By Pia Grochowski
“My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”
These were the final words written by the late Canadian leader of the opposition, Jack Layton, just hours before his untimely death of cancer. I reflect upon these words with a desire in my heart to challenge the current status quo in Finland. While the words were part of a message towards all Canadians to carry us through period of darkness with the untimely passing of one of our leaders; these words have enormous relevance.
I wish to question what appears to be, to me at least, too much coverage of the far right, racism, the perussuomalaiset. I question the tactics from many liberally minded people that discussions I have had always tend to fall down the path of concern for what the äärioikeus, or far right, said; many are rightfully shocked, disgusted, and concerned at the long-term implications of their dogma, their horrific ideas. Rather than despair in such statements, I feel we must look with optimism towards alternatives. To allow us to be channels wherein people with the capacity to change, with a vision for inclusion can get a voice. The more I read of äärioikeus, the more I realize how silly it all is. These individuals promote sensational ideas, which I believe will never be manifested, but can be framed in such a way that will shock and awe the public and sell newspapers. The more they are covered and discuss in the media, the more we are at risk of having them get the promotion we want. While criticizing their views, we must take care to provide a reasoned answer that defines out values and ideals with the means of seeing them through.
My plea in writing this is that we need to hear more visionary voices; we need to see more alternatives. Now is the time to act, now is the time to hope, and be optimistic. There are so many wonderful people in this country with great messages of diversity, great potential for change; why do we let a character like Soini win the walls of our facebook pages with his blatant incompetence, and subtle racism in a BBC interview. In the last presidential election an openly homosexual man, with a foreign partner came to the final round. This wouldn’t be possible without some desire of the people in this country accepting and supporting the very things the äärioikeus hopes to remove. I am becoming more inclined not let the äärioikeus use me as a channel for their voices, as I believe such spaces are better used by alternatives, reasoned voices that can offer real solutions rather than fear. I believe they have fed us with enough proof that they are no longer worth our time, our anger. I believe that we can deal with this problem; I believe that we can lead by example, we can provide ideas, we can solve problems, and we can do better.
Don’t get me wrong, covering racism is important, and some may, still, be unaware of the extent of it all; but we also need to reflect on giving more space to voices that have a vision for an inclusive, dynamic, progressive Finland. At times I worry that all these ideological extremes victimize immigrants. While focusing on all that frustrates us, all the problems, we also need to take time and focus on all that we can and will change. Love is better than anger.