By Enrique Tessieri
Some claim that ever-growing poverty and social inequality in Finland were the reasons why the Perussuomalaiset scored such a big election victory in April. We read in the media about ever-growing bread lines and how it has become more difficult for some people to make it through the month economically. Even so, does this justify growing xenophobia and racism in our society?
Some cast their only vote in April in the belief that our most pressing problems would be solved by voting for an anti-immigration candidate of the PS.
Voting for such a candidate, however, is like calling a pyromaniac to turn off a raging fire. You need qualified firemen to deal with that kind of threat in the same way that Finland needs today leaders and politicians who have political experience and a strong background in economics, globalization and sociology.
Poverty is unacceptable in any society. In some parts of the world it means living off $1 a day, or even less. It means making hard decisions: I will not eat today in order to feed my children.
I remember a documentary I saw in university a long time ago about a poor family in the US Appalachia Mountains. “IN the same way that some rich folks may be proud of being rich,” the young father said standing next to his wife, “I’m also proud of being poor.”
The couple didn’t apparently have enough money to buy milk so they fed their baby gravy from a bottle.
I am certain that when Finnish politicians and policy-makers speak of poverty they don’t mean living off $1 a day or having to feed your baby gravy (läskisoosi).
Poverty means different things in affluent countries like Finland and in the developing world. Poverty teaches some of us two important lessons: our insignificance in society and that nothing is permanent. If there is some wisdom we can learn, probably it is treating people nicely even during bad times because we never know when we’ll need their help.
The rise of racism and right-wing populism in Finland and Europe are proof that these lessons are not even being acknowledged by some. Moreover, the arrogance of some politicians is like adding salt to the open wound of Finland’s polarized society.
The more we boast our racism and suspicion of minorities in public and in private, the more our society will continue to slip into a more devastating type of poverty. We will not throw extra weight overboard to slow our downward spiral but instead our most inalienable values like social equality for all.
Xenophobia and racism are the real poverty facing Finland today.