The lack of cultural diversity is impoverishing Finland

by , under Enrique

Jussi Jalonen, a Tampere University history researcher, asked recently why a populist party like the Perussuomalaiset (PS) continues to grow in popularity despite the numerous scandals that have riddled the group. There is an answer: Finland’s lack of cultural diversity.

How is it possible that a party like the PS can win 39 seats in the last parliamentary elections from 5 seats previously? The answer: Finland’s lack of cultural diversity.

How is it possible that the Finnish media, politicians and the general public were swept off their feet by the PS’ anti-EU, anti-immigration and anti-Islam message up to April 17, 2011? The answer: Finland’s lack of cultural diversity.

Contrarily, if Finland were a country that would have had larger ethnic and religious minorities in the last century and if these were promoted in a spirit of social equality (tasa-arvo), we’d never be in the political and ideological mess that we are in today.

There are many examples of how a society can grow and reap synergies from cultural diversity. Some positive examples are Silicon Valley, Canada, the United States, Argentina, Australia and many others.

Since no society is perfect, never mind one that is culturally diverse, there are poor examples we should avoid. One of these is the former apartheid system of South Africa.

The recent example of the black Mannerheim movie is proof of some Finns’ hostility towards diversity and how we continue to cling at any price to our cultural and ethnic myths.

In many respects, the “one-people-one-nation view of white Finland is the making of our own social Frankenstein. We have promoted it from day one when we declared independence from Russia on December 6, 1917.

Even if PS chairman, Timo Soini, claims that his party has 27 “immigrant” candidates running for office in the municipal elections, it reinforces the party’s hostility towards diversity. Thanks to these candidates, PS’ “one- people-one-nation” political message is strengthened as a result.

Immigrants who have little idea about how our open society functions democratically and, worse, have no enthusiasm to throw overboard their baggage of hate and racism, is one of the threats facing our society.

It is surprising to note that many of these immigrants aren’t those with the least education, but those that have good professions and economical means to assimilate into white Finnish society.

Throughout the last century, Finland has been a negative model for cultural diversity despite the fact that 1.2 million Finns emigrated from this country between 1860 and 1999.

Finland’s social and economic life savior is not keeping Finland “white,” but becoming culturally diverse.

If we fail in this task and do not promote modern Nordic values such as mutual acceptance and respect, our society will become ever-polarized. The same Civil Rights Movements we saw in the United States emerging in the 1950s and 1960s will become a reality in Finland this century.

Since we have done everything possible to kill cultural diversity from the last century as opposed to defending and promoting it, we are paying today a high price for our shortsightedness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Mark

    I welcome the fact that the PS is increasing the number of immigrants standing for councillor. The issue is whether these candidates will attain office and whether they will carry a voice within the party, or whether they are there to appease the critics. Their presence in the party could be a good thing overall or even a bad thing overall, depending on how they are used or abused within the political process.

    Enrique, I honestly don’t think the answer to the rise of a populist/Far Right party is calling for higher ethnic diversity. In fact, demanding demographic changes in Finland for the sake of advancing political maturity seems a poor justification for increased immigration, especially if those immigrants already here have faced difficulties. It’s like saying that immigration only works if it’s some magic number like 20% of the population. That almost certainly doesn’t make sense.

    Likewise, it’s important to recognise that PS gain support for several issues, one of which is anti-immigration or racism. The party is a mixed bag, and indeed, the strains and divisions within the party as to how to make itself grow even further will pit the moderates against the political extremists.

    In spite of America’s civil rights movement, a great many people in the old confederate states will ‘NEVER’ vote for a black candidate. Whether that will change with future generations we don’t know. Racism is now more covert, but comparing groups while adjusting for all other factors shows that Southern states in the US are still racist, and that it AFFECTS national elections. If Obama had a level playing field in the Southern states, he would win the election hands down. That’s how bad it is in America in spite of a civil rights movement.

    The issue today is therefore challenging both overt and covert racism. Add to that the new problems of Islamaphobia and you have a job addressing any issues of prejudice.

    The key thing in breaking this more dangerous forms of nationalism is encouraging Finns to recognise that increased ethnic diversity does NOT mean Islamic or African conquest, and does not mean that Finland’s values and standards will be eroded. As long as some Finns think that Finland or Finnish culture is at risk, they will cling to their prejudice like rats to a sinking ship. And that would even be understandable. People have the world over resisted conquerers and occupiers, in just the same way that Iraqis and Afghans have resisted occupation by US and international forces, regardless of the ideology used to defend that resistance.

    In some ways it almost comes down to being the same old nationalist/identity ideology on the part of Finns that you see on the part of extremists rejecting the influence of the West in the Middle East or in other countries – but even pointing this out will not be enough. It would still be, well better our own shit than their shit.

    Somehow, people must be persuaded that pursuing national, ethnic, economic and religious divisions only perpetuates the world’s problems, and that in situations where fear of conquest or loss of identity is used by political forces to generate political capital will actually undermine the major gains that our society has made to make it reasonably tolerant, free, and equitable. Give in too much to fear and we will almost certainly become what we fear arriving from outside, simply because the seeds of division are left to grow within Finnish society, between Swedish speakers and Finns, between Finns of Russian or other origin, between counter-Jihadists and multiculturalists. Who knows, maybe Finnish politics would eventually become as partisan and handicaped as US politics, where the problems of bigotry clearly affect the outcome, but cannot be addressed directly by any mainstream party or broadcasting outlet.

    Gosh, let’s not get to that point. But let’s not oversimplify the issue of the appeal of PS, or the solution. Politicians can either lurch to the Right in their own policies, which ultimately will not work or help, or they can attempt to get at the root of the issue, and tackle the very real sense of threat that people in Finland feel. You cannot blame them for putting up the barricades if they feel Finnish identity is under threat. The key is challenging that sense of threat, and showing how Finland can become increasingly diverse without undermining Finnish identity. The most important thing is that people are free to be what they want to be in Finland, within reason. And most people, immigrants and natives, want to live their lives within reason.

    • Happy

      Excellent points Mark!
      I think that while exposure to people of other race and ethnicity can help to bridge barriers and racial prejudice, it shouldn’t be the way forward. In a way, and as you rightly mention, it might have the negative effect of creating an “us” versus “them” society. This can be seen in countries such as France and Germany. While these countries have an impressive racial mix, there is still an “us” the locals, and a “them” the immigrants, or nationals of foreign decent. In these societies, anyone born there of a different decent is more likely to be treated differently. There is a silent consensus that citizens of a different racial mix shouldn’t be allowed access into certain fields of employment.
      An acquaintance married to a Finn recently mentioned on her Facebook page that we must fight racism by encouraging interracial marriage. Boy was I shocked!! On the one hand, one might argue that those who are not in interracial relationships are either racists, or unbeknown to them, supporting racism! On the other hand, it might mean that those who marry outside their races are not racist!!! REALLY?
      I think the government can foster tolerance by for instance, instantly condemning any acts of prejudice instead of fearing that it might cause others to say Finns are racist when racism is talked about.
      We must all overcome this fear of “them” when we are “us” and vice versa; as when one meets people of different races, one realises there is nothing in others that one should fear.

    • Mark

      Happy

      This can be seen in countries such as France and Germany. While these countries have an impressive racial mix, there is still an “us” the locals, and a “them” the immigrants, or nationals of foreign decent.

      Agreed. A racial mix doesn’t mean a society free of prejudice or even close to an acceptable level of prejudice, assuming you cannot ever completely stamp it out.

      Segregation is one barrier, either geographical or cultural. It’s understandable to a point, and is on both sides, both white flight and black congregation. The contact hypothesis seems weaker these days than it has been, but perhaps that too has been oversimplified, where ‘contact’ has meant in some research merely living in the same city, ignoring either neighbourhoods or community level interactions. Clearly that doesn’t give an accurate picture of the effects of contact.

      An acquaintance married to a Finn recently mentioned on her Facebook page that we must fight racism by encouraging interracial marriage.

      That’s an odd one. You might encourage people to buy organic food, because of its benefits, but you cannot turn people into a commodoty like that. Very strange idea this woman has had. Perhaps she means that we should make it more visible and accepted.

      when one meets people of different races, one realises there is nothing in others that one should fear.

      This is it in a nutshell. I am always surprised when people seem to forget that we are all people, and that this is absolutely blatantly obvious when you meet people of different ethnic or geographical origin. People don’t seem to trust that idea, that there is such a thing as a shared humanity. In fact, people do everything they can to strip the idea that these selected ‘other’ people have any humanity, intelligence, knowledge, wisdom or even freedom.

      But perhaps the problem is ‘armchair politics’. When people are not actively engaged with the issues, and I don’t mean actively engaged in fascist activities, but actively engaged with meeting and getting to know people of different backgrounds, then it’s all too easy to create some figment of them. It’s easy to feed that kind of figment with selective media stories or misleading statistics. It’s easy to mistake one kind of problem (poverty/marginalisation) for another (integration/multiculturalism).

      Look at the nonsense and pantomime going on in the US at the moment in the elections and the divisions between Republicans and Democrats. The hatred is palpable. It’s almost ‘tribal’, like two sets of football fans at each other’s throats. And the hatred comes from a childish assumption that one’s own ‘love of country’ or ‘love of freedom’ is somehow better than another person’s. The ‘love’ literally drives the hatred. That’s what’s really really bizarre about the whole thing for me.

    • JusticeDemon

      Mark

      But perhaps the problem is ‘armchair politics’. When people are not actively engaged with the issues, and I don’t mean actively engaged in fascist activities, but actively engaged with meeting and getting to know people of different backgrounds, then it’s all too easy to create some figment of them.

      More specifically “keyboard warrior politics”.

      Hence the importance of challenging fascist characterisations of scapegoated population groups with a demand to identify the specific individuals concerned. I do not recognise anyone in the Finnish Somali community from the characterisations spouted by Halal is just Sharia ikon on his ridiculous Holy Scripta hate blog, so I challenge him to say the same thing about a specific named Somali Finn. Naturally Ah, Sharia jails lout skin cannot do this, because the characterisations are fictitious and any identification of an individual would risk a lawsuit.

      On the other hand, if you ask me to identify a specific fascist in Finnish politics, then Jussi Halla-Aho exemplifies this characterisation quite clearly. All of the elements are present, including the vicious psychopathology which he now tries to conceal.

  2. Joonas

    – The recent example of the black Mannerheim movie is proof of some Finns’ hostility towards diversity and how we continue to cling at any price to our cultural and ethnic myths.

    I can’t agree with this one. I would say many Finns have been waiting a good movie about Mannerheim for years and this kind of “interpretation” was just a slap on their face. The movie had low budget, the acting was horrible and it had nothing to do with real life. Yes, “art” is a subjective opinion, but it would be the same thing if it was a first movie about life of Martin Luther King, Jr and he the lead role would go to a white male who lives in Norway. Don’t you think there would be some disappointment or even anger amongst some people?

  3. Happy

    – The recent example of the black Mannerheim movie is proof of some Finns’ hostility towards diversity and how we continue to cling at any price to our cultural and ethnic myths.

    I can’t agree with this one. I would say many Finns have been Yes, “art” is a subjective opinion, but it would be the same thing if it was a first movie about life of Martin Luther King, Jr and he the lead role would go to a white male who lives in Norway. Don’t you think there would be some disappointment or even anger amongst some people?

    So now you are comparing Mannerheim to Martin Luther King? May I suggest you compare Mannerheim to someone his status? Almost anyone around the world recognises the name of Martin Luther, can we say the same about Mannerheim?

    • Joonas

      If you think this from Finns perspective, who do you think had more effect to their lives: Mannerheim or King? They both are portrait as a hero in their home countries, even thought King has more international reputation. But does that make Mannerheim any less important for the Finns and Finland?

      And you still missed the whole point. What do you think the Americans would say about a serious drama movie which tells about white Martin Luther King Jr. who lives in Norway… oh, and was aired on the national channel? Don’t you think there would be same kind of reaction as in Finland, or even more severe?

  4. Happy

    If you think this from Finns perspective, who do you think had more effect to their lives: Mannerheim or King? They both are portrait as a hero in their home countries, even thought King has more international reputation. But does that make Mannerheim any less important for the Finns and Finland?

    And you still missed the whole point. What do you think the Americans would say about a serious drama movie which tells about white Martin Luther King Jr. who lives in Norway… oh, and was aired on the national channel? Don’t you think there would be same kind of reaction as in Finland, or even more severe?

    Whatever dude. Just don’t compare a local hero to a global one. There is no basis for that. King’s move to fight racism in America has impacted more than just American society 40 years after.
    If you must compare Mannherheim to another local black hero, may I suggest you do with a local Kenyan hero? You would have a point in that. Not with Martin Luther King!

    • Joonas

      What does it matter if the person is local or global hero? Making fun of them is more serious because… there will be more unhappy people? Are they untouchable, because you like them?

  5. Happy

    What does it matter if the person is local or global hero? Making fun of them is more serious because… there will be more unhappy people? Are they untouchable, because you like them?

    As I said before, Mannerheim is a local hero, King is not! Go to any neutral country and do a survey: do you recognise this name…i.e. and see who is recognisable. There will be a statistically significant difference. You might even be surprise of the outcome if the study were done in Finland among a particular (younger) age group. You DON’T have to like King to know he is the hero Mannerheim can NEVER match and never will. I am not underestimating who Mannerheim is to you…however, let’s not compare oranges with apples. There are local heroes and there are global ones.

  6. Mark

    Joonas

    “And you still missed the whole point. What do you think the Americans would say about a serious drama movie which tells about white Martin Luther King Jr. who lives in Norway… oh, and was aired on the national channel?”

    It’s a good point, Joonas. Clearly it would ruffle feathers and raise questions, and of course, a whole spectrum of reactions. The question for me is why would they do that? Are they being provocative, if so why? And is that provocation going to overshadow the point of the story, or the biography on display. But as an exercise in challenging racial stereotypes, I would say it’s an excellent vehicle, whether a white Luther King or a black Mannerheim, though you cannot pretend there is somehow equivelance between racism against whites. In other words, a white Luther King could easily be seen as a snub against racial equality, rather than a testing of it.

    What’s clear though is that in a free democracy, people are free to do exactly these things.

    • Joonas

      Thanks for your reply, Mark. The same question came to me when they announced “black” Mannerheim movie: Why would they do that? The movie didn’t have anything to do with Finland’s Mannerheim and it is hard to believe anyone who saw the movie would think “Wow, this is so clever. Now we are really breaking Finnish taboo”. Don’t get me wrong, I love political satires and parodies, but I just didn’t understand this one. There is already a movie about transvestitate Mannerheim and other satires, so this just felt pointless.

      – In other words, a white Luther King could easily be seen as a snub against racial equality, rather than a testing of it.

      Agree. I just compared Mannerheim to Luther King, because he is well known and also wakes up strong feelings in some people. Same thing could be said about Muhammad, but of course the scale is again totally different.

      This why I founf it laughable when Enrique said “proof of some Finns’ hostility towards diversity and how we continue to cling at any price to our cultural and ethnic myths.”, because this kind of behavior would be in all countries around the world.

  7. Mark

    Joonas

    “proof of some Finns’ hostility towards diversity and how we continue to cling at any price to our cultural and ethnic myths.

    Agreed. Not Enrique’s finest moment in print, for sure.

  8. Mark

    JD

    I do not recognise anyone in the Finnish Somali community from the characterisations spouted by Halal is just Sharia ikon on his ridiculous Holy Scripta hate blog, so I challenge him to say the same thing about a specific named Somali Finn.

    What’s he been up to now? Have you challenged him directly on the blog?

    I would have NO hesitation in describing Halla-aho as a neo-fascist. My guess is that he has no problem with that and would like to ‘rehabilitate’ fascism but cannot openly state it as such. It’s a case of ‘yeah, the Nazis went overboard, but it wasn’t all bad’. National socialism reborn, enlisting the help of populism, as ever, and dividing and vilifying specific social groups/religions, as ever, feeding on notions of superiority, either genetic or cultural, as ever.

  9. Iam

    Hi all,
    With many respect for all, what am saying on this comment means about some Finns, some foreigners and some immigrants so please listen to me for this comment is the fact of my dark life in Finalnd .

    Am gald that PS win 39 seats, now no/one can claim that Finland is not a racist country but world can see it clearly.
    Please u dear Finns dont attack me for am not against u but am talking about racist law and system in Finalnd.

    Am a barve person , am just match with truth thast all

    Also my words does not mean that other people in parliament are holy and angelic, for i dont believe it, if it was such a thing it was not a such a hard time for me in here.
    So my idea they all have racist ideas no more or less than PS, my idea they are all same same, yes exactly.
    And i cant judge them not at all, but i can understand their real deep heart and thoughts if i talk to them face to face, so i dont call any name on here not for i am afraid ha ha ha but for i dont want, simply i dont know these people in parliament very well , i just know what they want Ha ha ha ha.

    And am gald so gald that PS win, for now every body can see for very clear abusers in Finland, immigrant and foreigners abusers, for sake of them Finns go and vote to PS , for Finns are so tired of this kind of people, who come and came to Finland just for a better life, aand abuse system,
    Thanks GOD am alone .so i lost what i had in my life and now i have nothing to be worry about, for am living my best honestly and am not hungry for nothing in this country.
    So now every one can see whats the mean of an abuser,
    Who come here with a big , small family and live here long long time and never try to live with moralnote please SOME.
    For sake of this kind of immigrant and foreigners , some one like me whatever do and try is nothing, because PS and other people in government and who vote all of them (some Finns) thin, we immigrant R against them, but hey, not all of foreigners and immigrantr are like that , why u dont look to positive side of this story? Why no/one count hardworker immigrants?

    Huuum
    Many questions, but i need brave Finn to stand on this comment and answer and am feeling so bore and sleepy if a Finn or foriegner or immigrant stand in this comment against the fact, for i can only joy with the truth.

    However, now abusers cant play game more than this hopfully, am tired to be a victim for some people who enjoy their lazy time in Finalnd.

    Am Glad PS win 39 seats for now it shows the big facts and truth , it shows how some Finns think, i have not their pictures, but they can be my neighbours, my friends,…
    Life is cold here, no am not talking about cold winter but about cold hearts.

    And finally am glad that PS win 39 seats for am tired of games and i need to know whats my situation in here, i know it already but now will be more clear , for i have nothing to lose in here but i want my freedom.

    Please dear all note this
    That this comment is not for balck people, white people, blonde one, green, yellow, red persons, for no/one. because am not their lawyer and i dont want stand for no/one, what is it to me???????
    Why they are all silent? they afarid to lose some benefits, yes, they want more an dmore
    When i had and got bad hard time in Finalnd they were sitting in their houses and they were enjoying their life, why should i satnd for them???? Never
    This comment is only and only my freedom of speech and just for myself awho is an alone person here ( but i not feeling alone and no need ur pity am strong and my words show that) not for abusers and scammers.

    yes i say that loud, not for abusers and scammers

    IF an immigrant or foreigner or a Finn has something for talk about can come here and talk, and am sure that never will happen, never, maybe a few person , but for sure its not possible at all.

    peace out and i welcome everybody to attack me or respect my freedom of speech the only way that i had to explain something about the fact

    Thanks Enrique for this apportunity

  10. Iam

    Aboutof the black Mannerheim movie ,
    Its only movie, just movie, no/one should fall in love with a movie, feel angry or happy with a movie, its movie only movie
    But my question as a foreigner
    Why this director made this movie witha balck guy?
    What does he mean?
    He knows very well Finns an dhis culture for he is a Finn why he done so wrong when he knew his people cant accept it.
    For me he is completely free an dtahts the mean of freedom but he done not wise, for he made many Finns angry at himself ha ha.
    he knew mannerheim is a hero for finn for why he proveke them with a balck actor,
    No one is guilty about this matter, but it is not wise, and an director should make a movie that can make people wiser not anger.
    he made some people think racist, was that what he wanted for a result for his simple movie? or he wanted to improve something in thsi culture _? But his way was a broken way for made alot of broken way in his society.
    no/one can balme him its just a simple art from him but still art
    So please anger people forgive him, humanity means more than this, moral is best
    Have great day u all

    • D4R

      No need for apology. if Finns take offence to black people then that’s entirely their problem. The reason why many Finns took this movie as offence is becus of superiority complex, and that they see black people as something to be ashamed of. The director made a mistake of doing this kind of movie becus he should have known better, that his people see black people as inferior period.

  11. eyeopener

    Dear friends.

    A vast array of research has already demonstrated that diversity in all fields is the source of attractiveness, economic growth and intellectual prosperity. It contributes to the most important element of social life: TRUST.

    The counterpart however is that ” being different, strange, exceptional and other seperating qualifications” are the disputing elements that blocks the building of TRUST.

    Furthermore, these disrupting elements allow the pursuit of unjustified objectives because no counter-argumentation is accepted -either formally or informally.

    The accountabilty of politicians and their support -economic, scientific and social- is at stake. In addition, the responsibility to “speak to truth” is challenged far too less.

    Society -and especially their representative bodies like political parties, police and justice, churches and academics- seem to shy away and accept that “there are people of a lesser God”

    An open mind is a joy forever!!

  12. eyeopener

    Dear friends.

    A vast array of research has already demonstrated that diversity in all fields is the source of attractiveness, economic growth and intellectual prosperity. It contributes to the most important element of social life: TRUST.

    The counterpart however is that ” being different, strange, exceptional and other seperating qualifications” are the disputing elements that blocks the building of TRUST.

    Furthermore, these disrupting elements allow the pursuit of unjustified objectives because no counter-argumentation is accepted -either formally or informally.

    The accountabilty of politicians and their support -economic, scientific and social- is at stake. In addition, the responsibility to “speak to truth” is challenged far too less.

    Society -and especially their representative bodies like political parties, police and justice, churches and academics- seem to shy away and accept that “there are people of a lesser God”

    An open mind is a joy forever!!

  13. Iam

    Hi eyeopener,
    Wow, how r u?
    Hugs hugs
    Teddy bear hugs
    Where have u been for a long long long time, i was missing u so much thats the truth
    he he he
    Wish u a happy weekend and put on ur jacket its a cold day today, tonight and will be tomorrow
    A big smile for u my dear friend
    See u in moon for moon is light and light is truth

    • eyeopener

      Hello Iam.

      Being away for a long time, that’s true. But not because of Migrant Tales or its contributors. Just had to do a lot of work!!

      Hugs for you too. Thanks for the reminder to put on a coat. However, here in the North the people call me the Polar Bear because I walk around in T-shirt at -15 🙂

      You will see me more in the future.

      Enjoy your weekend and let the light shine on you!!

  14. Iam

    🙂 wow T/shirt in North, ha ha ha ha ur a hero bear
    Come Helsinki, it is warm oh North is very cold, Brrrrr
    Thanks for ur warm wishes, u too polar bear enjoy ur weekend and Be happy forever and ever
    Love light and happines to U
    Okay see u on MT dear eyeopener
    la la la la la

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