About Election Voting Advice Application and Respect…

I was a Rotary Exchange student in 1994-1995 in Johannesburg, Gauteng in South Africa. At that time world was much bigger than today. I didn’t know much else about South Africa than that it’s in the south of Africa and that Toto wished it rains down there. But the year in South Africa changed the way I think about things for good.

I write about this because two of the questions that were asked in the local Newspapers Election Voting Advice Application was whether I think that Lahti should offer residence for asylum seekers, refugees, and foreign workforce. I was perplexed about these questions. First, because I don’t find any motivation to not to help a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster. I think the question should not be about whether Lahti offers residence but about how can we as a safe and wellbeing community offer asylum and a better life for someone who doesn’t enjoy such privileges. After learning in South Africa what decades of inequality does for someone’s self-worth, I realized that we all need recognition. And mutual respect can forge bonds across the divide of inequality.

Second, approaching individuals (local or foreign) as workforce is stripping something essential off from humanity. Yes, most of us need to work to earn a living and cities need people to pay taxes to fund the services and infrastructure, but by reducing group of people as foreign workforce overlooks the essence of being a human. Treated as workforce we are all troubled by issues of respect – whether it is an employee stuck with insensitive management, a social worker trying to aid a resentful client, or a virtuoso artist cleaning floodgate to fund his or her passion. 

The language in which we tell about things to ourselves matters tremendously. I think instead of categorizing people into ‘us and them’ or ‘workforce,’ we should ask ourselves how we can strengthen and build reciprocal attachments. People don’t build friendly associations in the marketplace or within the iron cage of of bureaucracy, those are nurtured and treasured in relations imbued with trust and amity.

“Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act. When you recognize uncertainty, you recognize that you may be able to influence the outcomes — you alone or you in concert with a few dozen or several million others. Hope is an embrace of the unknown and the unknowable, an alternative to the certainty of both optimists and pessimists. Optimists think it will all be fine without our involvement; pessimists take the opposite position; both excuse themselves from acting. It’s the belief that what we do matters even though how and when it may matter, who and what it may impact, are not things we can know beforehand. We may not, in fact, know them afterward either, but they matter all the same, and history is full of people whose influence was most powerful after they were gone.” (Rebecca Solnit)

Virpi Sorsa, 28.4.2021

PS. I decided to write some blog post also in English so that those are accessible also to non-Finnish-speaking people.