This text is written for a rational audience that likes to contemplate about unique and controversial points of views.
It is written in a style that can easily be confused as advocacy for one sort of dogma or another. You might get the idea that this is how my ideas will remain forever but that is not true. I change my ideas when it suites me.
Likewise the text is not intended to change anyone’s beliefs or actions. That you have to do yourself. If you quote from this post or link to it please take the responsibility for what happens if your audience don’t agree with this types of contemplations.
A gentleman doesn't talk about politics. But then who is a true gentleman these days? I have to say I am not at all particularly interested in politics. I observed that I share this with many people. People care more about the weather. You wonder if this text will be about meteorology?
That people in common doesn’t care about politics could as well be the essence of the problem. I suppose that when our lives are fine then we don't care about things such as democracy and the free speech? I live in Europe, probably my feelings had been completely different if I lived in another part of the world.
So who are these people doing politics? It is mostly men and they regularly appear on the television. It is not the same sender and same time per week. It is instead all senders a little here and a little there. Already this makes politics complicated because where is it sent? Where is the show of it? Sometimes a part of talkshow or a news item is making up the politics show. Alltogether it follows a pattern "Politicians got talent" and we, the population, need to vote on these “idols”. Also because democracy is so important, voting is so complex. To vote you need to go somewhere and prove that you are really you. Then you vote in a booth. If politics had been a real TV-show then voting was not so important and then it would be sufficient to send an SMS or download a voting app. Now voting on the politicians is complex, the show and the language is complex and boring so that many people don't care to vote. This is indeed worrying in a parliamentary democracy.
And then arrives new artists on the scene of the politics. The new politicians they understand that politics is boring and complex, so they make it fun and uncomplicated. So what do these new political leaders say? All sorts of uncomplicated things such as “Keep the jobs for our own people”, “better health care”, “better education”, “law and order!”, “People of religion X don’t belong here”.
And this approach apparently works. The new politicians double their mandate for every election. It is like a snowball that gets bigger and bigger and it is rolling over the world. They are the biggest in Norway, Denmark and Hungary, gaining ground in United Kingdom.
If politics are getting fun then what is the problem? To begin with why should politics be fun? We can make jokes about politicians when they deserve but politics itself is serious business. It should not be fun per se, and if it is simple then it is most probably a lie. So what is the problem here? To dig deeper into this we need to look into each slogan one by one.
The first slogan I look into is “Keep the jobs for our own people”. Well, there are two problems with this. First, I have the opinion that you don’t keep jobs. It think jobs arise and evolve and fade away. To create jobs you need to create companies. To create companies you need to create trade, solutions, services and goods that customers are willing to buy. That creates jobs. When old products or manufacturing methods fade away, old jobs are replaced by new jobs. Make it appealing to create jobs, but forget about keeping jobs, that is just pure nonsense as far as I can see.
What is meant by “our own people”? There is a scientific meaning and there is a cultural meaning to define “our own people”. Scientifically it can be done with DNA sequencing. Genome registration of every individual. Hereby it is fully possible to find out who belongs to whom. Is this the meaning of this? The catchy little slogan with “our own people” in a genome perspective sounds more like a blast from the past, 1929 to 1945. These new politicians are not just funny actors on the political stage, they believe in this. They have really elaborate explanations of who is belonging where and who is not but it does not matter because the meaning of it all is crystal clear, it is about separating some people from others. The core here is excluding some people. If exclusion is based on genetics or on culture does not matter so much, it is still exclusion. I think it is much easier with welcoming people. It has the advantage that when you welcome people you could do it with some form of requirements. Like Swedes generally do it, “Welcome in my house but take off your shoes and smoke outside”. Simple rules anyone can follow, even at minus 30 degrees Celsius.
We will provide “better health care”. Everywhere in the world you either get what you pay for when it comes to health care or there is some sort of inefficiency in the health care system. Are you going to pay for healthcare yourself or are all of us going to pitch in a bit? In Europe most of the time it works very well. However, populations are getting older and older people needs more health care. So is the slogan actually saying “better health care for the younger”? That would sound really daft. So in most of Europe this is nonsense, you already got the health care you pay for. When it comes to inefficiencies in the systems there is a really important task for real politicians. They can make health care systems with little bureaucracy and corruption. It is possible.
“Better education”. On this subject I would like to take Sweden as an example. Especially the Swedish kid’s ability to read long texts is collapsing dramatically the last couple of years. When I tell Dutch parents about the Swedish school system their jaws fall open, of envy. Everything is taken care of in the Swedish school system. But yet, bad school results. So the new politicians calling themselves “Sweden Friends” they will come and solve this little issue and give Sweden the best education in the world? While the politicians are inventing one panic solution after the other to repair the schools the kids themselves are happily continuing to play on their game consoles.
What are the kids learning in the computer games? It can be good things. It can also be so that they learn a picture about the reality that game developers are able to sell. How is democracy presented in games? What is the role of woman in games? Games aren’t my home arena, so let’s move on…
“Law and order”. Well, this is the funniest of all things a politician can promise a quick solution for. If there is one challenge that mankind tried to solve repeatedly for several hundreds or even thousands of years then it has to be crime. In each part of the world, it is done with different methods. In some parts there is even the death penalty, but yet, there is crime. In some parts criminals are handled softly and in other parts they are handled brutally, but yet, there is crime. In today’s world, crime is moving far beyond national borders. What politicians really should do is to improve alliances across borders to fight crime. But what are the new politicians saying? Close borders, and stop getting involved in alliances across countries. Here you see that this is a complex matter. New politicians don’t talk about complex things. Closing borders to avoid criminals is just annoying to regular citizens who wants to move around. The criminals however, they find their way regardless of borders. To fight criminals you need to be clever, not dumb.
On my list of typical slogans to dissect we have come to “People of religion X don’t belong here”. It is really difficult to get to a conclusion that quickly invalidates this slogan. Even I see that if you cannot stand a person because of his/her religion then really, who am I to criticize you? Even if we don’t like each other in a country we need to be able to co-exist, that however is clear. It is really difficult to get people together if they don’t like each other.
If I look at myself then I wonder if I have such great ability to cope with people of all religions and if I can co-exist with a person of religion X. I hope I can, but I have not put it to thorough test. Co-exist is one thing but no matter how well people try to co-exist with each other, at some point there will be irritations and conflicts. Then the question is how are these solved? When all parts share some form of common ground then there can be a discussion, talks. And hopefully by talking the issue can be resolved. Again, this is not something you explain quickly.
So if people of religion X don’t belong here then where will they go? Will history repeat itself in such a way that we will see a 1930 - 1945 situation again? At that time it was all about segregation, exclusion. The runner up situation right now looks slightly similar. I was not there at that time so I cannot judge but the people who was, they are saying so. Can humanity be so stupid that we get concentration camps in Europe again? Most people would like it to be impossible but there are a couple of things you have to realize. I think that democracy is all about empathy, I'll explain. If enough people got enough of empathy then concentration camps will not happen anymore. So is there a way to disable the empathy of large parts of the population? Then yes. It has happened before so it can happen again. For example in Germany before and during world war II.
All democracies has some sort of mechanism for changing the constitution. In most democracies it is just a question about temporarily shutting down the empathy of a large enough group of citizens a long enough time. Then at that point it is all over, the new politicians can then do what they like weather it is concentration camps or similar.
It seems as if established politicians are bogged down with making the entire society work. New politicians just stick to a few simple issues. That is much easier to understand for the voters. How are large groups thinking about this? "Yes I vote for a single issue party but hopefully enough of other people vote for a boring real complex party..." Just guess what happens when enough people vote for a single issue party? Well obviously with enough votes they will lead the country or local government and deal with more than just that single issue. Suddenly you will notice that they have opinions they have not weathered before. You get the whole package of a politician when they get to power, not just their single issue. What we learn from this is that no matter how well a politician is at simplifying the message before the election if they are going to do anything important for all of us after the election then they have to present the whole package. I don't believe there is such thing as a real viable single issue party.
Another method of single issue parties is to relate all sorts of things to that same aspect. For example foreigners, how foreigners should be excluded. The party might not profile itself as a single issue party but all things it talks about boils down to for example foreigners. What I find really annoying with this strategy is that they use all sorts of pseudo-science explanations to explain the relation of completely unrelated things. Take the relation between foreigners and crime for example. Yes, foreigners commit crime. Regular citizens they don't? Yes these kinds of argumentation works very well for turning off the empathy of some parts of the population while providing no useful answers.
The idea behind freedom of speech is that it should not be possible to say daft things long enough without enough people telling that it is wrong. What I wonder is if people that don't even go and vote because they really don't care, what will make the same group to speak up for the sake of democracy? Is it not so that the very fundament for a sustainable democracy is based on false assumptions? There is no guarantee that a non-democratic movements cannot take over a democracy and hijack it.
So what can we use democracy for? Is it so that just because we have democracy everybody get an instant gratification and an eternal happy life? Obviously not. Not even close. On the contrary, also with democracy you can become unhappy and you need to work. So then what is the point with it? I think that life on earth can become sustainable with democracy. How about that? Well, what are the alternatives to democracy? I think they are bad. All alternatives to democracy could kill you! But is it possible to create a democracy with lack of mutual respect for other human beings? Let’s investigate this.
No, it is not possible to establish a democracy if people don't respect each other. So if this was a universal truth then it would be necessary to establish a mutually respectful culture before even starting on a democracy project. Those of us living in an already established democracy needs to cling on to that mutual respect.
How do you teach people to respect others? Just to emphasis how difficult this is, suppose that you have to carry out this experiment: Tell an agitated upset person in the midst of a rage that he or she should not scream, and for this exercise you should not scream yourself. That is what we need to do more in the world of today. Conflicts and earlier grievances don't make this task easier. Question remains, how do you teach people to respect other people? In some cultures it appears as if conflicts are wired into the DNA of the culture itself. People are proud of violent behavior, it gives status in the group.
Are we actually teaching younger generations about mutual respect? Or are we teaching them something else? Maybe first of all we teach them that the winner takes it all. They learn that a winner only shows the respect required to be part of the game. Out of sight the winner is still a winner but not necessarily the person showing respect. While we teach our young that the winner takes it all they see that in politics there is always a winner. And the winner is only fair and honest while in the lime light. Off stage the winner takes it all. I am not saying this is how it is but how some young people feel about politics. Are we all trying to avoid this image of politics and politicians? No, on the contrary.
There are competitions everywhere. At schools, workplace, on the television. Competing is more important than showing respect? Have you ever driven a car on various countries in Europe? In the Netherlands the lack of mutual respect on the roads is something all Dutch are well aware about. Leaving very little space to other cars around is number one complaint amongst drivers in the Netherlands. Do you think that as soon as a person is out of the car that suddenly they have another personality with more mutual respect for others? Think again.
Another aspect of showing respect is not just the respect for other cultures, people and religions. I am thinking about the respect between people of the same culture. How for example the less fortunate part of the population is handled. How women are handled in a culture. In some cultures they believe that if a women is harassed then it is the woman themselves that are responsible for it and the man who did it, is not to be blamed. When that is the general assumption then obviously women needs to be protected in a way that is out of proportion.
The treatment of women in a culture has consequences for the democracy obviously. People that cannot walk and talk freely cannot influence democracy freely either. Had it not been better to put the entire blame for men’s wrong-doing on the men themselves? Is it not very convenient to be withheld responsibility for your deeds just because of your gender? That would be too easy in my opinion! All people needs to take on responsibility for their own deeds. I believe that as soon as the accountability can be delegated to someone or something else, a person, organization or society – the people becomes less humane, less respectful – ultimately: deteriorated democracy.
In Sweden women got the right to vote 1921. It was the beginning of the modern democracy in Sweden. Actually the right for women to vote in Sweden is a single issue movement that resulted in something good. It was a movement that was inclusive. I think that because Sweden had a “women movement” between 1901 and 1921 that made things less violent in Sweden compared to other countries in Europe during that time.
There are endless examples of situations that when men can delegate their responsibility of their deeds then they tend to get cruel, abusive and annoying. For example at time of war it is important to have strict lines of responsibility and tight organizations. You cannot have soldiers running around not following orders because that could be dangerous. In most army’s around the world the army is mainly male only. There exists a couple of exceptions to this in modern times but in general that is just few exceptions. Why is it so that men are used for army’s and women are not? Is it because women are more likely not to follow orders? Can it be so that men are genetically built to kill while women are not? If that is the case then in a world were fighting for acquiring resources is okay it sounds like a convenient solution that men do the defense work and women not.
In the west we take parliamentary democracy for granted and we regard democracy the ultimate model for a modern society. Is this true? It is easy to see that a well-functioning democracy is difficult to create, and it is fragile once it exists. Democracy is the answer of many questions but not all questions. We also see that a democracy is based on cultural values, such as mutual respect for each other, and if these values don't exists among the people then it is difficult to maintain the democracy.
In other parts of the world democracy is not seen as the ultimate model for a modern society. There they govern by strict hierarchy and instead of legitimacy through democracy they talk about legitimacy through competency. It is really easy to punch a hole through that competency. What happened at Tiananmen Square? It is not so that they are always competent. At the same time a western democracy is also full of holes. If enough of idiots vote for an incompetent candidate then he will get the power. And with that power he can turn off the democracy itself.
The democracy in most countries are fragile in such way that parties with an undemocratic agenda can work legitimately within the system. But who is who? That a party cannot accept foreigners is that a clear sign it is actually a party that wants to disable the democracy? These parties are said to be diminishing or even claim that the things that happened 1940s actually did not happen. It is obviously really stupid to say that something that happened actually did not happen. If that is their level of reality distortion then indeed we have huge problem if they get into any parliament.
I started my investigation of the slogan “People of religion X don’t belong here” from a North European perspective but what do you find in furthest opposite corner? You find trolls. A troll is not bad because it appreciates troll culture but because of his deeds and intentions. That he got flags with a troll symbol is not making his deeds worse, it just gives away that indeed, yes this is a troll! If the troll kids are spraying troll symbols on the walls then it is not really a beautiful decoration but it is kind of harmless. Here you can replace the word troll with hooligan or motorcycle club member or terrorist or even hippie. The people spreading the troll symbols wants to implement a troll world. Do they want just a soft version or do they want a fullblown 1941 situation?
Let’s talk about terrorists for a moment because they also try to do something with our beloved democracies and I am not sure what it is but I am sure I don’t like it. I wonder how terror organizations and terrorists envision their own future. After making terrible acts what is their everyday life supposed to look like? Are the terror organization in Nigeria first kidnapping 200 girls and then after that they bring their own kids to school and buy some grocery and make some leisure plans for the weekend? The kids growing up in the Middle East right now, will they be able to function normally or are they permanently damaged by the horrible things taking place? These ISIS men running the war in the Middle East countries, are they all damaged? The two brother’s attacking a magazine in Paris, if they had not been killed, how had they envisioned their own future? Hanging on the coach playing computer games and chilling with their friends? The two brothers at Boston marathon, what was their plan for life after the deed? Working in the garden or go to school to take some exams? No, I don't understand how these people are thinking. What I see is that they are men from all sorts of cultures and religions. It is mostly men. It annoys me that this is not something that is talked about in the society as a whole. We talk about these people. People? Anders Breivik is a man too. School shootings in the US... Is there a defect in the male psychology? Are men less pragmatic compared to women?
What is the motivation for carrying out terror acts? To create a better world? A terrorists motives are probably complex. I cannot understand it though. The best explanation I can think of is that terrorism is ultimately the result of conflict between cultures in combination with defect individuals, usually men. They are like theater producers thinking “What is the maximum psychological effect with a minimum of effort”.
To investigate the motivation behind terror I will try elaborate on how cultures interact. In the world of today it is easy to get access to pictures and images from all parts of the "smart phoned world". An image is supposed to say more than thousands words but still, the cultural context is often lost in the image and perhaps this lost context cause confusions about the intention of the images?
We take for granted that technology comes and goes but the fabric of mankind, the culture is rarely influenced. Yet, sometimes, not very often, it happens that technology transforms everything. Take the time itself for example. When steam trains was invented the definition of time had to be redefined. Time had to be centralized. GMT was invented.
Until now many of us have seen Internet as a little technical gimmick but maybe we have to re-think Internet. Maybe the way cultures used to be has to be reinvented because of Internet.
We start off with my relation as a Swede to the US justice system. I am a bit sceptic to the death penalty. So can I disapprove on all things US because of that? No. Swedes in general will probably maintain a sceptic relation to death penalty forever and the death penalty will probably remain in the US forever. Despite this culture difference, Swedes can co-exist with Americans very well. The important thing here is that many Swedes respect how Justitia is done in the US. There is a mutual respect here. Could it be that both Sweden and USA are democracies? If I went to the US I would inform myself of what is right and wrong. When Americans comes to Sweden they don’t break all sorts of Swedish laws. This is common sense, when I go to another country I inform myself of what is right and wrong. Others do the same.
How about Egypt? Blasphemy in Egypt is not allowed. You can go to jail for that, there. There are no laws against this in Sweden as far as I know.
Before the Internet era all was fine and cultures were well separated. I would be required to go personally to Egypt by myself before I could get a chance to break the laws in Egypt. Now people from Egypt can visit pages from Swedes on Internet and perhaps become offended. There is a dilemma here in that it is so easy to get access to material from other countries so easily, via Internet. Obviously my acts in Sweden are judged under Swedish law but that does not mean that the people of Egypt are content with that.
It is obviously so that Egyptian law cannot be enforced in Sweden or vice versa. That will not happen. We all know this and this is something we have to learn to live with. However, Swedes could very well be informed about that if they discredit a religion then they hurt the feelings of people in other countries. It is just common sense really that Swedes should not intentionally hurt other people’s feelings and vice versa. In Sweden women can be dressed much more revealing than in Cairo and it is absolutely not an invite to get raped. Rape is illegal. In other cultures it might not be so?
This gives us that in the modern time of Internet you live in a country and the rules that apply there they should be followed there and on the same time we live together with a much larger world on Internet and that we all have to cope with. We have to get used to it as much as we should listen carefully when someone tell us that they are offended. First world cultures need to get used to more sexually and religiously strict cultures and vice versa. There is no way around this, this is the only way forward. Better mutual understanding and co-existence between cultures. It is easy to say but what else should we do?
So here we are living our lives in Europe and other parts of the western world and we have freedom of speech and that thing called democracy and these two are interconnected as I described before. Just by living our lives as we used to do and drawing our caricatures just for fun we make people angry in other parts of the world? So much so that they come to us and start shooting at us. This is problematic. Is there a pragmatic solution to this dilemma?
Suppose that the terrorists start shooting at us because we made some caricatures of religious figures. If that is the case then indeed, that is not allowed in some parts of the world but in others it is allowed. Why do we spend our well-deserved freedom of speech on that? We could rather make caricatures about the typical Middle East man apparently has no idea that it is not okay to rape women? We could make caricatures about the mothers and grandmothers that despite all common sense decides that their daughters should be circumcised and married while they are still kids. But we don’t do that. Instead we make useless caricatures that make people really upset and as result people come shooting at us and logically we need to respond with exclusion and segregation. Can it be so that actually the terrorist as well as the victim plays a role in the same theater play? The morale of the play is that people of different cultures should not talk to each other?
Mankind would be so glad if all wars just stopped instantly. Wars will remain for some time and people will be fleeing wars. We don't like it but it is happening and it will continue to happen. Although Europe is difficult to get into, the refugees will be coming and they will come to a place near you and me. This has little to do with Internet. So without a choice to opt out the real world and the horrors of that world is coming to us with the refugees. When they come they bring with them their culture and ways of living. How are they dealing with this and how are we dealing with this?
Refugees comes to us so they have to assimilate to the way we are? Changing culture and changing it instantly is as challenging as walking on water. We should not ask for the impossible here. Realize that wars will not end today and people will bring their cultures with them. On the other hand the refugees needs to understand that Swedes are very special people and they will continue to be special. It can be so that people bring with them the tradition that a man can flog his wife and kids but that is not accepted in Sweden. It is also not accepted to have several wives. Science and creativity is very important and appreciated in Sweden and religion is not so very important. In Sweden you often take off your shoes when you enter someone’s home. You see, Swedes are special.
There is an organization called World Values Survey www.worldvaluessurvey.org and they investigate all over the world what people’s values are. Would it not be fantastic if people checked this database before they decided where they would try to enter a specific country? Then the people from Yemen that feels Swedish could say “Oh, I feel Swedish today. Let’s go to Sweden!”
There is this idea that 'We' in the western hemisphere have it all well-ordered and nothing will change this forever. Just for one moment play with the idea that the sea level will rise 35 meters. I know this idea is taboo in The Netherlands, for obvious reasons. But just for one moment imagine what would happen if the sea-level raised by 35 meters from today. Almost every capital in the world would be under water. Essentially all people currently having it all will have virtually nothing. This is not a very fun scenario but actually something the scientists already predicted. In such situation large groups of people will be fleeing. Cultures will be mixed up. Let's say this will happen within one hundred years from now. From that aspect a few million people from Syria is nothing?
Maybe refugees will be more common in the future. It can even be so that cultures that manage to incorporate people from other cultures cleverly will get a natural development advantage. There is a possible new modernity to come out of this. The countries of the world that decides for exclusion get into impossible selection processes. The countries that decides on clever inclusion, with or without requirements, they get the brains of the world, the creativity, the development, the trade, and the services. But this is not anything simple, this is complex processes. This takes patience and communication. This is not something you will hear anything from the lips of the exclusionist politicians.
My investigation so far of the slogan “People of religion X don’t belong here” don’t cover religions so much, so let’s talk about that for a moment. There exists a bunch of religions out there and they are not all alike.
Some religions integrate better than others. It is fair to acknowledge that. The more pragmatic the religion is, the easier it is to co-exist with. And as I said, co-exist we will. All religions got several layers. You have the everyday people of a religion and then higher up in the hierarchy the more intellectual types of people you find. I really believe you can have a civilized communication with all intellectual figures of all religions around the world. They really don’t want their “brand” to be dirty. It can take one thousand years for them to acknowledge that the earth is circling the sun and not the other way around but eventually they will recognize even that. So with great patience it is possible to get people to talk to each other.
When it comes to religion I am skeptical when it offers the service of delegating accountability. As soon as someone can delegate or defer their accountability willingly or unwillingly to something or someone they become dangerous for the civil society. A religious organization can play this role. Other organizations can do it as well. Trolls can do it.
Delegation of accountability when it is done "unwillingly" then it can be the result of drugs. As long as a person is accountable and he or she knows that, and there is a justice system looking after these things then things are fine. As soon as the accountability is "disabled", someone soon after goes ballistic one way or another. It works for individuals as well as groups of individuals. An organization providing the service of delegating accountability makes their members more dangerous. Such organizations can be the church of a religion. It can also be drugs that makes people delegate their accountability to a moment after the intoxication. Leaders of these organizations have a responsibility. Tell your members that the responsibility for deeds stays at the individual.
I am now going to round off my blog post. In the world it looks like there are two forces. On one side a dark force that works for a world of exclusion. This is also to a largely a masculine force. On the other hand we see the happy and light force, working for greater knowledge, inclusion. This is a feminine force.
As a man I would like to be proud to be a man but I see that men are part of the problems in the world. It is men that are violent and exclusive. Much more than women. It does not matter so much what culture or religion you are looking at, the dark male character is there. As the world’s population is growing faster than ever there are great challenges ahead of how we should save the environment. We need to find solutions. We need to think different. It could be so that we need to learn how to solve problems in a more feminine way.
Violence is not an option.
I was born 1967 in Stockholm, Sweden.
I grew up in the small village Vågdalen in north Sweden. 1989 I moved to Umeå to
study Computer Science at University of Umeå. 1995 I moved to the Netherlands
where I live in Almere not far from Amsterdam.