Finding a way to insert ethics into Finland’s arms industry

If you cant beat them, join them, as the old saying goes.

In certain circumstances, if submission is not an option, an appropriate action might very well be joining them and exerting control though careful guidance and suggestion. It’s a good tactic used  at children’s parties when it looks like the sugar fuelled fun is starting to getting out of hand.

About as far away from a children’s party as you can get, the end of October saw a document making the rounds of the Finnish media reporting that the vast majority of the weapons and munitions produced by Finland ends up in the Middle East. I suppose it can be assumed then, considering the area involved, that some of these Finnish made weapons will fall into the possession of people who deliberately plan civilian deaths. Thats nice to know.

Triple distilled European fuel for the eternal Middle eastern fire. What could go wrong for us?

For most trade centred individuals, the weapons business is just, well, business. Turnover, input, output, targeted sales and profit. For the rest of us, I do hope the majority of us, this business raises serious moral questions that are not easy to balance out.  Jobs, income and industry vs conscience, death etc.… For my mother, who worked in a munitions factory in the 1960’s, the answer was actually simple. When an exclamation mark appeared on her conscience one morning, she quit her job. She was strong like that.

The parasitic, symbiotic relationship between the West and the middle east has always been one of action, reaction, counter reaction and circling around to another brand new action. It does not seem that at any point in the near future this cycle will result in any sort battle fatigue or god forbid learning from repeated mistakes. And people will make a tidy stack of cash from that kind of idiocy.

‘War is horrific. Ask anyone in the Yemen, or in Homs’

Now that my new home country has joined the elite club of the most developed countries on the planet, Finland now starts to engage with the rest of the world in similar fashion to those other big nations. By flogging weapons and death machines to the less developed ones. And in doing so Finland is unknowingly acting out a real-life cause-and-effect social experiment.

This is the kind of stuff from which researchers, philosophers and social scientists could get a few decent book deals from. This is an interesting place because Finland was never an occupying empire. As with countries like the UK and France, their societies are a mix from their colonies. Not so with Finland. Here we start with a fresh new canvas.

In this experiment, on the side named ‘cause’, we have private businesses manufacturing the systems and weapons that displace whole populations, force mass migration to safer countries and resentment fuelled terrorism.

On the other side named ‘effect’, back at home, we have an alarming threat from far right nationalists groups forwarding their Neo-nazi agenda. They parade in public, complete with swastikas and jew hating, gay hating propaganda, masquerading behind the facade of resistance from those same refugees that have now arrived at our borders from the Middle east fleeing war.

‘…..we can at least show some moral back bone and allow a few more refugees residence status in Finland as we are partly to blame for their homelessness’

Sat in the middle of these two extremes sits the government, gleefully green lighting and helping the arms dealers while struggling with civil unrest. Unwilling it seems to admit that those two sides are directly linked.

When asked about Finland’s role in the international arm business, this government’s traditional line has always been that if Finland doesn’t make the weapons, then someone else will.

This is a cowardly, unsatisfactory answer.

A person does not have to join in a gang rape just because others are and someone else may do it anyway. Horrific as this example sounds, well what can I say? War is horrific. Ask anyone in the Yemen, or in Homs.

So what benefit has this industry provided for Finland?

On the plus side we have a few jobs, some movement in certain supply chains, some taxes (though it doesn’t stretch the imagination to consider tax avoidance, its not like they suffer from human morals)

On the negative side, its a contributing factor for the influx of refugees  here and in Europe, with sharp and sudden social instability, the rise of fascistic militia on the streets, pressure on the police and social services, more Finnish resources dedicated to UN peace keeping missions around the world and all the medical costs incurred when troops return from duty.

So, very little gain and all of this negative stuff. All the side effects of this tawdry nasty business is cleaned up by us and paid for by our tax money via public services. With all this considered, it is hard not to equate this as a kind of state subsidy of the weapons sector.

‘A single chocolate bar isn’t going to kill your neighbour or blow up an Afghan Shepard as confectionary is dropped from a passing drone’

I am only ever happy if an opinion or a position leads to a practical conclusion or action. A conclusion did present itself, over morning coffee.  It goes like this:

If a Finnish based company so obviously creates a net negative cost to its host country, then that state should have the moral justification in claiming a piece of that company. A kind of partial nationalisation or having ‘one of ours’ on the board of directors. At first glance this seems somewhat Venezuelan in feel and texture but I believe there is a modern, democratic precedent.

It return for financial support and in recompense for the damage they caused, many banks after the 2007/8 financial crash were nationalised, if only for a brief couple of years. The moral abandonment shown by the investor class forced the hand of many states to intervene in the internal affairs at these mighty investment houses for the sake to stability and to counter potential future risk. This seems to satisfy me. While we are waiting for that day to arrive we can at least show some moral back bone and allow a few more refugees residence status in Finland as we are partly to blame for their homelessness.

‘In 2017 would not be fitting to start acting like the US. They have proven to be bad role models’

It is difficult to think of another Finn-centric industry that could fall under this radical idea. Tobacco isn’t grown here and so can be controlled via import licenses if the will was there. Alcohol could be worth looking at. I would imagine that people may talk about ‘big sugar’ but that doesn’t fit. A single chocolate bar isn’t going to kill your neighbour or blow up an Afghan Shepard as confectionary is dropped from a passing drone. A grenade launcher can kill, many times over. Reload after reload.

Not everyone can be as strong as my mother. People will take work where they can get it and in this climate of employment, I wouldn’t condemn them for it. At governmental level however, we ought to be a leading light of considered adultness in a time when major powers like the now child-like United States are absolving themselves of their responsibilities.

In 2017 would not be fitting to start acting like the US. They have proven to be bad role models. 

I would prefer not to have an arms industry at all. If there is going to be one, I would like to see it more like the gambling foundation RAY where all profit are cycled back into charities with cross party consensus and a lot more scrutiny.

As of writing Finland still refuses to sign the 2008 Convention on cluster munitions, when almost the entire world willing signed it.