Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Finnish Eton Boys

Let me return, for a moment, to one of my favourite subjects: rife corruption in the National Coalition Party (Kokoomus). Clearly, the dismissal of Ilkka Kanerva, the lecherous former foreign minister, is only the beginning of a long process of ridding the country these people...

Kokoomus MPs clearly hold the general public in contempt if they really think we're so gullible that nobody will notice that there's a connection between who donated money to their (widely derided) "retro" election campaign, and the people who are now up for top jobs and promotions. This is the Finnish equivalent of the "cash for peerages" scandal in the UK and let's hope it exposes them for what they are: a bunch of self-sufficient, back-slapping Eton boys (if such a thing could exist in Finland). Speaking of which, don't even get me started on Boris Johnson. His election defies belief.

For those with Finnish, here's an eye-opening article from Uutislehti 100 on 21.5.2008:

Tää on ihan kakkosesta (Ville Soininen, Uutislehti 100, 21.5.2008)

Iltalehti kertoi eilen, että poliitikot hakevat vaalirahoituskohun keksipisteessä olevalle Tokmanni Oy:n konserninjohtajalle Kyösti Kakkoselle vuorineuvoksen arvonimeä. Asialla on muum muassa kokoomuksen Sauli Niinistö, Jyri Häkämies, Marja Tiura ja Ilkka Kanerva ja keskustan Paula Lehtomäki sekä Hannes Manninen, jotka kaikki sivat tukea Kakkosen ja Toivo Sukarin avokätisesti rahoittamalta vaalirahayhdistykseltä.

Kakkonen luonnehti vaalirahoituksen ja vuorineuvoksen tittelin yhdistämistä eilen Iltalehe nettisivuilla "kananaivojournalismiksi ja julkeaksi vihjailuksi", mutta minusta on hienoa, että talvisodan henki elää edelleen suomalaisissa poliitikoissa. Ei kaveria silloinkaan jätetty. Tosin nykymuodossa talvisodan meininki menisi seuraavasti: "Paljonkos maksat, että kannan sut takaisin omille linjoille, kun näyttää tuo vasen koipesi irronneen."

[...] Suomi on toistuvasti arvioitu maailman vähiten korruptoituneeksi maaksi, eikä tavisten välillä rahalahjuksia annetakaan. Kuitenkin vuosi vuodelta suurempi osa hyvinkin erilaisissa ammateissa työskentelevistä tuttavistani on saanut töitä suhteilla. Olennaisinta ei enää pitkään ole ollut se, mitä osaat, vaan kenet tunnet. Hyvä veli - ja yhä useammin myös hyvä sisar -verkostot elävät ja voivat hyvin, mutta onko se korruptiota tai modernia nepotismia? Nämä käsitteet tuntuvat usein hämärtyvän, kun ne osuvat omalle kohdalle.

Friday, May 09, 2008

"we live / the opposite / daring"

A strange news item came to my attention last week: on 1st May, the BBC ran a story about a motion in the Greek parliament to restrict the use of the word 'lesbian' to natives of the Greek island, Lesbos. The modern meaning of the word stems, of course, from the fact that Sappho, who wrote extensively about her love of women, was herself a native of the island. The title of this post is from Sappho's fragment 24C, translated by Anne Carson. In the original: ζ]ώο[μεν ... ]εναντ[ ... τ]όλμαν[

The parliamentary motion sounds far-fetched, to say the least. The Guardian offers a more detailed insight into Lesbian and lesbian life on the island. From these snippets of interviews with the natives, the problems stem largely from Greek tourists from the mainland, while the islanders themselves largely welcome lesbian tourists with open arms. I particularly liked the comment: "So long as they leave our women alone, they are welcome".

In the extremely unlikely event that this act passes through the Greek parliament (it would make them a laughing stock), it's hard to imagine its having any effect on the international use of the word. Languages develop as they will, and it's impossible to rein them in after the fact. Not to mention the fact that, around the world, people who identify themselves as lesbians significantly outnumber the inhabitants of the island.

Besides, this isn't the first time the Greeks have given us a synonym for the unmentionable. In the 19th century, the term 'uranian' was a common euphemism for all manner of sexual deviances, and derives from the word 'Uranus' / Οὐρανός (with its highly unfortunate English pronunciation). According to one version of the story, Aphrodite was born of Uranus (a birth in which "the female has no part") and later came to be associated with "a noble love for male youths". The word 'dyke' is also of Greek origin, and comes from Dika / Δίκα, one of Sappho's most favoured pupils. And if I remember correctly, Forster's Maurice (and, doubtless, Hall's The Well of Loneliness, too) also makes mention of the fact that the characters are "like the Greeks". Hmmm... By all accounts, they've been getting up to all sorts for over two millennia!

To finish with, I loved this comment from one of the women interviewed in the Guardian:
"Thank God Sappho was born on Lesbos, not Rhodes," says Sandra, on holiday from Leeds with a group of friends to celebrate her 60th birthday. "Or we would be stuck being known as Rhodesians."