1 year ago, on February 26, Sweden and the Middle East Views started with no expectation on what might follow. My aim was to create more understanding of the Middle East in the West and to give you my point of view of things.
Despite my initial lack of proper plan I have had quite a few followers, and some of the posts have been widely shared on Facebook and other social media.
These are the blog posts that have been most popular throughout the first year of Sweden and the Middle East Views blog:
1. Xena the True Lebanese Feminist
2. Arab Idol 2013
3. Ruth Benyamin – The Real Miss Iraq 2013
4. Lava and the Swedish Beauty Saloon
Did you like my blog? Did you learn something new? Or did I piss you off? In what ever case: Welcome to another year of blogging at the Sweden and the Middle East Views.
Photocredits: Birthday cake: eventsstyle.com. Other photos see original blog post
In Sweden the rightwinged extremist party Sverigedemokraterna had a tumultous year 2012 (and this was before I tried to become a member). A recorded late night fight between some of their leading politicans and, among some other people, the famous Swedish-Kurdish stand up comedian Soran Ismael was hacked from one of the politicians mobile phone. It went viral online. The politicans (yes, elected politicans) was among other events seen picking up iron bars and getting ready to take the verbal fight to a physical level. They all had to leave after the movie became public. They were insulting people on the street using words as “niggerlover” and “whore”; words that racists all over the world deny that they would use.
After the scandal, the leader of the party Jimmy Åkesson publicly explained that the party did not accept this behaviour. Many Swedes happily shared the news on social media. Finally there was proof everyone should be able to take to their hearts, even some of our most ignorant fellow citizens! Because who would want to be associated with such behaviour or racist slurs? In the next election in September 2014 we were gonna get rid of these white trash people that has pestered out lives since they first received more than 3% of the votes and entered the parliament in 2006.
So what happened? The figures last year didn’t seem to decline, they rather increased. Could this really be true? I went myself to check the national voting polls. And there it was: Sverigedemokraterna now has 9,5 of the votes. 2,8 % more than the liberal party; 1,3 % more than the socialists.
Sweden was always a neutral country and we are very proud of our selves for having saved lives of people seeking protection from persecution and death throughout the centuries. After the second world war we brought in survivors from the concentration camps and nursed them back to life in the huge Red Cross centers all over Southern Sweden. Compassion was taught in our schools when I grew up and when there was a disaster somwhere we always held a moment of silence afterwards in the classroom. This is how I know Sweden.
I follow some Greek bloggers that are reporting about the consequences of the Golden Dawn being an elected party. These blogs are mainly reporting about the events linked to the extremist party: harassments, abuse and murders of immigrants and leftists working against them. When there is not much left by fear, there is not much else to do but to report and spread awareness, hoping the world will listen. I used to feel for the Greek bloggers and give them my sympathy in comments, like an outsider usually does. But the outsider perspective might not last much longer?
Sweden, this is not good, this is bad. We can do better.
My friend Sara’s post on Facebook the other day received a huge amount of comments. Sara recounted a conversation she had had in the lunch room at the hospital where she is working: a “tall, blonde” medical doctor had responded to Sara introducing herself by asking: “So where are you from? You don’t exactly look like you have viking blood in you” (the vikings are Sweden’s infamous seafaring warriors that terrorized other nations in the years 800-1500). Even though Sara simply had answered the woman with the name of the Swedish city she grew up in, the woman didn’t give in but kept pushing for my friend to explain her ethnic belonging and family history.
On Facebook Sara explained how tiring it is to receive this question over and over again and summed it up by concluding that no blonde medical doctor had to answer endless questions about their background on a coffeebreak on any given medical clinic in Sweden. Many commented with their thoughts and advice on how to handle such a situation, some of them being quite radical about asking the woman to fuck off or simply leave Sweden for a more tolerant country; most of them Swedes as Sara mostly has Swedish friends. I was about to agree with them then it struck me: I was once one of those people asking Sara where she was from.
When we had been friends for a while years ago she had brought up the subject of her being the odd one in the all-white Swedish middle class surroundings of university life where we both were, and in that moment I realized that when we first got to know each other I had asked her a million of questions about her home country. Why? I found her country so damn exciting and I wanted to know all there was about it (I had never been there myself). But I hadn’t seen it as a problem back then before Sara brought it up.
“Well you ask me a lot of questions, just like the others,” Sara agreed when I reminded her, then adding in a conciliatory manner: “But on the other hand you did seem genuinely interested.”
In my country some newcomers never make it into the Swedish society; they never learn the language, never make it to the jobmarket and their kids go to one of the ghetto schools where more than 50% don’t graduate junior high school. Being an outcast is also degrading and I have met a lot of anger in the ghettos in Sweden. But maybe as the glass ceiling is one of the hardest to break through this might create a lot of bitterness of another, more damaging kind than the feeling of being an outcast? If you are doing your best trying, graduating from high school with straight As, make it to medical school or another attractive university program, get yourself a good ass job and still neve becomes accepted for who you are because of your different name or (in Sweden) black hair – couldn’t this be worse?
Me myself I didn’t graduate junior high school and spent a considerable amount of time in special educational programs for troubled kids – but when I did make it to university in the end noone looked surprised when they saw me or asked if I was the first one in my family to attend university, when on my dad’s side I actually was one of the first, and my parents even made me give them a copy of my (usless) Bachelor’s degree in political science for them to frame and hang on the wall.
After quite some thinking I answered Sara’s Facebookpost and told her my thoughts about myself, saying I think she could point out to the blonde medical doctor next time that it is very tiring having to answer these kinds of questions. Because I don’t think she realizes herself that she’s a part of that glass ceiling that holds people back. I’m not free from prejudices and also I need an eye opener sometimes. And I believe in dialogue rather than telling that clueless person to fuck off. Sure, asking someone to fuck off is needed when the person knows what he’s doing, but most of us are just ignorant like me and needs to be made aware, just like Sara did with me once upon a time. I actually think the Swedish persons being so radical have made the same mistakes in the past.
I hope I will read a new Facebook update from Sara soon, with the result of the next answer on the question: Where are you from?
Photo credit: commons.wikipedia.org