Sweden has always been a country dear to me. This is entirely natural. Most miniature Huns grow up entranced by the exploits of Lisa, Lasse, Bosse, Britta, Anna, Kirsten, Anna, Olle, Michel (Really Emil), Rasmus and Paradise Oscar, Pippi, Nils, etc. As an employer of Skansen, Stockholm’s famous open air museum informed me, miniature Huns are intimately familiar with all aspects of Swedish houses from the late 19th to mid-20th centuries as a result. Swedish traditions have been so universally adopted into Hun life that many can’t imagine life without them. It should, to be fair, be noted that many Swedish traditions are, in fact, rooted in Hunnish traditions. For many centuries Sweden, whatever its relative regional might, lagged behind Flanders and the German States in terms of economic, cultural, artistic and technological development. Sweden’s kings and merchants were only too keen on encouraging Flemish and German merchants, craftsmen, soldiers, artisans and thinkers to settle in the Kingdom in order to help modernise and develop the economy. Well, so long as they minded their manners and knew their place – for a time in the middle ages German merchants were a bit cheeky and decided that they should hold half of Stockholm’s city council seats and that their language should be, at very least, treated as equal to Swedish. The Swedes, of course, cut them down to size at the first opportunity.
This long history of importing people, ideas and culture has left a profound legacy. Sweden, on one hand, has one of the world’s most cohesive and close-knit societies. One reason why Sweden lagged behind the German States is that Sweden comprises a vast landmass with a small population. Sweden’s is likewise not the gentlest of climates. To survive, society required cohesion and a sense of common purpose. At the same time, there were profound divisions based on class. The wealthiest families very often had their origins abroad, entirely or at least in part. Take, for example, the families Hamilton, Mackmyra, Raab, Campbell, von Essen, Sinclair, de la Gardie, Fleming, etc. Sweden’s “high culture”, in short, was inherently xenophile. Peasant culture was largely Nordic. Even Sweden’s currency system was rooted in the German. The old riksdaler was the Swedish version of the German Reichsthaler. The decimal krona is based on the Austro-Hungarian corona. The Swedish parliament is the Riksdag, the former name of the German parliament – and still the name of the building where it sits, although not the legislative body itself, is Reichstag. Compare this to the Danish Folktinget, “the People’s Thing”; the Icelandic Alþingi, “the All Thing” or the even more imaginatively named Norwegian parliament, the “Stortinget” – “the Big Thing”. I suppose the Swedes weren’t interested in having the same “thing” as the other Nordic countries. Har har. Well, except for Finland, but does Eduskanta actually count, even if Finland Swedes conveniently give it the same name as the Swedish parliament – as is their right in that officially bilingual country?
Sweden underwent a “quiet revolution” of sorts, to borrow the name of the Québécois phenomenon after the end of the Second World War. As in Québec, a formerly conservative society quickly became very left wing. In Sweden, this was rooted in the peaceful collapse of the old, class-based order. Most Swedes were desperately poor. From the 1860s to the 1930s the equivalent of a third of Sweden’s population emigrated surpassed only by Norway where nearly half the population emigrated – largely to North America. For those interested, OE Rølvåg and Vilhelm Moberg wrote excellent series about Norwegian and Swedish emigration respectively. Per-Anders Fogelström touched on this in his “City Series”. The old order was oppressive. For most with ambition, emigration was the only sure way to improve one’s lot.
Sweden was spared wartime devastation and occupation. The Swedish government invested heavily in its military while at the same time making certain concessions to Hitler. Much like Switzerland, the benefits gained by occupation would be small compared to the costs. Officially neutral, Sweden made a fortune by exporting raw materials and some finished goods with no prejudice to Allied and Axis powers. Unlike Switzerland, the Swedes took in refugees. At that time, those marked for death in Nazi-occupied Denmark and Norway and children from war-torn Finland. Their wealth and the size of their economy made Sweden, already the pre-eminent Nordic power following Frederik III’s thorough dismantling of Danish credibility in the mid-17th century, a destination for Norwegians and Finns seeking greater economic opportunities. More than most, a small Swedish elite centred in Östermalm, Stockholm’s answer to Kensington, chose to turn Sweden into a laboratory. Sweden would not only experiment, it would become an experiment.
From the 1970s until 2010 Sweden became the self-appointed “hospital of the world”. It was officially multicultural, open to those who needed – or merely wanted – a new home. Iranians fleeing the Ayatollah found a home. Croats, Slovenes, Bosnians and ethnic Albanians fleeing Yugoslavia’s genocide-ridden collapse were given new lives. Lebanese, Syrian and Iraqi Christians made much of the opportunities that Sweden provided them, as did Sri Lankan Tamils and non-Communist Indochinese. Less successful were Pakistanis. After an at times rocky start these groups – save for Pakistanis – did relatively well. Things became more problematic in the 1990s with the first wave of Somalis. Somalis are traditionally semi-nomadic goat herders. Their lives revolved around seasons, not hours and minutes. They simply could not integrate economically into a highly organised, efficient society that valued punctuality and regularity. Somalis, as Karen Blixen so accurately wrote, made up for their lack of pedigree in the Islamic World with their zeal. Afghans and Arabs overwhelmingly practise more rigid and conservative forms of Islam than the relatively liberal, Europeanised form brought by Bosnians and Albanians or the moderate Shi’a strain that so many Iranian dissidents follow, if they follow it at all.
Sweden’s previously generous welfare state – a product of the crushing poverty that marked so much of Swedish life until the 1940s – attracted North Africans who took advantage of lax Frog and Dodgy Dago border control. They were not refugees, but North African states until recently weren’t keen on the repatriation of excess youth. This influx raised concerns in Sweden, well, at least the parts that weren’t Östermalm. After all, it’s easy to support an idea if one doesn’t have to live with its consequences. Many of these new arrivals could not integrate. Sweden has one of the world’s most skill-based economies. There is virtually no need for unskilled labour – most Swedes are too self-reliant and independent. They were simply dumped in post-war council estates which have taken on a distinctly sink air.
You probably noticed the date “2010”. In 2010 the Sweden Democrats first entered the Riksdag, largely based their success in Skåne. Initially a small party, they were the first to openly criticise the post-1970s “Sweden as Experiment” policy pursued by established parties. In 2014, their support increased by nearly 250pc. Sweden, they argue, is not a laboratory or an experiment – but an actual country with a history and established culture. Perhaps a bit romantic in some of their notions, their basic argument has found much support – at least to varying extents. The most recent wave of migration that has hit Sweden has forced even Östermalm to yield. Sweden can only manage so much, it can only support so many. The Social Democrats struggled to remain relevant, forming a minority coalition only at the sufferance of the Moderates, the main centre-right party. In reality, opposition parties outnumber the governing coalition. The Swedish Social Democrats are also heavily reliant on their provincial and working-class voting base. Central Stockholm wards dominated the tone of Swedish politics, but the regions returned more MPs. When their patience was exhausted – and their voters restive – something had to give. Sweden imposed border checks in Denmark. I experienced this. Within the space of a year, Sweden changed its policies so profoundly that the Kingdom hardly resembles what it was less than two years ago.
Sweden’s present reality is more complex than the PC Mafia or the anti-Sweden Brigades acknowledge. Sweden is still largely a safe country. The only boffer I ever faced came from Romanians at Lund. At the same time, sink estates – whether dominated by ethnic Swedes or those with migrant backgrounds – have become restive, even volatile in some cases. Radicalisation of Islamic and Neo-Nazi varieties – is more pronounced. Crimes are concentrated in ever more dangerous sink estates. Except when it isn’t – and this has done much to change perspectives, to harden views – especially after the lorry attack in Stockholm. Sweden is an open country with an accepting society. It has chosen to remain such.
As an aside, the infamous sexual assault statistics are just as complex. The way Sweden collects statistics changed about 12 years ago, expanding the definition of what constitutes sexual assault. Sweden counts incidents not at the time of conviction, but at the time of complaint. Thus, a prostitute who has served 100 johns in 350 transactions will be considered to have been sexually assaulted 350 times. These 350 assaults will be recorded in that year’s statistics. Even if no charges are ever brought, that number will still be deemed official. If a drunken uni student gropes three women at a party, this will be considered to constitute three cases of sexual assault. This is why Sweden has, at least on paper, such a high rate of sexual assault.