Thursday, May 31, 2007

Poor kids, poor kids

(teksti on julkaistu myös PES@ctivists blogissa)

How appropriate that PES has childcare week now; in Finland the Conservatives who won the parliamentary elections this March, are now showing the true nature of "HOPE" that was their campaign platform.

One of their first actions has been to announce that everyone will have to pay for the daycare of children, also the unemployed and the single parents with very low income. In Finland until now, the public daycare of
children has been regarded as one of the flagships of the Nordic Welfare State, giving also the kids of the poorest homes such basic benefits as decent food every day, and allowing mothers, also single mothers, to go to work and take care of their family.

During the election campaign, the Conservatives blamed the Social Democrats for having wasted public money into what they called "employment-creation-tricks" and beautifying the unemployment statistics, whereas the labor market in fact would need more workforce for low-paying jobs (such as healthcare, care for the elderly, childcare, you know what kind of work is not regarded fancy, fit for a man, and worth paying for).

And now, what else does this proposal mean than taking (mostly) women off the workforce, because they are supposed to stay at home and take care of their kids. Kinder, Küche, Kirche, as the German used to say, keep women between the stove and the bed. That is what they call "restoring family values".

This suggestion of the Conservatives, still supported by the Prime Minister's Center Party, is so appalling that also the Greens, who are in the coalition Government now, have had a really hard time defending it.

Sure, the poorest families will always get free daycare for their kids, "for social reasons", the Conservatives say. That would mean writing applications, getting scrutinized, getting labelled as "a social case".

This is the fundamental difference between neoliberal welfare policies of the Conservative and true equity: pennies and cents for the beggars instead of equal access to basic services.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Letter to Class 7C of Agenda 21 School in Hamburg

Dear students of the Class 7C,

we met Thursday 10 May in the courtyard of the City Hall of Hamburg and discussed urban sustainability. It was a wonderful day in many ways: first and foremost, it was the official inauguration of the World Future Council, and a beautiful day in the magnificent historical setting of Hamburg.

Now, back at my writing desk in Helsinki, also on a beautiful Spring day, it is time to reflect on the day a week ago. I’m wondering what the day meant for you all – in my life it was one of those days that I’ll never forget. I had the honor to be part of a group which shares the same values and dreams as I: a sustainable world with peace and equity among people. This probably sounds pretentious and pompous, like a manifest, and it definitely needs to be translated into real actions before it has any real meaning.

Building sustainable cities is one of the practical ways to reach the big goal. That may also sound like a very theoretical concept, but as we discussed, in real life it means very concrete things: reducing the use of water and energy, creating a good public transport system, building safe places to live for all people, securing decent jobs for everyone, celebrating cultural diversity, and so on.

You all will have a very good starting point for your lives, because you have become familiar with these ideas already at school. – I was lucky to get a good education, as well, but I did not learn about “sustainability” before I was much older than you are now. This means that you are getting a “head start”, you’ll have the possibility to create a much better world than my generation! (But we are also trying hard to repair the mistakes that we’ve made!)

Thank you very much for your interest and contributions to the Agenda 21, for the kind welcoming letter, and for the flowers! It was a great experience to meet with you.

With best wishes to you all – your teachers, as well!