How to effectively burn cultural bridges in Finland and elsewhere

by , under All categories, Enrique

By Enrique Tessieri

If you want to build bridges of understanding between different cultures, you have to learn acceptance, respect, have an open mind and good social communication skills.  The total opposite of the above are racism, ignorance, pigheadedness and the inability to learn about other cultures never mind effective communication skills.

Most of us learn to communicate socially in our country. Why? Because it is an effective way to speak to others and make your point.

Thanks to such a valuable skill we’ve been able to build and live today in a society that isn’t yet too polarized.

That has now changed especially after the April 17 election. Even if there may be many socio-economic factors at play,  disrespect stands out as one of the culprits.

If we visit some websites in Finland like Hommaforum and Scripta, it becomes clear that they are forums where some people let their hate and racism hang out freely. How many of these bloggers would speak in such a tone to their own group? Maybe some, but not the majority because they know it is inappropriate and offensive.

For some odd reason, some Finns believe that it is perfectly fine to insult other groups. If they are criticized on this point for spreading urban legends, they point to the First Amendment, or freedom of speech.

There are ways to express opposition and other ways that are totally counterproductive.  Racism and disrespect are ineffective ways to get your point across.

Kokoomus presidential hopeful, Sauli Niinistö, said in a recent interview on STT that disrespect is one of the key issues that has poisoned the debating atmosphere in Finland. “…since that person said it like that, I’ll show him (and hit him harder). Probably the person did not mean to be so offensive,” he said.

Glenn Robinson publishes a lot of interesting material on Community Village Daily Activist. One of the blog entries is on multicultural etiquette.  He gives the following advice:

1. It’s okay to speak the language of another culture.

2. It’s okay to eat the food of another culture.

3. It’s okay to use the technology of another culture.

4. It’s okay for actors to dress in the clothes of another culture.

5. It’s NOT okay for you to dress in the clothes of another culture on Halloween.

6. It’s NOT okay to tell an African American that they sound like a ‘White’ person – even if you’re joking.

Do you think the following points apply to Finland? What would you add or omit from Robinson’s list?

Here is another link to seven innocent gestures that can get you killed overseas.

  1. andi

    An open discourse is vital in the meeting of cultures. However an open discourse does not include the making of statements that one culture or people are better or inferior to another. This opening up of forums where people feel free to express their bigotry and hatred is wrong. I am a full and open supporter of free speech and feel that the society would be much worse and less friendly without it. The idea of using free speech to spread hatred and bigotry is wrong and the fact that the sensible and open silent majority are turning a blind eye to it is actually quite scary. When or if one group uses freedom of speech to spread their words of bigotry and hatred then that does not give another group the right to follow suit, but rather gives the other group an opportunity to be the greater one by rising above this infantile behavior by using freedom of speech for what it was meant for, spreading the idea of peaceful understanding, telling the truth, educating others and perhaps most importantly spreading the message that they will never stoop to the levels of the hate mongers.

    Only by using freedom of speech the way it should be used can we create the open honest and fair debate that is neither demeaning nor bigoted.

    • Enrique

      –Only by using freedom of speech the way it should be used can we create the open honest and fair debate that is neither demeaning nor bigoted.

      Wise words, andi. The Finnish media and the politicians carry a lot of the blame for nurturing the forces of racism in Finland. Their mistake has been no reaction or too little. In other words, they have shown a remarkable lack of resolve to challenge a threat that jeopardizes are whole society.

  2. Mark


    – “If you want to build bridges of understanding between different cultures, you have to learn acceptance, respect, have an open mind and good social communication skills.”

    It’s a good list, but I know for a fact that some ‘blokes’ would take one look at it, lift their left buttock to release wind, lift their right eyebrow to ensure everyone is paying attention, and utter the prophetic words ‘faggot’. Basically, we are talking about macho crap. You start telling people they have to be good, and good old Johny sticks two fingers up and says defiantly, “I’m not letting anyone tell me what to do, especially those fucking foreigners!”

    And that’s the level of the debate, at least among their own. And that code, that way of being a dick and being respected for it, is quite normal. I mean, it is normal. I’m not going to say its sad, because I know the minute I do, I’m just one of those do-goody liberals who hasn’t a fucking clue. Truth is, I’ve been around the block and I know how to talk that kind of crap, how to find wisdom at the bottom of a beer can, how to ‘tell it like it is’. The only thing is, they are like a bunch of old women moaning about the ‘youth of today’, or some fishwife complaining and taking offence at absolutey everything, or some harlot who suddenly feels important because she suddenly has a platform for all her hate and resentment against the world. Notice I use only ‘women’ analogies here! That’s how the blokes are together, slagging off gays, women, foreigners etc., though they clean it up a lot ‘in public’ nowadays. It’s all bullshit, matey matey, ‘your one of us’ crap!

    Why is it crap? Because when you have an unemployed two-year old who just happened to turn up out of nowhere, makes every attempt to destroy your treasured belongings, kicks you regularly in the nuts, scribbles on your walls, shits on the carpet, says ‘no’ to absolutely everything you say, spits your food on the table, AND steals your woman’s affections, you still love them anyway!

    The macho crap means nothing. In fact, we practice the most amazing tolerance and love for these horror individuals who don’t play by any of our rules, simply because we see the joy of another being and we feel a connection to them; we even go so far as to see something of ourselves in amongst all that crazy behaviour!

    It’s not about rules. It’s about who is inside and who is outside, and saving up all moaning and complaining to throw at those that are OUTSIDE’! And usually it’s done so as to feel like we are a MAN, standing up for Finland. hahahahahaha. What fuckign bollocks!

    • Enrique

      –It’s not about rules. It’s about who is inside and who is outside, and saving up all moaning and complaining to throw at those that are OUTSIDE’!

      Hi Mark, good point. I know when saying that more “respect” should be shown and that one should “watch their language” can sound paternalistic and conservative. Even so, basic social communication skills are vital. A little bit of manners can help. By “manners” I mean “taking into account other people.”

      But you are right: The only way to contain hatred is to do away with injustice. Inclusion should be the goal.

  3. Mary Mekko

    It’s true, Mark. Males with all their anger and frustration at the world, especially women and foreigners, should be allowed to bark out all their hatred at any point or time.

    Meanwhile, you’re putting us off on a red-herring direction. That loser males can’t deal with women and lump them in as old hags and harlots, well, truly, what does one expect from loser brains anyway? Beavis and Butthead, these types of males salute you! However, we’re talking here about Finland’s immigration policies,a nd the right of the people of Finland to have a vocal and written say about its democratically elected representatives’ decisions(mostly male, funnily enough, if that could explain the idiotic idea of letting in unemployed and illiterate women-hating Muslims. Are Finnish males that stupid, I wonder??)

    Look to the top, to the males in charge, who are making these immigration decisions. Get hold of their documents justifying their decisions to change Finland dramatically, with no voter participation. Challenge their right to completely turn the society upside-down. Speak up, you wimpy Finnish men, instead of focusing on the harlots you had to pay last night!!!

    Also, try speaking up on the street. Do you see Finnish women getting harassed by the male immigrants exercising their own “free speech” rights to insult women on the street? Fight back, answer back, use words to fight THEIR so-called free speech.

    What a bunch of dimp licks! Why waste time on insulting harlots and old folks?

  4. Mark

    Mary Mekko

    Been on the vodka again last night, Mary? 😉

    Yes, I agree that there are too many men in charge making decisions for the rest of us and usually catering to only a narrow interest group.

    But I think that your rant to men about them being ‘limp dicks’ that need to stand up for Finland, stick up for their women, I think it’s just this kind of belly baitiing of men by women that leads to lots of macho crap in the first place. Now who was that harlot I was thinking about that was using immigrants as a platform for their hatred and resentment against the world? I had someone in mind, now who was it?