By Enrique Tessieri
In one day Finland’s image changed in the eyes of many people and the world. On April 17 the racism and malicious insinuation of minorities in Finland achieved a beachhead because of our lack of resolve. That weakness has now spoon fed a right-wing populist party that is threatening values like social equality for all.
Finland is learning how to throw good punches back at the ogre of racism. One of the best ways to tackle this monster is to question the countless malicious insinuations of minorities by parties like the Perussuomalaiset (PS).
One of the biggest stereotypes being marketed by some PS MPs is that immigrants and refugees abuse social welfare, are lazy, and therefore have little to no worth in our society.
Here is a blog on Uusi Suomi by PS city councilman Hemmo Koskiniemi of Rovaniemi, where on the basis of he-said-she-said testimony, labels an immigrant living in public housing of abusing the system. Migrant Tales called the City of Rovaniemi and asked if they ever got a call from Koskiniemi and if what he claims is true.
This type of insinuation by politicians like Koskiniemi not only shows their laziness to get the facts first before pointing the accusing finger, but the eagerness of some PS politicians to become social-media lynch mob leaders.
Sociologist Alan Bruce shows how the culture of prejudice is built: “Its (racism) final stages sees it as it really is: hate-fuelled, other-centered loathing with a set of solutions (final or temporary) to address what is now labelled a “problem,” he writes. “Yes, a ‘problem’ created by…. the racists themselves… They minimize their nastiness by a desperate and false effort to blend in to normal politics. It looks like a rat, it walks like a rat, it sneers like a rat, it stinks like a rat: it is a rat.”
The ability of the PS to build good ethnic relations in Finland is a near-impossible task for the party. They don’t care about integration but instead drive home the point that diversity is some illness that must be stamped out with hearsay and stereotypes.
When politicians like the PS vehemently claim that immigrants and refugees abuse the social welfare system, they conveniently forget to back up their allegations and mention how the system is being misused by Finns, who are the majority in this country.
As a reporter working for Apu magazine in the early 1990s, when Finland was suffering from one its worst-ever recessions in history, I did some investigative journalism on social security fraud. At the time, Finland’s immigrant population totalled a mere 55,587 people, or 1.1% of the population.
One of my sources was a ministry of labor official who told me that moonlighting alone cost the state yearly between 100 million and 900 million Finnish marks (16.8 million and 151.8 million euros).
We could ask two important questions in light of the 1994 article that was never published by Apu because it was a hyper-sensitive topic in those days for politicians as well: Why are we still in the dark about how many people in this country abuse social welfare?
Overturning and busting myths is a key weapon in the fight against prejudice. Sensible politicians should stand up to the malicious insinuations put out by the PS of immigrants, refugees and minorities.
Such leadership is needed now.