From the President’s pen: Prejudice comes by stealth

During this Covid-19 pandemic, everybody’s behaviour has changed, if only because of the restrictions. Changes have also taken place in our minds. Many focus on cherishing the best things and values they know and worry about the people closest to them. A lot of people are weighed down by heavy burdens: how can I make ends meet? Have I already lost too much? Will I ever manage to return to normal life? Will I be able to avoid catching this serious disease?

Suspicions and speculations also arise about other people’s behaviour. Why does that person come so close me? Why are those people gathering in larger numbers than permitted, etc.? From this, it is a short step to generalisations: mentally, we assign people to groups according to age, residential district, and so on.

We have witnessed some signs of such attitudes, but luckily, they are not widespread. When special restrictions were introduced to protect those 70 and over, people began to pay more attention to how the elderly behaved. Grannies and grand dads were blamed for going shopping, and gradually the view gained ground that they were, in fact, a highly exposed group. From this, it was only short step to thinking that they posed a risk to others. Protection turned into rejection. I am happy to note we are past that now.

Currently people are talking about Uusimaa residents. Those who live in Uusimaa have gained a new, more prominent provincial identity, nor has the region itself stood out previously in this manner. While taking no stand on the isolation measures affecting the Uusimaa Province, I would like to point out that they are still the same people who used to live here. Now they are on their toes and cautious because of the disease. Similarly, people living in other provinces are no different from what they used to be. They too are on their toes and cautious because of the disease. Fear is a uniting, not separating factor.

Prejudice against other groups develops by stealth: first there is suspicion, followed by avoidance and ultimately discrimination. Prejudice is something we can least afford when facing problems. For the sake of clarity, let me repeat: we will overcome it.