Lungt Sverige, La Belle France, Made (drin) in Germany, and Gehst schaißen, Austria!

Now that Austria has voted, too, and is sailing again towards a deep blue horizon, it’s time for a resumé. Some thoughts on the last elections in the four countries that made me a European. First part: Sweden, still close to paradise (if it would not be for the climate and latitude).

Me, the European

Before I get to topic of the post, and why commenting on four nations, a short info on myself. I was born in the oldest town of Germany [EN,DE], originally founded by the Romans at a place where a tribe called the Treveri, often classified as Belgic people and traditionally addressed as a Celtic-Germanic mixed tribe, had a settlement at a fine river bow of the Mosel with a climate moderate enough to grow wine. The Romans called their town Augusta Treverorum (Augustusstadt der Treverer, the imperial town of the Treveri), build what they needed: an amphitheatre (bread and games; still a working concept), eloborate town gates (see below), a palace with the second- or third-largest column-free room in the antique world, and very large bathing areas, the Thermen; altogether recognised as a UNESCO heritage site.

Trier's Roman town gate, the Porta Nigra. The 'black' north gate, used when the Roman army came home in shame having lost to the barbarians; victorious they used the Porta Alba, the 'white' and more beautiful south gate (at least this is what we tell tourists...)
Image source:
For a (very) short time it was a Roman metropole (only behind Rome and Constantinople). After their fall, the town became known as Trier in German. Until Napoleon Bonaparte’s reorganisation of Germany, it was the fief of an Archbishop and Kurfürst [EN,DE], one of the seven who officially elected the German-Roman emperor. Latest since Napoleon, who made it the capital of the Départment de la Sarre (Wikipedia really covers a lot) of the First French Empire, it got a French name: Trèves. My mother’s family roots so deep in the region that I not only have French (3/16) in my direct line of ancestors, but probably some Romans and Treveri. My father’s family is mixed Hesse-Rhenian and Westphalian, most of them barbarians from the other, the wrong (ripoar. Schäl Sick; really, Wikipedia covers a LOT), side of the Rhine. It’s safe to say that I have Europe in my veins (like many other Germans). I worked and lived in Sweden for nearly seven years, and – for the fun of it and to be able to vote for the national parliament, the Riksdagen – I got me a Swedish citizenship (Info to non-Europeans: as a EU-citizen you – in letter – have the same rights than anyone of the “correct” nationality, except that you can’t vote in national elections). Then I went to work for two years to Vienna, Austria’s heart (every 2nd Austrian lives in and around the town), before finally settling down in France. So, I have a personal tie with all four countries.

What all elections had in common: Right we sail, with fear in our hearts and no brain in our skulls

The elections in all four countries saw a surge of “right-wing” parties, linked by many analysts to the migration issue. “Right-wing” these days translates to essentially what Donald Trump copied for his campain. Blame everything on migrants, elites and the establishment (even when you're part of them) and give the poor ordinary Joes (kleine Leute in German) the much needed voice. Take up their feelings, even when they defy all tangible facts. But that may be just a symptom. Parts of the actual establishment is alienated by the modern way of living (too ‘liberal’) and asocial networks such as Facebook etc. have made it easy to cultivate diffuse fears. Which adds to an increasing general stupidity in the electorate in saturated democracies, allowing it to be easily manipulated by fire-brands (best example: the election of a know-nothing jingle-boy and Mamamouchi as U.S. president; just see this recent – hilarious and "so sad" – Last Week Tonight clip). However, in Sweden, France and Germany the surge had little effect (and I’m wondering how many voters of the oh-so-scaring “right-wing” populist parties rely on, when casting a vote, that they’ll remain unpunished for their decision). In Austria, the Ewig-Gestrigen (the persistent ghosts of the past), re-polished as people's advocates, will probably be part of the government, but it will likely not change history, either.

Still lungt Sverige

In Sweden, the surge, doubling their seats, of Sverigedemokraterner (“Swedish Democrats”, SD; first three links when searching with DuckDuckGo bring you to Wikipedia, Facebook, and Twitter; tells you a lot about them, and the importance of the latter two for spreading hate and misinformation: just follow e.g. @realDonaldTrump), the soft-washed former Swedish Nazis, in the last election was a(nother) shock for the country; following the equally severe one because of the election before, when they first-time passed the 4%-threshold and entered the parliament with 20 MPs.

The Swedish Parliament, as elected in the 2014 election. Classification is generalised for orientation (see also links at the end of the post). Unfortunately, the party I voted for (F! = Feministiskt initiativ), didn't pass the 4% threshold. The Swedish parliament is elected by fully representative proportional vote (save for the 4% threshold) and traditionally includes seven or more parties.

But having them participating in any government, would be an absolute no-go. Even the largest Swedish ‘conservative’ party, the Moderaterna (very Swedish: even the neoliberals are moderates), has a policy that in the U.S. would be called – by the president's preferred info-channels such as Fox News and Breitbart  – liberal, socialistic or worse. For instance, they have, like nearly all Swedish parties, a LGBT wing and support LGBT rights, a striking difference to e.g. the next potential Republican senator of Alabama, Roy Moore, endorsed by the Big Baby in the Oval Office (one of his great people, possibly as bigot as most of them). In general, not a few policies promoted by the U.S. Republicans (and imprinted on the sitting U.S. president), but also U.S. Democrats to some degree (no public insurance, open discrimination of minorities, make the richest richer, destroy public sustenance, build a wall), would be even too harsh for the SD (at least when they want to keep their 59 seats); and impossible for any other “right”-ish Swedish party, i.e. the members of the “Blue Alliance”.

2014 Gini Index World Map, income inequality distribution by country per World Bank.svg
Gini index (2014; bit outdated), green = fair(er), red = very bad.
M Tracy Hunter, Wikipedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

The Swedish parliament is – like that of many EU member states with highest standard of living and relative income equality (see e.g. social progress index; Gini index) – pluralistic; and even though there was a shift to block-voting, the current government of the Socialdemokraterna (social democrats; [EN/homepage]) and the Miljöpartiet (green; [EN/homepage]) is a working minority government since now three years. Minority governments are not unusual for countries like Sweden;  apparently it is something that can only work in disciplined, cool-minded Scandinavia, but could not possibly work in hot-blooded Germany. And despite some (somewhat) neoliberal policies introduced by the Alliansen in the eight years before the last election (see the chart on 2012 EU governments by The Political Compass), e.g. how they fucked up the education system (no nice way to put it) – they thought it’d be a good idea to have hedge-funds running public schools – Sweden is still closest to a socialistic utopia (in the original sense; Trivia: Karl Marx was also born in Trier) compared to any other country I know. Something generally ignored within American (alt-)right circles who frequently referred to “North European” states as examples for, well essentially, working white-supremacy. Spoiler: it’s not the ethnic uniformity, but because those states are (try to be) truly socialist in many aspects. For instance:
  • Woman get better, sometimes even equal pay (in Sweden Equal Pay Day means February).
  • No one gets discriminated for whatever reason, quite the opposite; including quite over-the-edge campaigns such as the hen-movement to avoid forcing children into gender roles by using the male han (his) and the female hon (her).
  • Those who have/earn a lot, pay more to keep up a functioning state; or have to move to Switzerland, like Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of IKEA (of German descent and a fan of facists when young), who nevertheless re-migrated 2013 [Telegraph/] wisened and aged.
  • The state tries to educate all children, and much more. 
In short, for living, Sweden comes probably as close to a paradise for its citizens as possible in the modern world.

Including immigrants like me that have not bothered to learn proper Swedish (which, by the way, is very easy to learn). Just an example, you get any official document, e.g. your election information and papers for the riksdagen, in your native language, be that German, Urdu, or Chinese. If they are not on stock, they’ll provide a translation upon request. Living in Sweden is lungt, still, and if the Swedish keep up their principle of lagom-ness, it will remain so. Even with the SD firmly established in the riksdagen.

Unfortunately, for a Celto-Germano-Roman catholic like me, it’s too light in summer (as an originally protestant country, Sweden lacks the Jalousien, heavy plastic, full-closing blinds, also known as Rolläden that I grew up with), too dark in winter, and generally too cold throughout the year.

Summer on Grinda. Swimming in a comfy-warm Baltic Sea (~ 18°C), a well-developed fat layer helps (old sea-mammal trick).

Obligatory sunset photo, just 5 min from work. Swedish light is brilliant. And in December, you can just head back after making the photo, so you don't miss the afternoon fika at 3 p.m...

Some Links.

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