Why would any political party seriously care about immigrants and their children if these newcomers form part of a fragmented group that has little political and economic power? Should they be concerned about high unemployment and ever-growing social inequality among such groups in Finland?
Our success story as a society was never based on social inequality but on social equality, or tasa-arvo. If you disagree, look at our violent history between 1918 and 1945. The crucial fuel that fed the wheels of internal and external strife back then was suspicion of other groups and nations.
Despite our rocky start as an independent nation, we have built today a model society that is the envy of other nations. Another welcome characteristic of our society is its strong sense of community and belonging. Not everyone, however, enjoys being part of such a great family. Some of these are visible minorities like the Roma, Saami, non-white Finns, homosexuals and other groups.
As we race deeper into the depths of the new century, we need more than ever those tools that turned us into a successful nation and helped mend our differences as a society. We especially need values such as inclusion to rub off on those that form part of our ever-growing culturally diverse nation.
Are we putting Finland in harm’s way again by reviving those same class divisions, inequality and loathing that once impoverished us? Are those very values that fueled strife now entering our society through the back door as anti-immigrant sentiment and intolerance?
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand that humans are social animals and that our successful Nordic welfare society is based on social equality. Social vices like greed, apathy and even racism therefore constitute today the greatest threat to our society.
Some politicians in Finland and Europe naively believe that they can revive these above-mentioned social ills and control them with a short leash. Nothing could be further from the truth. The mass killings in Norway that we witnessed last year are tragic proof of the contrary. What attacked Norway wasn’t a mass killer called Anders Breivik but his racist values and fear.
Political parties are playing with fire if they fuel class divisions and hatred of other groups like immigrants and visible minorities.
It is an encouraging sign, however, that more politicians, political parties and common Finns are finding the courage to openly question racism and all forms of discrimination.
A lot more work is still needed on this front. We should hear more than ever those values, together with new ones, that turned us into what we are today: social equality for all based on mutual acceptance, respect and equal opportunities.