Thursday, December 25, 2008

Über Nacht ist es Winter

A silver-grey train is taking me through snow-clad forests, the long journey is almost over, I will be in Kalmar in less than one hour. After an Asian breakfast with Singapore Airlines over Poland, the saffron “lussekatt” in Malmö had a taste of surreal familiarity, I do not know what to make of it all, on the plane I watched Babylon A.D., a post-apocalyptic vista which again suggested that the future may not be bright space opera but rather Chechnya-styled mud, the disintegration of civilization.

In the past, Sweden used to be the perfect antidote to such fears with its solid welfare state, its high level of social trust and its international openness. Unfortunately, things are not like that any more. The elites have failed to do what was asked of them: instead of visionary boldness they have succumbed to their own ontological insecurity, instead of advancing the open society they have slipped into a kind of soft “Täby-fascism”, one that curtails civil liberties and seems ready to make every conceivable sacrifice for just a little more parmigiano cheese. The small but significant symbols are everywhere: instead of walking to school, kids are driven by fearful parents in SUVs, instead of emancipatory visions of the future, Bodstöm/Reinfeldt think that the future will be one of international terrorism, “illegal” immigrants and organized crime. Repressive laws such as Lex Orwell show exactly how far they have retreated from the collective progressive project.

Of course, the jury is still out on all this. But as my friend Gabriel so eloquently has argued, these times call upon us all to make a difference, to stand up for our dreams and show the enduring strength of idealism.

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