had a hangover.
If you are a drunk or drink too much alcohol, that to me is a personal thing. But perhaps not in this society. Alcohol abuse in Finland is acceptable.
In Finland people relate with pride how drunk they got. If you don’t drink you are considered weird and uptight – and you don’t belong. It’s no wonder that teens pretend to be drunk even when they aren’t. So I wonder why no one talks about the alcohol problem.
Commenting on Finns' alcohol consumption, physician and surgeon Mikko Vienonen said that Finland is on the brink of disaster.
“The situation is deteoriating, and we don’t even know where we are in terms of alcohol use,” he said.
Time to talk about the problem
If the situation is so dire, why can’t we talk about it? Why not talk about it when alcohol plays a major role in violent crime in Finland? Why not talk when 80 percent of murders and 70 percent of assault cases are committed under the influence of alcohol?
Why not talk when alcohol problems cost society up to 13 billion euros a year? Why not talk when the majority of fatal violent crimes relate specifically to alcohol use and are committed under the influence?
Finns value honesty, but where is that honesty when it comes to alcohol use?
I know that I will be accused of being uptight, self-righteous, a Muslim or a refugee with an agenda to end the consumption of alcohol in Finland.
However I can say that I’m just a regular citizen worried about a societal problem and that even we immigrants should sometimes be able to “lift the cat on the table” (set the cat among the pigeons).
Thank you to my Finnish teacher Tuulikki, who taught me the expression “lift the cat on the table” – it’s a wonderful saying!