Finnish department store J. Kärkkäinen’s Magneettimedia writings are a disturbing sign of how anti-Semitism, like anti-immigration and anti-Islam sentiment, have gained a foothold in Finland. And why shouldn’t it find fertile ground to grow in this country? During the past years, the genie of intolerance has been let out of the bottle and it shows.
We’re still not outraged enough by intolerance. If we were, it would be on the defensive.
Why aren’t we?
One of the reasons is that we fallaciously believe that our racism works in our favor.
If many of us have little idea how destructive racism is, some are at an even greater loss when it comes to finding ways to challenge it.
Why are we so much in the dark about the pernicious impact of racism on society? The answer sits right under our noses: It is what maintains the national and global status quo of power. There’s a lot of clout and wealth to be made by maintaing such a socially unjust national and global system intact.
Turn in a new leaf
While Juha Kärkkäinen, the owner of the retail company that carries his same name promises to no longer publish anti-Semitic pieces by the likes of David Duke and Ted Pike, the damage has been done.
But to whom?
Two matters are crucial in order for racism to thrive and survive another day: apathy of the victims (they’ve given up before the fight has even begun), and denial-secrecy (intolerance is the most effective and strongest when it works behind the scenes and is institutionalized).
By publishing virulent anti-Semitic opinion pieces by racists like Duke, who was the former head of the Ku Klux Klan, Kärkkäinen does a disfavor to all those confessed and closet racists in Finland and elsewhere because it exposes the problem.
After the horrors of Nazi Germany, which was responsible for the systematic death of some six million Jews, one way to ensure that Jews would not fall victim of such massive treachery was by lobbying and confronting anti-Semitism head on.
The many victories of the Simon Wiesenthal Center against anti-Semitism is a source of inspiration and a reminder that the only way to confront intolerance is by challenging it directly. Silence will encourage greater hostility, not undermine it.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center sent a letter to President Sauli Niinistö expressing concern over the anti-Semitic writings on Magneettimedia.
But do other ethnic and religious groups have the same resources? If not, are they doomed to suffer for generations social exclusion and discrimination?
How do you explain and justify the rise of an anti-immigration and anti-Islam party in Finland like the Perussuomalaiset (PS) in April 2011, and which is still as popular as ever as a recent YLE poll shows?
It suggests that we live in a society where intolerance is fruiting and continues to shortchange others of opportunities. It is the very undercurrent that has geysered in Denmark with the Islamophobic Danish People’s Party, in Holland with Geert Wilders, in England with Prime Minister David Cameron’s “Go Home or Face Arrest” campaign, in Germany with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s “multiculturalism has utterly failed” statement, and Finland with the PS.
Even if the PS is the most vocal anti-immigration and anti-cultural diversity political force in Finland, its popularity could have never reached present levels without the direct or indirect support of Finland’s political establishment.
As long as our collective denial, that we have intolerance under control or it is a “minor problem,” we will continue to feed it and it will continue to grow.
If we have learned little from the horrors of two World Wars and xenophobia, which is raising its head higher than before these days in Europe, it proves that our education is deficient and outright racist. We are not taught tolerance at school but more effectively, in fine print, code and in between the lines, intolerance.
It’s clear why we aren’t outraged by such a destructive force.
We are content with the way things are because intolerance doesn’t threaten us directly.
Nothing could be further from the truth.