This always happens to me.
Whether in Buenos Aires, Beirut, Rome, Bangkok, Zurich, or now Helsinki, I always seem to get caught up in some sort of protest. To be honest, I love protests… I think it’s great when people finally have enough of the system and demonstrate their unwillingness to continue going along with government policies. This happens frequently in other parts of the world, and the less developed the country, the more chaotic the demonstration.
This is a far cry from the United States where police forces set up “Free Speech Zones” to constrain demonstrators and keep them from disturbing the establishment. Participants in large scale U.S. demonstrations like the recent Tea Party Protests are vilified by the mainstream meadia as lunatics and discredited by the White House press office.
I was fresh off a very long flight from JFK to Helsinki that started out with the plane sitting on the runway for almost 4 hours. Having missed my connection to Lithuania, I took the opportunity to head into town and see how Helsinki has changed since my last visit in 2006.
And there it was. In the middle of an absolutely spectacular day in downtown Helsinki were a few thousand highly charged protesters, most of them women, some of them masked. They were chanting in unison and waving a combination of anarchy flags and pink balloons. My Finnish is a bit rusty, but I fortunately found some young ladies to interpret the noise. (videos to be posted soon)
“They’re upset about the fact that homosexuals in Iran are exterminated, and that Finland does nothing about it.”
This seemed to be an extraordinarly segmented argument to me, considering that the Iranian government rids itself of all types of dissidents, regardless of sexual orientation. Even still, coming from my personal perspective of having once been a misused pawn of US foreign policy, I firmly believe that governments should stay out of the affairs of other countries.
Regardless of my disagreement, however, I would defend to the death their right to protest (Ibid Tallentyre/Voltaire)… mostly because direct action is a powerful change agent that shakes people from their apathy, and, ideally, makes politicians sit up and take notice. After all, governments should be afraid of the people, not the other way around.
I fully expect the volume of protests to increase around the world as more people grow fed up with the system and finally begin to demand action. Most of these will be economic in nature. In Finland’s case, the economy is hurting. The government consumes over 50% of the economy and pays for it by milking its citizens for everything they’re worth. Effective income tax rates exceed 60%, coupled with a Value-Added Tax of 22%.
And what do they do with all those taxes? Hire legions bureaucrats to administer the collection of taxes. This is a politician’s definition of ‘job creation,’ though it amounts to nothing more than a mafia kickback. Consequently, Finns have little incentive to work hard and take risks because the government has eliminated the upside potential. I would not invest in Finland, and I’m sorry to say that the US is headed in this direction.
As a final note, I am traveling with a small amount of gold and silver (as I tend to do). The 10 ounce silver bars must be making funny faces at the security guards as they go through the x-ray machine because my bag has been searched before every flight so far.
Even though the inspectors find thousands of dollars in cash and precious metals in my briefcase, I am never detained. This is because, at least at the moment, traveling with gold and silver is not illegal in most countries. Some countries like Taiwan and Uruguay do have reporting requirements, though, so check before you go.
PS- For anyone interested in heading to Europe, FinnAir has some great deals. Business class from New York to Helsinki is around $2,000 and economy is roughly $600. The business class cabin is comfortable and worth the price, in my opinion.