Poverty, inequality, social exclusion and asylum seekers

I am veering off the normal topics of this blog lately, but since the issues relating to violent radicalism quite likely have to do with working life in many ways, I think I am excused for posting some thoughts on the topics in the title. It is nearly a random collection of thoughts and I do not claim any coherence. I am only presenting some issues I am thinking about – I am not presenting the perfect explanation for radicalisation or such issues. A background is that as a Dutch person living in Finland I am appalled at the sudden level of hatred against “others”. Of course not everybody (fortunately) condones this kind of thinking. Another background for this post is this essay that I read in the weekend as it became clear what happened in Paris. Probably there are many things that can be argued with, but I think many points are quite valid.

So, here are some thoughts:

  • Poverty is shown to be quite hereditery, although this also depends on the effects of the welfare state. One stylized fact in the social sciences and I think also in economics is that poverty is very costly for society. Poverty relief is a complicated issue, and also in rich countries like Finland there are increasing numbers of (materially) poor people, with all the consequences for health etc. So, why is there no stronger effort to deal with poverty?
  • Idea for an answer: politicians, civil servants and research instutes are so obsessed with labour costs, because they are trapped in economic models (which give “exact” answers) which treat labour/people as a resource, i.e. as a supply side variable, that unemployment/poverty is a positive phenomenon in terms of overall labour cost levels. This is a very cynical idea, but the view of humans in economic models is well known to be extremely simplistic.

 

  • Inequality and social exclusion. These two are of course very much related with poverty and poverty is often a result of these. In the light of the article by Enzenberger, I am just wondering – why aren’t Finnish people not more afraid of the young, frustrated men that have trouble getting a foothold in the labour market (or society), especially in rural areas? It appears that the school shooters in Jokela and Kauhajoki a few years back exhibit very similar traits to what Enzenberger describes in his essay. I am not qualified to analyze the personal situations of these shooters in psychological terms or relating to social exclusion, but at least on the face of it there seems to be more in common between these young men and those Enzenberger describes than many would like to admit.

 

  • In relation to that – if Finnish people are so afraid (gross generalization) of terrorists among asylum seekers, shouldn’t we do everything we can to make sure asylum seekers don’t become men (and women) who experience the things Enzenberger describes (broadly social exclusion) instead of reinforcing the Us vs. Them thematic? Finland still has a welfare state that is geared towards minimizing inequality (although it is clearly not perfect), shouldn’t we use this opportunity to reform the welfare state in such a way that the newcomers/asylumseekers don’t fall in the same kind of income traps that many Finns find themselves in?

These are some thoughts that are in my head. I understand the Finns’ Parties statements about “people are afraid” but perhaps in a slightly different way – maybe the arrival of asylum seekers opens the eyes of many who suddenly see the pitfalls of the Finnish welfare state. These are a fact and there are alternatives. In any case, thinking of human needs and humanitarian aid, I think we should not actively make policies or strengthen social tendencies that actually would make asylum seekers more likely to radicalize.

 

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