Sweden beyond the cliches

Sweden beyond the cliches

by Tom Gallagher
article from Tuesday 25, September, 2018

A REVIEW of Sweden, Dying to be MultiCultural, the Rise and Fall of the Humanitarian Empire, 2017 edition, Paperback and Kindle.

Pelle Neroth Taylor is a young half-English, writer from Sweden who has produced a profile of a Scandinavian country which even media liberals across the world admit is in trouble. 

He views Sweden not through the world of think-tanks in Uppsala or Stockholm but instead through the tribulations of the small town of Skara, the home of his wife. It is is one of the places reeling from an unwise experiment to settle hundreds of thousands of mainly young men from war zones in a country where it will be very hard for most of them to escape dependency on the state for perhaps the rest of their lives.

The author points out that he is not a right-wing nationalist, nor is he opposed to immigration on humanitarian grounds. But he places himself beyond the pale in an increasingly ideological publishing world by showing that Sweden, proclaimed by its elite as a 'humanitarian superpower' is a country which is making spectacular mistakes that decision-makers refuse to confront.

Sweden's path has been sceptically examined by its less uptight Scandinavian neighbours Denmark and Norway but no searching book-length examination of the country has appeared in Britain for nearly half-a-century. In their quest to entice a majority of Scots to swop Britain for self-governing penury, Scottish Nationalists have played up their portion of northern Britain as a southern outpost of 'progressive' and 'harmonious' Scandinavia. But the forays of writers like Lesley Riddoch have not ventured far beyond the Green, feminist and radical 'Scando-bubbleland'. 

So for most Britons whose television material on foreign parts mainly concerns fashionable and usually warm places like Spain, Tuscany, India, rural France, Cuba , and parts of Africa, Scandinavia remains an enigma. 

Pelle Neroth Taylor has written a probing and comprehensive account of a changing society, the forces making up its establishment, the rise of dissidents because of acute policy failures, and what life is like on the ground in big cities and much smaller communities. He has talked to lots of people and covered a lot of ground in this large if still sparsely-populated country. The writing is not as sharp as that from the pen of the American journalist John Gunther who wrote profiles of continents and countries or Anthony Samson who anatomised the state of Britain in the second half of the late 20th century. But it is a solid and fascinating book which, in a more normal publishing age, would have been snapped up by a serious editor.

I read it after making a recent trip to Sweden to take the temperature of the country as it faced elections, with polls showing most citizens considered law-and-order and immigration as their key worries. The author predicted there would be deadlock and perhaps a grand coalition and that is how things are looking. 

I found no shortage of disgruntled and anxious people as I worked my way from Gothenburg on the North Sea coast across to Kalmar on the Baltic. What I failed to grasp until reading this book was how little sway ordinary citizens had over an interlocking elite in Stockholm which had no qualms about playing God and rushing ahead with what soon proved to be momentous decisions 

Civil servants are a powerful caste whose ability to shape policies makes them political players in their own right. A few years ago Mikael Ribbenvik, the deputy director of the Migration Agency had, off his own volition, drawn up an agreement that allowed automatic residence rights and a lifetime of subsistence benefits to potentially millions of inhabitants of other countries who arrived at the Swedish border. In 2014-15 it accelerated the new arrivals so that by 2018 there had been 1.7 million since the start of this century or 20 per cent of the 8 million population. 

When the government finally repudiated Ribbenvik's policy in late 2015 because it could no longer cope with the numbers, there was no retribution for the overmighty clerk. He continued to live in an idyllic village with a small-boat harbour. When interviewed on Swedish television by its most experienced political correspondent, he was not challenged over his irresponsibility but instead asked to tell viewers of the emotional strain he had been under. According to Neroth Taylor this showed the cosy relationship (underpinned by globalism and cosmopolitan liberalism), between politicians/civil servants and media.

His book shows the impact of the changing composition of the elite on Swedish life from the 1970s onwards. In power for over forty years until 1976, the Socialists (SDP) had been dominated by the sons of working-class bricklayers and welders. They had provided a 'People's Home' for peasants and miners flocking to the cities as Swedish industry succeeded at a world level. But by 2010 the party was led by a feminist and gay rights enthusiast Mona Sahlin who said to an immigrant newspaper: “Sweden doesn’t really have any culture, not like you immigrants. We just have some silly traditions and stuff.”

The politician responsible for the left shelving social justice at home, for identity politics at a world level was Olof Palme who became Prime Minister in 1969. He came from a military family and had trained as a cavalry officer. He decided to fuse two elements in his make-up: the imperialism of his family background with the pacifism of the left that he had converted to. He created an official context which produced activist journalists, aid workers and diplomats. Left idealism transformed teacher training so that a new class of educators was being produced after the year 2000 who made excuses for disruptive migrants in schools on account of them being the victims of wars waged by white imperialists. 

The author admires Palme for 'speaking the truth to powerful states' but disapproves of his groundwork for turning Sweden into a multicultural nation. Just a decade before his mysterious assassination in 1986, a law had been passed which made it incumbent not only on migrants adapting to Swedish norms but Swedes on their part embracing multiculturalism.

The most consequential politician after Palme was Fredrik Reinfeldt, Prime Minister from 2006 to 2014. He was a neo-liberal who hated Sweden's high tax welfare state. As a globalist stimulated by freewheeling capitalism, he had little time for native culture. Mass migration got underway in his time. Like Britain's David Cameron he was a sucker for gimmicks that demonstrated his liberal modernity. Thus he embarked upon an expensive job coaching scheme. It was meant to get newcomers into the labour market by providing not only advice but tools like phones and laptops. No checks were made. The wish to make open borders work was seen as enough. But large sums of money were lost to corruption and the results were meagre.

Until 2014 Reinfeldt was a vote-winner so his Moderate Party stood by him even though defections were occurring to a new party with extremist origins, the Sweden Democrats. They had cleaned up their act and stood on a national conservative platform of hard work, bourgeois morality and low-key Swedish patriotism. They made it into parliament in 2010 with 5.9 per cent of the vote. Reinfeldt dryly remarked that he was unsurprised by the harassment they faced. Women were most resistant to their message and they and their supporters were pursued by a well-connected feminist movement which spawned the Feminist Initiative Party. Posh career women in the media and universities ignored the mistreatment of women in immigrant communities at the hands of men who had no intention of adapting to Swedish ways. They were uninterested in conditions in the new suburbs and persecuted anyone who challenged their worldview, such as Annelie Sjoberg. This teacher was soon out of a job after drawing attention on social media to the harassment of other pupils by young male migrants who were proving un-teachable. 

In 1990 there had been three areas held back by poor educational results but by 2006 there were 156 and since then Sweden's educational performance has deteriorated compared with other developed countries. 

The naive elite assumption that the migrants were a blank slate just waiting to be steeped in Swedish values was hard to shift. So few establishment people were exposed tothe downside of rapid integration. They socialised and lived together in comfortable districts which reinforced their mutual complacency. They only rose from their torpor to punish whistleblowers.

Neroth Taylor has gone to the trouble to seek out people who raised the alarm about the mishandling of the immigraion challenge. He relates the story of Egor Putilov, a Russian immigrant fluent in Swedish, who was sacked from Swedish radio for revealing that the vast majority of unaccompanied minors whom he met were adults, some in their thirties. The lion's share of the government's migration money is spent on them. This is far more than in the rest of Scandinavia where the age-related tests belatedly introduced in Sweden had been obligatory for a long time. 

Bernt Herlitz, a dental hygenist, was branded a right-wing extremist by the media after he presented medical evidence to make the same point. After being sacked, he appealed to the courts and won. But when his health employer hired a top lawyer to appeal the decision, he gave up despite having exposed corruption in the system. 

A censorious media displays ideological rigidity and resistance to facts. Unsurprisingly a lively alternative media has sprung up via the internet. Self-published books, such as Dr Goran Adamson's critique of multiculturalism from a leftist standpoint have had an impact. 

It is not difficult in conformist Sweden to acquire a reputation as a difficult person. Dr Thomas Jackson who exposed how numerous children in families awaiting deportation, fell ill with a myterious psychsomatic illness which had no parallel elsewhere is described as a 'rättshaverist'. That is 'somebody who calls a spade a spade and who is a challenge to society not because he is telling lies, indeed he often tells the truth but because his truth is politically and socially inconvenient for those around them.' 

Very often these whistleblowers only speak out with reluctance. This was the case with the policeman Peter Springare. After 47-years in the Malmo force he reported that only 14 per cent of reported crimes were cleared up in the city by 2016. His facebook page detailing the crisis in policing got 200,000 readers and the veteran left-wing journalist Lars Aberg made an impact with a book ironically called 'City of the Future' which detailed oppression and violence faced by vulnerable groups in immigrant communities. The third-largest Swedish city receives lots of money in tax breaks and subsidies in order to boost the experiment in multi-cultural living occuring there. But despite the hype from city hall and well-endowed consultancy firms it remains a needy and disorderly city that is clearly ethnically polarised. 

If the deadlocked 2018 election results in a broad coalition perhaps with the aggressive champion of the status quo Annie Lőőf as Prime Minister, then the official ideology will be given another push. Despite a spike in murders and arson and a growing crisis in areas like health, education and policing, Swedes are still obliged to look up to leaders and experts who know how to make Sweden play a useful role in creating a better world. Only haters with a closed mind can oppose the direction being taken. Swedish values of trust, cooperation and honesty are bound to exert a growing hold on newcomers as they journey towards an integrated future. If any Swedes face harassment from newcomers then it needs to be seen in the historical context of racism and colonialism.

By contrast, holders of the alternative view (who are by no means confined to the Sweden Democrats) argue that progressives do not want to understand the world. Instead, they prefer to radically alter it to suit their theories. At the same time, elite radicals make sure to live in areas which are insulated from the changes to Swedish life they have set in motion. To proclaim the open borders policy a success, it is necessary to ignore or under-report gun crime and enclaves of squalor in which fundamentalism is increasing. An enfeebled state, these critics argue, is powerless to prevent troubled enclaves spreading from big cities right down to dozens of smaller towns and cities unless preventitive action is taken. 

The economist Tino Sanandaji, of Iranian origin, argues that Sweden has imported a large multi-ethnic underclass. He argues for better-quality integration efforts especially in the economic sphere. But according to the author, he also spells out the need for 'restored law and order; more structured teaching; more security guards in schools; obligatory Swedish language education for all new arrivals; proper teaching standards in primary schools; a complete stop to unqualified labour migration; ...and zero tolerance towards patriarchal structures.'

Some in the political class argued that immigration would prove to be self-financing. But instead it is reckoned that 73 per cent of immigrant men and 86 per cent of immigrant women will be unable to fund their own pensions compared with 13 per cent of Swedes. Pelle Neroth Taylor argues there is a huge challenge to the Swedish high tax model of welfare based on nearly everyone holding down a job. He has written a dispassionate account of a once successful country which is plunging into trouble due to the follies of an arrogant but increasingly low-quality elite. It undoubtedly deserves to be a reference work foranyone wishing to better know one of the least understood countries in Europe. 

Tom Gallagher is Emeritus Professor of Politics at the University ofBradford where he taught European politics. Among his fifteen single-authoredbooks are, Europe's Path to Crisis, ManchesterUniversity Press 2014.  His twitter account is @cultfree54

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