By Enrique Tessieri
One of the matters that Finnish academics, politicians, policy makers never mind the general public missed out completely about our ever-growing cultural diversity is that our history and myths are hindering us to see the big picture. The official and unofficial response to our culturally diverse society appears to be a subtle “no.”
As there are Finns who don’t get it there are others who do. Those that do build bridges and pathways to our society with mutual acceptance between ourselves and our newest members of our society.
The debate in Finland concerning the big picture about cultural diversity is muddled by our impaired view from inside those trenches that we have dug. Our violent history and the cold war, which kept us geopolitically near-isolated from the rest of the world during 1945-91, are some shovels we have used to dig ourselves in that hole.
We should make an effort to get out of there because the task will take generations.
Debate about our cultural diversity and that big picture of Finnish society in this century should begin first and foremost among ourselves. In that debate, we must make an effort to banish our historical grudges and, most importantly, our fears as a nation of Russia and the outside world.
Any integration program that does not tackle these issue is doomed to failure. Xenophobia and racism will be the most effective weapon of choice used by Finns to keep that “Other” world in its place.
This route is not only a reckless one but very expensive to tax payers. Politicians should be told that integration, inclusion and opportunities will save Finnish tax payers a lot of money as opposed to jumping on the anti-immigration bandwagon and spreading urban tales.
As long as some of us continue to live inside those deep trenches, our society will always be threatened by populists and the far right as we saw in the April election, which reinforced institutional and colorblind racism in Finland.
Matters are in a very critical state at present. So much so in fact, that some Finns don’t even believe that racism and populism aren’t a threat to our society.
Past wars have traumatized our country but isn’t time ripe to attempt to heal those wounds?
Like it or not, our ever-growing culturally diverse society is offering us that opportunity.