A local café where I live, on the island of Kungsholmen in Stockholm, has recently created debate in the kingdom of Sweden. The owner of the café, tired of having ‘undisciplined kids’ running around the café, put up a sign on the entrance forbidding children. Many people were outraged. Others, me included, cheered at the bravery, the audacity, in a country where many parents let their children run riot. Many of us who want to sit in cafés and sip our macchiatos in peace were excited by this ban.
But then i thought about it, and analysed it from a cultural perspective. Forbidding children, forbidding anyone – is that actually ok? Who would be next on the ban-list? People in wheelchairs? Blacks? Gays?
As I often write here, Sweden is a country that is leading in many humanitarian values, such as equality and accessibility to people, power and information. In a country like Sweden, a ban like this contradicts everything that most Swedes believe in. So while it may seem like a good idea at the time, it is in fact a discriminatory act.
So maybe the issue is the lack of discipline that parents seem to have for their children? Very possibly so, but kids are kids, and kids make a noise. They cry, they laugh, they talk. And while this is disturbing to other patrons like me, on one level it can be seen as their right to do so until they have learnt the ruling social codes associated with the context they find themselves in.
I believe the café owner has now removed the ban. However, I presume not because he sees the equality issues surrounding this case, but because he received so much negative press that was damaging his business.
If we want freedom in our country, we have to fiercly protect it. Freedom was not won easily but can be slowly chipped away at until one day we are living in a society we actually dont want. Freedom means for everyone. Even when we are personally irritated by certain behaviours or attitudes, freedom is for everybody. And that, to a very high degree, applies also to our children.