As Finland celebrates today its 95th anniversary as an independent nation, the noble values of acceptance, respect and inclusion should resonate in the Finnish expat community and in this country, from Helsinki all the way north to Ohcejohka (Utsjoki). What is the big picture we should strive for as a society in this century?
English poet W.H. Auden (1907-73) offers us an eloquent answer. He once said civilizations should be measured by ”the degree of diversity attained and the degree of unity retained.”
This is the exact yardstick that Finland should use to measure its success as a society in the twenty-first century.
While Finland guarantees and promotes cultural diversity in the spirit of its laws, what happens on the ground is unfortunately a different story.
Too many Finns still shun, and are even hostile to, cultural diversity.
If we look at our second- and third-generation Finns, those whose parents or grandparents moved to this country as immigrants or refugees, it becomes evident that we still have a long way to go as a nation when promoting a society based on mutual acceptance and respect.
In many respects, the Russification period (1899-1905 and 1908-1917), when Czar Nicholas II unilaterally attempted to compromise Finland’s autonomy and its cultural unity, is similar but in a different context to the indifference and hostility that expats, immigrants and visible minorities face today.
Just like Russification aimed at weakening this country, groups like the Perussuomalaiset (PS), Suomen Sisu, Suomalaisuuden liitto and others are doing the same thing. Their aim is to render useless, destroy and socially exclude new Finns who are and never will be like them.
Not only have these anti-immigration groups declared open war on Finland’s “others,” they have kidnapped our national icons in the process to spread their brand of racism and prejudice.
The good news is that these pro-racism groups will fail because, like with Russification, they will be bitten hard by the very hatred that they promote.
Just like the first phase (1899-1905) of Russification suffered a blow thanks to the defeat of the Russians in the Russo-Japanese War, the modern version of that historical watershed is Anders Breivik. Without the Norwegian mass murderer, the anti-immigration message of those groups that are hostile to immigrants and visible minorities would have gotten stronger and louder in Finland and elsewhere in the Nordic region.
I have confidence in Finland and the Finns to rid themselves of groups that flirt with the most destructive forces that promote racism, far-right ideologies and blind nationalism.
That is why I am celebrating this important date, December 6.