EDITORIAL: Are Finns ignorant about immigration?

by , under All categories, Enrique

By Enrique Tessieri

Some claim that one should forgive some Finns for their outrageous statements on immigrants and refugees since they are fuelled by ignorance. If there are serious shortcomings in our immigration and integration policy, it can be blamed on our lack of experience.

If we were to give Finland the benefit of the doubt, it could offer us an effective solution to brush all the problems related to immigrants under the rug and blame it on inexperience.

Can, however, an issue that affects tens of thousands of people’s lives, their children and grandchildren, be conveniently blamed on ignorance?

A recent editorial by Jyväskylä-based Keskisuomalainen, which was against Finland taking the multicultural road, incredulously suggested that refugees should be helped in their home countries and brought to Finland as a last resort.

Helsingin Sanomat, the countries largest daily, continues to use the demeaning term “mamu” in headlines to refer to immigrants.

What about politicians such as Jutta Urpilainen, Timo Soini of the True Finns and others, who knowingly or unknowingly vilify all immigrants in this country by suggesting that they must follow the law because in this country we do things the Finnish way?

What about the Finnish Border Guard, Finnish Immigration Service and others that create and maintain a climate of fear and suspicion of certain immigrant groups through their statements that Finland is in danger of being “invaded” by these people? They even play at being social scientists by suggesting that these groups can never adapt to our culture.

One could correctly turn the question around: Are these examples of misinformation intentional and what role does ignorance play?

Or is this the shape and way racism manifests itself  in Finland?

  1. Tuomas

    The people in Finland are constantly being bombarded with news and articles like that. Despite the high usage of internet, for many people TV and newspapers are still the main ways of getting news about matters in Finland.

    Taking into account the economic situation, the attitudes shown in the recent polls are by no means a real surprise. You’d be quite hard-pressed to convince an average worker of the merits of immigration if you consider his or her point of view. With the “help” of national media immigration is seen as all but a threat to the working people and their way of life.

    It doesn’t help that in the context of the debate in Finland “immigration” and “immigrants” can mean many different things but it’s just one word being thrown around continuously. The question then is how much of the bad attitude towards immigration can be blamed on the ordinary people. People tend to be quite subjective about this matter and few are willing to take the effort of searching for information outside mainstream media.

    • Enrique

      Hi Tuomas, one matter that surprise is why immigrants are such a hot potato in Finland? If we look at our history, we can note that Tartars and Jews adapted well. Maybe this has a lot to do with their small numbers. Is all this incomprehension among SOME Finns attributable to our history lessons of ourselves, the shadow of the former Soviet Union and the cold war?

      I wish people would read more our history. They would see in it that we were, are and will be a multicultural nation demographically.

      –Taking into account the economic situation, the attitudes shown in the recent polls are by no means a real surprise. You’d be quite hard-pressed to convince an average worker of the merits of immigration if you consider his or her point of view.

      Yes, true, but despite the economic situation it does not mean that some people have a carte blanche to be overtly racist and act hostily against immigrants LIVING in Finland legally. And you bring a good question: how equal is our society towards all of its members?

  2. Tiwaz

    -“If we look at our history, we can note that Tartars and Jews adapted well. ”

    Yes, they ASSIMILATED. Whatever their cultures had which went against majority cultural norms, they got rid of or hid away.

    Issue which you refuse to grasp is that your attitude goes against this tried and true method of adding new groups to Finland.

    We CANNOT have little Somali conclaves which live as if they are still in Somalia. Not if we want to preserve Finland as nation and society which we know it to be today.

    That is, modern, functional and safe.

    Somalis and other immigrants must be made understand that in Finland, it is Finnish rules. Live by them or leave.

    -“I wish people would read more our history. They would see in it that we were, are and will be a multicultural nation demographically.”

    You were, still are and apparently still will be an imbecile.

    Show me PROOF of this multiculturalism?

    THERE ISN’T ANY! Jews and tatars had to adjust to majority because they were not offered chance to form their own little clique. Because of that, they ended up fitting in with rest of community.

    There was no multiculturalism, there was only Finnish culture which laid down the rules and other cultures adjusted to it.

    Same with Swedish speakers. When Sweden no longer called the shots, they rapidly became increasingly Finnish. Today, short of little clique in Ahvenanmaa, Swedish speakers in Finland are subgroup of Finnish culture, not culture by themselves.

    Finland is not and never has been multicultural. There only have been times in Finnish history when Finns were under rule of people representing other culture, but there was not “sharing of public space” then either. Under Swedish rule, it was Swedish or nothing. Under Russian rule, it was Russian or nothing.

    -“Yes, true, but despite the economic situation it does not mean that some people have a carte blanche to be overtly racist and act hostily against immigrants LIVING in Finland legally.”

    Nor does being immigrant give you and rest of foreigners right to be racist bigots and blame Finns for your own problems. Look at mirror immigrants and find 90% of your problems from there.

    If immigrant lives in Finland legally, who cares? If immigrant living in Finland starts demanding special treatment then it is a serious case of RACISM. You foreigners are not better than Finns, get used to it.

    -“And you bring a good question: how equal is our society towards all of its members?”

    Finland is extremely equal towards all it’s members. Problem are members who do not want to work hard to make themselves viable as employees etc.

    I did not get where I am by having everything thrust to me on a silver platter. I have around two decades of schools behind me.

    I had to work my ass off to get where I am today. So why you foreigners should be given everything on silver platter?

    Finland is strongly meritocratic on lower levels. No skills = no use for employer.

    No Finnish skills (language and culture) = no skills.

    Immigrant problems, as I have stated, start around left ear of immigrant and end around right ear of same immigrant.

  3. Tuomas

    “Hi Tuomas, one matter that surprise is why immigrants are such a hot potato in Finland? If we look at our history, we can note that Tartars and Jews adapted well. Maybe this has a lot to do with their small numbers.”

    I think the attitudes I wrote about in my previous post have little to do with people not integrating, and more with personal economic fear.

    “Yes, true, but despite the economic situation it does not mean that some people have a carte blanche to be overtly racist and act hostily against immigrants LIVING in Finland legally.”

    One could say that as a Finn I’ve been overly defensive so far but I think you’re spot on. Skipping straight-out hostility, it surprises me how rude language many people use of minorities. That kind of language probably would not be acceptable in USA or Canada.

    “And you bring a good question: how equal is our society towards all of its members?”

    This is a hard question for a non-expert to answer since, in any society, there are many different aspects and institutions that one can grade for equality. No society excels in every one of these. Anyone who reads this blog probably has a quite solid idea of what Finland’s weaknesses are but, compared to some other countries, there exists strong points as well that should not be forgotten.

    • Enrique

      Tuomas, I think that many of our regular readers are concerned and saddened by what is happening in Finland and the comments and actions of some Finns. Certainly there are many good people who are not carried away by the hysteria and do not join the bash-immigrant bandwagon. If there are social ills like racism we must grab it by the horns and deal it a blow. Such a social ill has no place in our society. Silence will not make it go away either. Racism is not only a destructive force against some immigrants, it also inflicts a lot of harm on this country.

  4. Tiwaz

    Enrique, you again successfully seek to bash Finns.

    Where is equality in your posts? When do you start demanding immigrants to respect Finnish society and culture when they immigrate?

    Where does racism stem? Yes, some comes from meeting the unknown. But what you falsely describe as racism is result of few things:

    1) Inequality in treatment of immigrants.

    Immigrants receive too much compared to what is demanded of them. This is by Finns seen as blatant inequality. Specially condemnable as Finland IS extremely equal society and has culture which puts much importance in self reliance.

    Finnish grants to immigrants are some of the highest and most easily gained compared to most of Europe.

    Reduce benefits and increase demands, perhaps by tying benefits to progress in language/integration. Solve one point of racism.

    2) Immigrants are arrogant. Finns have culture which DOES expect visitor to respect norms of HOST. When foreigners demand “special” treatment because of their native culture, it again rubs Finns the wrong way. And causes dislike and even hatred.

    As little as I like Saudi-Arabia, they have good point on some issues. At least at one point everyone who wanted to migrate to Saudi-Arabia, they had to read and sign paper which in clear terms made it clear things which were expected of migrants.

    If they signed the paper, they agreed to respect these cultural/legal/etc norms. And before the line for signature was text telling that if they thought they could not live by these rules, it was advisable NOT to sign and not to come to Saudi-Arabia.

    While I would not advocate going quite so far, some form of this paper should exist for Finland.

    Trying to pretend that immigrants do not bring great deal of problems with them, like you do Enrique, is not going to make those problems go away.

    Those issues MUST be taken into broad daylight and their causes (cultural conflict resulting from multiculturalist attitude that “all cultures must be permitted to do their thing”) must be handled.

  5. michaeleriksson

    I cannot in anyway speak for the Finnish situation, but looking at the similar debates in Sweden we have more or less the opposite problem: Anyone who says anything negative about immigration is immediately called a “racist” and is (metaphorically speaking) escorted from the debate in hand-cuffs—this no matter the actual arguments raised. In particular, the differentiations “is opposed to the current immigration levels/policy”, “is opposed to immigration (at all)”, “is opposed to immigrants”, and “is a racist” are rarely made in the appropriate manner.

    The ironic hitch in Sweden is that the “politically correct” are themselves highly prone to over-generalizing, viewing everything in black and white, etc. This, obviously, is in human nature and applies to large proportions of any political group; however, from this particular group it additionally becomes a gross hypocrisy.

    (I stress again that I have no idea about the Finnish situation; and state for the record that my own views on the current immigration situation are torn, with good arguments for both sides of the issue.)

    • Enrique

      Hi michaelerikksson, thank you for sharing your ideas with us. Likewise, I do not have enough information on the situation in Sweden. Setting aside PC (political correctness), how would we label other groups? If those that speak very vociferously against immigrants/immigration would speak in the same way about women what labels would they earn? What about those who are against gays? How do you think men in Sweden would be labelled if they said publicly that women should not have equal rights and should realize their lives as housewives? Certainly one can ask “critical” questions about immigration/immigrants but one must also take into account the context. A good example is a comment by an SDP MP Eero Heinäluoma who said that since Finland has high unemployment (it has gone up by about 3% after it hit a low of about 6%) and therefore should not encourage labor immigrants because they would fuel racism. Certainly it the statement sounds logical on the surface but when you start to look at it a bit closer you notice some serious flaws. These are: (1) the statement maintains a climate of suspicion against immigrants, who are struggling to survive amid high unemployment; (2) condones racism and unfair hiring policies in the name of “high unemployment;” (3) it treats and maintains the idea that immigrants who LIVE in Finland are not part of our society due to their background (racism).
      If we look at how immigrants are treated in our society (laws etc) the question that I would ask is if these people have the same rights and opportunities as the rest of the population. Are we using ethnicity, place of birth etc. as barriers to keep them out? I hope I answered some of your questions.

  6. michaeleriksson

    “If those that speak very vociferously against immigrants/immigration would speak in the same way about women what labels would they earn?”

    Here we have at least two issues: Firstly, should we focus on those who “speak very vociferously” and/or group everyone with a somewhat similar opinion together with them? This is what happens in Sweden, and which is very unfortunate. Secondly, what exactly are they saying? There is an enormous difference between the (hypothetical) statements “We simply cannot handle the current rate of immigration, due to lack of money, infrastructure, and work. I am vociferous that we must reduce the rate to a level that is sustainable.” and “All foreigners do is to steal from us honest Finns [Swedes/whatnot]. I am vociferous that we throw them all out as soon as possible.”. Before these issues have been addressed, any comparison with e.g. statements about women would be misleading.

    Looking at your example with Eero Heinäluoma, your interpretation is not supported by what you say about his statement (it may or may not be with more contextual information): 1. Is exactly what he proclaims to wish to avoid, and even if he was misguided or dishonest in his statement, the opposite does not follow. 2. Nothing in his statement condones racisms or unfair hiring policies. 3. The way you re-tell his claim, he is opposed to additional immigration—not to those who already live in Finland (he may be opposed to them too, but it does not follow from the statement). Your claim that this would be racism, finally, is exactly the kind of abuse of the word that I warn against in my first comment. Use “racism” strictly for actual racism, and bear the four differentiations I mentioned in that comment in mind.

    • Enrique

      Thank you for your response, michaeleriksson. You make some good points but I think the main difference between you and I is how we envisage society and the role and rights of all of its members.

      In first place, I don’t understand why immigrants have to be the target of a politician’s agenda in order to get votes. Why don’t politicians speak in the same way about certain types of Finns, Finns living in different regions of the country and about women, which I believe is a valid example I mentioned before? Certainly your response may be that they are natives and immigrants are “vistors” and therefore can be treated unequally by our society. One reason why some politicians speak in a disrespectful fashion about immigrants is because people of this group are disenfranchized and do not have a political voice. They are easy targets.

      Do you know why blacks are treated better in the United States today than in the 1950s? What about the indigenous people of some Latin American countries like Bolivia? Because they have won recognition through political struggle. Recognition is a key word.

      Maybe if they were equal members of society debate would not be so inflamed and so lopsided. Discussion would be on a totally different level. That is not the case today.

      I personally believe that many so-called ”critical immigrant voices” would care less, nor do they have any clear idea, how to create a well-functioning society that operates on the basis of good ethnic relations. Immigrants don’t travel thousands of kilometers, leave their families, work long hours just to take it easy. Their motivation is to make something out of their lives in their new homes. That is why many want to adapt and are highly optimistic about succeeding in their new homeland. What is the biggest culprit that halts some of them from realizing their goals? Discrimination and their resentment.

      The argument that you will be thrown in the clink for speaking out against immigrants is nonsense. It is a common argument used by some far-right groups that do not understand that their political discourse is offensive and out of touch with the values of society enshrined for all groups in our laws. If we were to follow them, immigrants and their children would have less equal opportunity in society.

      Remember what happened in Sweden in the 1970s? Wasn’t it Dagens Nyheter that had a famous cartoon where a man said: ”Racism came to Sweden with those damn foreigners.” It is just as ridiculous claim as by some academics in the 1960s, who stated that Finland had no racism because there were so few minorities.

      Setting aside PC (political correctness), if we are going to build good ethnic relations between groups, I believe the first and foremost matter is mutual respect. By lambasting immigrants for short-term political gains or labelling all immigrants living in the country by blaming future newcomers does not help matters. I also believe that one of the problems surrounding the debate is that some do not even have a clue on how they should react and behave in front of foreign groups. We have to accept the demographic realities: there are large minorities living in Europe with rights and we all have to learn to live with each other. It is a two-way street.

      Racism is unequal/unfair treatment because of a person’s ethnic background. Probably those that are most affected by statements such as Heinäluoma’s see them as ”racists,” while those who are not would be quick to claim otherwise. If a person is insulted by some politician, certainly he has the right to say so. I personally believe that Heinäluoma, like many other politicians, are in the dark about immigration. Going back to models of society, I consider immigration as a positive social force and diversity the most normal aspect of society. The key element in such soceties is equal opportunity. Without it you are going to have great friction.

      Even if I have no issues with diversity because I have lived in many cultures due to my profession, I understand in all fairness that there are people who believe it does not foster unity. I, however, would disagree with such people.

      Do you think that so-called critical voices on immigration bring forth constructive arguments that foster good relations with all members of society?

  7. hannu

    “How do you think men in Sweden would be labelled if they said publicly that women should not have equal rights and should realize their lives as housewives?”

    They would be imams and wonderful cultular diversity, anyone who disagree is terrible islamophob and racist.

    • Enrique

      –They would be imams and wonderful cultular diversity, anyone who disagree is terrible islamophob and racist.

      That is, in my opinion, nonsense. You can disagree with cultural diversity but you cannot make it go away. I am surprised how little you know the laws of Finland. I like to follow the law.

      Your world appears to be one where all the good laws apply to FINNS and anyone else who is outside this group has another set of unwritten laws. Our society does not work in that fashion. And if it does, those types of standards have to go and be challenged in the courts.

  8. xyz

    Usually people are scared of people from other cultures/countries because they don’t know anything about them. You can also call it narrow minded. They always need to blame somebody because they don’t have to offer much by themselves. And the little they have to offer they don’t want to give up.

  9. michaeleriksson

    @Enrique (May 11, 2010 at 7:52 pm)

    Thank you for lengthy response. Looking at some of your paragraphs:

    “In first place, I don’t understand why[…]”:

    No-one should be a target just for purpose of populistic vote seeking—be he a native or a foreigner. At the same time, we have to beware of the danger of limiting valid debate, marking everyone who dissents from “the official truth” a racist, misogynist, whatnot. Being a Spanish immigrant in Finland, you are likely exposed to the down-sides of being an immigrant to a higher degree than I am (being a Swede in Germany) and its is both legitimate and natural that you focus on these down-sides. Still, it is important to try to see both sides of the issue, e.g. that not everyone who opposes immigration is a racist or does so only to gain votes. While I (again) cannot speak for the Finnish situation, the Swedish situation is exactly that everyone opposing immigration in any way, form, or shape, is attacked ad hominem without being given a fair debate. This is a problem that, in the big picture, is a great evil—and which should be strongly opposed by those interested in intellectual honesty, correct decision making, etc.

    It is quite possible that the former problems are larger in Finland and the latter in Sweden—and it is possible that we merely focus on different problems, because these problems are what we see more of. (The same principle applies, in my experience, to most political disagreements.)

    “I personally believe[…]”: You are right about many “critical immigrant voices”. The critical issue, however, is to not over-generalize—and in Sweden over-generalization is the problem. (Note the symmetry of mutual over-generalization wrt deficits.) Similarly, you, yourself, commit an over-generalization concerning immigrants in the following sentences: There are many immigrants and natives alike who wants to build something of their own—but there are also many immigrants and natives alike that would rather live on someone elses money, or otherwise be “free-riders”. This is just a matter of human nature.

    “Remember what happened in Sweden in the 1970s?”: Being born in 1975, I do not. However, from your description, the cartoon is not actually ridiculous; although it should not necessarily be taken in the literal sense. The characteristics displayed by humans are very dependent on context and circumstances: It is easy to not be a thief when there is no opportunity to steal. It is easy to stay slim when food is scarce. Etc. By the same principle, it is easy to not be a racist when there is only one race around.

    “Racism is unequal treatment because of a persons ethnic background.”: No, no, no, and no. Racism is the believe that different races have different values and (typically) that ones own race has the higher value. I must very, very strongly ask you not to use the word racism in this manner. Such misuse makes it harder to understand what different debaters mean, can lead to statements re-appearing with a distorted meaning in a new context, will lead to hard feelings over unjust accusations, etc.

    “Do you think that so-called critical […]”: As usual I cannot speak for Finland, but I note that in Sweden there is a very wide spectrum of opinions and level of constructiveness—and that the different members must not be considered a homogeneous group. In addition, we must not limit debate to those who are able to propose constructive solutions: Those who have legitimate (not everyone fulfills the “legitimate” part) concerns, but no solutions, must also be allowed a say. Consider e.g. if an unemployed construction worker was not allowed to urge politicians to look into the unemployment issue—just because he could provide no solutions of his own. (Or for that matter, if the solutions he proposed would have had intolerable side-effects that an economist could easily spot, but not the average construction worker. Here we should make sure to just attack the flawed solutions—not the underlying concern.)

    • Enrique

      Thank you again for michaeleriksson for your response. Don’t let my name confuse you. I have a Finnish mother and have lived most of my life in the United States and Finland. Due to work, I have lived in a number of foreign countries like Colombia, Argentina, Italy and Spain. I enjoy very much my cultural hybridity.

      –While I (again) cannot speak for the Finnish situation, the Swedish situation is exactly that everyone opposing immigration in any way, form, or shape, is attacked ad hominem without being given a fair debate.

      Could you give me specific examples? It would help to know a little bit more about actual cases.

      With respect to the problems you mention in Finland concerning immigration, I have a feeling Sweden is decades ahead of Finland. However, the problems that immigration has brought to Sweden shows that it is a long ongoing process. However, we should not lose sight on the fact that immigration helps economic ghrowth, brings new ideas, culture and is important in that sense.

      –No, no, no, and no. Racism is the believe that different races have different values and (typically) that ones own race has the higher value.

      Isn’t it the same matter? You speak about values while I speak of ethnicity, which is also linked to values. However, I believe that the differences between cultures are smaller than we think. The differences are exaggerated when one group does not like another one. Differences are also emphasized to keep certain group marginal from society as well. An example? Muslims are so different from our culture therefore they are incompatible with our society. This, as you know is not true because cultures and people have the ability to change.

      You are right about giving people the chance to voice their opinions on immigration and ethnic groups. If it is done in a spirit of community and society then debate can produce good results. However, if we are in a mud-throwing match it isn’t very constructive. Since I am a strong believer of democracy, I do not have qualms about debating immigration. Politicians are handled in a pretty rough way by the media and comedians but I think there is also a limit.

      Residence and work permits fell last year by 9% compared with 2008. This is due to the recession.

      Despite the recession, immigrants should not become scapgoats. That is my main gripe with Heinäluoma. To conclude: A strong healthy debate by all members of society is healthy and more effective if it is done in a spirit of society. We are different but we are from the same place we call home.

  10. michaeleriksson

    “Could you give me specific examples? It would help to know a little bit more about actual cases.”

    I have not really kept book on this (obviously), but it is a general impression formed when looking at e.g. the forums of the leading newspapers, how news reporting is angled, how the political parties treat each other, and similar. A few outstanding examples circle around a comparatively new Swedish party (Sverige Demokraterna, SD), which is nationalistic and highly critical towards the current immigration policy. SD is a perfectly legitimate party with opinion poll results of ~ 5 % for the upcoming nation-wide elections (I state for the record that I am not in the 5 %), but has become a hate-object due to their non-PC opinions. They do have a semi-shady background if we go back some twenty years, but the same applies to Vänsterpartiet—the direct descendant of the old pro-Sovjet communist party, which has since become closely allied with Social-Democratic governments and has had as much as 1 MP in 8. Certainly, the ideals of Vänsterpartiet are less democratic and less in line with established “Western” politics/ideals, when viewed as a whole—yet, Vänsterpartiet is treated as legitimate and SD is shunned, maligned (as opposed to factually and fairly criticized), even sometimes physically attacked.

    Apart from the general undue generalization that the members of SD would all be racists and/or anti-immigrant (instead of being spread over the entire spectrum, beginning with those who merely critize the details of the current immigration policy—or even support the party for reasons not related to immigration), there have been some very odd occurences. These include:

    o The Moderate and Social-Democratic parties (roughly Tory and Labour) in Stockholm have expressed a wish to form an alliance after the local election, rather than giving SD any influence. This despite having to very heavily compromise the ideals, politics, etc., that their respective voters actually vote for in order to do so.

    o Schools have selectively excluded SD from speaking in their schools, while other parties of a similar size have been invited—including the aforementioned Vänsterpartiet.

    o Members of SD that have been allowed to visit schools have been threatened with or exposed to physical violence, forcing them to leave unheard.

    o Recently, a group of SD members visiting a church in Lund (I am not aware of the context) were harassed by leftist extremists, including being pushed and spat at. The police did not interfere. (This according to a Swedish source, often similar in opinion to SD.)

    (Interestingly, almost all politically motivated violence I recall in Sweden has been leftist extremist, often by the more radical members of Vänsterpartiet’s youth movement.)

    “Isn’t it the same matter? You speak about values while I speak of ethnicity, which is also linked to values.”

    (Re-reading the following paragraphs, I become uncertain if you understood me correctly. The below is based on your correctly interpreting “value” as the equivalent of “worth”—x is worth more than y; the value of x is higher than that of y. If you instead read it as “opinion”, or similar, you misunderstood me. Racism is effectively the belief that race A is worth more than race B.)

    There can be very critical long-term differences and differences in treatment/actions. If we consider the 19th-century slavery in the US, e.g., this was for a considerable time accepted because the blacks were believed to be inherently inferior. If this believed inferiority would have been dependent not on race, but on schooling, church-going, reading Shakespeare, whatnot, then it would have been very, very hard to justify slavery ethically.

    Further, the nature vs. nurture issue is not the main point. Rather it is a matter of how people are valued vs. how they are treated.

    For instance, it is quite possible to be racist and have a positive and caring attitude towards other groups, e.g. feeling that “they” need to be helped by “us” (who “they” and “us” are will obviously depend on context). An interesting, and in the past not uncommon, attitude is present in Kipling’s The White Man’s Burden. (There are signs that this piece is satirical, which means that it need not reflect Kipling’s own opinion; however, for the satire to work, it would have to reflect a sufficiently wide-spread opinion.)

    It is also quite possible not to consider another race (or other group) inferior, yet be opposed to it—or that the feeling of it being inferior is a result of hostility/rivalry (e.g. through a psychological need to find justification or through propaganda from the leaders), rather than the cause. Here I think mostly on the many fictional inter-racial/-species conflicts that I have seen in sci-fi and fantasy, but I suspect that the same holds true in e.g. the British–French, German–French, Swedish–Russian, etc., conflicts. Notably, I have heard claimed, on the odd occasion, that Hitler did not consider the Jews inferior in terms of intelligence or capability, but only in terms of character and/or just viewed them as enemies.

    “Muslims are so different from our culture therefore they are incompatible with our society. This, as you know is not true because cultures and people have the ability to change.”

    If we replace “Muslims” with “Muslim culture” (the more typical statement, in my impression), I am far from certain that it is wrong (nor am I certain that it is right), seeing that there are immense tensions and frictions. You are right that both the Muslim and the Christian/European/whatnot cultures can change—but then we have different cultures than before, and the statement would still hold about today’s cultures. Notably, requesting that Muslims should adapt to fit in better is typically considered intolerant, bigotted, or similar by the Swedish PC-groups. (As you can see, the line between “correct” and “incorrect” thought can be quite thin.)

    “Despite the recession, immigrants should not become scapgoats.”:

    I agree completely, and here we have a very good illustration of the difference to Sweden: In Sweden, it is often considered a sin even to raise the issue that an immigrant could be at fault (not as a scapegoat, but as the actual cause of a problem). Terry Pratchett once had one of his characters protest against this mentality with “Just because someone’s a member of an ethnic minority doesn’t mean they’re not a nasty small-minded little jerk […]” (generally, the politically correct are often made fun of in his books). Looking at myself, I did not magically transform into an infallible saint during the two hour flight from Sweden to Germany, but was just as good or bad, small- or large-minded, jerkish or non-jerkish, as before. Members of ethnic minorities (and majorities) should be protected from unjust criticism, but at the same time we must be very careful not to forbid just criticism.

    Generally speaking, it is quite common for ideologies and movements of various kinds (including political correctness) to start off as a protest against injustice, but with time and success themselves develop into an injustice in the other direction. A Swedish saying very aptly describes the situation: För mycket skämmer allt. (Too much spoils everything—Even if something is beneficial in small to medium doses, too large doses will do more harm than good.)

    As an FYI, I will probably convert some of what I write in my comments here into a post on my own blog in the course of the next week.

    • Enrique

      Hi michaeleriksson, thank you for your thread. I sent an email to SD and asked them what was there official policy on immigration/immigrants in Sweden and how they saw Sweden promoting good ethnic relations. If you have any official information of the SD it would be welcome. We could, if you wish see their opinions on “multiculturalism,” the role other ethnic groups play in society in promoting healthy relations, and their views on what Swedish values are threatened/they are defending. Just for your information, the term “multiculturalism” means in my book the social policy in Canada, Australia and England. Instead of using that term, probably multiethnical would be better if we refer to “multiculturalism” as a demographic phenomenon. Finns use the term multiculturalism a lot and it means a society made up of many cultures – not the Canadian social policy. Even so, Finland, as must be the case in Sweden, are not officially multicultural nations in the Canadian sense but have in their laws sensibilities to that social policy. I also warn you that I was born in Argentina, a country made up of immigrants. It was a leader in this respect. In the 1853 constitution, Argentina promoted immigration. I grew up in the United States (Los Angeles), which is multiethnical with a capital “m.” I have lived in a number of countries and live today in Finland, which has a small immigrant population numbering 155,705 (2.9% of the population).
      When you debate immigration issues, you debate the history of Europe, as I am certain you are well aware of.
      While I wait for the information from SD, let me ask you what their stand is on multiethnical society? How would they foster good ethnic relations? The reason why I ask this is if they do understand what immigration is as a social phenomenon and not only seen as a threat.
      –If we replace “Muslims” with “Muslim culture” (the more typical statement, in my impression), I am far from certain that it is wrong (nor am I certain that it is right), seeing that there are immense tensions and frictions. You are right that both the Muslim and the Christian/European/whatnot cultures can change—but then we have different cultures than before, and the statement would still hold about today’s cultures.
      This statement caught my attention. What you are saying, if I understood correctly, is that cultures DON’T change or the problem is now because they have not changed. In my opinion, one of the biggest fallacies of those who are against cultural diversity is this argument: because group x is incompatible with our culture, they therefore should not live amongst us. The reason why this is not true is because, as I am certain you are well aware of, cultures change all the time. They don’t stay in a state of suspended animation. So, in this respect, I believe that cultures can live side by side. You live in Germany and are aware that they went through a pretty destructive period in thier history from 1933 to 1945. The country and culture changed, however. How many Germans think and uphold ideas from that period? If millions of Germans supported the Nazi regime and their ideology (there is no other way that Hitler could have remained in power), how come don’t they think in the same fashion today? Because cultures can change. This happens constantly, at this moment, if you wish.

    • Enrique

      –In case of Immigration, Finland ranks worldwide on 103:

      Hi xyz, thank you very much for this! This is really neat! Where do you find this type of information?

  11. xyz

    It’s my new hobby. I want to support immigrants. Here a research:
    http://ethesis.helsinki.fi/julkaisut/val/sosio/vk/ahmad/gettinga.pdf

    The research says “The total number of job offers after applying for 400 positions was six, giving an overall success rate of 1.5 per cent. These six jobs were those of warehouse worker, furniture assembler, restaurant worker, data entry worker, gardening worker and interpreter/translator.”. It also says that the CVs were written in a way that they do match the job requirements.

    • Enrique

      Well, xyz, you have a very beautiful hobby. I look forward as well as others who visit this blog to read your interesting comments and links. Any idea what happened to Tiwaz? Do you think he got scared and went “above ground” after the government said it would take a tougher line against racism in the net.

  12. xyz

    No idea what happened with Tiwaz…suppose he will return at some point. I find it very important to educate foreigners about the situation in Finland. I think they are fooling around with immigrants.

  13. xyz

    I was wondering if there is any institution where you can submit this research so they could maybe investigate it in more detail.

    • Enrique

      There is the Migration Institute (www.migrationinstitute.fi), for example.

    • Enrique

      –Are they really doing something or is this a “just for fun organization”?

      Why don’t you test them? The Migration Institute is more into research than into lobbying, although, I guess, it does that as well.

    • Enrique

      Thank you for the heads up, xyz. I will visit the site later today and I recommend everyone to do the same.

  14. michaeleriksson

    Enrique: First let me apologize for not getting back to you. Somehow I missed your reply, and only spotted it as I (belatedly) started to work on my own post (as mentioned earlier).

    “Hi michaeleriksson, thank you for your thread. I sent an email to SD and asked them what was there official policy on immigration/immigrants in Sweden and how they saw Sweden promoting good ethnic relations. If you have any official information of the SD it would be welcome.”

    I have read large parts of their website; however, it is written in Swedish (and you have probably found it on your own, seeing that you have sent an email).

    “While I wait for the information from SD, let me ask you what their stand is on multiethnical society?”

    My understanding of their overall stance (which likely contains many individual variations) is that they wish for a multi-ethnical world, but that each individual country should remain, to some approximation, “mono-ethnical”. Possibly (but here I speculate somewhat), it would be justified to say that they feel that different cultures are a good thing, and even that individual exposure to other cultures can be beneficial, but that the mixing of cultures would do more harm than good, because the cultures both suffer from it. Wine and beer can be drunk with enjoyment by one and the same person, even on the same day, but mixing them in one glass ruins them both—and possibly even having them with one single meal will ruin one of them or the meal. (Then again, Italian pizza and German beer is a highly enjoyable combination…)

    “What you are saying, if I understood correctly, is that cultures DON’T change or the problem is now because they have not changed.”

    Not at all: Cultures change over time—often fast or in a radical manner. The point is rather that what results is (more or less per the definition of “change”) another culture. If someone say, e.g., “The muslim culture is incompatible with the Swedish.”, he most likely used this as a short-hand for the statement “The typical muslim culture of 2010 in [some geographic area] is incompatible with the Swedish culture of 2010.”. There may be some who are narrow-minded enough to not see the possibility of the cultures growing more compatible, but most will have these implicit specifiers in mind. If we now assume the year 2050 and a number of compatibility-enhancing changes, then, yes, the people of 2050 may well use the same labels—but they will mean something different. Notably, any label of similar kind that is applied for a sufficiently long time will end up describing something very different from what it originally described (and historians of various kinds often use more fine-grained labels to avoid such problems). Similarly, if Jack and Jill fall madly in love at age 20, is it wrong for their respective parents to complain about how poorly they play together at age 6? (Provided, obviously, that the statement is factually true at the time.)

    • Enrique

      Hi michaeleriksson, thank you for your comments. By the way, I never got an answser to my email to SD in English. Maybe you could ask them the same questions I made in Swedish. I basically wanted to know what aspects of Swedish culture they saw threatened by multicutluralism and what was, in their opinion, multiculturalism.

      –but that the mixing of cultures would do more harm than good, because the cultures both suffer from it.

      I believe that the idea that a culture is “monocultural” can be debatable. What does it mean? If you believe that a culture can be monocultural (?!), when did Swedish culture become monocultural? Certainly 100 years ago people travelled less than today thanks to globalization but cultures have always been in contact, married and mixed genetically and culturally. How much may vary from region to region but it is my understanding that we have always been on the move. Humans are curious and searching for that place “where the grass is greener” to say it very subjectively and generally. Staying in one place can be suffocating and boring for some members of society.

      Since cultures change the people who comprise those cultures change as well. I believe that culture is only a tool for surival in our environment. It is, if you will, “anything learned” as opposed to the animal kingdom, which depends more on instinct. But humans are different: we can not only learn culture we can pass it on from generation to generation with books, film etc. People from other cultures can also learn about our culture or a hybrid culture that appears when two mix. That is what makes us unique. So, in my opinion, for someone to state that x culture is incompatible with y culture is understimating the potential of culture. In a society comprising of many cultures the aim should be forging good ethnic relations. How do you do that? By everyone stepping back a step and accepting the other groups. Society, in my opinion, is a place that offers different career, cultural and lifestyle options. We, as members of society, have the right to chose. This is pretty clearly stated and defended in our civil rights.
      So, most of the world if not all have mixed because mixing is natural. Maybe today more than before because of globalization. If you look at Argentina in the 1914 census, 49% of the population was foreign. Today 20% of USAmericans are immigrants. Has this been bad for these countries? On the contrary, it has made them the most powerful countries ever seen in history (the United States). Why? Because there is constant mixing.
      When you speak of monoculturalism, I kind of suspect that you are talking about rertuning back to a “better time” in the past. We may yearn for such a period romantically, but it is not in our nature to live in the past. We are humans and are always looking at the future, which explains why cultures change through mixing.

      I’ll answer the second part of your comment later.

  15. michaeleriksson

    “Hi michaeleriksson, thank you for your comments. By the way, I never got an answser to my email to SD in English. Maybe you could ask them the same questions I made in Swedish. I basically wanted to know what aspects of Swedish culture they saw threatened by multicutluralism and what was, in their opinion, multiculturalism.”

    I have sent an email on my own, asking for any official information that may be available in English. I will let you know if I receive any.

    “I believe that the idea that a culture is “monocultural” can be debatable.”

    Well, I used “mono-cultural” as an ad hoc term to differ between the more uniform society of the past with the multi-cultural societies of today, and that there have been enormous changes within just a few decades in many countries is indisputable—even if past societies were not mono-cultural in a stricter sense.

    “I believe that culture is only a tool for surival in our environment.”

    I think that you mean the right thing, but the characterization is misleading. It would be better to speak in terms of memes than tools. Notably, just like with (genetic) evolution, the process which leads to a culture is to a large part blind and without purpose.

    “So, in my opinion, for someone to state that x culture is incompatible with y culture is understimating the potential of culture.”

    If I understand you correctly, you are still not considering the semantic difference that I discussed in my previous comment, where the statement is likely a short-hand for a “snap-shot” comparison of the two cultures.

    “When you speak of monoculturalism, I kind of suspect that you are talking about rertuning back to a “better time” in the past.”

    Possibly, from the POV of SD (with, I suspect, individual variations and variations depending on exact meaning); however, bear in mind that I was not discussing my own opinions, but those of SD.

  16. michaeleriksson

    I just received a reply from SD. They regret that they have no information in English at the time, citing lack of resources and suggesting google translate as a makeshift solution for the interested reader.

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