“Tolkun ihminen” and Finland’s version of the Okie from Muskogee

by , under Enrique Tessieri

President Sauli Niinistö, Prime Minister Juha Sipilä and the deputy head of the Finnish Immigration Service, Raimo Pyysalo, have one thing in common: They believe that the ongoing debate about asylum seekers, immigration and our ever-growing culturally diverse society is dominated by two extremes. 

Moreover, they don’t directly condemn the extremes and rarely, if ever, name which groups form part of those fringe groups.

In the 1970s, when US President Richard Nixon was facing opposition from those who opposed the Vietnam War and civil disobedience, he tried to show that those that were against him were a minority and that the silent majority was behind him.

In the same way, the whole tolkun ihminen debate is pretty much the same thing but in a Finnish context. A minority are apparently debating heatedly while the Finnish silent majority remains passive.

Below is a song about Nixon’s vision of the USAmerican silent majority that supposedly lived in Muskogee, Oklahoma.

We never knew if that small town in Oklahoma represented the voice of the silent majority since the whole matter was more wishful thinking than anything else by then President Nixon.

Pyysalo writes in the Sleep Easy website about how the ongoing debate about immigration and asylum policy needs more voices from the “silent majority,” or sensible Finns who do not belong at the extreme points of the debate.

“The [refugee] crisis has deepened,” he writes. “Criticism directed at the authorities has picked up and is spread by organizations and parishes. Different types of opinion and demonstrations are becoming a permanent phenomenon. The aim of these different campaigns is to undermine the credibility of the authorities and encourage civil disobedience. The duties of the public official has been disrupted, made more difficult and actively hindered. Polarization continues but will there be social harmony? We continue to need more people [to take part in the debate] who aren’t on the extremes to balance the [toxic] rhetoric.”

Read full op-ed piece here.

While it’s easy to pinpoint one extremist group in the ongoing debate, it’s not so easy to say which groups comprise the other extreme.

The anti-immigration extremist are easy to spot because they are so vocal and conspicuous. They are the far-right groups like Finland First, Suomen Sisu, Hommaforum, MV, Soldiers of Odin, neo-Nazi Kansallinen Vastarinta as well as, surprise, surprise,  the government of Prime Minister Sipilä, where you find populist, anti-immigration politicians in the Perussuomalaiset (PS)* party, National Coalition Party, and Center Party.

The fact that the President of Finland and Migri’s second in charge can characterize the whole ongoing debate in such simplistic terms reveals their total lack of interest in challenging issues like racism and fascism in this country.

Moreover, how can you speak of two extremes when you have a government that openly promotes racism and gives refuge to far-right politicians? One of these, who was sentenced for ethnic agitation in 2012, is vying to chair the PS in early June.

What about the recent appointment of Finland’s new minister of culture, sport and European issues, Sampo Terho? Isn’t he an example of Finland’s blind spot of racism?

The best way to get over these petty terms and do something about challenging social ills like racism is to stop seeing immigration and cultural diversity as threats.

The Finnish silent majority and sensible “non-extremist Finn” taking part in the debate are only political red herrings hiding this country’s fear of migrants and cultural diversity.

The official translation to Finnish of the Perussuomalaiset (PS) party is the Finns Party. In our opinion, it is not only a horrible translation, but one that is misguided. A direct translation of Perussuomalaiset in English would be something like “basic” or “fundamental Finn.” Such terms like the Finns Party of True Finns promote as well in our opinion nativist nationalism and xenophobia. We, therefore, at Migrant Tales prefer to use in our postings the Finnish name of the party once and thereafter the acronym PS.

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