Saturday, October 11, 2014

Popula by Pirjo Hassinen

This simple, yet funny and heartbreaking book on populist politics and what it can mean to the common citizen was a quick read. In it, three characters become entangled both with the lives of each other and with the populist party Popula, while all the while feeling alienated from people around them. 

Painter Pirjo defames a modern flower painting at the museum and becomes a pawn for the populist party Popula, representing the everyday Finn who no longer has patience for tax funds being spent on art that nobody understands, created by a hoity-toity ruling class. 

Her adult daughter Rita is embarrassed by her mother's antics, but she has her own problems: she slowly becomes an outsider in her family when her husband sides with the adopted daughter of his and his dead wife after Rita makes a racially charged comment.

Pirjo's neighbor and occasional drinking buddy Perttu loses his job as a bouncer when he throws a man on the ground after a day of brewing hatred within him toward authorities: his crime earlier in the day had been to wash his mother's room mate at the Alzheimer patient care home where this old lady had been left to fester in her own feces. He's hired as a bodyguard for the Popula party's leader because he fits the story of a wronged everyday man perfectly (and looks like a blonde viking), but he is unable to stop the party leader from being filmed getting drunk with a bunch of neonazis, praising their efforts.

Each character first blames other people for their misgivings, whether it is neighbors, former teachers, spouses, or police officers. When they take a moment to understand how much they are actually connected to other people in the society around them and how their actions can cause an avalanche--in both good and bad--their feelings of alienation begin to subside. 

It would have been easy to make fun of all these characters for becoming enamored by populist, hyperbolic messages regarding immigration, unemployment, or government officials, but instead, Hassinen empathizes with the everyman. It's understandable that the last person we look to blame is ourselves--it's just human nature. Unfortunately, this tendency can be manipulated easily for political gains. Popula urges in between the lines people to take responsibility for our own lives, because if the crutch we have been relying on falls from underneath us, who can we blame then?

No comments:

Post a Comment