Beating intolerance at its own game requires a reaction, leadership and a voice

by , under Enrique

Beating intolerance at its own game is easier than you think. There are many good examples in Finland, like International Mikkeli Day (IMD), where people from a grass-root level take action and seek solutions. Since intolerance and racism are based on lies and generous quantities of ideological fools gold, truth is the light that exposes and puts intolerance on the defensive. 

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Read full story (in Finnish) here.

The reception that IMD got Thursday in Mikkeli, a small city with about 50,000 inhabitants,  proves that there are many Finns who don’t have any issues with cultural diversity. How can they object to it if over 1.2 million Finns emigrated from this land between 1860 and 1999?

In a nutshell, IMD is an annual event where people can celebrate and embrace our cultural diversity.

The International Mikkeli Day event was arranged for the first time on February 22, 2012. Its main aim is to highlight issues concerning internationality and multiculturalism as well as fuel debate on these matters in Mikkeli. Students are strongly involved in the planning and implementation of the event.  

If one is going to challenge a social ill like intolerance, one not only needs leadership but empowering others as well. The video clip below by Saara Kolari and Mia Pesonen of Otava Folk High School is one example of how the event has become a proactive forum:

This video clip not only reveals what young people think about cultural diversity, but society on a much wider scale.

Part of the discourse that anti-immigration groups use is that their intolerance is shared by the majority. I wouldn’t be too sure about that. But since their arguments are based on their prejudices, they are obliged to constantly update their exaggerated and made up stories about other groups.

One way to challenge such intolerance is by stating in a civil manner that you disagree. You’d be surprised by how many people change the tone of their arguments when challenged with a question like: “I disagree with what you say.”

When we deny intolerance living space to plant its arguments, we effectively deny the person the comfort of making such a comment and, worse, allowing him or her to believe that its ok because nobody objects.

It’s clear that this type of approach is a sure loser in the ongoing debate on immigration, immigrants and our ever-growing cultural diversity. A lot more must be done by us. The most important thing we must do is that our reaction to intolerance must be first and foremost a reaction.

UK shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander, said recently when visiting the Auschwitz Nazi death camp that in the fight against antisemitism in Europe, silence was the ”coconspirator of evil.”

Silence is not only the coconspirator of evil when challenging antisemitism, but when confronting all types of intolerance.

Possibly establishing an annual international even like IMD in your community could be a proactive solution to challenge intolerance.

Matters like mutual acceptance and respect are so important in our society, that we can’t leave the floor to those who still believe the world is flat ethnically.

Silence isn’t the answer. Leadership and clear goals based on our Nordic democratic society are.

They will help us attain a prosperous future.