Consulting to Countries

Consulting to Countries

Developing new understandings of corruption with a think tank in Finland.


14 May 2019

Developing new understandings of corruption with a think tank in Finland

The Finnish web magazine The National Dynamics and Think Tank, Dynamics of Groups and Societies, invited Dr Mannie Sher of the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations to consult to an event focusing on developing new understandings of corruption as: ‘something that goes against the nature of human beings, attacking truth, honesty, relationships and acknowledgement of dependence and valuation of those who support one’ (Sher, 2013). The following are some notes about the event:

Finland is mainly free from financial corruption, but paradoxically some sectors work against the good of the country by turning a blind eye to various forms of corruption, stated MD/ psychiatrist Anja Salmi, Chair of the Think Tank and chief editor of The National Dynamics.  

Finland has an ageing population, contributing amongst other dynamics to restraint as a national characteristic. The Think Tank felt that Finland does not have appropriate national spaces to discuss important national issues, and as a consequence, it is believed, Finland has created an artificial surface superficiality beneath which lie deeper truths of which little is spoken. 

For example, a senior military member of the Think Tank wondered why Finns rely so heavily on security products despite Finland being one of the safest countries in the world. There is little violence in the country, so what could the Finns be afraid of? Finns appear to live in a bubble and the Think Tank wondered if the fear relates to a collective sense of the bubble bursting? What group unconscious dynamic may be operating to create a nameless dread at national level?

Farewell to the Fatherland

The development day included a Social Dreaming Matrix in which a dream was presented about a polonaise, Farewell to the Fatherland, a song composed by a political prisoner writing with his own blood. The Think Tank referred to the Finnish national mood of helplessness in managing the tension between its relationships with its powerful Eastern neighbour and its identification with the West. At times the national mood was one of being trapped and being forced to abandon the ‘Fatherland’ and confront new political and social realities, and mourning that which has been lost.

Shaping Finnish national identity?

Finland’s identity, it was suggested, was a ‘cut and paste’ one, through copying the national norms and behaviours of other societies, suggesting that a factor in Finnish identity is based less on what its history and culture have determined ‘what we are’, and more on how our comparisons with other societies inform us of ‘what we are not’. The ‘bubble’ is also associated with Finnish identity that has been influenced by the repeated movement of its national borders and the loss of territory. Now, it seems, the desire is to remain static; to keep things as they are and enjoy life without upheavals.  It is believed that this type of lack-lustre existence is responsible for driving many of the younger generations to emigrate and not return.

What roles should public institutions play? 

Generally, the role of certain public institutions is to expose corruption, dishonesty, lies and secrets.  But what happens when the institutions whose role is to challenge the status quo, like the media, the Church, universities, fail in their task? These institutions ought to be challenging society to think about the important issues of society, but they seem to be more concerned about promoting and protecting themselves. The Think Tank reflected on whether this was its own corruption too – not using its prestige and status to exercise its authority in speaking up about Finnish society for fear of being criticised and attacked. The Think Tank, like other institutions in Finnish society, it was felt, did not want to be seen as upsetting the comfortable atmosphere of the nation; nor to engage in the struggle between ‘niceness’ and ‘nastiness’. The Think Tank’s own corruption was about avoiding putting the status and power of its members at risk that might come from speaking out.

The admired leader’s corruptive statement is: The rules don’t apply to us. The statement: “This is the way we do things here” suggests that corruption is setting in.  Society, through is organisations and its citizens, need to ask continually what do we need to do better in order to keep up with changes taking place in the environment/world. By insisting that we do not have to change, the people are being deceived and that is the core of national corruption.

The Think Tank’s Alertness to National Dynamics – resisting corruption

The Think Tank worked on its primary task, asking the question:Are we doing what we are set out to do? The potential for corruption at a national level, and in the Think Tank, is a constant presence and we need to keep asking ourselves: why are we doing what we are doing?’ Its task is to turn blame into learning; to bring corruption to the surface, making it visible so that it can be studied.

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