12. Harry declares that the remains from a past stage have been cleared away for good

Each era has its own major, organizing thought, an energetic minimum where troubled spirits come to rest, like mustard balls in a mortar. In a not too distant past, the nation's noted sons had preached armourclad dreadnoughts, and the farthing of the widow had been earmarked for fifteen inch guns. The dreadnought belonged to that kind of grandiose, organizing concept, capable of fitting both high and low into the ranks. At some point in history it had been forced to give way, like stone to paper, and the currency streams from indulgences had started flowing in other directions. Such bifurcations took place at regular intervals, once or twice a century; initially the streams ran in both beds, after a while the old bed silted up and for some time everything was channeled into the new one. The present guiding picture of the committed mind (although maybe already yielding, to pansophy or pandemonium) named itself: the panda. To a mind brought up in the sign of panzer, the sideways transport caused no problems, the headwords were situated at the same opening of the encyclopedia, and practice could content itself with elbow distance to the past; under the new regime it defended Nature instead of Nation.
To put it more precisely the panda thought meant that species and connections between them should be conserved where it was feasible and convenient. If there was a dogma that no one dared to question, it was about this objective: delivering the immaculate origin from evil. To that end a bridle of departments, managements, units, institutions and field stations had been tied together; the reins by which modern society takes development in a firm hold, steering it according to its iron will. And to complete the picture, a so to speak spontaneous superstructure of parties, associations, groups, journals, tv programs, field investigations, timetabled education, collections and campaigns soaring above the institutions, and all this had the panda at its centre and origin. Thus the organizing power of the panda thought was by no means less than that of the panzer thought; like its predecessor it stamped armies out of the ground.
At the end of the scale, beyond the pictures and the law texts and the programs, was the target of all this solicitude, the old supplier of ore and colour prints called nature. In nature everything was thrown into the crucible, species became extinct, populations expanded, aliens penetrated into all corners, relations of competition changed, no one could tell how one thing connected to the other. Did the panda influence the development at all? Would nations have survived in the best of health, with borders intact, even if dreadnoughts hadn't appeared on the scene?
That was a blasphemous thought, once in a while touching the mind of the municipal councillor, but he took care not to advance it in the very thick of public traffic.

In spite of the new time and its guiding thought the municipality didn't think it could afford separate environmental and health inspectors. As a result the supervisors of environmental correctness appeared as environmental & health inspectors, siamese twins with everything from minced pork to industrial outlets at their fingertips. The town centre was a metastasis from the great, global malady: a harbour, seven supermarkets, one overlarge, polluting industry and countless smaller ones, all polluting. The densely populated area in turn was embedded in agriculture, farms and plots, more than anyone could keep track of, that meant constant leakage of fertilizer, defective handling of manure, spillage, illegal spraying. For displacements exceeding seventy-five metres cars were considered the only legitimate conveyance throughout the area. The frequency of cancer lay well above national average, gastric disorders were imported from all corners of the world, and infections of the respiratory tract did the rounds in autumn and winter. Herbs, lichens, frogs, butterflies, all that were spindly and fragile were silently and deftly removed from the agenda, until their sole existence was in museums or the virtual reality of films. There was much to do for a person, whose task it was to inspect environment and health; the modern world was an Augean stable, and of old it was well known that the task of mucking out its blocked-up stalls could be pulled off successfully only by certified members of the Heroes' Guild.
Things still functioned pretty much the same way, Heroes indefatigably mucking out the old stable. In spite of this and in spite of the prompting forefinger of the panda, they were not particularly well liked in Harry's nation. On the contrary; within the broad mass there was a general sentiment that heroes had a tendency to infringe too much on ordinary people's rights, appropriated at great expense. For one example: during the course of the past century engineers of the nation had developed four-wheeled vehicles, capable of travelling faster than runaway horses, parallel to this citizens of the same nation had appropriated the right to drive in an intoxicated state, extorting maximum performance from the same vehicles. In order to check such excesses society had put on Heroes for traffic control as well; here an ongoing confrontation was enacted, in the struggle of citizens to guard what they hadn't yet been deprived of by the legislating tyranny. Again technology made itself useful; as an extra bonus unoccupied engineers developed warning devices, detecting in advance the radar eyes of authority. On the whole the outcome of this duel was so far finely balanced; half the nation snailed forth within the boundaries of law, the other half switched on the detectors and kicked over the traces whenever there was an opportunity.
Given the success and impact of the panda thought, an environmental & health inspector was undoubtedly Hero of Heroes in the modern time, and there was reason to expect that warning devices would be switched on, giving unambiguous indications whenever one of the kind was approaching. (In addition the inspector had the Panda emblem as a sticker on the rear window of his small, fuel-sparing car; it was always possible to look at the key). At close quarters the general determination of Hero was valid: springing forward with a grim smile on his face as he brandished his long spear and strode onward. In a similar way Old Nick had been disarmed in ancient times, by being recognized and greeted: Good Day, Mister Nick. In modern times you said instead: Goodday, Mister Environmental & Health Inspector; whenever it happened Heikki Mäkinen knew that all incriminating evidence of an Environmental Offence had been cleared away, and that he might as well return to the municipal office without having achieved anything.
Mister Environmental & Health Inspector was a chastened hero from other experience as well, acquainted with all levels of defiance, from the top of the pyramid to its base; nowhere had things been made easy for him. In the corridors of the department hunters had been poaching, in more than one planning unit la terreur of exploiters reigned supreme, in municipalities the first and foremost concern was the reputation in the corporate world; there was no law, no provision that couldn't be tampered with. In many places the goat served as gardener, in every corner interests had pissed their brute territorial marking. The feeling that society developed in the right direction was rare. All these experiences were essential parts of the education of a hero; his character didn't emerge until his sincere and noble intentions were counterplotted.
'We are having bit of a problem, Heikki.'
'So now you call in the heroes.'
'I want you to locate two-hundred barrels containing God-knows-what, if you do that I will personally see to it that you are declared Hero. And if you don't, well: no harm done. Then it's business as usual.'
'Where am I expected to look, and how?'
'It's fish, not bird, I can reveal that much. You could start looking in the harbour, the suggestion comes from the jungle telegraph.'
Ten years had elapsed since the two of them met for the first time at a seminar in the Royal Capital. Harry had stretched his braces like bow-strings and discharged the following devastating volley: 'The emissions from nuclear tests were child's play relative to the emissions into air and water from modern society. We survived the nuclear weapons, at least the first generation of them, and we will survive the way of producing and transporting that prevails today. But only just, and everything we hold dear and value will be badly knocked about, no doubt about that. With an incisive wording I could claim: Everything is going to be destroyed. I am no believer in "protection", it's a liberal delusion. Therefore it's about time for us to rebuild as much as we tear down, in order to create a balanced account. It's as simple as that. Nature must enter our calculations, its own recreative and healing power must be planned and produced like anything else. And there is no time to lose, if there is going to be anything at all for posterity to inherit.'
What was this: a political enfant terrible, his comic shadow lurking in the wings? At any rate there were no faults in the reason behind the words. It was unusual to hear a politician speak that frankly about any topic, normally members of the profession were unable to think and talk simultaneously. After listening for a full day Heikki passed his verdict: here was a man who dared to stretch a bow (or at least a pair of braces). He at once pointed his compass needle in Harry's direction, and it wasn't long before he was one of the environmental & health inspectors of Harry's municipality.
Once established he quickly detected that the lecturer's particular mix of constructive thought and misgivings was firmly rooted in the fertile soil of the province: reigning throughout was a bulldozer mentality, that crushed everything under its sheer weight. You professed yourself an adherent of nature, loved it like a male chauvinist worships woman; sentimental and divided, deifying and degrading. In practice the relationship was less complicated: nature was the place where you could let lapdogs listen to the calls of nature without worrying about the consequences, in addition it was the pantry of domestic cats.
On his first evening he had sat in Harry's kitchen, getting initiated into the mysteries of local politics: 'It's fairly obvious in most places: people in responsible positions don't stick to the rules, and the foremost reason is the cowardly heads at in-between levels. This applies to the municipality as well; we do not exactly get the persons of top calibre, yesyes, no offence. When you have spotted such a character: don't beat the big drum, but content yourself with heaping a mountain of tiny, formal errors on his shoulders. Let him tamper with the rules, but make notes, and tell the tale to both left and right. It is always a process of wear, you should wear down and tear down unsuitable figures. First try to amend things the political way: Party, union, other parties, but don't expect miracles, there may be some success in twenty-five percent of the cases. Next descend step by step, spread the word to youth organizations, all kinds of conservancies, road societies, house-owners, anyone who might be willing to make a stand. This is the best way, the other one is too long-winded: courts, land ministry, planning board. And be cautious when dealing with media, journalists understand too little, they are not competent. Or for that part: no one is competent in this nation, take that for granted, until the opposite is proved. Journalists have to be tamed, and that takes some experience, you still don't qualify for that. You can count on me most of the time, but not always. You can't always count on me, and you never know in advance. Remember that: you are a civil servant, I am a politician. You are Ajax and I am Odysseus. We live in two separate worlds, I stand closer to Our Lord than you do. Sometimes you should be grateful for that difference: if you trip and stumble into hotbeds there is quicker absolution for you.'
'And: no illusions about results, for God's sake! You bring about no miracles, abuse and cheating occur at approximately constant rates. We don't want a Quixote at constant war with the whole world. It's enough if you fight a rearguard action, we expect no more from you.'

Heikki made a last tour of the reclaimed area, finally deciding to take a turn around the fishing sheds and sniff a little.
The reclaimed area at the harbour was considered land of particularly low attraction. It was inconceivable that big companies would claim building sites for their managers here, nor was this area included in the golf club's secret planning for the next eighteen-hole course. Instead it was a breathing-hole for people who lived at the outskirts of the system, people who hung on to a degree of freedom that they thought they had discovered, like the shipwrecked clinging to a piece of wreckage. Not a single one of them was listed in a directory of professions, and half the year they did little else than swop parts between their boats, paint and tie knots. But when herring or cod was abundant they seemed to be active both day and night.
Half of all fish caught were so defective that they had to be thrown back into the sea, or should be. Heikki had investigated the state of fish caught, more than once; he never ate fish that was caught locally and quietly advised those around him not to eat it.
Three men were standing on a raft, cleaning nets. The catch was already taken care of and stowed in the freezing-cabin.
'How was the catch?'
The answer meant: break-even and a little more, it was accompanied by a quick glance from the corner of the eyes. 'Did you catch anything yourself?'
Heikki had felt observed by the three of them already when the digger was rooting about on the flat, here was the confirmation he was looking for. There was a rumour, some kind of knowledge that someone was trying to bring to the notice of authorities. He took on the attitude of his interlocutors: didn't respond, rubbing over his beard, looking around.
'We saw there was a digger rooting.'
'We just wanted to check how much the ground had settled. If it's possible to lay pipes, for example.'
'Is it coming?'
'No, but it might be.'
They nodded, keeping their eyes off him.
'Do you expect to find anything particular out there?'
'What would that be?'
'Well, your guess is as good as mine.'
Heikki thought: somebody wanted to see if I came when he whistled. If something is hidden, it is not here, but somewhere else. Or the whole thing is just smoke, without fire.

At the office a hand-written message from his superior was awaiting. Self-pity called out in green block letters: 09.15. call from the press: Why is the environment & health administration digging in the harbour? We are not, I answered. Expecting immediate and detailed written report from the official who allowed the pen pushers to catch his chief on the can with trousers down.
Heikki wrote diagonally over the note, in red block letters: ROUTINE INVESTIGATION and went to call Harry from a payphone. This was a call that shouldn't be routed through the municipal switchboard.

As for Harry, his day had started at a conference centre up in the backwoods, the Party district pulling its people together, offering him a moment among equals and like-thinkers. For four hours he was as happy and as harmonious as he was likely to be in this world, navigating in an ether that offered no surprising bends or vacuums, speaking a language where world values and allusions belonged to a common kitty, watching carriages and behaviour that were in some sense secure and well-known, oh, so well-known. It was Christmas Eve, everyone had his reward for four years of good behaviour.
The warm feeling didn't imply that Harry was gilding his environment, attributing to it some splendour that wasn't there. Many party workers, up to the highest levels, were lightweights, underlings who were out for nothing but their piece of the cake. There were many, at his own level as well, who lacked the common sense which acted as a compass to the political boat, he could look even that truth in the eyes. In particular cases it might be a very serious matter, but in the long run it didn't matter. He was convinced - sharing this conviction with all around him - that you could crown a donkey, exalting it to leadership over a sophisticated and amply subdivided organization; if the framework was functioning it was capable of intercepting and subduing the backward kicks of both one and ten donkeys. A B-actor had been assigned the task of presiding over the large country to the west for eight long years, and the system had by no means collapsed. The large nations to the east often put old and sick men at the helm of state ships. Because of this Harry also doubted the short and long rockades in managerial functions. They were indications of undeveloped organization, non-functioning internal regulation.
No doubt the robustness of institutions was a source of security for people relying on them. It bridged downswings, guaranteed practicable conditions when reason didn't lead the way. If the nation one day found itself populated by puppets and nothing else, the fact that institutions were there would give ten years of grace, maybe fifteen, during which countermeasures could be taken and man created anew. If Harry was in some respect entertaining a sanguine or optimistic view on existence (and he was, it cannot be denied), his optimism was based on this public, general subject, far larger and more complex than the poor individuals. The whole construction still had its limitations; after all a helix without inhabitant was nothing but an empty shell, and in the long run it is difficult imagining how to compensate for such a central absence, once it's established.
So, however much you turned and twisted the matter there was as little reason for the Party to vindicate itself as for a bridge over troubled water to do so, or a tunnel through solid rock. It was placed where it was best needed on the general transport road through history and would always be there, as self-evident as language or Mum's meatballs. At the very outside corrosion was a problem, but corrosion spoke a language comprehensible only to engineering souls, and it could be remedied through upkeep that was handed out to contractors. Besides, the corrosion of the political system wasn't the kind of question dealt with on conferences; Party gatherings and Party campaigns had to be viewed in a different light. They were ingredients of the cement that joined past and present, north and south, centre and periphery, party workers and voters. They had the same function as the domestic inquiries of old days. They defined affiliation. And affiliation was important, you should know where you belonged. In spite of this, campaigns were seldom supported by true enthusiasm, predominant instead were sentiments reminiscent of the defensive resolve that made men submit to the more and more rare refresher courses of the military forces. It was a necessary evil, avoided if you could allege legal motive. Participation demanded a buffer of swearing, reconciling joke, deliberate obstruction, alcohol. In the end all campaigns petered out, but they left a residue behind, a sort of profession of faith, by that they had filled their function.
Now they were all faced with a new trial, turning and twisting the parcel in their laps. Was it poisoned, did it conceal a letter bomb, a trojan horse? The address label prompted: Dig where you stand, a brash attempt to watch history through keyholes (and according to safe intelligence a theft from literature). It went without saying that past and present were to marry by this trick, but was the time ripe for such risky undertakings, and who was pointed out as addressee? Harry carried a prepared manuscript in an inside pocket, wondering if he dared to speak without it, when he was called to the phone. The call came from an Environmental & Health Inspector.
'There was nothing.'
'Nothing at all?'
'We dug in all directions.'
'Over the whole of the area?'
'Nothing except what you would expect. Concrete props, road surface, timber...'
'In other words nothing.'
'Not a jot. Smelled OK, everywhere.'
'Any incidents?'
The other became silent for a second, seemed to consider.
'There were a couple of fellows at the sheds, all the time while we were digging. They were there from the very beginning, although I had the tractor on the spot at a quarter to seven. I didn't think much of it, there are always people at the boats. But get this: When I return to the office, who pounces on me like a red-hot iron, asking what I have been doing and who ordered it? Håkansson. A tabloid had called him up, asking what kind of investigations we were carrying out in the harbour area.'
'And you answered...?'
'Routine. We wanted to see how much the ground had settled.'
'Did Håkansson swallow that?'
'He would have to be more stupid than I think.'
'Now no more actions, Heikki, until further notice. You wash your hands.'
'No more digging?'
'No more digging. Now, we must ask ourselves: what is the motive, and who's behind it? Above all I wish to know: who is behind it?'
It was typical of the times that a message about buried barrels released feverish activity, like a stick touching an ant-hill. No one was likely to accuse an environmental & health inspector of acting rashly following such information. Next it was important to get distance from the matter, some time for reflection. If you weren't expected to dig where you stood, then where the hell were you expected to dig?

The campaign was a trifle, one of the army of trifles that embittered his life, no one would blame him if he turned his back on the whole thing, maintaining a wall of silence. In spite of that Harry felt that he was shoved towards taking a stand under compulsion, both inner and outer. The label of trifle was just a disguise, you couldn't ignore what was hiding under its cloak.
He slapped his papers against the stand, the movement like rebuke, punishment.
'Here I stand with a proposal from the Party board that we start digging where we stand, so help me God. Yes. It's all about reprocessing our history, I presume. I won't hide that my thought when first reading the proposal was: Here we have the latest stupid idea from the capital. And next I thought: let them have their will, let the idea be waltzed through the movement, all the way from the top to the grass-roots, and further still, till it dies from lack of oxygen and nobody remembers any longer. But then another thought emerged, competing with the first one, and I thought: Isn't it a shame to waste capacity and enthusiasm on such a topic? You could say that I was thinking like any modern manager, who is unwilling to tolerate unproductive activities where he is accountable, always trying to point hands and heads into the direction that is likely to offer some return. I won't carry the parable further than that. We are not managed, we are a popular movement, but also in that capacity we should look after economizing and efficacy.'
'So, what am I opposing in the proposal? To tell the truth I didn't realize it myself a quarter of an hour ago, but while I was mixing out there, talking to the comrades, it gradually dawned on me. Dig where you stand - I thought: what does that imply today? What was buried in the past? Many of us come from the country and we know what was buried - as long as it was tolerated by laws and regulations - it was the shit, the latrine, the bodies of dead animals, the garbage. True, it's a long time ago, but that is the time we are expected to dig for, the time when all kinds of rubbish were stashed away, isn't that right? And we know of other diggers: the railway, the industry, and we know why they were digging: to avoid responsibility, to get off expenses.'
'Is this what we are after, is this what we want to bring back to the surface? The stinking, barely recognisable remains of the past, evidence of its negligence? You probably think at once: does he fear that something nasty is going to surface? Anyone familiar with me knows that such a suspicion is absurd. Surely we should keep ourselves up to date with what lies under our feet - but we shouldn't expect to meet with any surprises, or acquire new knowledge. When it comes to it we all know what it will be about: old compost. And we know who has stood behind the cleaning-up, the re-introduction of responsibility; it is largely through the effort of the Party that these remains have been cleared during the course of half a century. Besides, old compost has a sort of half-life, when that time has passed, it can hardly be separated from uninteresting, insignificant topsoil.'
'The question I am asking myself - and you - goes: When do we reach the point where the remains of the past have been finally cleared? The point where we can leave them to oblivion with a clear conscience and devote ourselves to other tasks, for example the tasks waiting for us in bright daylight, out under the sun? Look at our great predecessors: how did they act when looking for inspiration and ways out of locked situations? I daresay they weren't digging: they held out their bags, catching ideas, and the habitat of ideas isn't deep soil, they fly around like butterflies in bright daylight, calling for our attention. I no longer feel like digging backwards and downwards; standing here today I feel more like looking in another direction, forwards, and upwards. Here is a task, that feels genuine and right. Therefore I suggest that the proposal be tabled, recommending the originators to consider instead a campaign under the motto: Catch where you go. Such a task has light on its brow, it appeals to reason and the upright gait, not to the instincts of a vole. To us, who live at the nave of the world, standing in the draught from all winds, this is the correct and self-evident way. And there is a need for discussing this, discussing what kind of ideas we are after, since there always is a choice; our political opponents are likely to catch species to their own taste. Therefore: let's start monitoring what's up in the light, not poking about in darkness, that is my suggestion for the future. I hereby declare the remains of a past stage cleared away for good.' He slapped his papers against the stand a second time, as a full stop.
Hoho, mister councillor has his clown hat on today.
Wasn't it a bit on the strong side.
Let's give him a butterfly net for a birthday present.
A gold lamé net.
Have you heard that his sister caught an Arab where she went?
Yes, and she is in a hurry to marry, and Harry is going to do it.
Has he made any comment?
What is there to say? Women have a will of their own.
Do you not understand what's worrying him? It's the barrels.
Harry got his papers together, hurriedly surveying the assembly. The faces wore broad smiles, it didn't matter to him that they were all thinking: Hoho, Harry has his clown hat on today. He had said almost what he wanted to say, and he had said it in the way it was possible to do it in front of this assembly. He halted beside the stand, offering a short nod.
'Thank you mister chairman.'
When he had settled himself among his former audience his closest neighbour turned to him and whispered, in confidence, appealing: 'So you mean that one should keep out of the whole thing? It is poisoned in some way?'
'No, for God's sake, that would be to exaggerate. Don't put your back into it, save your back a little, that is the gist of what I said.'
The other nodded with relief. Such care was politically natural and justified. The Party was the party of load injuries, ruptures, aching backs, it couldn't be denied.

31 kB, last corrected 22.6.05, 27.11.08.

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