Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The ordinary eternal machinery

It has been a few days now, here at the Baltic. I have been sleeping away, listening to the distant sea and the garden outside. After a small surgery at the hospital yesterday, I am finally able to say that it is getting better.

Still a part of me dwells with those long hours of feeling miserable. The deep hopelessness which comes with having high fever day after day. It can be worth remembering on better days, how vulnerable one actually is beneath all the surface.

Meanwhile the outside world leaves us with no rest. In recent polls, the welfare chauvinistic and xenophobic party Sverigedemokraterna has gained just enough voters to make it into parliament in the next general election. As I have said elsewhere, it is far too simple to look down on these people. As with many other issues of class, we are tempted to judge their lack of self-control, their misspelled propaganda posters or their personal criminal records as if this did not at all have a history. But, surprise, it has. And that history is one in which the elites of Sweden repeatedly have failed to take the debate, to show a cosmopolitan commitment which goes beyond eating Parmigiano cheese and talking about what nice food immigrants bring.

Elsewhere I have been suggesting different forms of progressive political action, including bussing academic kids from the rich suburbs to Islamic free schools, but simply put, the basic idea is that no longer can the underclass of Sweden be left alone to deal with the friction which integration by necessity creates. It is a task that all of society has to engage with.

Of course, even as I believe there are still room for many hundreds thousands of more immigrants in Sweden, I recognize that the long-term solution to the global wealth distribution is not to move everybody around but to raise living conditions everywhere. And it is here, once again, that the mercantilist protectionism of Sverigedemokraterna reveals its faulty logic. Sweden of all countries needs to lead by example, by embracing trade, by opening up our borders to international competition and innovation. Beyond economics, to lead by example also means to show the possibilities of democracy. It is precisely in this context that it becomes important that the Swedish government now quickly reconsiders the new law on electronic surveillance and shows that the society of the future is to be built on trust and not “the politics of fear”.

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