Yesterday the national election was held in my native Sweden, and I – like many other Swedes – struggle to understand how such a modern and liberal society is suddenly one where ONE IN SEVEN has placed their vote with the far right party. The Swedish Democrats can probably be compared with the British National Party in terms of policies and manifesto, and they claimed a staggering 13% of the vote.
I don’t have strong political views, and I’m not at all clued up on the current state of Swedish affairs – I haven’t lived there in 20 years, so most stuff passes me by beyond reading the main headlines. I suppose my stance is that I believe in equality, fairness, that we should take care of this planet of ours, that we should help those in need, create equal opportunities, respect all cultures, races and religions, create fair conditions for businesses and markets, and fair taxes that benefit us all. I suspect that’s how most people think.
The build up to this election I have followed via Facebook mostly, in the shape of people posting opinions and arguments in different political debates, plus reading the usual Swedish news websites I normally read. What’s gone amiss in my view is precisely debate. What’s gone on has been mudslinging, shouting over each other and deeming anyone with a different opinion an idiot. That kind of stuff scares me. The whole political debate seems to have been little other than a display of aggression and refusal to hear each other out.
It reminded me of the BBC’s Question Time, when Nick Griffin of the BNP was on the discussion panel, along with Jack Straw and a handful of others. Straw & Co kept interrupting, rolled their eyes any time Griffin spoke and even sank as low as throwing insults at him. Griffin, on the other hand, listened, didn’t mock anyone, didn’t shout over anyone and hey presto, he came out looking the most reasonable based on manners alone. OK, his political views are to me personally horrific, I don’t at all agree any more than I agree with the Swedish Democrats (SD).
However. All this mudslinging, insults and refusal to engage in conversation has one result and one result only: it strengthens parties like SD and the BNP. Abhorrent views that would so easily be quashed by logic and reason, if only the opposing sides had managed to rein themselves in a little. I can’t be the only one sitting here now and seeing a pattern. Staying quiet or excluding an extreme view is dangerous if you ask me. Better to engage in conversation. Look at Nazi Germany. OK, I can’t imagine the world would turn out like that again, but what we need to remember is that the underlying current is indeed pulling us in those hostile directions, even when it’s fluffed up and sweetened with some policies thrown in there to make them appear more mainstream.
No child is born a racist. No child is born thinking different is negative. No child is born feeling superior to another because of their skin colour or religion.
I had the conversation with my 9-almost-10 Monkey on the way to school, as I wanted to get his views on this. After all, his mother is an immigrant, who perhaps in some people’s eyes came to the UK and stole a place at university (twice, given I then had the audacity to go and steal a Masters too) from a homegrown British student, and later stole jobs from Brits too. And a home, regardless of the fact that my stolen jobs have meant I always paid my way and my taxes too. I just wanted to get his views on how he sees the situation, what he thinks about people from other countries moving here or to Sweden.
And this is what I learned this morning:
We should abolish governments the world over and put our kids in charge. These kids who believe it’s mean to dislike anyone who’s different and can’t understand why, because they believe it’s absolutely fine that we all are. These kids who raise their hand when they have something to say but respectfully of others wait their turn and don’t interrupt or make fun out of someone who doesn’t have the same opinion. These kids who don’t understand why it would be a bad thing to have people from other places move here (be it the UK, Sweden or elsewhere) and that the right thing to do is to greet everyone with a ‘welcome’.
So often, when I have little conversations with Monkey, I just want to conserve and protect this beautiful little mind that hasn’t yet been darkened by crappy influences. I hope he is of a generation that will grow up and remain that pure, loving and accepting. If we put our kids in charge, I think this world would turn out to be a beautiful place.