How can Finland tackle intolerance today if it cannot come to terms with its past?

by , under Enrique

Finland’s present political and social dilemma could be best described in the following manner: On the one side it has a difficult time acknowledging ever-growing intolerance in its society, but on the other slowly understands that one major source of that intolerance are groups like the Perussuomalaiset (PS) party.

The PS has grown into a major political force in Finland not by its own merits per se, but because other political parties and the media have been near-silent to its right-wing populist anti-EU, anti-immigration and especially anti-Islam political message.

If the PS ever got to government, and if its chairman Timo Soini ever became prime minister, it would make conservative Christian Democrat interior minister, Päivi Räsänen, look like a liberal.

If this ever happened, the situation of immigrants and visible minorities in Finland would deteriorate further. They would feel the full brunt of populism and intolerance that is openly promoted by the PS.

While we can debate the extent of intolerance in Finland, probably one matter that we can state safely is that our tolerance for cultural diversity needs to improve. We cannot improve on this front as long as we close our eyes and plug our ears to the social ills that racism, prejudice and discrimination are fueling in our society.

It’s futile for a white Finn to state if there is racism or not in our society because he or she has never experienced it. How could he?

We do ourselves great harm by denying or playing down those voices that claim they are victims of racism, prejudice and outright discrimination.  This type of silence only encourages and fuels more intolerance.

But back to our dilemma: If we are to challenge the sources of our intolerance, our society needs to do a lot more soul-searching that will carry us back to the depths of the last century. Certainly there we’ll find the sources of our intolerance and the causes for the rise of an anti-immigration party like the PS.

Kuvankaappaus 2013-4-9 kello 1.02.06
Here’s an interesting article on Yliopppilaslehti about one of those historical skeletons in our collective closet.

It’s futile to understand who we are today if we don’t come to terms with our past. Some sticky unanswered questions include our relationship with Germany and the Nazi regime, the Continuation War, our hatred for the Russians, the Civil War of 1918, cold war-era censorship, and the social construct of Finnish national identity in the last century as well as other ones.

This is the dilemma facing Finland today: If we don’t come to grips with our past, we will be in danger of repeating the same mistakes.