Johan Wessman

The Unhinged Rise of Swedish Nationalism

One can easily assume that because I was born, raised and still live in Sweden, that I love the nation. However, one would be wrong to make this assumption. If you were to ask me my honest opinion of Sweden, I would reply that it is just “meh,” “average” or “lagom.”

I do not dislike the country that I was born in…far from it. It’s a good country to grow up in and live in, but I cannot say that I love it, and I most definitely don’t believe that it is the greatest country in the world. No country can live up to that standard in my opinion. At most, it is a fairly decent place to live for a while.

It is true that some countries do have more natural resources than others and you could argue that this is what makes one particular country greater than others. Although, if you decide to go with that argument, I would like to point out that Russia has the largest estimated wealth of natural resources: $75 trillion worth to be exact. The United States is in second place with $45 trillion in natural resources.

You might suggest that there are several other factors involved when measuring the greatness of a nation like the people and the culture. I would have to agree. People often pride themselves on their cultural heritage. Sometimes, a little too much in my opinion, as they did not create the culture. They simply inherited it from their parents. Sometimes, they are only the custodians of the traditions and do little to further the development of the culture. Everything needs to evolve, even culture and traditions. It is therefore sad to see a stagnant culture.

In this regard, I think that the United States has done very well for itself in the past. Maybe not as well when it comes to variety when compared to Canada or India, but far better than a huge portion of Europe and South America. At the same time, it is interesting to speculate what the cultural diversity would have looked like in the United States if it had built a border wall with Mexico right after the end of the Mexican–American War, or if the Africa slave trafficking had never occurred.

Maybe, you argue, that it is the lack of crime that makes a country great. In such case, the best country in the world would be Switzerland, Singapore, Iceland, Japan or Luxemburg. These countries have little else in common other than a low crime rate.

If you so happen to live in America, the country with the largest military force in history, you might say that this is what makes a nation great. Powerful, sure, but maybe analogous to the biggest bully in school?

As always, any discussion on a subject similar to nationalism becomes political. In Sweden, almost any sit-down meal provides an opportunity to discuss work, politics or the weather. Given that the mood is right and that the company present, preferably strangers are cooperative with an opinion different from yours, an interesting debate is certain to spring forth.

Sweden is a democratic nation with two major political blocks, the left (red) and the right (blue). Scattered from left to right, we have a range of political parties, each with different ideologies and voter support. The Swedish Social Democratic Party (left-ish) has been the predominant one, since the end of WWI. The opposition, often represented by the Moderate Party (right-ish), or in later years “The Alliance” (center-right), is a vital cornerstone of Swedish politics, as it is the main task of the opposition (those not governing right now), to be the opposing force to the government. Sometimes the right can form a government, but most often it is the left that does so.

In Sweden, each political party comes with an ideology. For the Social Democrats, their ideology, originally born out of Marxism, has with time transformed into what the party now calls “democratic socialism,” or “social democracy.” On the opposite side, we have the Moderate Party. They identify themselves nowadays as “liberal conservatism” as they have slowly, over several years, inched closer to the political middle.

There are of course several other minor parties that are also important. The Green Party (Green politics), the Centre Party (Liberalism), the Liberals (Social liberalism), the Christian Democrats (Christian democracy), the Left Party (Socialism) and Feminist Initiative (Radical feminism) are also active.

Lastly, there is the third largest political party in Sweden today, and my sole reason for writing this piece in the first place, the Sweden Democrats (Nationalism). The Sweden Democrats’ former slogan used to read “Keep Sweden Swedish.” Now it only reads “Security & Tradition,” at least underneath their logo anyway. As a party with nationalistic principles, the party wants to end mass immigration.

They want Sweden to focus on preserving Swedish culture, at the expense of multicultural exchange. They deny the fact that culture is always in constant motion and it is hard if not impossible to stop that momentum. SD wants to call a referendum to vote on whether to leave or stay in the EU. Even after we all have witnessed the Brexit disaster, they still want to hold a referendum. They most definitely do not want Sweden to join the EMU and they want to establish a stronger national identity.

SD also wants the Swedish military to stop participating in international efforts and focus on protecting Sweden, I do not know, Gotland I suppose. They want tax payers’ money to be used to raise the defense budget by a clear margin. It is important to them to secure the export of Swedish weapons to other nations. SD even wants to modernize and expand nuclear power in the country, even though the question of fuel disposal is still under debate.

How could this party gain so much support? Although, I do find it interesting that 14% of SD members are of immigrant origin. When nationalists claim they want to protect Swedish values and Swedish culture I always ask them to state a few of those values. Is it religion, the awkward silence on a bus full of people or the food that we eat?!

Only 8% of Swedes regularly attend church services and the unofficial national dish of Sweden is the Kebab Pizza…A piece of Italian bread made by an immigrant from Serbia topped with sliced meat from the Middle East and served with a Greek garlic sauce on the side. It almost brings a tear to my eye when I think of how blue and yellow (the Swedish flag colors) this dish is, or not.

Not to my surprise they often reply with comments like; immigrants and especially Muslims cannot be trusted because they murder, rape, and steal from people. To me, that sounds a whole lot like what the Vikings used to do to most of northern Europe. I know from experience that most people are decent, once you get to know them. Some might rub you the wrong way and some might even rub the law the wrong way. It is unavoidable in any society. Take everything you read in the media with a big scoop of salt.

Nationalism was once a useful tool to rally people towards a common enemy. However, in this day and age, it serves no other purpose than to pave the way for a handful of power-hungry politicians who want to keep other cultures from showing up unannounced to the party. I am not sure what they are afraid could happen.

The way I see it is that we might end up with a new renaissance, and that could be quite exciting, to be honest. It just makes me so sad when people today still believe that the best way forward is to take a few steps backwards…