Monday, 30 May 2011

Finland Wanders Down Racist Memory Lane: the ID as Concentration Camp Badge (+ addendum)

It is reported today all over Swedish media (here, here, here, here) that residents of Finland that are not (yet) Finnish citizens are to be forced to carry IDs that are coloured brown, rather than the ordinary blue. While policies distinguishing people based on citizenship were to be expected as a result of the success of the Finnish new racist (or, as I would have it, nationist) party Sannfinländarna ( ≈ "True Finns"), I was quite shocked by this the first expression of this political shift. Considering the practice of 20th century racist regimes to force people of targetted undesirable groups (such as jews or gays) to wear special markings on their clothes in the concentration camps, but also in general public, one would have thought that an idea like this would be avoided, if nothing else, for tactical reasons.

As I explained in my series of posts last year on the ideological core of the new European racism (pt. 1, 2, 3), the new direction of nationism – where citizenship rather than biological type or ethnicity is in focus for the standard racist idea of sorting people into categories of more or less worthy – that has helped the new European racist parties to achieve some success in recent years, ultimately leads down the same road as those more familiar types of racist ideology that Europe encountered in the 1900's. However, it is also an elaborate tactic of these parties to try to hide this logic behind (untenable) pragmatic arguments re. immigration and citizenship. Therefore, it is a bit of a surprise to see this rather radical and large step in the direction of the ethnic cleansing that I argued will, in the end, have to become the primary objective of the new racists. In the end it will be about separating "real" Finns from the "unreal", regardless of geographical or genetic descent, denying the latter the rights and priviliges of citizenship.

Apparently, according to the news reports, a pragmatic argument has been offered also in this particular case, namely that the new policy will make the job easier for the police. Exactly how, one wonders. IDs certainly makes the police's job easier, but what does it matter for police-work whether or not people contacted in the course of investigations are immediately visible as non-citizens? If the matter of citizenship happens to be relevant (which it is, like, never), this will reveal itself as soon as inquiries are made into the records of the person. No, this argument is so lame, and such an obvious pretext, that one wonders why anyone even bothered to wield it. This is about marking out and separating people on the basis of the basic nationist idea of what makes people more or less worthy of protection (namely citizenship). This is about installing this notion into the minds of Finns who will be exposed to these markings (in the bank, the post office and every time an ID is needed when shopping).

And, of course, this is how it all began in the 1930's.........

Addendum (a few hours later)
According to a Finnish academics friend, the official explanation given in Finland is that it is important "for security reasons" that the ID given to non-citizen residents is not a valid travel document within the Schengen region. This, of course, is as lame as alluding to the needs of the police. First, it assumes that there would be a connection between being a security risk and being a resident non-citizen of Finland (which, of course, there is not). Second, it totally misses the point, since the Schengen region works in a way that means, that everyone have to prove citizenship, residentship and/or valid reason (such as a tourist visa or equivalent) when entering the region, but not within the region (thus, when flying from Helsinki to Gothenburg, no one checks passport or anything else at arrival). If you are a resident of a Schengen country, you have the right to travel to any Schengen country. In effect, it would appear that – if not strictly violating (after all, the non-citizens can use their passport if they have one) the Schengen agreement – the Finnish move most certainly is violently acting against its spirit.

On the webpage of the Finnish police, the reform is explained in terms of "enhancing security", presumably hinting at the just related (invalid) reason.