Tag Archive for neo-Nazis

Can we talk about racism yet, Sweden?

I’ve been here long enough to know confronting things head-on is not the done thing, but it’s already too late.

We need to talk about racism, Sweden.

Not just the big-picture, Jimmie-and-the-bootboys racism of the Sweden Democrats, or the lurch to the right of the not-so-Christian Democrats and the small-l liberals.

We need to talk about the everyday racism that means that we talk about “immigrant suburbs,” and not just suburbs.

We need to talk about the silent racism that leads to “schools with a high percentage of pupils from non-Swedish backgrounds,” and not just schools.

We need to talk, not of immigration, but of integration.

Because the first will happen anyway.

The second is up to us all.

On a day when Ahmed Hassan’s mother spoke of her love for her slain son, and Lavin Eskander’s friends spoke of his love for his job as an assistant at the school in Trollhättan where he was murdered, it’s about time we started talking about racism.

Anton Lundin Pettersson murdered both of them simply because they weren’t white.

It doesn’t get more racist than that.

But it doesn’t stop there.

How this crime is being reported to the world drips with racism – maybe not the aggressive kind that led Pettersson to kill, but racism all the same.

It is the kind of racism that sets the tone and the agenda, and that writes the first – and often the only – draft of history.

The kind of racism that calls him a “lone wolf”, when a brown person would have been called a “terrorist”.

The kind of racism that says he was dressed as Darth Vader, and not as a Nazi stormtrooper.

The kind of racism that fails to mention his military march around the school looking for victims.

It is the kind of racism that makes people in media and politics appeal for calm when they themselves, by their ethnicity, are safe in the knowledge that they are not, and never will be, the target of such attacks.

It is the kind of racism that sees no connection between the burning-down of planned refugee centres, the government’s change of heart in terms of granting temporary rather than permanent asylum, and the murder of schoolchildren.

It’s all connected.

In 2011, Jens Stoltenberg’s memorable answer to Breivik’s terror was “more openness, more democracy.”

But Norway’s answer was to vote him out of power and instead replace him with the “right-wing populist” – or, in simple terms, racists – of Fremskrittspartiet.

In Denmark and Finland, the race towards racism continued untrammelled by Breivik’s bad press. Even Denmark’s Social Democrats tried on the brown shirt, but to no avail, as they desperately tried to cling to power.

And in Sweden it happened too, as Jimmie and his party, born of the neo-Nazi movement, grew inexorably to the point where almost one in five could consider voting for his merry band of besuited fascist thugs.

We have to talk about racism. We have to talk about immigration. We have to talk about fear.

But to do so we have to stop talking about immigrants as threats and start seeing them as people.

We have to challenge the narratives created in the dark belly of the Internet, where hatred germinates out of lies and memes.

Because it is the dehumanising of individuals, the grouping-together so beloved of racists that leads young men to arm themselves with swords and kill based on skin colour.

I live in a multicultural area, but Pettersson would not have stabbed me or my children, simply because we are white.

But he would have stabbed some of my friends and some of my children’s friends, because they are not.

We bear no collective guilt for the actions of Pettersson, but we owe it to those who died to confront the elephant in the the room that is everyday racism – even if it is our own racism.

Because it is that – and not extremism – that makes Sweden one of the world’s most segregated places.

 

Ode To A Herring Sandwich

Those outside of Sweden are often spared the joy of hearing the views of the members of the Sweden Democrats, but now that one of them has been elected deputy speaker of the Swedish Riksdag it is in both the wider public interest and in keeping with this blog’s intent to share thoughts on political communication to reproduce some of their more remarkable public utterances. 

So to mark the ascension of Björn Söder to the position of deputy speaker, I have translated a blog post from the original Swedish that apparently has since been deleted. 

Söder, a senior member of the Sweden Democrat party started by neo-Nazis among others in 1988, is a man of strong views – among them that homosexuality is an aberration and that Islam is the single greatest threat to Western civilisation.

His politics could accurately be described as the kind of cultural conservatism beloved of the likes of Anders Behring Breivik and UKIP. 

In this post, Söder proclaims his love for Swedish culture through the medium of a herring sandwich at the Malmö festival, before deploring the “dark clouds” of multiculturalism. 

Björn Söder – likes herring. Dislikes gays.

The sun shone and spread its pleasant rays over my shoulders. Though it was half past seven on a Wednesday night it felt like the heat had finally arrived.

It was, after all, one of the first warm evenings, even though it was in the month of August.

The train was already in the station. Everywhere there were people walking and running who were on their way to Malmö to take part in the festival. Along with my girlfriend and some friends, I got on the train.

Outside the Scania countryside passed by.

Wonderful.

Farms and houses looked like palaces and temples of the Swedish summer heat. The trees and fields appeared one after the other and stood in contrast to the clear blue sky.

Feeling a part of that environment felt wonderful.  My thoughts began to turn to my ancestors, who along with others had worked hard to create such a heavenly realm like this.

I could feel a little pride swell in me. A pride in being Swedish. To have been born Swedish. Of having ancestors who built Sweden.

My thoughts were interrupted. The train slowed down at Malmö Central Station. We got out of the train and walked towards the city center.

There was life everywhere. People went back and forth across the streets and the cars had trouble getting around. We were met by people from some company that was about to the dragon boat competition.

They sang and whistled and the people in front of them moved out of the way to avoid being trampled upon. We followed in their wake – this way we avoided the throng of others, and were on our way to watch the competition.

It was now eight o’clock and my stomach began to rumble for food. During festivals usually it’s not a problem finding something to eat, and it wasn’t a problem this time either – if you want to eat something exotic and foreign, of course.

Everywhere there were foreign food. Latin food, tacos, busesca, falafel, Indian delicacies, Thai dishes, Nigerian specialties, kebab and more.

But where was the Swedish food? Is the traditional Swedish cooking so bad and boring that no one wants it? I searched frantically.

I had decided that if I could not find anything Swedish to eat then my stomach would have to put up with being hungry.

Suddenly. I saw a small light in the otherwise dark surroundings. “Herring Sandwiches” was written on the sign. I walked up with urgent steps. Past all the food stalls that smelled of garlic.

I felt a joy. The joy of that there was still Swedish food to be had. I threw down a twenty-crown note for my sandwich.

I received it and felt the wonderful smell of herring. Well worth the price, I let the sandwich disappear down my gullet, and a few moments later felt the satisfaction in my stomach.

Surely there is one and two other bright spots here at the festival, I thought, and proceeded to saunter.

After looking around for about another hour, we decided to head for home. You could feel the air getting slightly cooler and damper now that the sun had gone down.

We went over to Gustav Adolf Square. Outside McDonald’s, dark clouds gathered. By all accounts, it was probably a meeting place, or rather, a haunt for all the world’s different peoples – except the Swedes, of course.

Where the Swedes were gone I do not know. Then we crossed the square and went into a pedestrian area, and it was clear to me that the Swedes had fled the field.

Everywhere there were big black clouds in the otherwise clear night. The sound of the South American and Indian music mixed with languages from around the world, and the feeling that you were in a land far, far away grew.

Nowhere was there a bright cloud to be seen. The dark clouds hung everywhere.

My stomach was turning upside down and the tears started running down my cheeks. The pride in being Swedish that I had felt earlier in the evening had now given way to a hate inside.

Not a hatred of the people who were there, but a hatred of the decision-makers who caused it as my eyes now beheld. These decision-makers had not shown my ancestors any respect.

They had not taken any account of what the Swedish people – including me – thought. They had done what they wanted. They wanted to create a multicultural society.

With the tears on my cheeks, I hurried past through the darkness along with the others.

The evening had now changed from a warm, bright summer evening to a cold and dark night.

We got on the train to go home. The train was full of people. Many others had apparently also planned to go home.

I understand them.