Is Finland ready for cultural diversity?

by , under Enrique

By Enrique Tessieri

In light of social ills like racism and social exclusion in Finland, J. W. Berry of Queen’s University of Canada offers us an opportunity to ask a very important question: Are we in Finland ready for cultural diversity? If we still aren’t quite there yet, how long will it take? 

Nationalism is a double-edged sword. It served to unite and mold a social construct like the national identity of the Finns but in the process it excluded other groups.

While great injustices were committed against us by Stalin, we have to learn to forgive and move on. This is necessary if we want to build a well-functioning culturally diverse society that reaps synergies and grows successfully. But taking into account the political situation in Russia, such a task can be challenging.

We should, however, not mix the Russian people and individuals with its past and present political system and leaders.

Our national identity should not hinge on those rivers of blood from former wars but how we turned this society after those wars into a successful Nordic welfare state. Lasting values like social equality and social justice should unite us today, not the hatred that lingers from those conflicts.

Doing away with our ethnic and national myths, which constantly remind us that we are under threat from the outside world and that war is only a heartbeat away, will be easier said than done.

Certainly I would want to be an optimist and state that this wretched period is only a short temporary phase.  Admitting that things will be better in a few years time is, however, an exercise in self-deception.

I hope, however, that time will prove me wrong.

But let’s look at Berry’s view* on the factors that make a culturally diverse society possible. According to him, there are four criteria:

  1. There needs to be a general support for cultural diversity as a valuable resource for a society.
  2. There should be overall low levels of prejudice in the population.
  3. There should be generally positive mutual attitudes among the various ethnocultural groups that constitute the society.
  4. There needs to be a degree of attachment to the larger national society.

All these points could be debated for and against about our society. Possibly some would claim that all four points are met with flying colors by our society. Others would disagree.

I believe it’s not a question whether we are ready or not for culturally diversity. The fact is that our society is culturally diverse and we should deal with it.

If the aim of political parties like the Perussuomalaiset [1] has been to make Finland white again, then it’s clear that they’ve failed.

* J. W. Berry: Prejudice, Ethnocentrism and Racism. Siirtolaisuus-Migration 2/1996. pp. 5-9.

[1] The Finnish name of the Finns Party is the Perussuomalaiset (PS). The English 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. Mark

    There needs to be a general support for cultural diversity as a valuable resource for a society.

    Recognising that there is more diversity within cultures than there are between cultures. For example, if we think of Finland as mainly Christian and Somalia as mainly Muslim, then we identify two religious cultures derived from the same early traditions. However, if we recognise that inside Finland we have Christians (including Orthodox, Lutheran, Evangelical etc.), Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Aethiests, New Agers, Pagans, Humanists, Agnostics, Theists, and Hindus, just to name a few. The differences between individuals within Finland are far greater than those that are created when we start to speak of Finland ‘as a country’ and compare it to e.g. Somalia.

    There should be overall low levels of prejudice in the population.

    Prejudice is in my view linked to a sense of justice and injustice. It is fueled by a sense of anger, that is fed by politicians who are actively seeking to benefit politically from that sense of anger. Anger is not exactly an easy thing to deal with – it feels itself justified, and its arguments tend to coalesce and attitudes harden over time. Anger over poverty or lack of opportunties spill over into other areas. Anger about crime or about seeming ingratitude also stir up prejudices. The answer is really not to apply a different standard to immigrants than we apply to natives. The easy thing is to imagine that we are teams, and that the actions of individuals somehow represent that team, and really, they don’t. While recognising a communities right to exist and have an identity, we must also never forget that people are individuals.

    There should be generally positive mutual attitudes among the various ethnocultural groups that constitute the society.

    Agreed. Nothing is going to come from fostering an extreme form of cultural pessimism.

    There needs to be a degree of attachment to the larger national society.

    If there was a war tomorrow against Finland and it was all hands to the barricades, then it’s clear that immigrants and the children of immigrants would be fighting alongside natives. If you think this is not true, remember that there are Muslims serving in all the European armies, some of whom recently lost their lives in France to an extremist.

    Extremism is our common enemy. But if you confuse extremism for ethnic identity, then you will make an enemy of nations and of peoples, and that would be a disaster, for us and for our children.

    Wherever we are on the political spectrum, we must pull towards the middle, because it’s only that that brings us closer and makes us safer. Remeber, it’s divide and conquer!

  2. eyeopener

    Finland is!!

    The majority of Finns realizes that multiculturalism goes along with learning and understanding. That’s a positive approach to dealing with “newness” and “uncertainty”.

    That alignment of the “Finnish Wellfare System” with the incoming newcomers is envisioned as problematic can be understood. The constructive flipside is that many of the newcomers also contribute to this System.

    It will take time to grow together in a wider variety of “being”. Nothing is wrong with that. But it will take time and therefore a willingness to accept “being different”. The majority in Finland shows readiness to grow into this “multiculturalism”.

    Slowly, the concept of Finnish identity will change. Denial is not.realistic!! A new concept will arise from “the dynamics of encounters”, differenly said: how the living together will change the way we look at one another.

    Open mindness will facilitate this trend, however we will have to accept that the process will be slow. Nevertheless, when the willingness is there, the intent to build a different society is genuine then “a multicultural society” will arise. And Finland is ready for that.

    We must realize that there is and will be a minority of Finns that refuse to accept multiculturalism. And this minority will continue to make itself known. That’s a democratic right.

    The strenght of a real democracy is that the minority is entitled to speak out for their objections within the boundaries of the “Rule of Law”. And that the majority will not ignore the rights of the minority. The rule of law limits both parties and demands to respect each other.

    Boundaries of and understanding of the rule of law are sometimes blurred. The discussion about the constitutional right of “freedom of speech” is illustrative enough.

    Finland’s majority is ready. How to prepare……….. that’s another question!!

  3. Mary Mekko

    I venture to say that the average human, let’s say a tribesman of New Guinea, an American black male in a ghetto, a Finnish Lapp, a Greek islander, a Scottish housewife in the Hebrides, a South African bushman, and so on, are NEVER ready for “multiculturalism.”

    Imposing or invading groups throughout history were considered a threat, dangerous to the tribes’ survival. When Francis Drake came through the Golden Gate straits in a redwood canoe, he reported to Queen Elizabeth with alarm that the native women were pulling their hair out, shrieking wildly, and throwing themselves into the bay to drown themselves. The men were not to be seen. The Britishers considered themselves very badly welcomed, although they came bearing gifts – certainly they weren’t welfare recipients!!!

    That was in July 1579. Most anthropologists think that it was normal for the women to realize that they’d be enslaved by any invading tribe (of any skincolor…although “paleface” was new to them), so rather than put up with sexual slavery and general slavery under new tribal management, they killed themselves.

    When the Spaniards, Christian to the core, enslaved the tribes of California, many men and women both committed suicide through “melancholia” because they’d rather just die than be workslaves and sex slaves under outsiders. This was very common through the New World. The Spaniards wrote about it to their Franciscan leaders back in Spain and Rome, alarmed that so many of the heathens were uninterested in the one and true religion (or the work).

    If Finland should suddenly get all its people to “pull up their tolerance bootstraps” and declare themselves ready for “multiculturalism”, that would be a miracle. Usually, in the modern world, diversity – as its called by skin color these days – is simply imposed on a population, whether the individuals like it or not. Leaders think it’s in their own interest, such as corporate leaders, since the slave/labor factor never ends in human affairs; one simply needs more hands willing to do work for free or very cheaply.

    What is ironic in Finland’s debate of accepting nonEuropean outsiders is the simple fact that they are not expected to work, forced to work, or in any way repay their housing, education, and subsidies – never is it made clear to the taxpayers that these people are meant to be of use, not a financial and social liability. If they were seen cleaning streets, houses, cars, restaurants and hotels in great numbers, their alacrity towards work and the grinning gratitude on their faces, their submission to the Finns, would be accepted.

    I think that it’s silly to think any group is happy to have another move in on them: where in the world is that happening? Try putting more Palestinians in Israel, since they’re brothers and it is their homeland. Watch the hummus fly through the air (and count the bodies).

    Finland fought for its independence, Enrique, and certainly descendants of the Russians Jews assigned to the old Tsarist empire can claim to be Finns. But a real Finn says to that claim, “Mielenkintoista” or something a bit rougher that you might get angry at. Can you also claim citizenship in Russia, by the way, based on your grandparents pre-Revolutionary status? I wonder what Russia would say.

    Don’t worry, I’m sure the likes of you isn’t going there, or learning their language and culture, because you know where you’re not welcome. Scratching your head on the San Francisco Bay, wondering why the Russians would rather die than submit to foreign (and Jewish) ideas!

    You may play the disingenuous and righteous over in Finland, but we know better that your game is silly, will never work, leads to strife and destruction constantly. Already in France a member of the Al-Quida, the (born in France) Algerian has killed seven Jews in Toulouse as revenge for the killings of Palestinian children. People are shocked and outraged. But are real Israelis surprised? I doubt it! And not you, either!!!

  4. eyeopener

    Hi MM.

    Forgot Kauhajoki?? No but that was a sad situation isn’t it, Finn-at-a-distance.

    “let’s say a tribesman of New Guinea, an American black male in a ghetto, a Finnish Lapp, a Greek islander, a Scottish housewife in the Hebrides, a South African bushman, and so on, are NEVER ready for “multiculturalism.”

    Your picture of Finland is really modern I must say.

    Cool to quote Sir Francis Drake!! Very modern persona. Help very well to picture current modern world.

    Finland fighting for independence was not done by you, did you?? And maybe the reality of the “fight” is also very much questionable. Which Finns contributed to the independence?? Who has put it in the balance at the beginning of WW II?? I have been in many places in Finland, visitng also cemeteries. Very many places with graves of Finns…… as a member of the Waffen SS. Fighting Russia with the Germans. Ignorance?? Blind on the left eye?? Look a little closer to a -maybe for you- shocking other reality.

    MM just ignores these facts because it is very convenient. Freed from such critical considerations she feel free to throw a lot of trash from a disctance. But we are already familiar with this far-right-wing-behavior. Defeat was not hard enough I guess. People like MM will never learn. Not a surprise in a hate-culture that is very strong withing specific communities in the USA.

    Antisemitics put you right in the corner of “far-right wing” thinking, policing etc. Copy and paste from the past. Big deal and very handy when you really have no arguments. BLABLABLABLA. Better kick on those fancy tourists of you who have blond hair, blue eyes etc. Ever got to a real man MM?? You are such a crying time person.

    Here in Finland we have two incidents where foreigners were killed by Finns because of their “visible being different”. I think you will condemm such behavior as well??

    It is sad to read the comments from a Finn-from-a-distance than accept the notion of a foreigner-at-close-range.

    A simple mind is a joy and a disaster for ever.

    Time to visit a psychiatrist MM??