You can live in Finland as long as you are culturally invisible (and conform to our stereotypes)

by , under Enrique Tessieri

Perussuomalaiset (PS)* MP Vesa-Matti Saarakkala’s statement on Seinjäjoki-based daily Ilkka is another clear example of how some politicians, and even the National Board of Education, continue to deny our ever-growing cultural diversity. There is a lot of talk about “multiculturalism” and little action. This leaves us with a hostile message lingering above us: We, white Finns, will decide what cultural traditions will be kept in our schools. We call the cultural shots in this country and don’t ever forget it. 

In theory at least, Finland is a secular country. In practice it’s far from it.

The debate that took place this spring concerning the suvivirsi, or Summer Hymn, is a case in point. In a show of power and a clear message that Finland isn’t ready yet to talk about the role of cultural diversity too seriously, the National Board of Education didn’t consider the suvivirsi compromised its guidelines for religious freedom, equality and neutrality.

Some would strongly agree with the conclusions of the National Board of Education.

How could a near all-white National Board of Education have decided differently?

Näyttökuva 2014-12-21 kello 10.47.19

 

Read full story (in Finnish) here.

 

The actions and opinions of PS MP Saarakkala, among many others in the populist anti-immigration party, couldn’t be further from the truth about schools are not performing traditional Christian events like Christmas because of migrants.

The attempt by Saarakkala to shift attention on the real issue, which is how secular should our schools be, and pinning the issue on migrants and atheists is nothing more than another cheap shot by the PS.

Saarakkala belongs to that group of Finns who see cultural diversity as a threat and illness spreading in Finland. In his world, migrants would never become equal citizens but be relegated to second- and third-class members of society as the eternal hapless mamu or “person with migrant background.”

It’s clear that the prejudices of politicians like Saarakkala, and policy statements of the National Board of Education to rule in favor of one religion over others, have their days counted. Why? Because they are untenable.

The question is a simple one:

Is our educational system secular? If not, how much space should be given to different religions?

Is our society open and tolerant of cultural and ethnic diversity? If not, which groups will be excluded with our traditions?

The Finnish name of the Finns Party is the Perussuomalaiset (PS). The names adopted by the PS, like True Finns or Finns Party, promote in our opinion nativist nationalism and xenophobia. We therefore prefer to use the Finnish name of the party on our postings. 

 

 

  1. Yossie

    “Saarakkala belongs to that group of Finns who see cultural diversity as a threat and illness spreading in Finland.”

    And he is right! This writing of yours proves him right. You want to put our traditions to dustbin of history!

    “We, white Finns, will decide what cultural traditions will be kept in our schools. We call the cultural shots in this country and don’t ever forget it. ”

    As it should be! This is Finland. If our language, culture and traditions are not alive in here, they are not alive anywhere. For small languages and cultures like finnish ones to stay alive, they need to be the overwhelming majority in their own areas. Can’t you understand that?!

    It is fucking arrogant for an immigrant to come here and to start to demand us to do away our traditions while his own culture can keep prospering in his own country! If you don’t like our traditions, you can leave!

    More I read stuff in here, the more I am against immigration. Not because of PS, not because of hommaforum, its because you just prove your hostility against my language, culture and identity.

  2. D4R

    There are immigrants living in Finland without no voice. They\re not accepted by the majority or by the media. The majority dictates how and what immigrants must be and that sometimes gives distorted image about immigrants. Some of the majority spread lies about immigrants and rest believe or wants to believe those lies. Im immigrant and i work hard for my livings, i dont live by benefits and despite that, some majority Finns wants to spread lies about my country men that, we never work and we live of benefits, that we\re criminals etc etc.. Untill we have voice in the mainstream media, we will never receive even plain field. So far majority wants to debate eachother about us, and that\s laughable. Why dont debate the one who you wants to debate about

  3. D4R

    Yossie….what is your solution for the immigrants who live in Finland and whom you oppose….also i dont think thaats a solution for you to tell immigrants that if they dont like our traditions then leave. …Thats arrogants and pointless, so you can leave that out of your vocabulary. We want a solution and i want to ask your solution. For instance, i came here in FInland when i was an infant, you cant tell me just to leave, because you dont like my certain ways. …so i want to ask you a solution for the immigrants living already in Finland, what shall we do with them. Im waiting for you to reply.

    • Yossie

      “i dont think thaats a solution for you to tell immigrants that if they dont like our traditions then leave. …Thats arrogants and pointless”

      The thing is, if they are not happy with our traditions, immigrants can leave to the country where their traditions are followed. However, if we are kill off finnish traditions in Finland, there is nowhere for a finn to go where his traditions are followed. As such, I consider it extremely arrogant to demand changes to our traditions.

      “you cant tell me just to leave, because you dont like my certain ways”

      So I am not telling you to leave because I don’t like your ways, I´m telling you to leave if you can’t stand our traditions!

  4. D4R

    Also no one is demanding the majority who are in position of power to change their culture or ways, so Yossie stop spweing those lies. The immigrants are in no power position to have effect on your lives, but the opposite is.

    • Yossie

      Lies? It is obvious Enrique wants to do away the finnish traditions!

      “It’s clear that the prejudices of politicians like Saarakkala, and policy statements of the National Board of Education to rule in favor of one religion over others, have their days counted. Why? Because they are untenable.”

      Since Finland has been a Christian country for centuries, it is no surprise many of our traditions are based or comes from Christianity. As Enrique demonstrates in above quote, it is easy to attack against our traditions by claiming secular motives. Also it is more than obvious Enrique is upset that suvivirsi didn’t get thrown to a dustbin of history!

    • Mark

      Yossie

      Lies? It is obvious Enrique wants to do away the finnish traditions!

      This sounds like your paranoia, or worse, propaganda. I find it very odd that arguing for a greater acceptance of diversity is interpreted as a campaign to get rid of Finnish traditions.

      Your arguments are quite confused, I’m afraid Yossie. For a start, there are a great many Finns who would prefer to see a more secular education in Finland, and that the presumed ‘Christianity’ of Finns is in fact a monopoly of one faith that has a privileged position in schools over any other belief system, and a means to influence children long before they are able to process what these ‘traditions’. This argument has very little to do with immigrants, as many secular Finns keep pointing out, but, hey presto, introduce immigrants into the discussion and just watch some people hunker on down and swear that THEY are the victims here.

      Second, Country’s don’t have a religion, unless they are indeed non-secular, which I have heard you argue you are in fact afraid of in regard to Muslims. Another contradiction. Finland is a country where the majority religion is Christian. It is certainly not a ‘Christian country’. I know a good many Finns that would choke on their rye bread if they heard you saying that. What are you, Finland’s equivalent to the Tea Party?

      Arguing for diversity is certainly not about getting rid of anyone’s traditions, but it does challenge a situation where one group exercises a cultural monopoly over other groups by sheer force of numbers. This is not to say that the majority have to give up their traditions, but when assumptions are made that because it is the majority, it must be treated as the de facto culture and all other cultures must be somehow undermined in the name of ‘maintaining the tradition’, that is state-sanctioning of cultural oppressiveness.

      Diversity is such a simple concept Yossie, that I really wonder why you struggle with it, but then that’s perhaps why you choose to twist it into something it isn’t, and play the victim. In a rational debate, you would have little ground left to complain. Of course Finland aspires to be a tolerant country and to give recognition to its diversity, and to create a healthy cultural and social space for diversity. It’s just some people don’t like that and try to politicise culture as a means to push another, rather more sinister agenda of prejudice and racism.

    • Yossie

      “I find it very odd that arguing for a greater acceptance of diversity is interpreted as a campaign to get rid of Finnish traditions.”

      Greater acceptance? Let’s look at what Enrique said about suvivirsi:

      “The debate that took place this spring concerning the suvivirsi, or Summer Hymn, is a case in point. In a show of power and a clear message that Finland isn’t ready yet to talk about the role of cultural diversity too seriously, the National Board of Education didn’t consider the suvivirsi compromised its guidelines for religious freedom, equality and neutrality.”

      The fact that board of educations didn’t forbid this traditional song is a message that Finland isn’t taking cultural diversity seriously, according to Enrique. How else should I take this than that Enrique would want suvivirsi to go away? Now, suvivirsi is actually rather good example for a finnish tradition. It has some connections to Christianity, but it is not a reason it is performed every year. To me this looks like diversity is all about getting rid of our traditions.

    • Enrique Tessieri

      Yossie, by not celebrating other traditions at schools – if this is important in a secular setting – you are being exclusive. Other cultures and religions in this country have the same right to share public space. And what’s wrong with that anyway? Are Finnish traditions so weak that when they are exposed to other traditions they crumble into obscurity? I don’t think so. It’s all about how secular we want our schools to be and how much we are going to allow other religions to share public spaces.

    • Mark

      Yossie

      Now, suvivirsi is actually rather good example for a finnish tradition. It has some connections to Christianity, but it is not a reason it is performed every year. To me this looks like diversity is all about getting rid of our traditions.

      I think that two different topics have been conflated here. The debate about secularism in schools is not new, but has gained ground in recent years. At the same time, what we might fairly call religious conservatives have resisted any move towards greater secularism and diversity with the school system. It is no accident either that conservatives in general tend to exaggerate and exploit the issue of immigration to win domestic popularity through a politics of grievance aimed at vilifying immigrants and maintaining a ‘purity’ in what turns out to be ‘the conservative tradition’. Now, the fact that these conservatives completely ignore that their own view of their ‘national’ history is extremely biased, they also completely overstate the effect of immigrants in this debate about secularism in schools, much to the annoyance of non-religious people or secularists within Finland.

      So, again, when you talk about ‘our’ traditions, perhaps you should be honest enough to recognise and acknowledge that religious traditions within Finnish society have represented rather the traditions of only some of the people in Finland and that in general, it has been contrary to principle that education remain entirely ‘secular’.

    • Enrique Tessieri

      Good points, Mark. One urban tale pushed by parties like the PS and ardent nationalists is that migrants are demanding that these Christian traditions be taken out of the school. I doubt that in the present anti-immigration environment anyone is demanding that. Who, then, is? Finns who are debating the role of religion at schools. How secular should our schools be? If we look at Sweden, they should be totally secular.

    • Yossie

      “Other cultures and religions in this country have the same right to share public space”

      Finnish traditions should the majority of the public space. Why? Because Finland is a tiny country with a tiny population. Our traditions either live here or not at all.

      “Are Finnish traditions so weak that when they are exposed to other traditions they crumble into obscurity?”

      Well, what does the expert of emigration says? Finnish traditions and language are all alive and kicking among descendants of finnish emigrants? No, I don’t think so. They speak english and consider themselves americans. What little interest there is for finnish culture and language is dying among descendants of finnish emigrants.

      It is obvious that small traditions and languages die if they are not unquestionable majority. I will not risk my language and culture!

    • Yossie

      Yes, there are fanatic atheist who would be more than willing to destroy all traditions that have even a hint to christianity. they are indeed using immigrants and minorities to leverage their position. However I would say most finns are happy with our traditions even if they are not religious at all. I for one am not religious at all but I would still wish to preserve our traditions.

      “Good points, Mark. One urban tale pushed by parties like the PS and ardent nationalists is that migrants are demanding that these Christian traditions be taken out of the school. I doubt that in the present anti-immigration environment anyone is demanding that. Who, then, is?”

      You are! You made more than clear that it was a wrong decision that suvivirsi wasn’t taken out and destroyed! Even now you keep using secularism as your excuse to do away with our traditions!

      “How secular should our schools be? If we look at Sweden, they should be totally secular.”

      Now you have turned into a die hard secular? Usually you are more than willing to give in to any religious demands muslims might have. Your secularism is just red herring which just aims to do away finnish traditions. Or what would your totally secular school be like? In Turkey I believe secular legislation forbids wearing religious garments like veils in schools. Sure you would be ok with that then if the secularism is your aim?

  5. D4R

    Yossie> More I read stuff in here, the more I am against immigration. Not because of PS, not because of hommaforum, its because you just prove your hostility against my language, culture and identity.

    You were already against immigrants before you ever started coming to this blog. lol

Leave a Reply