By Enrique Tessieri
The horrific carnage that took place in Norway on Friday at the hands of a far-right extremist is a watershed for our societies. Even if the mass killer, Anders Behring Breivik, is in police custody his outlandish deeds continue to bully some of us into denial.
Former President Martti Ahtisaari showed the kind of leadership we should not only expect of our politicians, but of ourselves as well. He was quoted in Mikkeli daily Länsi-Savo as saying that our silence has fuelled the rise of far-right groups and their language of hatred towards minorities.
“I always remember what Martin Luther King said when (we) wondered why blacks got their (civil) rights so late and why did inequality last for so long,” continued Ahtisaari. “King said: The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”
Silence is a powerful force. Even military regimes that commit grave human rights violations rely on silence and enforce it through censorship.
The role of silence, or the lack of leadership against intolerance, has been seen throughout history. Ahtisaari said that the silence of the majority was the faithful servant of undemocratic regimes in the Balkans and Nazi Germany.
“There is no place in the Nordic democratic system for extremist groups or inciting hatred against (other) nationalities or that prejudice is acceptable in any form, even in our speech” said Ahtisaari. “Nordic countries are the most tolerant in the world, therefore this development (growth of intolerance) is foreign to us.”
A fertile breeding ground for this type of hatred and intolerance has been websites like Homma, associations like Suomen Sisu and political parties like the Perussuomalaiset, which gained 19.1% of the votes in the April election.
An anonymous blogger published (in Finnish) on Uusi Suomi the reaction of some Homma bloggers on what happened in Norway.Denial is lightly putting it. According to them, the horrific events in Norway had nothing to do with our culture, religion, anti-immigration stances and racism. It was the work of a single psychopath that was totally disconnected from our values and the hatred so commonly seen in our societies today.
Norway is a watershed against our silence and those hate groups that have grown politically in Finland in recent years.
They are a menace to our values and society. Like Breivik showed, when you leave hatred and racism out of the cage it can bite you back in ways you never imagined.