On Finnish Racism by Jim Thompson

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My novel, Helsinki White, was published on March 15th of this year. It addresses many social ills, but the overarching theme of the book is racism. The novel leaves many people disturbed and shaken. At times, during the writing of it, I found myself disturbed and shaken. I first considered writing the book after Newsweek Magazine pronounced Finland as the best country in the world in which to live. My U.S. publisher asked me to include an afterward in the novel describing my motivations for writing it, called “Beyond the Story.” Here is an excerpt:

 

Beyond the Story

In the first Inspector Vaara novel, Snow Angels, I wrote, “Finns hate in silence.” At the time, I believed it was true, but it’s true no more. The sounds of racial hatred resonate like the tattoo of a beating war drum that grows louder every day. This atmosphere inspired me to write Helsinki White.

The hatred became vocalized with the meteoric rise of the political party, Perussuomalaiset, or True Finns. In the previous parliamentary election, they took five seats. In the election of 2011, they took thirty-nine, a close third, behind Kokoomus, or National Coalition Party and SDP, or Social Democrats.

This gave True Finns the right to participate in government and push their agenda, which includes among other radical ideas, by way of example, withdrawal from the European Union. Not all, but many True Finns are anti-immigration and blame immigrants for Finland’s social ills. One influential blogger describes his solution as “the D-word.” Deportation. Shortly after the elections, upon finding that none of the critical items on their agenda had a chance in hell of being implemented, True Finns declared themselves an opposition party.

Finland is far from the only Nordic country to have large factions holding such anti-immigrant beliefs. Other nations have instituted immigration laws that could be only be described as draconian. In fact, large numbers of people in all the wealthier European Union nations are angry about the influx of foreigners, in particular Muslims.

Last year, Newsweek magazine declared Finland the best country in which to live. This presented a skewed view of the nation at best. Inflation is rampant. Wages stagnant. Real estate prices in urban areas soaring. Unemployment high. The number of poor growing because so many jobs have been outsourced. Public health care is in crisis. Perhaps Newsweek should send a journalist here and document hundred-yard-long bread lines and the queues at the soup kitchens. That’s how Finland takes care of its poor these days. Finns are very good at generating and manipulating statistics. Newsweek bought into it. It’s not all a lie. Industrialists and financiers are thriving.

It was all of these things that compelled me to make politics and social ills prominent themes in this novel.

Back to the essay:

In April, a young African wrote to me. He has lived in Finland for many years. He is a trained and certified medical professional. He speaks fluent Finnish. He has suffered countless indignities. He has been attacked and beaten three times because of the color of his skin. He wrote to me, in large part, because of a depression induced breakdown. He said I was one of only two foreigners he knew of in Finland who had succeeded on their own terms and sought advice. This led to a correspondence between us. Eventually, he sent me a wealth of text, conversations mostly, but not all, with other foreigners who felt this country and the obstacles they faced because of common attitudes had broken them emotionally and spiritually. A couple of the letters were from white Finns. There is a Japanese saying that the nail that stands out gets driven down. I think that aptly describes what has happened to the writers of these commentaries.

The young man sent me so much material that it could be published as a short book. In lieu of that, I’ve broken it down into pieces of three commentaries each and am posting them across various websites. This is the second installment. The first appeared on the excellent site, Murder Is Everywhere. You can view it at: murderiseverywhere.blogspot.fi

And now I will share the experiences of three individuals with you. Bear in mind that for them, English may be their third of fourth or fifth language, and I’m posting them unedited. Also, much of what is written may seem unsupported, but these people weren’t writing essays, they were expressing their feelings after suffering the effects of what could be likened to being run over by a cultural eighteen-wheeler truck. And that is the message I’m trying to convey on their behalf.

 

COMMENTER 4:

finns are the coldest people on the planet and they are selffish and jealosy. They have very little knowlegde about other poleple and cultures and often assume they are superior to other peple. Eg they think an african cannot use anything with a switch, they have to first explain it to them. This way they make fools of themselves and expose their shallowness and lack of the real world outside the sauna. This way they never get to know peolple for what they are instead they either see someone who is pissed of with their behavior (and ll accuse you of not cooperating instead) or they ll see a bootlicker (in the reality someone who is desperate) and they ll take him for sub human.

Never expect a finn to have guilt or show compassion or simple good will eg look at the industries serving old people. They are just there to suck them dry.evn an ordinary finn ll never visit his bedridden father they just wait for the day he dies and claim his belongings.

 

COMMENTER 5

my husband is an exception too,,,but he is young,,actually younger then me,,,and he hugs a lot…maybe he learned from me,snce he dont hug even own parents……but its enough he does hug me!!yep finns are jeakous,,ehll yes,,even own husband told me that!!and yes they are not compassionate at all,,,dont give shit of anyone but them selves….only good thing here is better econmy and welfare…..rest….i wonder why im here….im even worried to grow a family in this country,,,,but i dont want hurt my man by saying this…so ive learned to live isolated ,and dont care of the people who would not care about me here….so i just enjoy my honey and the beaufiul landscapes…

 

COMMENTER 6:

That was just what I think about Finland and finnish people. I think Finland is so negative and cold place to be in. So much racism, hate, prejudgice and inequality. If you say hello to a random stranger, you will be considered as little weird or a foreigner. And the most common response is a blank amazed gaze and some grumbling. Of course there are some exceptions and thank god to that.

People aren´t well mentally but still it´s very difficult to get proper treatment. Also the healthcare system doesn´t work at the moment, especially in smaller cities. And they say that it´s like winning in the lottory to be born in Finland. It´s far from it. Oh, and the law system. It´s totally off. You can do basically everything and still get away with it. Beat someone up, rape a little kid or kill someone and you´ll probably just get the minimum sentence. Except when you try to avoid taxes or something else that is associated with money. That´s a totally different chapter. Then you´re definately going to jail for a ridiculously long time compared to the action. I would say that Finland´s almost completely rotten. If I would have said this someone in person, I probably would have get beaten up and left on the ground because everyone thinks that it´s not their business. I don´t know if this negativity and things being bad part of finnish character or an epidemic that is all over the world.

In the end I have to say that not everything´s so fucked up. We have a beautiful nature (in some places). There´s enough food and fresh water for everyone.

And that’s it for today. As I told the young man who wrote to me because of admiration for my success in Finland, I have one great advantage that will never be available to him. I’m white.

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