Are we all Finns?

by , under All categories, Enrique

By Enrique Tessieri

It is a nice idea when some people assure immigrants that “we are all Finns.” I am certain that the person who makes such a statement has the best intentions in mind. However, isn’t it our right to choose who we are on our terms?  Affirming that “we are all Finns” is as ludicrous as claiming “we are not Finns.” 

The more I encounter these types of views of how Finland’s newcomers should be accepted into Finnish society the more I believe some Finns still don’t get it.

Would it be better to state that we are all equal members of Finnish society?

One of the important matters that our Constitution and the spirit of our laws show us is the right of people to make their own lifestyle and identity choices.

I still believe what I wrote about two years ago about the importance of having such a choice: “What will our new identity be like in the present century as our society becomes more ethnically and culturally diverse? Will immigrants be clumped into one group and called New Finns, or will they prefer a hyphenated identity such as Iraqi-Finn?”

At the end of the day the only person who will decide what you are is yourself.

 

 

  1. Risto

    Interesting debate. To look at it from another angle: in the United States the idea of being “American” is more closely linked to the notion of citizenship, i.e. recognizing the Constitution and for the rest everybody can – in principle – think and do whatever he or she wants, within the boundaries of the Constitution that is. Actually the whole debate about being this or that nationality is quite a difficult one. If we take the example of what it means being a Finn: if we would ask this from 100 Finns, then I bet you that you get at least 100 different answers. Of course there are some core values and beloved features which very many Finns share. But pretending as if everybody in this country has the same view on life, etc is preposterous. Finland has never been and will never be one monolithic bloc where everybody shares the same thoughts. For one thing remember the war between reds and whites…

    • Enrique

      Hi Risto, so what do you think are those qualities that make one a Finn?

  2. Risto

    Difficult to say, I’m married to one, but am not myself a Finn. First I should say that a lot of these values and beloved features are in my opinion a ‘construct’, i.e. a story which people tell about themselves and which they believe to be true (as such nothing wrong with that, we all wish to believe in something after all I think). Also A lot of these values people believe to share in Finland are to be found equally in other countries, just like material features are shared by many nations (e.g. the sauna: hamams, sweat lodges, Japanese style sauna’s, etc).

    Let’s try and give it a shot:
    -honesty
    -silent
    -hard-working
    -close to nature
    -musically inspired
    -sauna
    -ice hockey

    … Now let the criticism come 🙂

  3. Mark

    Risto

    – “To look at it from another angle: in the United States the idea of being “American” is more closely linked to the notion of citizenship, i.e. recognizing the Constitution and for the rest everybody can – in principle – think and do whatever he or she wants, within the boundaries of the Constitution that is.”

    Nice to see it from a different angle. I see a problem with linking national identity to any notion of citizenship. That is not to say citizenship doesn’t have merit, but when you fail to meet the requirements of citizenship (i.e. break any of the numerous laws attached to the Constitution), do you then forfeit your right to your ‘national identity’? While many have argued for a forfeit (“send the criminals home”) the answer is absolutely no. Why? Because any Finn or American citizen is free to break the laws of the constitution and suffer the penalties of law without forfeiting their nationality status. So anything different for foreigners would be second-class citizenship, where additional penalties would be imposed simply because you are ‘foreign’ and committing an offence. Penalised for the offence and an extra penalty (deportation) for being foreign? Nope. Even the idea that foreigners would need an extra deterrent (deportation) against criminal behaviour is morally corrupt. In fact, it’s a disgusting idea that belongs in the era of the Nazis.

    Ironic and distasteful as it may be, any citizen (native or foreign born) has the right to break any of the laws and suffer exactly the same penalties as their fellows. All are equal before the law. That is a fundamental tenet of the Constitution. Break that, and it’s all gone to shit.

  4. JusticeDemon

    Mark

    It may interest you to learn that deportation is not classified as a penalty or punishment in law, so it cannot be an “extra penalty”.

    Counterintuitive? You bet!

  5. Mark

    JD

    – “It may interest you to learn that deportation is not classified as a penalty or punishment in law, so it cannot be an “extra penalty”.”

    This is very interesting.

    Deportation is covered by sections 37 & 40 of the Aliens Act. This sets out the additional ‘penalty’ of deportation for e.g. ‘repeated crimes’ or for crimes where the statutory punishment is over 1 year imprisonment. So although these penalties are prescribed in legislation, they do not appear in the Penal Code, and so are not ‘punishments in law’? And this holds true for those having ‘residence permits’, so they are ‘conditions of permit’?

    Sounds like a punishment to me. Has no-one ever challenged this?

  6. JusticeDemon

    Mark

    You seem to be referring to the old Aliens Act, but that also did not describe expulsion as a penalty or punishment.

    The idea that it is not a punishment to expel a non-citizen has been discussed at length in the USA, where this doctrine is a significant Supreme Court precedent. Judge H. Lee Sarokin (aka the judge who freed the Hurricane) makes interesting reading on this subject. Search for “Sarokin” and “deportation”.

    Obviously there is more to it than mere inclusion of this coercive measure in the list of sanctions that are available under the Penal Code.

    One justification of the doctrine makes it a direct consequence of the view that a non-citizen cannot be entitled per se to reside in the territory of a State, so expulsion does not per se imply any infringement of a right to reside. You will notice that the Aliens Act requires the authority to consider a wide range of associated incidental factors on which a right to remain could be based in an individual case, and to weigh these factors against the strength of the specific public interest in expulsion. This effectively prevents the kind of cases that Sarokin cites as examples.

    This entire question is conceptually quite tricky, at least partly because the notion of “punishment” is by no means clear. Think about this, and you may be reminded of the famous tale of Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby.

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