When I was growing up in the 1970s, one of the matters that followed me around was the constant news of the mass murder and cemetery silence imposed by ruthless Latin American dictatorships. If you lived in one of those countries where human rights violations were the rule, you were confronted by two options: take up arms or be quiet.
Read “Uncovering Crimes of Argentina’s Junta” here.
Much of the bloodshed that took place in Latin America during that tumultous decade could have been averted if there would have existed democratic institutions and respect for civil liberties.
It is a tragedy that millions of people were denied the right to express their opinions democratically.
In many respects, but in a different context, the same type of exclusion is taking place in many parts of Europe today. Ethnic groups like the Roma, Somalis, Turks, blacks, Muslims, Jews and other minorities are still treated like third-class citizens and with contempt in some countries.
Even if these groups are not persecuted in the same way like political dissidents in Latin America were four decades ago, they are treated with contempt. We can never be at peace as long as we allow poverty, ignorance and apathy to silence whole groups.
In many respects, but in a different context, too many Finnish politicians have shown too little interest for the rights and welfare of immigrants and visible minorities. The fact that we grant asylum to refugees and then force them to live separated for years from their families is one of many examples of their scorn.
If we look at the arguments used by right-wing anti-immigration extremist groups in Europe and Finland today, they have the same aim that autocratic regimes had to socially exclude and silence whole groups.
How long can a minority be forced to remain silent? In the United States, it took centuries before Rosa Parks ignited the Civil Rights Movement in December 1955. Hopefully different minorities in Europe react much faster.
The most important lesson we can learn from social movements like the above is that change must come from the group.
One of the oddest arguments one hears in Finland every now and then is that the anti-immigration Perussuomalaiset (PS), a party that is the breathing ground for right-wing extremism, has helped integrate troubled politicians who are multiculturally challenged into the system.
Such a preposterous argument is, in my opinion, only a justification for our fascination with modern-day fascism.
Democracy and civil rights is not a right that one group can own at the expense of others.
Keeping it from other groups is sowing the seeds of tomorrow’s violence.