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While Tarja Halonen debates, immigrants deal with the problems
by Thanos Kalamidas
2011-08-08 08:30:26
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The Finnish President, Tarja Halonen in an interview talked extensively about the events in Norway and about xenophobia and racism in Finland. In this interview among others and pointing that herself she has a lot of friends who have immigrate to Finland from other countries she adds, “Many say that Finland is still a well-functioning country by international comparison, but that the atmosphere is more hostile than before in some locations.”

And that while as very correctly the Finnish president points, that even though hate speech is relatively among small groups, “even the activities of a minority that cultivate hate speech can be dangerous, as it sours the entire society.” She feels that a “great majority of Finns” oppose xenophobia and the fanning of fear and adds that ““Now is the time for people to open their eyes. The debate can no longer be postponed. The Norwegians said it well after the terror attack: more democracy, more openness, and more cooperation are needed.”

I wish the president had said these things five or six years ago when things in Finland started changing fast but without wanting to undermine her words Mrs. President was more bother for her next term then. And this is not a Finnish virus, unfortunately politicians and especially politicians that have reached the top of the career – like a presidency – remember to say what they should have said years ago when their political career reaches the end in its highest point. From president Obama to any leader of this world their first priority while in the game is to make sure the next term doing all kinds of compromises and when they reach their final term they just open their mouth but most of the time its too late, the spot light has moved to the next one. Even George W. Bush before the end of his final term admitted mistakes.

But returning to Finland things didn’t change suddenly the last two years with the increasing power of the True Finns. Halla-aho didn’t say the things he said the last two years, one thing you must admit about the man is that he hasn’t change his principals the last fifteen years at least and Homma-forum is just one of the extreme-right, xenophobic and racist forums in Finland. And I’m ready to accept that Breivik misunderstood Halla-aho’s writings and twisted his ideas; my fear is not if that hurts his feelings but how many more Breiviks of this world misunderstood and twisted Hala-aho’s words. And there comes Hala-aho’s responsibilities. There is a lesson all of us who write have learned the hard way, the words can be twisted and misunderstood. From the minute you expose yourself to a wider audience who is not necessary ideological fellow or even ally or agreeable you must be ready for the consequences; unfortunately the freedom of speech includes also the freedom of understanding and judging, the freedom of been understood and been judged, categorized from the categorize; freedom of speech is a two-way game. And if you cannot play it then stop exposing yourself and limit your writing to a personal dairy for yourself and your family and been so keen into categorizing people and putting extreme labels it is natural that soon you will become recipient of a label yourself.

But again Hala-aho, Timo Soini and the rest of the True or Pure Finns is just the peak of the iceberg. The real iceberg as the Finnish President very correctly pointed is when this peak of the iceberg poisons and sours the entire society. The first signs that something was changing came to all of us during our dealings with the authorities. Suddenly the helpful civil servants turned to be suspicious authorities that look at you like you are ready to do a crime or trick them into something illegal. And without that meaning that these people are xenophobic or racist, the fear of the rising True Finns and the unexpected – urban legend had turned it into the monster of the extremes – and the scare of losing their jobs if they don’t show the necessary obedience to the changing system turned them into hostiles to anything foreign to their ordinary. Suddenly xenophobia became a defense mechanism employed unconsciously.

The 19.1% that voted True Finns and the 4.01% the voted the Christian-democrats (often compete the True Finns in right conservatism and prejudice) in Finland is not necessary a group of xenophobic and scared part of the population. The majority of them are misinformed and led by their fears emphasized by populist politicians. The great responsibility falls on the other politicians and the 76.89% that let them alone to be led into a vote that didn’t really represent them and they might have already regretted. And these people were left alone not this last year before the national elections but they were left alone long time now, even when Mrs. Halonen was busy to beat Sauli Niinistö in the presidential elections of 2006 with both of them often using immigration as a campaigning issue. It was then when people like Hala-aho and Timo Soini were building their …free speech castle.

I think the most important point the Finnish President Tarja Halonen did in this interview was that “the debate can no longer be postponed.” Always remembering that while the Finnish politicians and perhaps the Finnish institutions debate the immigrants deal with the xenophobia and the new rising racism.

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