Our ignorance of others and our ability to change

by , under All categories, Enrique

By Enrique Tessieri

Sometimes when hearing the arguments of some Finns and Europeans on immigrants, minorities and immigration is like returning to the nineteenth and/or part of the twentieth century. Our educational system has failed miserably if in 2011 people still believe cultures have certain predictable traits or that our genes guide our behavior like robots.

 We’d probably end up with the following conclusion if we studied the hate speech and arguments made by anti-immigration groups and then compared them with what people said over a hundred years ago: Different enemies and players, same reasoning.

The racism, xenophobia and prejudice we hear today is nothing more than the plagiarized arguments used in the past.

A good example is a claim by populist groups in Finland and elsewhere that Islam is the biggest threat to Europe. If we turned the hands of time back about 70 years, the same claims were made about the Roma, Communists, and Jews, who were seen as a threat to society.

Even if some Finns, who should know better like Aalto University senior lecturer Kyösti Tarvainen, believe that all one needs is a pocket calculator to see the Muslim threat, the future rarely reveals itself in such a simple fashion.

Similar predictions were made about the Jews in Finland in the 1880s about their high birth rates. Today, however, Finland’s Jewish population totals about 2,000. That is a far cry from “the millions” that were supposed to take over this country.

One of the biggest flaws that anti-immigration groups make about other ethnicities is a claim that such groups are incompatible with our society’s values. Even if they don’t use a pocket calculator, they employ their ignorance and prejudice to conclude that “other” people (not us) are controlled like robots by culture and never change. Any elementary social science student can prove this claim false.  Cultures and people change constantly.

If these cultures that are constantly ostracized by populist Europeans groups like the Perussuomalaiset party of Finland never changed,they would provide them a service. Since they cannot change they would in time die off. If such groups vanished because they were maladapted it would likewise spell then end of  the popularity of anti-immigration political parties, which base their support on hate rhetoric.

Even if  the same arguments are still out there being fed by a more modern version of our ignorance than over a century ago, it seems incredible that in the age of the Internet and modern technology we still seek refuge in our petty views and stereotypes of others.

If I could draw a cartoon of modern man and women and our relationship with other cultures, I’d picture it with the missing link ancestor sitting in front of a laptop speaking on his iPhone. The primate ancestor may have evolved in tool usage but is still in the “stone age” when it comes to understanding the world never mind how to interact with other cultures.

Ramapathicus was a more evolved primate than our missing link ancestor. It existed 8.5-12.5 million years ago. Source:  Leccos Ramapathicus.

That is why when we speak of racism, xenophobia and discrimination we have to ask a simple question: Why are these matters a threat to our society?

Answer: Because they are based on plagiarism and ignorance but, like all humans, we have the ability to learn and change.

  1. Hannu

    “people still believe cultures have certain predictable traits or that our genes guide our behavior like robots.”

    Like you, case Odusoga.

    And about jews before 1918s, would you accept soldiers of “not yet hostile” country, in this case imperial russian army, in your land?
    And do you see anything what could have disturbed jew population in 1900s?

    • Enrique

      –And about jews before 1918s, would you accept soldiers of “not yet hostile” country, in this case imperial russian army, in your land?

      Hannu, these were Finnish-born Jews. There has been and still is anti-Semitism in Finland. The small size of the Jewish community probably saved their skins in World War 2. SDP Väinö Tanner was instrumental in not allowing the Nazis to deport Jews from Finland to concentration camps. What about if Finland would have had as many Jews as Hungary had? What do you think would have happened? The answer to that question is like our immigrant population. As it grows so does opposition to it. Anti-immigration sentiment doesn’t have to be permanent. It can be an initial reaction to a new phenomenon in this country. The first Jew that was given a permanent residence in Finland was Jacob Weikam in 1832.

  2. Antonio

    Yeah, Hannu, you are right! And don’t forget king xerxes of persia (I mean, just look at the name – Persia, they even had a city called persepolis) he was a right bastard! Good thing I went to see that 300 film. It’s not that I don’t agree with a military junta in greece now, but that’s now. Let’s not forget history. Oh, and the romans cheese me right off as well, they invaded my country. I would hate neanderthals if they were still around too. Gotta go, my blood is boiling now, just thinking of it! Those *#**# neanderthals!