Civilized society 2117, Part 9:
Vlogger Timo Wilderness thinks that civilisation is a horrible word
Timo Korpi, also known as Timo Wilderness, presents Finnish swamp wrestling and sauna culture to the rest of the world. He is bothered by the elitist undertone associated with the word civilisation.
The Café Veranda in Finlandia Hall is quiet at ten in the morning. Meetings are being held around low coffee tables and people are tapping away on their laptops. Now and then, one can hear the sound of the espresso machine.
Alvar Aalto, the architect of the building, put Finland on the map in his time, and this is also true for the young man in the black hoody sitting opposite me.
He is 27-year-old vlogger Timo Korpi, who is better known by his artistic name Timo Wilderness. His online videos showcasing aspects of Finland have had more than one million views on YouTube and have been shared thousands of times on Facebook.
In the videos, Timo Wilderness introduces viewers to, among other things, naked swamp wrestlers and talks about the Sompasauna, which is a public sauna in Helsinki that was built without any permits and is run by volunteers. Even though the topics are quite classic aspects of Finland, the videos are not standard, boring travel advertisements. They feature quick cuts between scenes, stylish motion graphics and aerial footage shot with the help of a drone.
All of Wilderness’s videos have been made for the international audience, so they are all in English. They have also helped many Finns to understand that this is truly a captivating country full of wonderful, intriguing elements.
A Finn is an expert on Finnishness
Korpi is a pioneer of Finnish vlogging. He began making his online videos seven years ago. Korpi says that he has already removed his initial videos from the net. They were practice videos he made, but over the past two years, he has established his own style.
During the same period, the online world discovered Timo Wilderness. The culmination point was the aforementioned swamp wrestling video set in Nummijärvi, Finland in the area of Ostrobothnia.
“It was a novel topic even for Finns, and the video was successful and interesting. I’m still proud of that one,” says Korpi.
He has also made videos of his travels in Southeast Asia and Europe, but it’s his videos of the special characteristics of Finland that have drawn great interest among viewers. Korpi states that focusing on local topics seems to him to be a natural direction.
“It’s easy to talk to people about being Finnish, because I am already an expert in that arena. I am one of a rare group of 5-6 million people in the world, so perhaps this is worth talking about. People who live in other places may not necessarily care what some Finnish guy thinks about some other random issue.”
Korpi got started at a good point. His first Finland-oriented videos were published on YouTube in spring 2015. Two years later, Finland was celebrating its centennial anniversary and everyone who had the means and ability was making videos about Finland.
“It was good that I started already in 2015, because videos about Finland weren’t trendy yet at that time. I found a niche in the market, since people hadn't really started talking about domestic tourism and local characteristics yet.”
When the Finland 100 boom hit, Korpi says that he temporarily lost interest in the whole theme, even though his emotional relationship with the topic hasn't changed. He will continue to use Finland as a theme in his videos, and he already has some new ideas brewing.
Naked tourism and fantasy worlds
Korpi is comfortable with eccentric topics, such as swamp wrestling. He, himself, has even taken part in some quite unconventional escapades. In 2013, Korpi travelled with his friend through Europe without any clothes or money. The trip was turned into a TV programme called Alaston matka (Naked tour) and shown on Yle (Finnish Broadcasting Company). At one point, Korpi also lived in an abandoned house for one year.
He describes himself as an adventure-seeker.
“It’s amazing when you can focus your mind completely on a single matter. For me, it’s the only way to live and keep myself active. These adventures and experiences help me to learn more about myself and others as well as about different outlooks on life.”
What was Korpi’s most recent escapade? He dived deep into various fantasy worlds.
“I am currently going through an escapist phase, and I have surrounded myself with fantasy. I watch Game of Thrones, occasionally play Pokemon Go and read Harry Potter in the evenings. My most intensive activity related to the world of fantasy is, perhaps, that I have begun to build scale models from the Lord of the Rings.”
Korpi has also recently become interested in learning how to speak Chinese. He dreams of one day starting his own YouTube channel entirely in Chinese.
Civilisation divides a nation
Although Korpi is interested in all aspects of the world and has taken it upon himself to become educated, he wouldn’t like to refer to himself as being civilised. The reason behind this is the elitist undertone attached to the term.
“Civilisation is a really bad word. In practice, it means nearly the same thing as sophistication. It also brings the word ‘chaste’ to mind, since the words in Finnish sound similar (civilisation = sivistys and chastity = siveys).”
Korpi criticises the fact that civilisation has become a type of border fence that divides the nation into two separate camps: the civilised elite and the common people. He believes, for example, that the same phenomenon explains, in part, the result of the latest Presidential election in the United States.
How did Finland end up in such a situation? Korpi points an accusatory finger at the Finnish education system.
“Within the education system, people are divided into those who succeed and those who can use their school certificate to wipe their backsides. I feel that it’s totally understandable to hate civilisation.”
Korpi is the son of a teacher and states that he was quite a good student, but he understands why the years of studying can turn many against the idea of civilisation for good.
“I know that many people hated going to school. It is an awful ritual to gain membership in our society. Some great authority forces children to do things that are unpleasant. So it’s no wonder that it generates strong emotions.”
Education through larping
Korpi hopes that he has an opportunity at some point to examine education and, in particular, comprehensive schooling in Finland. He would like to figure out ways to make learning fun and free.
“I would be interested to know how education might be used to inspire people to find an inner desire to participate in and contribute to society.”
Korpi is also interested in, among other things, different types of schooling methods.
“In Denmark, there is a larp school where the subjects are learned through live action role playing. The purpose is to boost learning through the medium of games and fun. It makes it experimental in nature. The Finnish experiments in which children act out the different aspects of municipal life are also very intriguing. They are all given roles representing a mayor, a shopkeeper, a driver and so forth. It facilitates interaction through play.”
As another interesting example, Korpi mentions the British boarding schools, which have no mandatory subjects. The students can independently select which subjects they are interested in and the teacher supports them with their chosen path.
Video is no substitute for human contact
Although Korpi is an online video pioneer and expert, he still doesn't believe that videos are the cornerstone of future civilisation. He states that videos can never replace the company of actual people.
“Human networks are essential for learning and cultural civilisation as well as for social civilisation. The YouTube algorithms are not sufficient enough for us to learn everything we need to know from it.”
According to Korpi, videos are best suited to help in learning about technical matters and skills; YouTube has an educational video about nearly every topic nowadays.
“I have taught myself all of my technical skills with the help of tutorial videos I found on YouTube.”
Finland is not a civilised society
Towards the end of the interview, the conversation turns to the state of the Finnish civilised society. First off, Korpi wants to define, however, the way in which a civilised society operates, in his opinion.
“I think that civilisation is everything that maintains and develops the civilised society. It can mean a great many things more than just being well-read. It can refer, for example, to empathy, interaction, understanding and constructive behaviour.”
Korpi feels that these are things we still need to improve.
“One of the aims of education is to maintain roughly the same level of civilisation we have already achieved. This brings us to the problems generated by climate change, the exhaustion of fossil fuels and similar issues. On an international scale, Finland is not acting, at the moment, in such a way that advances these issues.”
Can Finland, therefore, call itself a civilised society? Korpi doesn't think so.
“Our way of life is truly problematic when it comes to sustaining our state of civilisation. If these issues are not dealt with in the same sentence, then we have truly lost sight of what civilisation and a civilised lifestyle even are.”
Oil is a drug
Although Korpi criticises the Finnish lifestyle, he admits that he is also a part of it and doesn’t want to appear to be on a high horse.
“We’ve had bad luck, since oil- and fossil fuel-type energy sources happen to be easily and readily available to us. Oil is a horrible drug and our oil overdose has given us the biggest trip in a million years. As a result, we modern-day people have had and are still having a lot of fun. There isn't much we can do about that. No one can resist that kind of drug once they have gotten a taste for it.”
Korpi takes a moment to consider where our oil addiction will lead. He sees two possible scenarios for the future.
“It could be that all the fossil fuels burn out and, as a result, we will need to totally revamp our lifestyle. The other option is that, in a relatively short amount of time, humans will devise some alternative form of energy that can continue to drive all our current infrastructure.”
The topic interests Korpi and he has spent days on end learning about it. At one stage, he set out to make a video for the Kioski social media service run by Yle (Yleisradio, Finnish Broadcasting Company). The point of the video was to fully explain the overall energy issue to viewers and offer a vision of what the world would be like after our oil supply ends. However, the task proved to be impossible.
“It was such a massive topic that I just couldn't get a comprehensive grip on it. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t find the answers to my questions.”
Despite the setbacks, Timo Wilderness will endeavour to continue to enlighten his viewers about this and other important issues.
“The purpose behind everything I do is to enhance general education and cultural knowledge,” Korpi states.
- Text: Valtteri Väkevä
- Photos and video: Liisa Takala and Vesa Saarinen (video editing)