By Enrique Tessieri
The biggest shock on April 17 was that Finns woke up to the reality that a large minority (19.1%) had radical views on issues like the EU, immigration and nationalism. A poll published on Friday showed that the Perussuomalaiset (PS) party continues to be the biggest in Finland. What does it say about the present state of Finland?
The PS, or that closed and angry group of people clenching their fists and yelling damn the devil/everything (!), or perkele saatanas (PS), are a belated fruition of decades of living under the shadow of the Soviet Union during the cold war. That period fuelled if anything our sense of isolation and mistrust of the outside world.
The PS are as well a reminder to us of the deep state of denial Finns have lived in when looking at our history. By erasing our cultural and ideological diversity we ended up creating a very narrow and deaf view of ourselves. Even if the Winter and Continuation War ended in 1940 and 1944, respectively, we are still fighting in those trenches with our nationalism and suspicion of the outside world.
In light of this, it should not come to any surprise that the PS’ reaction to the economic crisis in Europe is fear. The prescription is simple: blame the “elitist” EU, immigrants, in particular Muslims, for our problems and bring back the good old times of black-and-white television sets and when analyzing the world was a simple mathematical formula: 1 + 1 = 2.
The fear-mongering spread by the PS appears to have no limits. Just like some people thought back in the fifteenth century that the world was flat, too many have the same perception of society and other groups today. Even if the Internet opened up the world to us, it has done little to question our prejudices but found a large audience and a home for them.
One of the most “society-is-flat” statements I heard was last month by a prominent PS politician of Mikkeli, who claimed on a letter to the editor to Länsi-Savo that if the EU ever became a federation, the Finns, Finnish culture and langauge would disappear from the face of the map.
“The (implementation) and the development of the EU into a federation will in time mean the death of the Finnish people (as a group), language and culture in the same way that happened to other Finnish-speaking groups (in Russia) like the Mari, Vatjas and Veps,” the PS politician writes. “I value my fatherland and my culture so much that I don’t want the same to happen (to us).”
What is incredible about this affirmation is that it was not only published by the local paper after what happened in Norway, but that the writer compares small Fenno-Ugric groups in Russia and Latvia with the over five-million Finns that live in Finland. In a later letter to the editor, the PS politician bestows more of his “foresight” on us by claiming that higher birth rates among Muslims are a threat because they will force white Europeans to become a minority in their continent.
The apocolyptic-like prediction of a “Muslim takeover” is very similar to what far-right groups in the US have been predicting a long time. The American Nazi Party, for example, sees an all-out “race war” taking place because whites are becoming a minority in their own country.
Finland and the rest of Europe are embarking on a perilous path if they allows fear to get the best of them. Parties like the PS show sadly that that is the path Finland and Europe should take.
The big test for Europe will, however, come in the years ahead. It will hinge on how we react to the financial crisis and who we blame for our problems.