I really would have wanted to join you in the Stop this Game! demonstration Saturday but I was attending a European Network Against Racism (ENAR) board meeting in Brussels that looked at the very challenges that were raised at yesterday’s event.
It is a very positive matter that there is some sanity left in Finland in the face of post-Brexit Britain, Denmark, Hungary, Poland and the EU, which appears crippled politically to challenge the rise of xenophobia, far right and right-wing populist anti-immigration sentiment across the continent.
Saturday’s demonstration attracted between 15,000 and 20,000 people. Photo by Christian Thibault.
While it is a good matter that government ministers like National Coalition Party (NCP) Minister of Finance Petteri Orpo and Center Party Prime Minister Juha Sipilä took part in Saturday’s demonstrations in Helsinki and Kuopio, respectively, the important thing to remember is that what happened to Jimi Joonas Karttunen isn’t only a Neo-Nazi issue but one expression of the ever-growing racism and bigotry in our society.
That is why we should treat Orpo’s and Sipilä’s statements about banning far-right violent groups like the Suomen vastanrintaliike (SVL) as disingenuous because they are scapegoating the problem on just far-right groups.
What role have they played in the tightening of immigration laws and what role has their near-silence to the rise of all forms of racism and discrimination in Finland?
Minister of Education Sanni Grahn-Laasonen and Minister of Finance Petteri Orpo at the demonstration in Helsinki. What roles have budget cuts in education and tighter immigration laws played in fueling Finland’s anti-immigration atmosphere? Photo by Peli Poikki!
I believe it has played an enormous role.
In light of the perilous path that we are on, we should remember that we have very good laws concerning social equality and against discrimination. The question is how we apply those laws, especially today.
One of the biggest challenges that we’re facing is weakening those very laws that are supposed to guarantee our security and equality in Finland irrespective of our background. The watering down of human rights in many countries through much stricter family reunification laws like what happened in Finland, playing ball with a government party like the Perussuomalaiset (PS)* that are openly hostile to migrants, minorities and our ever-growing culturally diverse community, are just a few examples.
How many generations has it been since the fall of Nazi Germany? If each generation is 25 years, we’re talking about three generations.
In the face of those three short generations, it’s clear that they are not only done too little to nip such social ills in the bud. Matters are made worse by the fact that we haven’t even begun to earnestly challenge the horrors that colonialism brought on non-Europeans and which is ever-present in our anti-immigration rhetoric and actions.
The death of Jimi Joonas Karttunen is a sad reminder of racism in Finland. Photo by Ignacio Pérez Pérez.
All the anti-immigration and anti-cultural diversity sentiment present in Europe today is nothing more than ourselves with a clear message to newcomers and difference: Europe is white, we don’t mind cultural diversity as long as it doesn’t threaten our privileges.
If we fail in our efforts to challenge the hatred that has swept over Europe today, the biggest losers will be the very white people that are in danger of rendezvousing once again with the very factors that led to terrible wars and our near-destruction in the last century.
* The Finnish name for the Finns Party is the Perussuomalaiset (PS). The English names of the party 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. The direct translation of “Perussuomalaiset” is “basic” or “fundamental Finn.”