Spectacular Swedish serenity on All Saints’ Day

I remember walking around Stockholm when I had recently moved here. It was a pitch black Saturday evening in November, cold and crisp. As I approached a majestic church, I noticed that it was shimmering from the grave yard. This yellow and white light slowly flickered and cast shadows on the gravestones and the church wall. As if drawn by a magic spell, I walked up to the church and looked over the wall. The sight that met my eyes was spectacular and serene at the same time. Hundreds of candles were spread around the cemetery, decorating each of the graves. In the memory grove a bright blazing blanket of candles lit up the area. It was as if the spirits of the dead had come out to play.

In Sweden, the first Saturday in November is All Saints’ Day (the Sunday after All Saints’ Day is called All Souls’ Day to separate between the saints and the dead).

Since the 1800’s Swedes have, during this weekend, made pilgrimage to graveyards up and down the country to decorate the graves with candle light and to pay respect to the dead. It is a much more elegant and atmospheric tradition than the typical Halloween parties that otherwise have become very popular in Sweden.

It is a truly beautiful experience to walk through the churchyards this weekend. In the pitch black November Nordic darkness, it is a peaceful reminder of those who have gone before us. So head for your nearest cemetery this weekend and, if you happen to be in Stockholm, go to the Forest graveyard (Skogskyrkogården) for a specifically spectacular experience (pictured below).

Have you been wondering who votes for Sweden Democrats?

I was at an interesting lecture this week with researchers Kirsti Jylhä, Jens Ryding and Pontus Strimling. They were presenting the results from their research at the Institute of Future Studies into who are the Sweden Democrat’s (SD) voters, why do they vote for SD and where are they from? It’s taken me a while to mentally process and summarise what they said, but here is my take on it.

The research was carried out in the form of questionnaires on several thousand voters. The research tried to look at attitudes, origins, demographics and world views.

Fluid voters

The majority of the SD voters have moved from Socialdemocratic party (S) and conservative Moderates (M). 62% of the supporters are more likely to vote M in the future, if they don’t vote SD.

Critical to immigration

The majority of SD supporters have immigration as their main issue. They are critical of immigration in general and see immigration as a threat to society. Some of the voters, but far from all, have a deeper resentment or dislike for foreigners. The main driver is fear and criticism of a ‘failed’ immigration system. Almost 100% of SD voters believe immigration costs too much. Over 80% believe that immigrants weaken the Swedish culture. Over 90% believe that immigrants are responsible for increased crime rates.

Trust Swedes

The SD voter has a higher level of trust towards other Swedes than to those born outside of Europe with almost 70% saying they would prefer a native Swede as a neighbour rather than a foreigner. This was 19% for S voters and 37% for M voters.

Skeptics

The vast majority of the participants in this research were highly skeptical towards the government and other authorities. They have an innate, higher suspicion of politicians, media and the legal system than M or S voters. They also have a larger tendency to believe in conspiracy theories.

Feeling good

Previous research suggests that supporters of populist parties tend to be dissatisfied and marginalised by society. This research does not support that. Quite the opposite, SD voters are satisfied with their lives and their current situations and they do not perceive their quality of life has been reduced during the last four years. However, a common concern they have is that their standard of living with get worse in the future due to costly changes in society. In comparison to S or M voters, they have a much weaker optimism about the future.

Tolerance and respect not important

In comparison to S and M voters, SD voters tend to think tolerance and respect are not important qualities. In the raising of children, obedience is seen as a more important quality. However, the research could not prove a larger lack of empathy amongst SD voters compared to others.

Lower education

37% of SD voters in the research had a higher education (eg university). Amongst S voters this is 44% and 57% amongst M. The majority of SD voters are working class.

Conservative and authoritarian

SD voters in much higher numbers have a conservative and authoritarian view of society. For example, over 70% think that feminism has gone too far and it is the role of the man to support the family. Over 60% believed that a strong leader is necessary to control unwelcome behaviours in a society.

So, are SD voters stupid, racist and irrational? Judging by this research the answer is no. They are skeptical, critical and fearful.

And they are highly rational. It makes rational sense for them to navigate towards a party that resonates most with their attitudes.

Today is Election Day and soon we will see the result. What will win in Sweden? Will it be skepticism, criticism and fear? Or will it be pragmatism, openness and optimism?

To see the full report, go to http://www.iffs.se and look under publications.

How SD is seducing you

sd affisch

Standing on the train platform this morning I was confronted by a huge poster from nationalistic party the Sweden Democrats, asking me to vote for them in the approaching election. The poster consisted of men and women, all white, smiling down at me in a welcoming unthreatening manner. ‘SD 2018’ – the simple slogan emblazoned across the poster – intended to show me that those who support SD today are not nazis, criminals, sexists or homophobes (as proven time and time again in the press). On the contrary they are presented as ordinary, happy people who just want a change of government.

As I stood there, I understood how clever SD’s PR and Marketing people are. They have a strong understanding of influencing techniques – and they’re not afraid to use them to seduce the unsuspecting general public.

Psychologist Robert Cialdini is considered the guru of influencing skills. In his ground-breaking book, ‘Influence’, he introduced six key principles on which influence is based. Based on his extensive research, he found that if we apply these principles, we are able to persuade others more easily. Used positively, they can help move us towards agreement with each other, used negatively they can be applied to manipulate and even coerce people into making decisions that might be bad for them.

As I stood on the platform and absorbed SD’s poster, I realised how artfully they are using two of Cialdini’s principles. The principle called ‘Social Proof’ and the principle called ‘Liking’.

Social Proof
This principle relies on people’s sense of “safety in numbers.” If we see that others are doing something, we are more likely to do the same. It somehow feels validated. For example, we’re more likely to work late if others in our team are doing the same, put a tip in a jar if it already contains money, or eat in a restaurant if it’s full of guests. We assume that if lots of other people are doing something, then it must be OK. We’re particularly susceptible to this principle when we’re feeling uncertain, and we’re even more likely to be influenced if the people we see seem to be similar to us. That’s why commercials often use parents to advertise household products and why SD uses smiling, happy Nordic people.

Liking
Cialdini says that we’re more likely to be influenced by people we like. Likability comes in many forms – people might be familiar to us, we might just simply trust them or they might physically look like us. We have an inherent feeling of liking when we see them. Companies that use sales agents from within the community employ this principle with huge success. People are more likely to buy from people like themselves, from friends, and from people they know and respect. Facebook, for example, builds its business model on ‘liking’. SD uses this principle to manipulate us into thinking they are just like us. They think like us. They would never do anything to harm us. We can trust them.

As in previous posts, I am trying to shine a light on how SD is manipulating us, society and the election. They are masters of manipulation – spreading fear and uncertainty in the minds of the susceptible electorate, when in fact Sweden is currently booming and economically very stable. There are problems in society, no doubt, but these are not best solved by giving power to a party that we know is manipulative and devious. Judging by the level of scheming we see when they are trying to gain favour, just imagine how this will escalate if they have power.

A vote for SD is not a vote for a better Sweden.

Do not be duped into falling for the deceit.

You are being manipulated.

Do not be seduced.

 

Why is Sweden….according to Google

A quick Google search punching in the words ‘why is Sweden..’ led to a very telling autocorrect.

why is sweden

  • Why is Sweden so hot?
  • Why is Sweden so rich?
  • Why is Sweden so good at hockey?
  • Why is Sweden so good at sports?
  • Why is Sweden so cold?
  • Why is Sweden so innovative?
  • Why is Sweden so good at CS?
  • Why is Sweden so good?
  • Why is Sweden called Sweden?

So, if this represents the most common searches for Sweden, it certainly seems positive! Sweden is hot, rich, good at all sorts of things and innovative! I only wish I knew what CS is –  Christmas shopping? Classic socialism? Counting suicides? Consuming spirits? Well, whatever it is, they are apparently very good at it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The dark side of Sweden

Sweden is my spiritual country.

Moving here has shaped me into the person I am today. When I moved here, I fell in love immediately with this modern country in the north. I was impressed by Sweden’s strong belief in equality, democracy, human rights, acceptance and tolerance – and it moulded me. Like Sweden, I believe in an open society where everybody is of equal value and has the right to live how they want. I believe in humanity where people respect each other. I believe in a social contract where we take care of the weaker members of society when they need it, and they take care of me if I need it. For me, this is Sweden. This is what it means to be Swedish. Swedes should be so proud of this legacy.

But is this Sweden still there? 20 years ago, it clearly was. But today? Is this Sweden just a Utopia? Just a distant memory of something good? Is my open Sweden actually shutting down?

Cold winds are sweeping over Europe yet again. Sweden is no exception. The Sweden Democrats – a right wing conservative nationalistic party, dressed in sharp suits, is spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt in the minds of Sweden’s citizens. And they are gaining ground. Approximately 20% of the population now support them.

These 20% are willing to vote for a party that is openly xenophobic and clearly sexist. Members of this party have, in recent memory, stated that gays are animals, that Jews are not Swedes, that women should have their abortion rights restricted. I don’t understand why they think this is ok.

These 20% are willing to vote for a party that have a shaky understanding of Economics, whose budget lacks 30 billion Swedish crowns to cover all of their election promises and who have no policy for the environment – as it’s ‘not that important’. I don’t understand why they think this is an acceptable future for the country.

These 20% buy into the idea that this party is anti-establishment. The ‘gang of four’ men who run the party are former university students who earn salaries in the millions and furnish their homes with designer furniture. They may come from humble backgrounds, as do many Swedes, but today they are elites. I don’t understand why their supporters don’t see this.

These 20% are willing to vote for a party they do not know much about. Nobody knows what their actions will be. Many of their voters are dissatisfied with the current state of Sweden, and they want a change. This may well be justified. However, they are willing to throw everything out, and place their bets on a dark horse. They clearly don’t feel threatened. But they probably should.

Have these 20% always been there? Was the Sweden I moved to just a lie? Was the openness and tolerance just bullshit? Was it just a neat and well-orchestrated fantasy that in fact had fear of foreigners, sexism and homophobia lurking just beneath the surface? Lurking and waiting and ready to leap out. That is a frightening thought.

I don’t believe these 20% are all racists, I really don’t. But they are willing to allow nationalists to take power in Sweden. I don’t believe they’re all stupid. But they are willing to disregard glaring faults in SD’s policies. I do believe many are disenchanted. And they are willing to gamble the safety of their country and fellow citizens just to prove a point. They are willing to literally throw many people to the sharks.

After this article, I expect to be trolled. I often am. These trolls will abuse me, they will tell me to go home yet again and they will say I am a bleeding-heart liberal.

And they are so wrong.

I am already home. Sweden is my home. And my heart is not bleeding, it is breaking.

Please do not vote SD in the coming election.

Sweden Pride

This year EuroPride comes to Sweden, being held in double cities Stockholm and Gothenburg. The whole concept of LGBT Pride has taken strong root in Sweden, and many towns up and down the country hold their own celebration. For example, today is Springpride in the midland city of Eskilstuna.

Currently there are 73 Pride festivals in Sweden during the year. From Arctic Pride way up in the north to Malmö Pride in the south, it is possible to celebrate throughout the year.

Swedes seem to have embraced the concept of Pride with open arms. There is, of course, a commercial benefit but the main reason seems to be that LGBT Pride resonates well with the societal Swedish values of equality, tolerance and acceptance. However, like everything, it has its opponents. Right wing groups occasionally organize counter demonstrations or, as in Eskilstuna yesterday, decide to put up homophobic, anti-Pride propaganda. Thankfully, these groups are small and as long as the majority of Swedes continue to stand up for Pride, they have little impact.

If you’d like to know where a Pride is near you, go to http://www.svenskapride.se which collects all the National events in one place.

Sweden’s history of LGBT rights is a comparatively progressive story. Changes didn’t happen automatically however. Thanks to the hard work of campaigners, lobbyists, and politicians, society can enjoy one of the most egalitarian legislations in the world. According to wiki:

‘ Same-sex sexual activity was legalized in 1944 and the age of consent was equalized in 1972. Homosexuality was declassified as a mental illness in 1979. Sweden also became the first country in the world to allow transgender persons to change their legal gender post-surgery in 1972 whilst transvestism was declassified as an illness. Transgenderism was declassified as a mental illness in 2008 and legislation allowing gender change legally without hormone replacement therapy and sex reassignment surgery was passed in 2013. After allowing same-sex couples to register for partnership in 1995, Sweden became the seventh country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage countrywide in 2009. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression has been banned since 1987. Also, since 2003, gay and lesbian couples can adopt children, and lesbian couples have had equal access to IVF and assisted insemination since 2005. Sweden has been recognized as one of the most socially liberal countries in Europe and in the world, with recent polls indicating that a large majority of Swedes support LGBT rights and same-sex marriage.’

The Nobel Prize of SHAME

SvAka_1_pms

In egalitarian Sweden, there is an elitist, powerful, elected-for-life committee called The Swedish Academy. This (royal) Academy is an appointed committee of 18 members whose purpose is to further the ‘purity, strength, and sublimity of the Swedish language.’ To this aim, they are guardians of the Swedish dictionary, and they award many prizes and scholarships to domestic authors. A mostly dusty, bourgeois old bunch, they also are responsible for awarding the prestigious Nobel Prize for Literature every year.

But not this year. Sex and shame has stopped them.

Today, the Academy announced they will not be awarding a 2018 prize. This has only happened 6 times since its beginnings in 1901  – during the world wars and in 1935, when no worthy winner was identified.

On its website, the academy writes ‘The present decision was arrived at in view of the currently diminished Academy and the reduced public confidence in the Academy.”

The ‘reduced confidence’ they are referring to is the rampaging sexual assault scandal that has engulfed the organisation. Several members of the academy have been slandered, scapegoated and forced out, or left at the own volition.

So no prize in literature this year, but most certainly a prize in shame.

It all started last November in regard to the husband of author Katarina Frostenson who is a member of the Academy. Her husband, photographer Jean-Claude Arnault, who ran a cultural project, with funding from the Swedish Academy itself, was accused by 18 women of sexual assault and harassment. Some of this allegedly happened in Academy premises. It has later been suggested that he even groped Sweden’s Crown Princess Victoria at a formal event.  Naturally, Mr Arnault denies the allegations.

This threw the Academy into turmoil. What unfolded in front of us was a drama of betrayal, sexism, power struggle, internal conflict, dishonesty and manipulation. It was like ‘Culture News’ meets ‘Downton Abbey’. Subsequently, a wave of resignations followed, including Ms Frostenson and the head of the academy, Sara Danius.

Today, there are only 11 members in place but the diminished academy requires a quorum of 12 to vote in any new members.

Since its beginning in 1786, the Academy has only ever allowed 9 women to sit in the committee. 9 women! It is clearly yet another example of a white, male-dominated, middle-class organisation. Can it change? Maybe the only way is to rip down this tower and build it up again in a more egalitarian spirit? Surely, the Academy should represent the population in ethnicity and gender at the very least?

The Academy’s slogan is ‘snille och smak’ – which translates as ‘talent and taste’.

Ironic isn’t it, that they are currently demonstrating neither of them.