Let’s clear one thing up for starters. Santa Claus resides in Northern Finland, near the North Pole. If you have been told differently, it’s fake news. Santa’s Fell is called Korvatunturi. It translates loosely to Ear Fell.
Which coincides perfectly with my take on Santa. He plays it by the ear these days. He ho-ho-hos in supermarkets, shopping malls and schools, and at corporate Christmas parties, while he outsources the work his trusted elves used to do to Amazon, Alibaba, and other online and offline commercial enterprises.
My standing Christmas wish for peace on earth won’t be granted this year either. Santa is too busy to bother with such matters, even though the increasing political tension of the world is felt all the way up here in Santa’s peaceful homeland.
Our perfect safe haven is not so safe anymore for external reasons and – in the case of certain minorities – internal ones too.
I feel the need to share a few survey results with you again – bear with me.
According to the Second European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey, Finns don’t excel in treating people equally irrespective of their skin colour or ethnic background. This came as quite a surprise to many. We thought we were doing better.
The good news is that the surveyed minorities from Sub-Saharan Africa felt safe enough to lodge complaints (more so than minorities in many other countries), and trusted the legal system more than was average among most surveyed minorities. The bad news is that we (the majority) are prone to staring and rude remarks, in addition to acts of outright discrimination.
The fact that it’s cold out there (both figuratively and in reality), doesn’t mean that we have to be cold too.
I find myself in a preaching mode: We may not be able to ensure peace on earth, but we can at least work toward better harmony in our own country.
It’s an uphill road. The survey shows that we have a long way to go before our equal opportunities laws become a reality for present and future immigrants.
The same is true for stopping sexual harassment (no, it’s not old news, it never should be). A recent survey among Finnish law firms confirmed that 31% of the female employees had experienced sexual harassment. The survey covered all job titles and both genders. It was sent to 3500, of whom 1311 answered. Of all those who answered, 20% had experienced sexual harassment. The Finnish Bar Association immediately launched a #withnoright campaign against harassment.
The “#MeToo” movement is a step in the right direction, but old attitudes die hard. I have heard it all – from the classic “women shouldn’t dress as enticingly as they do” and “a little flirting never hurt anybody” remarks to the equally popular “don’t forget that men can be harassed too” and “women have enabled harassment by their own actions” comments.
There are as many angles as there are speakers. My view is simple: No always means no, whatever the relationship. Outside of a relationship, no should be considered the starting point unless parties mutually and freely agree differently. If this easy rule was respected by every boss, colleague, friend, acquaintance and passing stranger, all would be well.
My handbag swings on my shoulder, hangs from my chair back, and sits on tables daily. This is not an invitation to grab it and walk away unpunished, however easy I unintentionally make it to do so. The same is true for my person. No one is free to grab any part of me without my permission. A permission that has to be given without undue pressure.
What others do with their bags has nothing to do with me. As long as they do it freely.
Harassment comes in many forms. Donald Trump (yes, we’re back to him) has proven this time and time again, and he continues to do so with a little help from his “friends”. UN Ambassador Nikki Haley’s promise to carefully list all the countries that voted for the resolution denouncing the US’ decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was straight from “Bullying For Dummies”.
In a classic “Use Of Superior Strength” follow-up, Trump stated that those who voted for the resolution would save the US a lot of money. The message was clear:Vote for the resolution and we will withdraw all your financial aid.
After a historic loss, with 128 countries voting for the resolution, 35 abstaining, and only 9 voting against it, Haley went into full “Outright Threats” mode, promising that the US would remember the vote when it is called upon once again to make the world’s largest contribution to the UN.
Haley and Trump clearly missed the memo that this is the season for giving, not for bullying.
Inequality comes in many forms too. Santa should (in theory) remember the rich and the poor alike, but this year Santa makes America great again for corporations and rich individuals. They get a special Christmas gift. It’s called the tax reform.
As a visiting investment banker so aptly noted, the world is divided into the geopolitical world with all its drama and the financial world that chugs along steadily and offers nicely growing returns with little or no drama.
For those who have the freedom and the money to enjoy it, the world is still a happy place.
Life is not about politics, finances and human rights alone, however. This was once again highlighted when huge crowds gathered in Paris to bid a final adieu to French rock icon Johnny Hallyday. While many things divide people, unexpected things still bring them together.
And so life moves on – in bits and pieces. That is my main take of this year. Fewer and fewer people have the time and interest to focus on bigger pictures. If it can’t be compressed into a tweet or a short column, the bigger picture – as well as the truth in many cases – easily get’s lost in the information wilderness.
As the concept of truth continues to dissolve, the search for higher yields keeps increasing the cost and time pressures of businesses. It’s an invitation to cut corners. This can’t end well. Something has to give. It’s anyone’s guess where the bubble will burst, but it will. We all know it, we just don’t know what to do about it.
But that is a story for another day.
Now I am going to forget the world and focus on trimming my Christmas tree, even though my trusted daily newspaper put quite a damper on my holiday cheer with its excruciatingly detailed description of all the bugs that typically enter my home uninvited along with the tree.
Since I have survived their onslaught before, I decided to continue to take my chances. But the tree will never look the same again. It has taken on a life of its own in my imagination; one with countless bugs fighting for survival as they are dragged in from the wet and cold to the dry and warm.
Not only are my dreams of peace on earth, tolerance and equality once again dashed, now my dream of the perfect Christmas tree is ruined too.
Then again, why not think positive – the more the merrier. While I prepare for my bug-filled Christmas, I wish you all Happy Holidays and a Peaceful Year 2018!