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?