The more or less only thing international media reported on during the recent election campaign in Sweden, was the increased support for the right-wing party, the Swedish Democrats. How could this happen? In harmonic, prosperous Sweden? The home of ABBA and IKEA?
The obvious answer is, of course, the huge amount of migrants from, mainly, Muslim countries. This peaked during 2015. But Sweden has received many thousands of refugees from, among others, Iraq in the years before that. Too many of the migrants have not integrated well into society. With high unemployment, crime gangs and burning cars as a result.
On the left side of politics, the explanations have, thus far, been focusing on society’s failings. For instance, that relative poverty is the driving force behind crimes committed. On the right, especially among those who support the Swedish Democrats, the explanations are totally different: migrants do not want to integrate, the cultural gap is too big. And they only want to live on tax-payers’ money. In other words, much the same as you hear in any country that has received a large number of people from other countries.
THE LAND OF GOODNESS
Since World War II the population has benefitted from a generous welfare state, resulting in a nation free of major worries. Sweden has not been at war since 1814. Evil was something that existed out there in the big world. All this security and harmony have created a very naive view of the world.
It has also lead to a goodness mania. Swedes not only want to be good, they want to be the “goodest” in the world. And since they are so well-meaning and kindhearted, people who come here from other cultures, will understand that, be grateful and adapt. Just like that. Without any further explanations or demands.
Most of the Swedes I know find it hard to hear about anything unpleasant, which might disturb their image of the world. They exercise a great deal of censorship on themselves and, passive-aggressively, on others. Bring up a slightly awkward topic, and complete silence ensues. And nothing causes more embarrassment than bringing up the issue of immigration.
Politicians from the traditional parties have exercised skillfulness in evading the issue.
To vote for the Swedish-Democrats has been a way, perhaps the only way for many, to vent their frustration.
We cannot just blame the politicians. They have probably done what they thought their voters wanted: to not disturb the image of a country with the best people on the planet. Even if mass immigration has created deep problems and controversies in country after country, Swedes clung on to the idea that they were different.
I do find the latter not only irresponsible, but also childish. It reminds me of the time when I was six years old and my older sisters told me that Santa Claus do not exist. It took several days of persuasion and “therapy” before I, reluctantly, accepted it as a fact.
THE WORLD IS NOT HOW WE WANT IT TO BE
Inconveniences you fail to face do not go away, they only accumulate. From mundane issues such as refusing to pay a bill, or the ominous reports on Climate Change.
For all his flaws and deficiencies, Churchill still stand out as the savior of Europe, and one of the very few who early on understood what a threat to humanity Hitler was.
The massive failure to see the coming of the 2008 global financial crisis, by people and institutions who should know better, is another example.
We need to face what we do not want to believe. To force ourselves to seek out contradicting viewpoints. True adults endeavor to find out how things are. Children are more interested in what they want the world to be like.
Immigrants, in general, are not as bad as many point out. Or as inclined to embrace our values and way of life, as others want to believe. They are who they are.
IF WE ARE NOT “THE GOODEST”, WHO ARE WE THEN?
Solving the problem of failed integration is not easy, even if Sweden now, slowly, seems to come to terms with the problem. But you can only change what you acknowledge. If you make a superficial analysis, to your liking, you will have superficial solutions.
For the Swedes, I believe it is not so much about fear of admitting failure, but fear of realising they are not as good as they thought they were. Or that being good, might render some unpleasant outcomes.
And in country where healthy patriotism is mostly absent, sport being the exception, that could lead to an identity crisis. If we are not “the goodest”, who are we then?
Watching the final debate between the leaders of the political parties in Sweden, my reflection was a very different one from the one that was dominant in the media.
I started to imagine what it would be like for someone in a country like Guatemala, to follow the Swedish election campaign.
For those of you who are not updated: Sweden held its national elections two weeks ago. The mayor, governing party since World War II has been the Social Democratic party. And in later decades interchangeably, centre-right coalitions. What was new this year was the increased support for the anti-immigration party, the Swedish Democrats. The only sensational thing happening in responsible, but oh so dull Swedish politics for decades.
I have lived in Guatemala, but it is just an example of a country that is officially a democracy. But where power and wealth are in the hands of a minor elite, while larger parts of the population live in poverty. Corruption and impunity is rife. Most people on this planet live in malfunctioning countries like that; or in countries where you are not even able to vote.
For those of you not familiar with the term Political Correctness:
Here is a definition from the Cambridge Dictionary:
“Someone who is politically correct believe that language and actionsthat could be offensive to others, especially those relating to sex and race, should be avoided.”
Political correctness (PC) is about silencing what does not pleases us. That does not mean it will go away. Racism does not go away because you start to call people apples instead of oranges. Sexual harassment does not go away, because you decide on a new policy or a Code of Conduct.
The concept is very much a Western creation, but according to my experience you can find it any culture, just in different forms and under a different name.
I regularly amuse myself, especially in other countries, with making observations about people’s behaviour.
Everybody makes these observations. And are often eager to share them with compatriots or other expats: “Can you believe what I saw them do!!??!!”.
But have you ever been thinking that such observations may be useful to your work?
That they may be just as good a guideline as any country report?
Such observations can be even more useful when you compare countries. Making you understand why what worked in one country may not in another.
Observed Differences Between two “C” Countries: Colombia and Cambodia
In Colombia, most street vendors and taxi drivers have change. In Cambodia never.
People should be evalutated on whether or not they positively influence others
My last article was about the consequences of hiring jerks. This article is about a few simple steps to avoid them.
Often some form of so-called soft skills are included among the requirments in a job advertisement. (Why are they called soft, when they are essential?) Still, most recruitment processes tend to focus on skills and experience.
The argument against hiring for character traits or attitude is that it is too complicated, too expensive or too something else.
So what can you do about it? If you are working with HR, part of any interview panel or otherwise engaged in recruitment.
Or perhaps you simply want to have a say, because you have experienced too many failed recruitments, too many promotions for the wrong reasons. And worked with too many managers, “bosses” or “heads” that are jerks or close to.
I have worked for “experienced” heads of offices of international organisations, who would have been fired if they had worked for a remote municipality in Lapland.
There are 3 simple things you can do or suggest no matter your position in an organization. And you can implement or suggest them with without needing much experience in recruiting. [Read more…]
This is not another article about sexual harassment. But about its wider consequences for the aid sector. It is about the fact that a person cannot exploit and harass certain individuals, while at the same time exercise integrity and leadership.
Because as Gandhi said:
One man cannot do right in one department of life whilst he is occupied in doing wrong in another department. Life is one indivisible whole
I would not trust a person widely known to harass women, or men, if he speaks about the importance of “establishing trust with local communities.”
Harassment is just part of a rather dirty package. It affects the performance of the whole organisation; and what has now become obvious, as part of the latest harassment revelations: the whole aid industry. [Read more…]
Cambodia and My Bad Excuses
Reading about the coming national elections in Cambodia, and the crackdown on the media and the opposition; I was thinking about the last election in 2013. At the time I was in Cambodia. Still, I regret that I did not do anything to show my support for those who stood up against Prime Minister Hun Sen and his party. They have been ruling Cambodia for more than thirty years. And Cambodia is ranked as number 161 out of 180 in terms of corruption.
There is no guarantee that the opposition party would have fared any better regarding human rights or corruption. But the protests were just as much about people’s right to protest.
Still, I did nothing, and that was the case, as far as I know, with most expatriates. I was thinking: ”I am only a guest here”, “they can send me out”, “my support would not make a difference anyway”, among the bad excuses I came up with.
I was just sitting indoors during Sunday demonstrations, sniffing the tear gas; or listening to the organized street rallies by the ruling party. Rallies with, probably, paid “supporters” on scooters and open trucks. [Read more…]
Inequality is high on the international agenda. For instance, at the 2018 World Economic Forum in Davos.
Much attention is given to inequality between countries, “the north and the south”, or within countries such as the U.S. or Britain. What seems to be more neglected is the immense inequality within lesser developed countries.
South-Africa is topping the list; and countries such as Belize and Zambia among the top ten.
One reason why this immense inequality persists, is because the poor and the rich never meet. If they do, then most often in a power-relation, as employer and employee.
International aid programmes in non-western countries mostly focus on the poor, not how to engage the wealthy. [Read more…]