I Am the Proud Antithesis of Olli Immonen’s Ethos

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A man waving the Finnish flag at “Meillä on unelma” demonstration, a rally for multiculturalism, at the Citizens’ Square in Helsinki, Finland on July 28 2015. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

I remember the day after the Finnish election, it was a strange day, a day of reflection and a new realisation about the country that me and my family had made our home.

Seeing the results including a huge increase in support for the Finns party I came to a realisation that a large percentage of this country don’t want me or my children here. Those voters literally believe that my existence here is wrong and is somehow having a negative impact on their life, and that this botheration could only be solved if I and my fellow non-natives disappeared.

I spent a few days scrutinising everybody I’d see on the metro, on the bus and in the shops; wondering who could’ve voted for the Finns party and their brand of playground populism tinted with a sinister bigotry.

It was last Saturday when the usually half-witted tirades that you come to expect from the Finns Party stepped into the realm of an extremist right-wing terrorist call to arms.

I know of no country that has managed to be totally free of prejudice, racism, sexism, sectarianism,  homophobia and other social malaise, but for a civilised, modern country to have such a vocal infestation at such high levels of politics is dangerous and frightening.

To help anybody reading this who is not au fait with the Finns party, they are in my opinion basically a less cuddly Finnish version of UKIP, a rag tag bunch of racist homophobes and neo-Nazi quislings. Imagine if UKIP had a nastier, stupider, uglier brother in a cheap suit but somehow managed to have lots of friends, then you are very close to what they are. Their populism resonates with people’s most base prejudices and fears with warped and sclerotic ideas of patriotism and identity.

I know of no country that has managed to be totally free of prejudice, racism, sexism, sectarianism, homophobia and other social malaise, but for a civilised, modern country to have such a vocal infestation at such high levels of politics is dangerous and frightening.

But sadly as we’ve seen time and time again populism combined with nationalism and bigotry can be a formula as popular as adding tea-bags to hot water and milk.

Olli Immonen, an MP with the Finns Party, recently caused a justified storm with some disturbing comments that bore a similar tone to the manifesto of mass murderer Anders Breivik. Immonen, obviously wanting to keep it classy and maybe wanting to add a few extra racist feathers to his bigoted cap posted his Facebook comments two days after the fourth anniversary of the Utøya massacre.

Immonen’s fetid discharge against multiculturalism was a vague, reckless and dangerous call to arms. Written in English to be viewed and understood by as many people as possible globally, it reads as a potential green light for those dangerous members of society that languish in right-wing echo chambers on the Internet which unsubstantiatedly confirm and validate their hatred and bigotry. And as we have seen with politically motivated lone-wolf terrorists, even as recently as a few weeks ago in Charleston, these sort of words can have devastating influence.

I call his comments vague as he does not point to a particular enemy, but then he doesn’t have to. In these instances multiculturalism is whatever your bigotry tells you it is: Islam, Judaism, Africans, Asians, LGBT, Estonians, Russians, Swedes, gypsies, feminists, the left and anybody else that does not fit your view of what the world should be.

His comments were a rallying cry for those who share his deficient views of cultural ludditism to “fight”, but whom or what against, what would be the targets in this fight? Multiculturalism is not a country led by a dictator threatening to conquer and enslave Finland, it has no military bases or warships. We have always lived in multicultural societies, monoculturalism has never existed and throughout history we have seen that attempts at achieving it have become some of the bloodiest stains on humanity.

Multiculturalism does however, have training grounds and this is where I become very scared when reading his comments. I take my children to the local park nearly every day, there they play with children of all colours, ethnicity and background, often speaking a mother tongue to their parents and Finnish with each other. It is an image worthy of a Benetton advertising campaign, it is truly beautiful. It is these generations of well-educated children from Finland and abroad that will build a strong, tolerant and diverse country. These future generations will be an asset to the planet, not just Finland.

Is this what he wants to “fight” against?

I take my children to the local park nearly every day, there they play with children of all colours, ethnicity and background, often speaking a mother tongue to their parents and Finnish with each other. It is an image worthy of a Benetton advertising campaign, it is truly beautiful.

I have attended integration training for immigrants here, to help me learn the language and to help me settle here. At these classes I’ve met people who, like me, are immigrants of love; others have been escaping poverty, persecution or have just wanted to live somewhere that is safe to raise a family and where they can work. People that gave up homelands, family, friends and their own culture so they could live a normal life side by side with others wanting to do the same.

Are these the enemies of Finland that he wants to “fight”?

For me it beggars belief that such a cruel specimen can slink into a position of power and influence and espouse diatribes of the same loathsome agenda as Breivik the cowardly mass murderer, and have the audacity to defiantly stand by them regardless of the violent repercussions they could bring.

Why hasn’t he been fired from his job? He is currently receiving money from taxpayers (multicultural taxpayers too) to be a cheerleader for race war. He should be in court for preaching hate and promoting terrorism.

Timo Soini, leader of the Finns party, has hardly calmed the storm simply by stating that Immonen’s views are his own “private” views, as if exonerating the party from any responsibility for any repercussions his comments may have. Proving that Soini himself is either a coward too weak to reel in the extremist fringes of the party or that he is actively courting these views but too cowardly to express them himself.

How have the electorate allowed a callous recreant like Immonen become part of the highest level of government in the country? Is this what 17.7% of voters in the last election wanted to hear from the party they helped put into power?

Of course Immonen is not alone in his party with numerous fruitcakes and bigoted loony bedfellows, suggesting all sorts of grown-up and sound political tidbits such as calling for the sterilisation of african men, violent murder of opposition MPs and bizarre Hitler adoration amongst a list of other unsavoury activities. (Honestly, there is a website dedicated to their vile effluences with pages of comments by Finns Party MPs).

Their violent and cretinous comments could be regarded as pathetic and absurd but this is a political party that is the second largest in the coalition, they are in a democratically validated position of significant power.

Another consequence of Olli Immonen’s treacherous witterings will be the inability to have any type of sensible debate regarding some of the population’s concerns regarding immigration and multiculturalism.

Quite clearly a large section of Finnish society does have these concerns, hence the success of the Finns Party, but when that party strays from euro-sceptic, nationalistic right-wing opposition party to extreme right-wing promoter of violence and the second largest party in government, they need to clean house of these cankerous elements or leave democratic politics and become the violent, racist neo-Nazi fringe organisation that they so often nearly expose themselves of being.

Addressing concerns over immigration and multiculturalism is something that all parties should be able to do but in a serious, responsible way.

I’ve read many ugly comments on Immonen’s Facebook page supporting his views and generally the comments have been of the same vile calibre as what one would expect to see on a Stormfront thread. (Stormfront is a neo-Nazi online cesspit.) This is where the current level of political debate on immigration and multiculturalism within Finland’s second largest party resides.

This again begs the question: what was the intention of Immonen’s post and who was it aimed at? Does he really view regular Finns party supporters as potential child killers like Breivik? Was it a call out to the global neo-Nazi fraternity with a vain hope that he could instigate at least one act of violence somewhere in his quest to fight multiculturalism? Does he want to turn political debate in Finland into a frothing mess of vicious Stormfront-esque bile?

It is honestly a strange thing to have to ponder; whether there is an element of the government in the country that you and your family live that have some sort of violent racist agenda. Do elements of the current Finnish government believe it is ok to put lives at risk and make people like me and their families feel unsafe?

Do a little bit of research and you will find that Immonen has form when it comes to neo-Nazi activity and a list of affiliations that should be nowhere near the annals of political power.

Do elements of the current Finnish government believe it is ok to put lives at risk and make people like me and their families feel unsafe?

After highlighting these elements of the party I’m sure you can see how it makes me concerned about my family and my future here. With Gaelic, Celtic, Scandinavian, West African and Carib Indian ancestry and a wider family that is made up of about every demographic on the planet my children and I are the proud antithesis of Immonen’s ethos. It looks like my family and my many friends here actually the antithesis of what a lot of Finnish voters want in this country.

With Gaelic, Celtic, Scandinavian, West African and Carib Indian ancestry and a wider family that is made up of about every demographic on the planet my children and I are the proud antithesis of Immonen’s ethos.

It is because of this reality that we must ensure that unpleasant and dangerous individuals are kept out of debates regarding these matters. Yes, Immonen has managed to mobilise a huge angry response to his comments but still I believe that when one is in such a position of power and influence they need to act in a way which promotes safety to all citizens.

If a real debate needs to take place regarding multiculturalism it needs to be conducted with decorum and empathy on all sides. We are a rapidly changing society, not just in Finland but around the world. As the world has become a smaller place, we need to be progressive and think about the foundations that we are going to lay for future generations instead of continuing to violently cling to a past that never was, creating further division and turmoil.

This whole episode has been a very exhausting and stressful one for me, but I must say that one good thing has come from his comments – that has been the response. With just two days to organise, a small group of activists managed to plan an event called Meillä on unelma (We Have A Dream) which hosted several speeches by politicians, community leaders, sportsmen and other prominent figures, and performances from several musicians.

I arrived with my girlfriend, children and their cousins and was amazed, humbled and warmed by the view of what the police have estimated was at least 15,000 people in attendance. People of all ages, backgrounds and cultures stood in Kansalaistori and the streets surrounding it making a stand against hatred and bigotry and calling for an open, progressive, tolerant and multicultural Finland.

It was here that I saw the positive endearing image of a society at peace with itself and each other, a diverse, multicultural mass of people representing harmonious coexistence. It joyed me to know that this scene would rile bigoted carbuncles like Immonen and his sociopathic following of knuckle-dragging zealots.

But concurrently saddened by the fact that we were there due to the loathsome espousal of someone in one of the highest levels of government.

In Immonen’s offending comment he stated that multiculturalism is a nightmare that needs to be fought against. I witnessed multiculturalism yesterday at Kansalaistori and it was far from a nightmare, it was the hopeful, tolerant, diverse, progressive and inclusive foundation for the future.

The real nightmare for Finland would come at the hands of dangerous quisling demagogues such as Immonen.

 

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