Thursday, July 24, 2014

Finland is intolerant, not greedy and self-serving

Finns are "naturally honest". A lost wallet test conducted by Reader's Digest supports the assertion. Therefore something said by a majority of Finns about themselves is plausible. The majority of respondents in survey of how Finnish people view themselves say Finland is not a nation of tolerance and open-mindedness.

In a survey of how Finnish people characterize themselves and Finland, the majority of respondents submitted that Finns are intolerant and close-minded. According to Yle, only 37 percent of those questioned in the survey commissioned by business think tank EVA ascribed tolerance and open-mindedness to Finnish national identity.

In addition, according to results of the survey, as reported by Yle, 56 percent of Finnish respondents saw their fellow countrymen and women as "greedy" and "self-serving".

Certain results of the survey reflect my view of Finland. Finland is, without a doubt, intolerant in my view. Racism and xenophobia are still widespread in the Nordic country, and enough is not being done by the authorities to combat the social ills. The story about a group of 10-11-year-olds returning from a football tournament in Åland puts into perspective my view of Finland in the tolerance department. It is an inconceivable reality that an adult in modern-day Finland can tell a 10-year-old junior Finnish footballer that he (the 10-year-old boy) is not a Finn simply because the child is not white -- or not white enough. The story of the violated junior footballer is unique but is shared by countless number of people, including children who are pigeon-holed by a bigoted definition of "Finnishness".

Regarding the question of greed in EVA's survey of Finnish self-image, Finns, I believe, are generous and charitable. I look no further than the yearly "Nenäpäivä" three-week campaign to conclude that generosity is a Finnish trait. Finns donated over 2.2 million euros through the campaign in 2012 to support children living in poverty around the world. In 2013 over 2.9 million euros was donated. I therefore disagree with respondents of EVA's survey who regard Finns as "greedy" and "self-serving". Finland would not have been, in my opinion, among least corrupt countries in the world if Finns were greedy and self-serving.

A staggering 84 percent of Finnish respondents in the survey said Finns as hard working. 77 percent believed Finns value work. Hard work is a good and important ingredient for nation building but, as far as I am concerned, diligence without tolerance and acceptance is worthless for humanity.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Yle acts irresponsibly by broadcasting racist Finnish movie

In the 21 Century, one would expect a state-owned public-broadcasting company to distance itself from racist content, and perhaps fire employees who promulgate racist and stereotypical views. But in Finland flirting with racism comes with little or no consequences -- that's why a state-owned television channel can afford to air a blatantly racist and distasteful movie, and get away with it --  with some public support.

Finland's national public-broadcasting company, Yle, broadcasted a movie titled "Pekka ja Pätkä neekereinä" on Yle TV1. The title roughly translates to "Pekka and Pätkä as n*gg*rs" in English.

The comedy with a racist touch features two Finnish actors, Esa Pakkarinen and Masa Niemi, with blackened faces. Besides the horrendous title, the movie taps into deep-seated stereotypes about people of African descent.

In my view, the movie is racist and deeply offensive. The title alone condemns it to the dungeons. There are disturbing scenes in the movie like one where the main actors, with their faces coloured with black makeup, are referred to as "cannibals", and their presence in a room reported to a police constable. In another scene, the actors are depicted as embarrassingly horrible drum-playing black tribesmen.

The way I see it, Pekka ja Pätkä neekereinä is a relic of Finland's racist history, which drags on today with misinformed perception of people of African descent.

As if to add salt to injury, Yle aired the movie in a child-friendly time slot, hence children could watch it and be indoctrinated that it is acceptable to, amongst other things, label people of African descent with the N-word.

I have no illusion that everyone agrees with my unequivocal condemnation of the broadcasting of the movie in question. In fact, many people in Finland defended Yle in a Facebook group for airing the controversial movie. It is worthy to mention, however, that most of those who see nothing wrong with the movie are either white or know nothing about being on the receiving end of racism and damaging racial stereotypes. It's easy for people who are part of the privileged majority (or perceive themselves as part of it) to defend the use of the pejorative N-word, and attempt to dictate what should be and shouldn't be offensive to people of African descent and other minorities.

As a person of African descent who has watched Pekka ja Pätkä neekereinä, I submit that Yle TV1 acted irresponsibly by airing it. In my eyes, the offensive "comedy" is as good as a racist joke. Such "jokes" that reinforce stereotypes and offend minority groups are not funny, at least in my opinion, and should not be endorsed or promoted. Yle flouts corporate social responsibility by airing a racially offensive and distasteful movie.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The problem with Kenya's polygamy law

Rights and freedoms of women are rarely taken into consideration in many societies across Africa. Many cultures and laws are designed to put men on a pedestal by blatantly discriminating against women and portraying them as unequal to men. Kenya's polygamy law reflects inequality and discrimination against women in many parts of the African continent.

In April 2014 president Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya signed into law a marriage bill legalizing polygamy, and allowing men to marry as many wives as possible without consulting their existing wives. Traditionally, according to the BBC, first wives were supposed to give consent before men could take more wives but the new polygamy law allows men to take more wives without consulting existing spouses.

Male MPs in Kenya supported the amendment. Female MPs on the other hand, together with Christian leaders, opposed the bill and understandably so.

In my view, the polygamy law is repugnant to equity and good conscience. It is blatantly discriminatory against women and promotes male privilege -- since it allows men to take up multiple wives without consulting existing wives but does not give women the same liberty to marry multiple men without consulting their husbands. In addition, the law demeans women by treating them like persons incapable of giving informed consent on matters that affect them.

Tremendous African male support for the controversial amendment is, in my opinion, shameful -- but not surprising. The disturbing truth is that many African men erroneously believe that women -- like children -- should be seen not heard, which is a twisted belief.

Personally, I advocate monogamy, and believe women, like men, should have a say in all matters that affect them. Polygamy laws and customs are mostly discriminatory against women and promote inequality.

Imagine a world where women were allowed to marry multiple men without consulting existing husbands. All hell would break loose.

I'm positive that men would not tolerate a culture or law that subjugates them and benefits women. Men should therefore equally oppose the subjugation of women. That's what good conscience requires. The world will be a better place if everyone respected the Golden Rule: "What thou avoidest suffering theyself seek not to impose on others." [Epictetus]

Kenya is a state party to the international Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) by virtue of the country's accession to the treaty on 9 March 1984. Kenya's polygamy law promotes discrimination against women, and is a clear violation of the country's obligation under CEDAW. The controversial law should be amended or scrapped completely -- if the country is not ready to give women the same liberties ceded to men by the polygamy law. After all "polygamy" includes both polyandry and polygyny.

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