By Enrique Tessieri
One of the matters that has turned me off about Finland for a long time is that I haven’t been allowed to embrace my Finnishness on my terms. By my terms I mean defining what Finnish identity means personally to me.
If people who define Finnish identity in narrow terms had their way, many Multicultural Finns, expats, immigrants and minorities could possibly suffer a similar fate as the Romany minority in this country. Constant exclusion and prejudice would follow them around like a dark shadow. Even if that shadow excludes them from society, it protects them from some of its hostility.
Some Finns who define Finnish culture and identity on their narrow-minded terms and aggressively impose it on everyone else, are always ready to give a quick reason why a person is not a Finn. You are too dark they may claim, or you look too “foreign,” you act strange and speak different from us.
The fact that some give more reasons to exclude others than include them in our society says a lot about us as a nation.
For a person like me, a Finn with a multicultural background,these excuses must be challenged and banished.
I have a lot of questions to ask those who claim to be “pure” Finns. For one, they could explain where is the Garden of Eden in this country since Finns are a “pure” ethnicity that never mixed with anyone. They could tell us as well how our culture was not influenced by over 700 years of Swedish and Russian rule. What about those 1.2 million Finns that emigrated from this land between 1860 and 1999? How did you erase them from our history?
Is a great part of your denial of who you are only a tool to build a social-ethnic construct of yourself? Is this the reason why the spiteful message of PS MPs like Jussi Halla-aho appeals to so many of us? Was that one of the reasons why 19.1% voted for the PS in April?
In many respects I am fortunate that I grew up abroad instead of in Finland despite my Finnish background. If I’d grown up in this country in the 1960s and 1970s, I would have never been able to develop a strong sense of myself and my otherness.
Would living in such a Finland been worth it?
Fortunately matters have changed for the better in this country. Slowly but surely we are learning to see our culture as rich and diverse. In that new diverse Finland that some want to destroy at all costs today, we can all be Finns on our own terms. Immigrants are included in this group.
Building such an inclusive society in this century is certainly worth living and fighting for!