OF DIVERSITY AND COWS' STOMACHS

Cultural diversity and cows' stomachs
Carlson2
Kristina Carlson
Editor-in-chief of Books from Finland

'Cultural diversity' is a slogan which, repeated by politicians, is like a bubble blown with much-masticated chewing gum. The idea is a good one, but as the European Union expands in 2004, in particular, it has been used for reassuring of small countries and small linguistic areas. In reality, of course, the most important topics of debate concern economics and political, governmental and military organisation.

There is hardly a single yardstick for measuring the influence of the unification of Europe, let alone that of globalisation, on the language and culture of a particular country. In Europe economics, politics and government speak in the majority languages, French, English and German. In national terms, the effect is perhaps visible in how the complex structures of the language of bureaucracy filter into the mother tongue, whatever it is. This is satirised by Olli Jalonen's short story 'Toward good management practice', published in this issue of Transcript.

The conversations that take place in the cabinets and corridors of power are far from what 'cultural diversity', loosely defined, implies, and indeed far from people's everyday life. When the editors Books from Finland took part in a meeting of cultural magazines held in Athens in October 2003, a greater impression on me was made by the local market hall selling meat and fish than by the contributions to the official discussion. In over-hygienic, plasticised Finland, with its tendency toward ready meals, one never sees a counter of rumens or other such innards of a cow, or skinned sheeps' heads with their eyes still in place.

Raija Siekkinen's short story, 'Time difference', also published in this issue, offers a sensitive depiction of 'cultural diversity' and the universal human commonality of destiny at an airport, where each one of us can see the whole range of life with our own eyes. I remember an English couple at Berlin's Tegel airport last summer. The man and woman were no longer young and they were not backpackers, but clearly experienced world travellers. They pulled their own bottle of red wine, yoghurt and cheese out of their bag, sitting on a bench in the departure lounge. They drank the wine from stemmed plastic glasses and, when they had finished eating, cleaned their hands with damp wipes. Past them hurried formally dressed businessmen with their briefcases and mobile telephones clamped to their ears. I thought, it is not a question of age, language or nationality, but of an attitude to life which is itself culture.

At the Athens meeting, representatives of the future countries of the European Union (including Hungarians, Czechs and Estonians) expected concrete support, monetary help for journals that have for years been edited in uncertain and straitened conditions. I hope their expectations will be fulfilled.

At the moment I am living in a small village in the eastern part of Southern Finland. The heavy iron and sawmill industries that began in the 17th century were wound up ages ago, but the factory, which has become multinational, still offers work. Environmental protection and small-scale handicraft, bringing tourists to the village, are supported by European Union funding. I can thus confirm that& I shall no longer use those words! ...has not remained mere words.

With the best will in the world, politicians cannot set limits on the production of super-national culture, the entertainment industry that concentrates on television programme formats and best-sellers and which is the most serious threat to diversity and originality.


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