Thursday, September 04, 2008

"We can't expect them to learn Finnish, now can we?"

The minister of Labor and the fearless leader of the Greens, Tarja Cronberg, took part in a press conference on security policy in Helsinki on Tuesday.

Quite predictably she thinks that the war in Georgia has no bearing on Finland's security situation, there are no reasons to join NATO or to raise defense spending, etc.

She also demanded that the status on the Russian minority should be secured in the Baltic countries and in Finland, and suggested that Yle should have more Russian-language programming for this purpose.

"Regardless of what happens in Russia and what Russia does, Finland should take care of its growing Russian minority," she said.

However, she said, securing the status of the Russian-speaking minority is not about the security policy. She just happened to mention it during the press conference on security policy for no reason at all.

Why, I am touched. Cronberg wishes to take care of my poor little Russian-speaking self. Medvedev and Putin also just want to protect and take care of my poor little Russian-speaking self, in their own way.

When I was very young and roamed the street of St. Petersburg with less regard for personal safety than is strictly advisable, I found one and only one 100% indicator of an impending rape attempt: if a strange man suddenly volunteered to protect me from bad guys, it always meant that he was about to attack me physically, and the unsolicited words "I'll walk you home, there are a lot of hooligans around, it's not safe on your own" coming from a strange man always made me look for whatever could be used as a weapon.

By a strange coincidence, I feel the same way about politicians.

Seriously, though: what does Cronberg think to achieve by increasing the amount of Russian programming on Yle? Apart from licking Putin's ass, that is.

Russian-speaking people in Finland either speak Finnish, in which case they can watch and listen to the Finnish programming, or should be learning Finnish, in which case they'd do better to learn Finnish than to listen to the Russian programming. Does anyone, even the fearless leader of the Greens, really think that integration of the new immigrants is helped by providing them with entertainment in their native language as opposed to, say, providing them with more Finnish-language classes?

In the time since my arrival to the US we went from one Russian-language newspaper to five TV channels. From all I've seen it really did not improve integration, although at least part of the cause-and-effect went the other way (the less-integrable people came later and created demand for the Russian channels).

Russian-speaking people in Finland already have Russian bookstores, lots of Russian books in the public libraries, and three Russian-language channels that can be ordered on cable TV. What many of them don't have is a good working knowledge of Finnish. A new Russian channel would hardly serve that purpose.

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