Migrant Tales insight: I am a board member of Finland Society, an association that looks after Finnish expat rights abroad, and had spoken to the editor of Finland Bridge and the association’s executive director about writing a column about Finland in the twenty-first century. Due to the restructuring of the magazine and the tight economic situation, they will not publish the article below. I never got a reply when I wrote back and offered that they could publish the column for free.
If we want to bring Finnish society up to speed with the twenty-first century, which is nothing more than acknowledging that our nation has always been, is, and will be culturally diverse, is one of the biggest struggles that minorities and migrants will face this century in Finland. That struggle involves as well second, third and fourth generation people of Finnish origin.
The whole issue boils down to sharing public space, which some groups in Finland are fighting tooth and nail to deny others of having a place under the Finnish sun. Such groups and people falsely believe that as our society becomes ever-culturally and ethnically diverse, things in Finland will continue as they are. They lazily sit on couches and demand that others adapt to them.
Assimilation, or one-way adaption, is an expectation that society won’t change no matter how many people from different cultures and religions move to your country. The process is a bit like sitting on a sofa and telling newcomers that they must adapt to me. There are many types of sofas like in the above picture that could represent regions or countries. All have the sofas, however, have the same expectation in assimilation: I have privileges, you don’t. I therefore call the shots in this country. Source: Sairafurniture.
Do you think that the column below should appear in Finland Society’s magazine, Finland Bridge?
After being a regular columnist for the magazine for over 20 years, my relationship ended in 2016. I never received a humble thank you for the many years I contributed to Finland Bridge.
A call to inclusion but there is no room for such words today
Finland’s has a long and rich migrant history, and this should help guide us to build an inclusive and just country as our society becomes ever-culturally and ethnically diverse during this century.
While this should be the case, I fear that we have lost precious time and been distracted by populism and simplistic answers on how to move forward on diversity.
If we’re to learn from countries that have taken millions of migrants and study the experiences of our Finnish communities in countries like Canada, United States, Sweden, Australia, and Argentina, there are two fundamental concepts to keep in mind: opportunity and social equality.
We can look at the opportunity from many angles: opportunity to build a better life, the opportunity to succeed, and the opportunity to become an equal member of society irrespective of one’s background. None of the latter would be possible to achieve if we don’t cherish social equality as an essential value.
A missing debate
Cultural theorist Stuart Hall (1932-2014) wrote in the 1990s, “The capacity to live with difference is…the coming question of the twenty-first century.”