What happened to Sweden?

Sourze keeps an eye on Sweden "One thing which has not changed since my arrival here is the Swedish quality of life, which when I came here was, and still today is, much higher than that of the UK and Ireland."

What on earth happened to the Sweden I emigrated to? That’s a question which I and just about every UK and Irish ex-patriot of my generation seems to be asking these days! I still have vivid memories of how Swedes used to turn around and look twice at me on the streets of Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö and how many blondes with blue eyes bent over backwards to welcome dark skinned and brown eyed foreigners like myself. I am Irish of Indian descent But that was the late 1960’s and things were different then. Today I most certainly wouldn’t dare to walk the streets of Stockholm alone after dark, and even in broad daylight, there isn’t a single Swede who would turn around to look at me out of curiosity as they did 40 years ago. Its more likely that some would think to themselves “Jävla svartskalle!" Bloody immigrant because the modern day Swede is not at all as friendly or hospitable as his parents and grandparents were. When I moved to this country my Gothic hosts were a lot friendlier but I believe there was a special reason for this. Sweden, which once upon a time was a European power to reckon with, had not participated in any of the two World Wars of the 20th century, and which had not experienced political conflicts of an international nature since as way back as in the late 1700’s, had just awoken from it’s deep sleep. It’s curious but cautious citizens slowly began to discover that there was a whole wide world beyond the clear blue lakes and deep green pine forests in the northern hemispherical segment of the globe in which their almost 2000 km long nation is situated. Hence the curiosity surrounding people like myself.

When I first came here, Sweden was the envy of Europe. The Social Democratic political system, which Britain’s Harold Wilson and his Labour Party looked at admiringly from across the North sea seemed flawless. Unemployment was almost non existent and one of the things which I remember most was that unlike in the UK and Ireland everything in Sweden worked! And if anything ever broke down, it wasn’t like the UK and Ireland where you had to “fix it yourself temporarily with cello tape" so to speak. If anything broke down in Sweden, you just picked up the phone and before you could say “Jack Robinson", someone came and fixed it! The medical and social welfare systems worked perfectly and the legal system was beyond reproach. Today if something in Sweden breaks down you have to wait a long time to get it fixed because the repairman is either a on his coffee break; b on holiday; c off sick; don some course, or e at a meeting! The Swedish medical system is suffering one of the worst crises in it’s history. As I write this article, thousands of Nurses are on strike due to the Swedish NHS’s refusal to increase their embarrassingly low salaries! Swedish doctors are emigrating like wildfire and being replaced by Hungarian, Czech and Polish physicians. Also going to the dentist in Sweden is not what it used to be. Dental fees have skyrocketed to such astronomical heights that anyone with more than a few thousand kronor to spare is seeking less expensive, but reportedly just as good dental treatment across the Baltic Sea in neighbouring Eastern European countries.

The legal system in Sweden has never been subjected to such harsh criticism as in recent times. When I first came here, the Swedish Police were considered to be fully trustworthy and it was automatically assumed that they couldn’t make mistakes, but not so long ago one of Sweden’s most recognized Professors of Criminal Law Leif G.W.Persson claimed that Sweden has the most incompetent Police force in Europe! When I arrived on these shores, the Courts were considered infallible, but recently, an official Government Report compiled by the Chancellor of Justice Justitiekanslern Mr Göran Lambertz, plunged down like a ticking time-bomb into the laps of the political and legal establishment when it showed evidence to prove that several citizens had been innocently whisked away to long prison sentences due to alleged incompetence within practically all departments of the Swedish legal system. The report entitled “Felaktigt Dömda" Wrongfully Sentenced claimed that between 1950 and 1990, the Swedish Supreme Court had overturned only two 2 judgements whereas between 1990 and 2005 it had overturned as many as eleven 11 judgements of which two were murder cases and nine were cases of alleged rape or incest. Literally millions of kronor have been paid out in compensation to the wrongfully imprisoned victims of what in Sweden has been described as “extremely serious miscarriages of justice" Chancellor Lambertz also claimed that there are today an unknown number of persons in Swedish prisons who have supposedly been wrongfully sentenced. Chancellor Lambertz’s claim was supported by the country’s Supreme Justice justitierådet Johan Munck, Chairman of the Supreme Court of Sweden when he publicly stated that he fully believes that there are a number of innocent persons serving sentences in Swedish prisons!

Sweden has not only changed - some of it’s most well known industrial icons are slowly leaving these shores. Volvo and Saab are two names which one always associates with Sweden. But today Volvo operates under U.S. owned General Motors, and Scania Saab has been taken over by the Germans! The Stockholm Stock Exchange which for decades was the pride of the Swedish financial community is nowadays known as “Omx" and is run by a mixture of “Yuppies" from Wall Street and Arabs from Dubai! Of the 39 public companies registered, more than 50 are foreign owned Then of course we have the Postal system which honestly speaking seems to have collapsed totally. When I first came to Sweden, you could post a letter in the town of Ystad in the extreme South of the country, to Haparanda in the extreme north a distance of about 1,800 kms and it would arrive the next day. Today if you post a letter in Uppsala to an address in Stockholm, a distance of 85 kms, it can take up to 2 days to arrive. The Swedish Postal service is now alleged to be in such a crisis that it is preparing to merge with the Danish Postal system.

As if all the above wasn’t enough to contend with, it was recently announced that the Swedish company “Vin & Sprit Centralen" The wine and spirits Centre which manufactures the world famous Absolut Vodka and several other famous Swedish spirits, Schnapps and strong wines has been taken over by the French company Pernod. Even our telephone service is about to leave Swedish hands. Teliasonera is currently up for sale and it is expected to be bought by a French company. So one can certainly draw the conclusion that many things which we consider to be Swedish are no longer in Swedish hands.

However, the most “Swedish" thing of all is the Swedes themselves. When I came here it was a country of lean blonde passive men and slender beautiful blue eyed women who with that look of enticement in their eyes didn’t think twice about inviting you up to their little flats for a “cup of tea" after having allowed you to chat them up on the dance floor some hours earlier. Today some of the men can’t enjoy a glass of wine without finishing off the whole bottle, and if you try to chat up a women who doesn’t feel like being chatted up you could wind up in a Police cell charged with sexual harassment!

When I arrived here in 1967 the population of Sweden was just under 8 million of which a very small percentage were immigrants brought here from Yugoslavia, Italy and Greece to do the dirty work which Swedes themselves didn’t want to do. But today, they have become Swedes just like I have, and their children are natural born Swedes. The population of Sweden today is slowly approaching ten million of which about 2 million are immigrants. Most of these came to Sweden since the late 70-s early 80’s. Of these “new Swedes" as they are often called about 300,000 are Muslims the majority of which have come from war torn nations such as Iraq, Bosnia and Somalia. It was recently revealed that the small town of Södertälje 50 kms south of Stockholm had admitted more refugees from the Iraq war than were admitted into the United States and Canada put together!

If Sweden has changed so much, and if so many things which are considered to be “Swedish" are disappearing, what then is remaining and what does Sweden have left which is so “holy" that it cannot ever be let go? The first thing which comes to mind is the famous Swedish snuff Snus which consists of a tobacco like substance which you place between your upper gums and lip and leave it there for some time after which you spit out a disgusting little ball of black slime! Swedes love their “snus" and I honestly believe they would start a diplomatic war if necessary in order to defend it if anyone tried to take it away from them. Although the former world famous pop group ABBA does’nt exist anymore, three of it’s members are still living in Sweden, and two of them Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson are still very active in the entertainments industry. The former tennis champion Björn Borg is also still very much a part of Sweden as are the modern day sports heroes and heroines such as Zlatan Ibramhimovich, Fredrick Ljungberg, Henrik Larsson, Anja Pärson and Carolina Klüft.

One thing which has not changed since my arrival here is the Swedish quality of life, which when I came here was, and still today is, much higher than that of the UK and Ireland. There are of course many ways to describe the quality of life, and I can’t go into all of them here and now, but good housing is an excellent example. Houses and flats are built to much higher standards here than in the UK or Ireland. When I lived in Dublin or London I always froze during winter. In Sweden I can walk around inside my home in shorts when it is minus 20 degrees Celsius outside!

But above all let me compare a Sunday outing in Sweden with a similar venture in let’s say Scotland. We arrive at Scotland’s Loch Lomond, park our car and take out picnic basket. If we are lucky we might find a place where there are no kids screaming, and wherever we look we will see dirty coca cola tins and rubbish all over. Someone sitting close by has a radio blasting in our ears and the water is not clean in all areas. In Sweden, I don’t have to drive very far from my house in order to find a clean lake. There are no trash cans lying around and no screaming kids or blasting radios. It is just as beautiful as Loch Lomond! The fact is that there are so many lakes in this country that I can have a whole one to myself. There are over 100,000 lakes in Sweden! Those lakes and the clean pine forests which surround them were here long before my arrival and they will be here long after my departure. They are the part of Sweden which can never ever be sold or given away. They are the Sweden I emigrated to and the Sweden in which I will one day be buried.

Om författaren

William Butt

Om artikeln

Publicerad: 02 maj 2008 16:35


Ingen faktatext angiven föreslå


Artikeln är inte placerad. föreslå

Dela artikeln

Länk till artikeln: