Why is May 1st celebrated in Sweden?

In Sweden, and in many other countries, May 1st has been embraced as the International Workers’ Day. In 1938, May 1st became Sweden’s first non-religious public holiday and has been an important celebration of labourers and the working classes since then.

But why specifically May 1st?

The answer is found in a massacre in the USA. On 1 May 1886, laborers in Chicago went out on strike for an 8 hour working day. On 4 May 1886, Chicago police and the demonstrators clashed and 11 people died. The event is called the Haymarket massacre. Seven of the demonstrators were sentenced to death, despite lack of evidence. To commemorate the massacre, the socialist organization suggested that 1 May should become day of demonstrations every year.

Around Sweden, traffic is shut off, huge flag-waving demonstrations are held and people gather to hear speeches from their politicians and representatives – most commonly from the political left.

Contrary to the stereotype however, not everybody in Sweden supports left wing political groups. Many Swedes lean towards the centre or the right. For them, today is just a day off work – an opportunity to perhaps nurse hangovers from the festivities of the previous evening or to relax, watch Netflix, meet friends and enjoy the day.

Nowadays, there is always a racist shadow over May 1st celebrations. According to the Swedish law, even their right to demonstrate is protected. This year, the extreme right-wing Party ‘Nordiska motståndsrörelse’ will also be marching in the small towns of Ludvika, Fagersta and Kungälv. This inevitably means a counter-demonstration will occur and a potentially violent exchange of opinions will develop.

If you’re in Stockholm, head to Humlegården or Medborgarplatsen around 12.00 ish to catch the start of two demonstrations.

A young Swedish hero who puts us to shame

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last decade, the imminent threat of climate change can not have escaped you. Many people the world over are concerned, if not terrified, about the future of our planet. The word ‘klimatångest‘ has popped up in the Swedish language – climate anxiety – to reflect the growing stress people are feeling as the weather changes and the earth burns.

In contexts of concern, unlikely heroes often rise up, and many of them are women. Women who sit in the white section of the bus, women who attack neo nazis with their handbags, women who protest school shootings in USA, women who bite back against haters and mysogynists on social media. Women who take no shit.

Such a young woman is the Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. At 16 years old, she has made headlines for her bravery, her directness and the fact that she calls us out – the older generations who are failing her generation. Currently in the snow topped village of Davos, she is attending the World Economic Forum. She attacked, in a speech, the wealthy who continue to earn money at the expense of the earth’s resources. She criticised them for flying in on private jets instead of travelling the train, as she did, for 30 hours. It was like seeing David defeat Goliath. Listening to her, the powerful audience gave a weak, unconvinced round of applause. It’s clearly uncomfortable to be called out by a 16 year old Swede.

What’s amazing about Greta Thunberg is her conviction and her single-mindedness. She puts it down to her Aspergers diagnosis saying she can focus on what’s important instead of focusing on the ‘social game that seems to be so important for so many people’.

It’s wonderful to watch her, and listen to her as she continues to tear a hole in the establishment with her wit and uncompromising fierceness. And it’s a reminder that we don’t need to look to our elders to find inspiration. It can certainly be found by looking at the generations behind us. Tomorrow’s heroes are there. They want change and they have a sense of urgency.

Greta Thunberg wants us to act as if the house is on fire.

Because, in her words, the house is on fire.

What exactly is a quisling?

Sweden might have a government soon. Months after the general election, an unconventional middle coalition seems to be forming, which includes former opposition parties from left and right. All of this is an attempt to keep an extreme right wing party out of the government. However, it’s not without its critics.

One party in particular – the right-oriented Center Party- have been strongly criticized for being turncoats and traitors. One disgruntled politician called the leader of the Center party a quisling. While we use this term in English, I was curious to check into where the word comes from and why it is such a serious insult.

According to Wiki, quisling is a term originating in Norway, which is used in all the Scandinavian languages and in English for a person who collaborates with an enemy occupying force – or more generally as a synonym for traitor. The word originates from the surname of the Norwegian war-time leader Vidkun Quisling who headed a domestic Nazi regime during the Second World War.

Interestingly, the use of the word quisling predates the war though. In 1933, the term was used to describe the followers of Quisling who was in the process of starting a national fascist party based on the German nazi model.

In 1940, Quisling attempted to seize power in Norway, as he wanted to collaborate with Hitler. His coup d’etat failed, and he and his followers were declared criminals. In the British Times the headline was ‘Quislings everywhere’, and the term became synonymous with traitor – a word to ‘carry the scorn of mankind throughout the centuries’, to quote Winston Churchill.

So there we have it. A word taken from a pitiful, slithering fascist who was a traitor to his country and collaborated with an enemy power. Sounds more like a description of Trump if you ask me.

It seems then definitely out of proportion that the word is currently being used to describe the leader of Sweden’s Center party.

Of course many people are disappointed, and she has had to make some difficult compromises. But there is one promise she has not backed down on, however difficult it might be – to never give fascists a position of power in Swedish politics. And though not ideal for her, she has moved to the middle to prevent this.

The irony then is in the fact that she is being called a quisling. She is not a quisling, she is in fact the complete opposite.

Sweden, Swedeland or Sweorice? Why is Sweden called Sweden?

The Swedish word for Sweden is Sverige. Have you ever wondered why then Sweden is called Sweden in English?

Well, like all etymology of words, the explanation can be found centuries back and in a different country. In fact, the English name was loaned from the Dutch language in the 17th century. It is based on Middle Dutch Zweden, the Dutch name of Sweden. In turn, the name Zweden is the dative plural of  Zwede (Swede). Country names based on a dative plural and adding -n were the norm in German and Dutch in the 15th century – other examples are the German Italien “Italy” and Spanien“Spain”. These are also actually the words in Swedish for those countries.

What about before the 17th century when England borrowed the name Sweden from the Dutch? Well, clearly Sweden existed, and indeed it was called something else – Swedeland. And in early Old English, the country was known as Sweoland or Sweorice. Sweorice translates as the realm of the Sveonas – who were a Germanic tribe of the Sviar (a Norse tribe).

It’s not clear why the English suddenly changed to the Dutch version, but it may have been due to siding in conflicts or to make trading and communication easier.

So yesterday’s Swedeland is today’s Sweden. Personally, I think Sweorice has a nice ring to it, and is seems closer to the Swedish word Sverige.

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.

 

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 you are being manipulated

In the Second World War, one fear that the German soldiers had was being sent to the frontline in Russia which meant certain death. They feared this so much that they would be willing to do anything to avoid it. This fear has become the name of an influencing tactic known as the ‘Russian Front.’ It is a highly manipulative negative tactic that we see being used in Swedish politics today.

To apply the Russian Front tactic, we offer a person something that they will never choose but we dress it up so that it seems more real. We paint a picture of pain, then

offer them the alternative that we really want them to choose.

Example:

There is a job available in Sewage Maintenance, the last guy died. I do hear they’re looking for people in reception though. Should I recommend you?

The Russian Front is the application of a principle called ‘Hurt and Rescue’.

‘Hurting’ means making somebody feel pain of some kind, pointing out what is wrong, making them want to get away from something. ‘Rescuing’ means removing their hurt, saving them from their pains. It creates relief.

With this in mind, think now about what is currently going on in Swedish politics. The extreme right wing nazi party – the NMR – have been very vocal recently. They have been involved in homophobic, racist and sexist attacks. They have received a lot of media attention and harassed, threatened and film documented people from minority groups. The NMR are the Russian Front. They are here to ‘hurt’ us. In contrast to them, the other right wing party, the SD, look more acceptable, although they also have a racist and sexist agenda of hate. But compared to the hurt of the NMR, the SD can appear as the ‘rescue’.

This is very, very dangerous. It is extremely manipulative. It is a well orchestrated trap. It is very strategic, and well planned. Its intention is to force fearful voters into the hands of SD in September’s general election.

The key to not falling into this trap is to see it. To see it for what it is. The fear we are experiencing is not real. It is choreographed. The solution is not SD. Do not allow yourself to be manipulated. Do not vote out of the illusion of fear. This is a high stakes game, and we are pawns. But we do have the power, if we see through the manipulation tactics.

The Russian Front is not real.

SD is not the solution.

Please spread and share this message.