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.
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.