Dark lands: the grim truth behind the ’Scandinavian miracle’
2014 01 29
By Michael Booth | theguardian.com
Don’t miss our additions, comments and critique of this Scandinavian expose below the article.
The following is from the guardian:
Television in Denmark is rubbish, Finnish men like a drink – and Sweden is not exactly a model of democracy. Why, asks one expert, does everybody think the Nordic region is a utopia?
For the past few years the world has been in thrall to all things Nordic (for which purpose we must of course add Iceland and Finland to the Viking nations of Denmark, Norway and Sweden). "The Sweet Danish Life: Copenhagen: Cool, Creative, Carefree," simpered National Geographic; "The Nordic Countries: The Next Supermodel", boomed the Economist; "Copenhagen really is wonderful for so many reasons," gushed the Guardian.
Whether it is Denmark’s happiness, its restaurants, or TV dramas; Sweden’s gender equality, crime novels and retail giants; Finland’s schools; Norway’s oil wealth and weird songs about foxes; or Iceland’s bounce-back from the financial abyss, we have an insatiable appetite for positive Nordic news stories. After decades dreaming of life among olive trees and vineyards, these days for some reason, we Brits are now projecting our need for the existence of an earthly paradise northwards.
I have contributed to the relentless Tetris shower of print columns on the wonders of Scandinavia myself over the years but now I say: enough! Nu er det nok! Enough with foraging for dinner. Enough with the impractical minimalist interiors. Enough with the envious reports on the abolition of gender-specific pronouns. Enough of the unblinking idolatry of all things knitted, bearded, rye bread-based and licorice-laced. It is time to redress the imbalance, shed a little light Beyond the Wall.
Take the Danes, for instance. True, they claim to be the happiest people in the world, but why no mention of the fact they are second only to Iceland when it comes to consuming anti- depressants? And Sweden? If, as a headline in this paper once claimed, it is "the most successful society the world has ever seen", why aren’t more of you dreaming of "a little place" in Umeå?
Actually, I have lived in Denmark – on and off – for about a decade, because my wife’s work is here (and she’s Danish). Life here is pretty comfortable, more so for indigenous families than for immigrants or ambitious go-getters (Google "Jantelov" for more on this), but as with all the Nordic nations, it remains largely free of armed conflict, extreme poverty, natural disasters and Jeremy Kyle.
So let’s remove those rose-tinted ski goggles and take a closer look at the objects of our infatuation …
Why do the Danes score so highly on international happiness surveys? Well, they do have high levels of trust and social cohesion, and do very nicely from industrial pork products, but according to the OECD they also work fewer hours per year than most of the rest of the world. As a result, productivity is worryingly sluggish. How can they afford all those expensively foraged meals and hand-knitted woollens? Simple, the Danes also have the highest level of private debt in the world (four times as much as the Italians, to put it into context; enough to warrant a warning from the IMF), while more than half of them admit to using the black market to obtain goods and services.
Comment: Here is a more candid "report" on Denmark from the late Philip Jones: Constructing The Mind Controlled State - DK Ultra
Perhaps the Danes’ dirtiest secret is that, according to a 2012 report from the Worldwide Fund for Nature, they have the fourth largest per capita ecological footprint in the world. Even ahead of the US. Those offshore windmills may look impressive as you land at Kastrup, but Denmark burns an awful lot of coal. Worth bearing that in mind the next time a Dane wags her finger at your patio heater.
Comment: Yeah, we should all worry about global warming right about now.
I’m afraid I have to set you straight on Danish television too. Their big new drama series, Arvingerne (The Legacy, when it comes to BBC4 later this year) is stunning, but the reality of prime-time Danish TV is day-to-day, wall-to-wall reruns of 15-year-old episodes of Midsomer Murders and documentaries on pig welfare. The Danes of course also have highest taxes in the world (though only the sixth-highest wages – hence the debt, I guess). As a spokesperson I interviewed at the Danish centre-right thinktank Cepos put it, they effectively work until Thursday lunchtime for the state’s coffers, and the other day and half for themselves.
Presumably the correlative of this is that Denmark has the best public services? According to the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment rankings (Pisa), Denmark’s schools lag behind even the UK’s. Its health service is buckling too. (The other day, I turned up at my local A&E to be told that I had to make an appointment, which I can’t help feeling rather misunderstands the nature of the service.) According to the World Cancer Research Fund, the Danes have the highest cancer rates on the planet. "But at least the trains run on time!" I hear you say. No, that was Italy under Mussolini. The Danish national rail company has skirted bankruptcy in recent years, and the trains most assuredly do not run on time. Somehow, though, the government still managed to find £2m to fund a two-year tax-scandal investigation largely concerned, as far as I can make out, with the sexual orientation of the prime minister’s husband, Stephen Kinnock.
Most seriously of all, economic equality – which many believe is the foundation of societal success – is decreasing. According to a report in Politiken this month, the proportion of people below the poverty line has doubled over the last decade. Denmark is becoming a nation divided, essentially, between the places which have a branch of Sticks’n’Sushi (Copenhagen) and the rest. Denmark’s provinces have become a social dumping ground for non-western immigrants, the elderly, the unemployed and the unemployable who live alongside Denmark’s 22m intensively farmed pigs, raised 10 to a pen and pumped full of antibiotics (the pigs, that is).
Other awkward truths? There is more than a whiff of the police state about the fact that Danish policeman refuse to display ID numbers and can refuse to give their names. The Danes are aggressively jingoistic, waving their red-and-white dannebrog at the slightest provocation. Like the Swedes, they embraced privatisation with great enthusiasm (even the ambulance service is privatised); and can seem spectacularly unsophisticated in their race relations (cartoon depictions of black people with big lips and bones through their noses are not uncommon in the national press). And if you think a move across the North Sea would help you escape the paedophiles, racists, crooks and tax-dodging corporations one reads about in the British media on a daily basis, I’m afraid I must disabuse you of that too. Got plenty of them.
Plus side? No one talks about cricket.
The dignity and resolve of the Norwegian people in the wake of the attacks by Anders Behring Breivik in July 2011 was deeply impressive, but in September the rightwing, anti-Islamist Progress party – of which Breivik had been an active member for many years – won 16.3% of the vote in the general election, enough to elevate it into coalition government for the first time in its history. There remains a disturbing Islamophobic sub-subculture in Norway. Ask the Danes, and they will tell you that the Norwegians are the most insular and xenophobic of all the Scandinavians, and it is true that since they came into a bit of money in the 1970s the Norwegians have become increasingly Scrooge-like, hoarding their gold, fearful of outsiders.
Though 2013 saw a record number of asylum applications to Norway, it granted asylum to fewer than half of them (around 5,000 people), a third of the number that less wealthy Sweden admits (Sweden accepted over 9,000 from Syria alone). In his book Petromania, journalist Simon Sætre warns that the powerful oil lobby is "isolating us and making the country asocial". According to him, his countrymen have been corrupted by their oil money, are working less, retiring earlier, and calling in sick more frequently. And while previous governments have controlled the spending of oil revenues, the new bunch are threatening a splurge which many warn could lead to full-blown Dutch disease.
Like the dealer who never touches his own supply, those dirty frackers the Norwegians boast of using only renewable energy sources, all the while amassing the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund selling fossil fuels to the rest of us. As Norwegian anthropologist Thomas Hylland Eriksen put it to me when I visited his office in Oslo University: "We’ve always been used to thinking of ourselves as part of the solution, and with the oil we suddenly became part of the problem. Most people are really in denial."
Comment: If you think the problem with using fossil fuel is global warming, then I say: you got it all wrong as we are heading for a mini ice-age. Furthermore, so what if Norway make money on selling oil to other countries? What’s sad is that the government grab control of all of it and the Norwegians themselves will probably never get a dividend from the massive Sovereign Wealth Fund, like they do in Alaska for example.
We need not detain ourselves here too long. Only 320,000 – it would appear rather greedy and irresponsible – people cling to this breathtaking, yet borderline uninhabitable rock in the North Atlantic. Further attention will only encourage them.
I am very fond of the Finns, a most pragmatic, redoubtable people with a Sahara-dry sense of humour. But would I want to live in Finland? In summer, you’ll be plagued by mosquitos, in winter, you’ll freeze – that’s assuming no one shoots you, or you don’t shoot yourself. Finland ranks third in global gun ownership behind only America and Yemen; has the highest murder rate in western Europe, double that of the UK; and by far the highest suicide rate in the Nordic countries.
Comment: Oh my gosh, yes let’s attack the gun ownership and let’s not talk about the false flags, sting operations and the SSRI (anti-depressant connection) when it comes to these school shootings and massacres. This is despite the fact that the the author earlier managed to highlighted the consumption of happy pills in Iceland and Denmark. Why not connect the dots and extend this to Finland. The world is being disarmed and it it NOT a good thing when only the tyrants and criminals will have guns.
The Finns are epic Friday-night bingers and alcohol is now the leading cause of death for Finnish men. "At some point in the evening around 11.30pm, people start behaving aggressively, throwing punches, wrestling," Heikki Aittokoski, foreign editor of Helsingin Sanomat, told me. "The next day, people laugh about it. In the US, they’d have an intervention."
With its tarnished crown jewel, Nokia, devoured by Microsoft, Finland’s hitherto robust economy is more dependent than ever on selling paper – mostly I was told, to Russian porn barons. Luckily, judging by a recent journey I took with my eldest son the length of the country by train, the place appears to be 99% trees. The view was a bit samey.
The nation once dubbed "the west’s reigning educational superpower" (the Atlantic) has slipped in the latest Pisa rankings. This follows some unfortunate incidents involving Finnish students – the burning of Porvoo cathedral by an 18-year-old in 2006; the Jokela shootings (another disgruntled 18-year-old) in 2007, and the shooting of 10 more students by a peer in 2008 – which led some to speculate whether Finnish schools were quite as wonderful as their reputation would have us believe.
If you do decide to move there, don’t expect scintillating conversation. Finland’s is a reactive, listening culture, burdened by taboos too many to mention (civil war, second world war and cold war-related, mostly). They’re not big on chat. Look up the word "reticent" in the dictionary and you won’t find a picture of an awkward Finn standing in a corner looking at his shoelaces, but you should.
"We would always prefer to be alone," a Finnish woman once admitted to me. She worked for the tourist board.
Anything I say about the Swedes will pale in comparison to their own excoriating self-image. A few years ago, the Swedish Institute of Public Opinion Research asked young Swedes to describe their compatriots. The top eight adjectives they chose were: envious, stiff, industrious, nature loving, quiet, honest, dishonest, xenophobic.
Comment: Please see more about this nonsense in the response to this article below.
I met with Åke Daun, Sweden’s most venerable ethnologist. "Swedes seem not to ’feel as strongly’ as certain other people", Daun writes in his excellent book, Swedish Mentality. "Swedish women try to moan as little as possible during childbirth and they often ask, when it is all over, whether they screamed very much. They are very pleased to be told they did not." Apparently, crying at funerals is frowned upon and "remembered long afterwards". The Swedes are, he says, "highly adept at insulating themselves from each other". They will do anything to avoid sharing a lift with a stranger, as I found out during a day-long experiment behaving as un-Swedishly as possible in Stockholm.
The New Totalitarians
Effectively a one-party state – albeit supported by a couple of shadowy industrialist families – for much of the 20th century, "neutral" Sweden (one of the world largest arms exporters) continues to thrive economically thanks to its distinctive brand of totalitarian modernism, which curbs freedoms, suppresses dissent in the name of consensus, and seems hell-bent on severing the bonds between wife and husband, children and parents, and elderly on their children. Think of it as the China of the north.
Youth unemployment is higher than the UK’s and higher than the EU average; integration is an ongoing challenge; and as with Norway and Denmark, the Swedish right is on the rise. A spokesman for the Sweden Democrats (currently at an all-time high of close to 10% in the polls) insisted to me that immigrants were "more prone to violence". I pointed out that Sweden was one of the most bloodthirsty nations on earth for much of the last millennium. I was told we’d run out of time.
Comment: Please see more about this racist accusation nonsense in the response to this article below.
Ask the Finns and they will tell you that Swedish ultra-feminism has emasculated their men, but they will struggle to drown their sorrows. Their state-run alcohol monopoly stores, the dreaded Systembolaget, were described by Susan Sontag as "part funeral parlour, part back-room abortionist".
Comment: So true. Listen to these programs: Lucian Valsan - Marxist Feminist Governments & Paul Elam - A Voice for Men: Feminist Misandry and see this video: Sweden’s Gender War - The Insanity of State Feminism
The myriad successes of the Nordic countries are no miracle, they were born of a combination of Lutheran modesty, peasant parsimony, geographical determinism and ruthless pragmatism ("The Russians are attacking? Join the Nazis! The Nazis are losing? Join the Allies!"). These societies function well for those who conform to the collective median, but they aren’t much fun for tall poppies. Schools rein in higher achievers for the sake of the less gifted; "elite" is a dirty word; displays of success, ambition or wealth are frowned upon. If you can cope with this, and the cost, and the cold (both metaphorical and inter-personal), then by all means join me in my adopted hyggelige home. I’ve rustled up a sorrel salad and there’s some expensive, weak beer in the fridge. Pull up an Egg. I hear Taggart’s on again!
The Almost Nearly Perfect People – The Truth About the Nordic Miracle (Jonathan Cape), by Michael Booth, is published on 6 February. It will be BBC Radio 4’s Book of the Week from 10 February.
Dark lands in review - what is really going on in Scandinavia?
By Red Ice Creations
Michael Booth is writing for one of the regular “Scandinavian fan club” papers, the Guardian. As he rightly points out there have been an onslaught of positive “reviews” of Scandinavia in the last few years. Finally, I thought, we’ll be able to see some basic level of critique about some of the things that we’ve been speaking about on Red Ice Radio for some years now. Unfortunately though Michael Booth - who reveals that he has lived in Denmark on an off for a while with his Danish wife - misses the mark significantly in his critique of life in the north and of its people. It’s only really in a byline or two of this article that he manages to strike at the root of the many problems within Scandinavian politics, economy and the “Jantelagen” driven conformity-culture that those many, many years of unbroken socialist rule and velvet glove tyranny has created.
The author is missing the mark vastly by going for the good old stereotype that all Scandinavians are xenophobic and closet racist (or just straight up racists). That’s really the foundation that this article stands and it’s frankly just a silly cheap shot. His attitude of “oh gosh, these countries in the north have been primarily white …so they just have to be racist” is childish and a stab at the same old stereotypical boilerplate perception of how all Swedes, Danes, Finns and Norse really are.
The only “proof” Michael booth offers up for this alleged racism is that there has been an increase in votes for the Swedish Democrats. That’s right, so voting for a political party that has representation in the “Riksdag” and at the European Parliament is now racists.
If this author was honest and if he understood the Nordic countries he would know that there are so many other areas of critique, which if applied correctly, could help to highlight not only what could make life better for Scandinavians, but also for the millions of immigrants that the Nordic countries generously have taken in and looked after.
Don’t forget that the people in Sweden have never partaken in the democratic process of decision making when it comes to whether or not we should join the insane European Mass immigration experiment that Merkel, Sarkozy and Cameron a few years ago, admitted have failed. If they valued their precious Democracy so highly, then why not let people who pay among the highest taxes in the world also take part in deciding where their hard earned money should be spent and how they would like to see their country transform. Does the author of the article really not understand that there are concerns with mass immigration into Scandinavia - or any country for that matter? Does the author really not understand that there is a rise and support for political parties that finally have decided to bring up this taboo subject in a country where conformity harassment is among the most powerful in the world? It seems like he hasn’t spent enough time in Denmark after all.
I doubt that Michael Booth even remotely is aware of the conditions in the suburbs of Stockholm, Gothenburg or Malmo. To say that we in Sweden, who have been more generous that most other countries in the world regarding immigration, are not doing enough is not only a cheap shot it’s a flat out lie!
Currently 15% of Swedes are immigrants. (Source)
This is the official data from SCB (Statistical database) from 1850- 2007. Red is immigration and blue is emigration:
Please note the intense spike 2006/2007. Since 2010 there has been an even further massive increase of immigration into Sweden.
This is the updated statistic, including a “crystal ball prediction” of the immigration/emigration up to 2040 by SCB:
Please note that they are “predicting” a vast drop and then a smooth leveling out of both immigration and emigration sometime after 2018-2022 (they have not stated any reason for this leveling out).
So please will you prove to us Michael Booth just how racists we are in Sweden? Voting for the Swedish democrats is not a reaction of racists. It is a response to a political system that has failed its people in taking the debate of mass immigration in the public light. Are we virtuous just as long as we go along with what politicians decide for us, over our heads? Is concern for your own country and your own people racist? Yes of course it is! These new world order (world government) proponents are not happy with the persistence of nations and can’t wait for the international global utopia that is destined to come.
So, are we not sacrificing enough in Sweden, Norway, Denmark or Finland? Is the land not our own and are the resources and work we do not our own? Do we somehow owe it to someone else? Do we owe it to someone else before we seek the welfare of our own country and country men and women? While on an airplane and if something goes wrong, there is a reason why they ask you to put on your own oxygen mask first before you attempt to help others. If you do not help yourself you cannot help others. In Scandinavia the people are not helping themselves. In fact, we’ve seen such a dramatic societal change in the last 10-15 years that I’m surprised more people are not asking what is happening. Also, since we pay among the highest taxes in the world, are we not the ones who should be calling the shots as to if we want to have our country transform the way it does with the intense level of mass immigration that we’ve seen? This is further proof that you do not understand the climate in Scandinavia Mr Booth. Specifically in Sweden there have been rallies and mass-media support for mass-immigration for years, there is virtually no room for the counter argument and no discussion in the press as to if this is the right way to go or not. There are only have a few independent online websites were these “dissidents” can discuss these topics. Consequently, a recent campaign by the state subsidized newspaper Aftonbladet, was all about going after and publishing the details about those who had both commented and donated to these websites. This kind of activity has long standing history in Sweden. It’s called Åsiktsregistrering “opinion registered” and shows the true totalitarian nature of the climate in Sweden. If you do not think like everyone else, if you have different opinion we’ll add you to the “deviant thought registry” and we’ll have media and television personalities show up with cameras at your house or at your workplace to “confront” you on your opinions.
Source: Opinion registration in Sweden
In 2012 the Scandinavian countries combined gave $ 14.03 billion in development aid to foreign countries. Surpassing the United Kingdom with one almost billion US Dollars. Let’s put that in perspective: there are 63 Million people in the UK and there are only 25 million people combined in Scandinavia (excluding Iceland). This means that per capita - if compared with USA, the UK or Germany (the top three foreign aid countries), Scandinavians pay $560 each (remember that this is involuntarily in the form of taxes). We know even less about how the money is being spent domestically. In the UK the foreign aid is about $207 per person. That means that we in Scandinavia fork out more than twice as much in foreign aid as the UK. Germans give about $162 per person, Americans about $95. That means we are number one in the world for foreign aid. But no, of course we should have no say about the matter and we’ll need to sacrifice more and more. These billions being spend each year are not good enough, your country also needs to be reformed and transformed from the inside.
Source for foreign aid
So now we are told that we are not doing enough in Scandinavia and we are all closest racist.
Maybe that is why Swedes on average (voluntarily - from their own pocket) only donate about $89.75 per person each year to charity. They don’t have more to give, since it all goes to the government.
In comparison the average American donates about $2,500 a year to charity! Households earning more than $200 000 a year, give much more—roughly $14,000 per year!
Source for American voluntary charity
Source for Swedish voluntary charity
I bet there are millions of people having difficulty making their ends meet, both in the UK, USA and in Scandinavia that wish that more money was spent at domestically, at home where it primarily belongs.
Isn’t “voluntary” charity great?
Why are these vast state funds being exported out of these countries each year? Is this voluntary? Is this against people’s wishes? Maybe we in Sweden should just march over to the Norweigan border - with our hands outreached - and demand them to share their growing Sovereign Wealth Fund with all of us? They shouldn’t really be allowed to benefit from their own resources and work right? It has to be equal!
Our ancestral generations worked hard to get us out of poverty. Their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren shouldn’t benefit from this. It should go to others, right?
Keep in mind that governments actually do not generate any money. They print the money, but they do not produce anything or generate any wealth. People in the country and the businesses that those people own and work for, produce the wealth. Governments just take it, involuntarily in the form of taxes and divvy it up as they see fit with little to no democratic insight in the process at all.
So at first you think that this writer of the guardian article actually see some of the problems, until you realize that this is the same old champagne socialist level of critique that always comes out of publications like the guardian.
The fact is that Scandinavia has been one of the most generous places in the world when it comes to both foreign aid and immigration, so this an infantile level of critique from Michael Booth and it should be dismissed as nonsense.
I would in fact want to turn this debate around and claim that what we’ve seen in the last few decades is racism against the Nordics. For example, the politicians who set the curriculum have turned their back on our past history and on our ancestors. This history is not being taught to the children in Scandinavia, they are no learning learn about their own past and ancestors. The few things that are taught are really peripheral. The Norse religion and culture is not encouraged in our culture and our history is neglected. In fact there are several examples of this attitude in the policies of the government, but one of the most candid and clear examples of this came from the mouth of the previous leader of the Social democratic party, Mona Sahlin. When she famously said:
“I think that’s what makes many Swedes jealous of immigrant groups. You have a culture, an identity, a history, something that brings you together. And what do we have? We have Midsummer’s Eve and such silly things.”
— Mona Sahlin in a speech to the Turkish youth organization Euroturk, March, 2002. Source
“I hate everything that is genuine, typical Swedish.”
— Source: Expressen July 26, 2002.
“If two equally qualified persons apply for a job in a company with few immigrants, the one who is named Mohammed shall have the job.”
— Source: Göteborgs-Posten on 22 October 2000.
More on Mona Sahlin’s Anti-Swedish rants here
Why is she and practically everyone else neglecting Sweden’s (and Scandinavia’s) rich prehistory? I’m not just talking about the Vikings, which is a fairly late historical period in comparison. This homeland of the Goths/Geats for example. Something the historian Jordanes wrote extensively about.
Most scholars today agree that it’s from Vastra Gotaland that spawned the Visigoths and Ostrogoths, (the Visigoths sacked Rome). Also the Thervingi and the Greuthungi. There are also etymological evidence that the Vandals came out of Sweden and so is did the Lombards and the The Vinnilians (pdf)
Scandza has a long and proud history and most recently what has been called Scandinavia’s Atlantis with finds going back to 11 000 years have been discovered! This on par chronologically with the much recognized site in Turkey, Gobekli Tepe. So ask yourself, why have Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland turned their back on so much of this history. Why are we not taught this in school? Beyond the odd rune stone here and there are virtually no Norse monuments, statues in our cities speaks about our connection to the past.
The politicians have turned their back on our history. They consider it to be racist and equivalent of Nazism. This is a crime! They prefer Islam over Christianity and our Norse history and it’s in fact our heritage that is being neglected and here is where the racism lies. There are in fact immigrant authors that write about the so called “reverse racism” in Sweden and they have detailed just how bad the climate is today for those who grow up as native Swedes. Swedes are of course not allowed to talk about this for the risk of being called racists and Nazis. This is being completely neglected. This is not talked about and this is not being recognized as a problem. If you’re a Swede you’re a geek and a wimpy nerd. The backs of the adults have been turned on their children and teenagers and no one want to face or talk about these cultural problems. The lousy integration of immigrants into Swedish society is something that politicians know about, but they never talk openly about it (as exposed by wikileaks). This are just a few of many of the problems that sparked the riots in Stockholm last year.
The same problems have been written about in Norway.
So to all those who are willing to regurgitate the same old stereotypical “racism accusations” against Scandinavians, who understand nothing about what is happening to this culture should go back to the drawing board, learn some history, open their eyes and study what actually is happening in these countries before they spew out their misinformed opinions that are based on nothing but what they think.
Learn some of the real story here
More here: Russell Brand’s Fantasy of a Socialist Egalitarian Utopia - Red Ice Commentary
Why Sweden is not the country you thought it was - Red Ice Commentary
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