Writings

Sweden


Sweden, oh Sweden. Such contrasting emotions you awake in me. In the wake of all I'm hearing and reading about your state, I feel I must speak up on your behalf.
I have lived off and on in Sweden for all my life. Left the country for the promise of New York in the nineties and came back in due time to only have to witness 9/11 on TV. Left again, then came back to give Iomi what I had. That didn't work out and we came here. Me and Sweden have a complicated relationship.
Growing up there in the seventies was everything you could imagine and more. It had a feeling, albeit naive, of equality. Free health and dental care, free quality schooling, playgrounds, plenty of activities and a feeling of importance given to children. Free old folks home with flowers in the windows. A real life socialist Shangri-la on the surface. But those of us that were by nature outsiders also got to experience a different side of it's gentleness, were given a wider perspective of it's citizens. There were the occasional racial slurs, the old lady that would change seat in the subway. It wasn't necessarily bad intentioned, just, human. Although the country and it's citizens had a strict communal sense of what is right and what is to be done, humans are humans and they behave like humans... The fear of difference and unknown can not be polished off by rules and standards, our feelings aren't that convenient.
Now the efforts of Sweden to streamline and conform human complexity and provide a broad yet limited concept of right, worked more or less when there was less to feel fearful of. When I grew up, the Swedish 'Folkhems modellen' (= equal rights) was just finding it's place and had become a concept to be proud of, people were feeling comforted by the knowledge of the country's goodness.
When walls fell, borders started opening and the bad guys weren't that bad any more. When all the world all of a sudden became available at the touch of a screen and the global suffering was no longer an isolated cause, the Swedish goodness stood out as an example of how to face this new global responsibility. Following it's good intention Sweden showed great gestures of generosity and opened it's doors and pockets to all those in need, with a lot of honest heart at the base but perhaps a more shortsighted view of what that would entail. Fast forward to now. Today, the socialist identity of the country has transformed to a faster moving market economy, the care for the young, old and sick is now in the hands of private investors. The population is more ecclectic and the safe ground that the country was resting on is now shaking. And a more honest face of Sweden is emerging. One that is inconvenient, one that is indignant. One that is stretching the borders of the Swedish identity. In a way I feel fortunate to watch it from a far to not have to be there during the hangover. I have no real opinion if what is happening is right or wrong. If we should have done this instead of that. I offer no theoretical solution to it's dilemma. But when I hear about it, when I read the headlines of what is concerning it's citizens, the words of Björk come to mind;
'I thought I could organize freedom, How Scandinavian of me...'

I love Sweden, even if I choose to live outside it's borders, part of my heart will always be in Sweden. I love her spaciousness, her red houses. The endless light in the summer and that quiet almost surreal serenity that only a Swedish evening in the archipelago can provide. I love it's well intentioned innocent belief in good. I love boiled potatoes and hard bread, midsummer eve and lucia, I love that the word vurnerable sounds so much more vurnerable in Swedish. But most of all, I love that I got to snuggle in her sheltered embrace during the time that a prime minister thought he could go unprotected to the movies with his wife. When we as a society thought that that was a good idea.
I feel proud of what my fellow country men and women are now creating and producing, that the Swedish belief in creating great possibilities for youth is now paying forth.
Skype, Spotify, IKEA (still standing) H&M, The Millenium series, those DJ guys. Sweden has graduated from the hard working industrial years and is showing the world that all that tedious labour pays off. And surprisingly it still manages to, despite royal scandals and political faux pas', remain in good standing with the world, and has kept it's almost impeccable reputation as an honest, serious player. Sweden right now is like a small but bold emperor penguin that has the idea of taking it's flying skills out of water and in to the air and actually manages to adapt it's wings to soar above water. But is unaccustomed to the new environment and doesnt't quite know how to navigate in this expanded view. So it flies in to other birds, comes too close to the sun, gets trapped in rainfilled clouds and gets a bit lost, confused by it's new found complexity.
I hope that Sweden grows wise from this unravelling. That those relatively new tender roots of kind intention that were planted in the 60's prevail and manage to stand their ground in this new climate. I hope that my blue yellow emperor penguin keeps flying, learns from her conflicts and enjoys her journey

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