The Subject of “Immigration” Has Hijacked Our Lives

A while ago I came back to Sweden after being abroad on a humanitarian mission for eight months. It’s always a minor culture shock to come back after a humanitarian mission, but what struck me the most this time was not usual differences; the rainy winter, the small changes in the street fashion, new songs on the radio – but how the topic of immigration has seeped into each and every conversation.

While I was away, Sweden held an election in which the populist right-winged party Sverigedemokraterna doubled their support and scored an amazing 13% of the votes, despite for example my own eager attempt to stop them by mailing my vote from the Asian country where I was. The main topics that Sverigedemokraterna made their election issues, are immigrants, refugees, the economy (unclear how), the elderly population, and immigrants again. Even before the most recent election in 2014, the party had been able to set the public agenda to be focused on immigrants, even for people otherwise not engaged in politics.

In the year of 2015, I discovered upon taking the train from Copenhagen airport to Sweden and re-entering my home country, the subject is not only popular: it has now completely hijacked our conversations. Most of my friends seem to speak about it. Acquaintances I hardly know speak about it. A man who I sold my old bed to raised the subject when he came around to pick up the bed. I hear the subject when queuing in the grocery store. You would think that people would want to speak about something else. How was my humanitarian mission, for example? I was in a rough place where many things happened, both of the exhausting kind due to the domestic politics, but also positive things. I don’t have to speak about that constantly, but I wouldn’t mind venting a bit with friends or sharing of some of the things that I experienced and learned. But it’s almost never brought up, because other things are on most peoples’ minds.

For example: Should all refugees really come to Sweden? Will integration of immigrants really work? Why has Sweden’s integration policy failed? Should Muslims have the right to wear headscarf in school? How can we get rid of the newly arrived immigrants from Romania, who are begging on the street? Almost no one seem to be in touch with concrete, true facts about immigration or integration, and I wonder how they know that Sweden’s integration policy is so failed? Have they read the policy? Many also don’t seem to be in touch with a lot of people who classify as “immigrants”, in their own daily lives.

The other day I caught up with a friend of mine who factually stated:

“In the papers you read all these chronicles about immigration, from all different perspectives, as if it’s the only current thing right now, and then we read these chronicles about that there’s a major subject about immigration. We just shouldn’t keep discussing the subject. I mean, what happened to other current affairs? What happened to global warming?”

The subject has totally hijacked us and we’re not even aware that we’re hijacked, like a Boeing 787 where the passengers seem not to notice the change of course, despite there being clouds outside when there should have been sun, and the pilot lying on the floor of the cockpit, tied up and gagged, desperately trying to call for help.

Today I went to the hairdressing saloon, a new place I haven’t tried before. The woman who owned the saloon was really nice, and during the hours it took her to do my hair, we chatted about many things. She told about her upcoming vacation in Dubai with her family, how she loved the country and was ready to soak up in the sun, to get away from the rainy Swedish spring. I said I had recently returned, and that I had missed the rain. We spoke about the difficulty on buying clothes online, that even if it’s cheap it’s sometimes a loosing deal since you rarely put in the energy to send back an item you don’t like. We bonded over that we both loved shopping and missed the variety outside Sweden, and agreed that we equally could spend 24 hours straight in an American-style mall if we’re given the chance.

That was nice. A different conversation from many of the others I had recently. The woman didn’t even mention the word “immigration”. Maybe she would want to hang out with me sometime? It would be a wonderful change. I might see if she’s up for a coffee this weekend.

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8 thoughts on “The Subject of “Immigration” Has Hijacked Our Lives

  1. I can relate to this post. 😉 Here in Australia, people always think I want to talk about multiculturalism, immigration, what to do with all those pesky indigenous people, taking our jobs, ruining things, blah blah blah and refugees, OMG! what shall we do about them? My response lately has generally been quite cheeky – such as , “Well, when we meet them we should probably say ‘Hello’ as humans generally do” or “You’re fighting a battle you’ve already lost, so let’s move on.” Intentional conversation stoppers basically. It’s interesting how many people instantly relate to those types of statements, it makes them laugh. Probably because we have already been through the election scandals where fake footage of “boat people” throwing their children into the ocean was used to sway public opinion. The people know in their hearts they have no idea what the truth is on these issues. Obviously Australian culture is different from Swedish culture, but I still feel I can relate to your wish to please let’s talk about one or two of the other zillion things that exist, particularly those things we enjoy.

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    • Fake photos of refugees throwing children into the water?? Oh my god, I guess I’m lucky to be living somewhere where the climate is not so polarized, at least not just yet…

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      • The footage wasn’t fake, the accompanying story by the media that placed the whole thing out of context was. Everyday Aussies are not as polarisedon these issues as the media tries to make out, but they repeat things they read and hear in the media without fully realising the implications.

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  2. Reblogged this on Buster's Two Cents and commented:
    As I’m sure you are aware, here in the good old U.S.ofA., we are having major arguments about immigration, also. Here, it is the two political parties that mainly “fuel the fire.” Seldom do you hear the typical Amurican discussing the subject in conversation. Still, it is the prejudices that people can’t seem to overcome, probably mainly because they really don’t try to “know” the immigrants personally. I’m reblogging this article so that my Swedish Brother-in-law will see your comments. He worked with immigrants for quite a few years some time ago.

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  3. It’s the same thing in Canada. Our government has been able to keep Canadians so distracted with this non-issue that no one notices the country is crumbling around us, or those that do notice have convinced themselves that immigrants are somehow to blame. Our government is using this emotional, fear mongering tactic to pass oppressive police state laws and people are enthusiastically supporting these measures. It’s very easy to make parallels to what is going on in the west, with what happened in Germany in the 1930s. It’s very depressing to see the direction my country is heading in

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  4. People talk always about things which concern them and I think it is easy to be tired of one trendy subject, that also human, but we shouldn’t dismiss the warning signals of such subject spreading over all Europe. I have been now for a week in UK, and the same subject all over the news but no many talk about it! Put in contracts just 50 years ago assimilation and discrimination of other ethnicities wasn’t a crime. This subject still undigested and people in Sweden with such a short history of integration will need to chew on it for some time to get the taste

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