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'No nationalism please, we're Swedish'

'No nationalism please, we're Swedish'

Published: 14 Jun 2012 12:54 GMT+02:00
Updated: 14 Jun 2012 12:54 GMT+02:00

Following the celebrations of Sweden’s National Day on June 6th, a somewhat recent invention, Swedish journalist and columnist Ola Tedin reflects that there is nationalism and nationalism.

Compared to the 4th of July in the US or Norway’s May 17th, Sweden's National Day is a bland affair.

Typically, June 6th also leaves Swedes with a choice; either one can celebrate King Gustaf Vasa’s ascension to the throne in 1523 and the commencement of Sweden as a national state. Or choose to commemorate the enactment of our current constitution in 1809.

No, we Swedes are not for carrying our national pride on our sleeves and maybe that's also why it took until 1996 before June 6th even became a national holiday.

This in itself wasn't even possible until a compromise had been reached with the labour market, thus creating a new bank holiday by abolishing another; the second day of Pentecost, a holiday no one really remembered why we had in the first place.

Thus the process in how we created our newest national holiday symbolised how we like to be perceived; a nation bent on consensus, making steady progress by compromise and discussion.

As a bonus, we can now also do a bit of flag waving on the side, as long it is not too ostentatious.

After all, we are a people that use the blue and yellow sparingly. Either aft on our boat, or on a pole outside the summer cottage, especially if the property in question is red with white borders.

So if you wonder if you missed the party this June 6th, don't worry, it didn't even really get started.

One has to use other means to get Swedes to show some national pride, and I don't necessarily mean the on-going European football championship.

Apart from the sports sections in the dailies, most Swedes are looking forward to watching a few good games with Sweden playing, but anything beyond that would be a bonus and deep down we all know it.

On the whole, Swedes are very good at criticizing their country in a way that you'd never hear an American or Frenchman do.

Even the term ”un-Swedish” is not perceived as a pejorative, but rather as a compliment in the sense that someone could be described as ”wonderfully un-Swedish”, for being a spontaneous and open-minded person.

But there are limits. The last few years have seen a couple of rather serious flaws in the judiciary system in this country.

A self-confessed convicted mass murderer might be described as simply a psychotic addict desperate for drugs. The police seem to only perform worse with every million society is throwing at them.

The curious system of politically appointed lay-judges in Swedish courts has been questioned. The debate has been fierce and many have demanded change.

Enter Julian Assange, former darling of Swedish media.

I'll not speculate in the question of whether Assange is innocent or guilty. But one can note that his fierce attacks upon our Swedish judiciary system and rather pointed comments upon perceived hidden mechanisms behind the demands for his extradition have had at least one interesting effect.

The whole of the Swedish media world has dismissed Assange's allegations as juvenile.

Suddenly, to the Swedish press, our legal system is nothing but a shining, near perfect international example of the rule of law, habeas corpus and of magnificently independent courts and judges.

Gone is the petty bickering about those above-mentioned minor flaws, they are perceived as far too exaggerated by ignorant foreign correspondents.

Thus the order is restored. After all, only we Swedes are competent to criticise the best country in the world.

And that has nothing at all to do with nationalism. Right?

Ola Tedin has written opinion journalism for several Swedish dailies, including Sydsvenskan and Expressen. He was the op-ed editor of the Ystad Allehanda newspaper from 2001 to 2011.

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Your comments about this article

23:15 June 14, 2012 by Token-not-found
Goodbye Sweden, i regret not seeing this country in the "good days".
14:30 June 15, 2012 by Eric1
I bet the socialist don't want to do away with "Labor Day", comrades. When members of the press stopped being reporters and became journalist our societies started going down hill. They are nothing more than haters of tradition.
16:34 June 15, 2012 by Ranger
Sweden needs to include the Swastika in the middle of the yellow and blue rag called the flag and dump all the corrupt judges into the north sea.
15:33 June 16, 2012 by Grokh
This country lacks so much pride on its achievements that it pisses me off.

I had a swedish flag together with 2 other immigrants to watch a football game and peopel criticized us for having the symbol of the "sverige demokraterna"

yes like 3 immigrants would support the sverige demokraterna.

its an idiotic taboo, its the flag of the country and it should represent the good stuff that country stands for, not what a few racist morons want it to stand for.
19:22 June 16, 2012 by towns
@ Grokh

Yeah, the hatred against the flag by Swedes themselves is really something that annoys me as well. I mean, it's YOUR flag for crying out loud! Show some respect towards your native country!
23:33 June 16, 2012 by Modesty1000
Nice text. However,

"it took until 1996 before June 6th even became a national holiday".

No, in 1996 this day became a salute day. Not until 2006 it became a national holiday.
00:24 June 17, 2012 by TheWatchman
Most Swedes have no pride, they let foreigners walk all over them.
06:03 June 17, 2012 by alistairwhitman
I am foreign. I love Sweden but Flag Day is silly. Sweden's national day should be midsommar.
12:21 June 17, 2012 by scandiland
An old tradition: On 6th June or "svenska flaggans dag" (Swedish Flag Day) in the fifties there was an annual parade through town made up of members of various local clubs and council dignitaries. I think there was a band... Along the route were lots of spectators waving flags, enjoying the entertainment. The parade ended in a park where there was a ceremony - a speech was made, and the Swedish flag was raised and everybody sang "Flamma stolt mot dunkla skyar" (free translation: proudly fly the flag in the dark sky). I've never felt so proud to be Swedish as in those days, but then I was very young...
03:47 June 18, 2012 by feathernoodle
This is pretty accurate, and strange (to me). What's wrong with showing some pride in your own country and setting aside a day to highlight the positive things about it and why you like living there? Odder still is visiting the U.S. on the 4th of July and then getting annoyed because Americans are flying the U.S. flag in front of their homes and setting off fireworks, having picnics and being happy to be American.
11:58 June 18, 2012 by muscle
as far as it is a holiday.. :) i am happy with extra day off!
14:48 June 18, 2012 by Åskar
feathernoodle

We know who and what we are without waving flags around all the time.
08:41 June 19, 2012 by skogsbo
If you are content and secure within yourself, then you don't need to go shouting off all the time. Sweden stays quite calm even on the most stirring of occasions, the USA goes wild at the drop of hat. Go figure.

All countries are different in how their celebrate national occasions. I wonder what the next contributor on here will compare to the USA, with a big cheesy photo of themselves? Midsummer and it's pagan roots, Swedens long summer holidays, crayfish parties.. it so predictable.
13:03 June 19, 2012 by Paul_225
I'm foreign and I'm going to buy a 3m Swedish flag on Monday and hang it from my apartment window. Any cultural marxists can deal with it.
21:32 June 19, 2012 by david anderson
I am swedish born by no fault of my own in the US. I lived in Sweden and beleive me! I know the difference between the US and Sweden.

Sweden has a great deal to be proud of and the US has much to be ashamed of.The US is a corprate empire and one day it will fall as all empires before it has fallen.
17:12 June 20, 2012 by jomamas
David Anderson you are a joke.

And you can thank the Evil Amerians for doing away with the Nazi's with whom you were more than happy to collaborate.

My Canadian family members spilled their blood to disintegrate the German scourge while you sat by and watched.

This is not an 'old story' , it continues. The ambivalence about Sweden's national day is at the root of Sweden's moral ambivalence - grandstanding on your 'amazing justice system' - whilst dragging down a man for having sex consensual sex - because a girl changed her mind after the fact.
18:02 June 20, 2012 by cogito
"Sweden stays quite calm even on the most stirring of occasions, the USA goes wild at the drop of hat..." (#13)

Swedes are emotionally stunted. Emotional eunuchs, however, tend to like the stifling atmosphere.
06:50 June 21, 2012 by Lavaux
Yet another demonstration of how ridiculously clueless our alleged intellectual betters usually are.

First, Swedes are chock full of national pride for the attributes they believe make Sweden great, such as its welfare state, its pervasive secular progressivism, its cultural/moral relativism, and its pacifism. I've never met a Swede who doesn't look down on America for its wealth gap, its limitations on the state, its traditionalism, its religiosity, and its bellicosity. When I explain that America's political system was constituted during the era in which classical liberalism prevailed to preserve its benefits in perpetuity, they look at me like I'm from Mars. So would most left-wing Americans.

Second, Swedes equate nation with Swedish-ness not the state. The national day is Midsommar not National Day because Midsommar is when Swedes allow all of their Swedish-ness hang out. Downing a box of wine, dancing around a phallus thrust into Mother Earth, and then stripping down in mixed company to jump into ice cold water is Swedish. So is paying lots of taxes, but nobody celebrates that.

On America's national day - Independence Day (July 4) - conservatives go to parades, fly flags, sing national songs, and then party. In contrast, socialists just party. See the difference?
11:28 June 21, 2012 by Kalyissa
Agreed with what Lavaux says. Most of my Swedish friends and my boyfriend more celebrate and consider Midsommar as thier national day where as the 6th of June is just a day they can have off to relax and maybe go to the park if the weather is good.
11:43 June 21, 2012 by AmericaninStockholm
Woah now Lavaux. July 4th everyone parties. Conservatives and Liberals (not socialist) alike. It is an awesome holiday. I have been in this country for a couple months and I understand Swedish views on America. But, despite whatever hardships people face personally in the country, pretty much everyone in the country is proud to be an American and the 4th of July is an awesome day to celebrate that fact.

Anyway, Sweden is awesome. People should be proud to live here and party hard on June 6th and Midsommar. There's only so many days of beautiful weather. Why not celebrate both days like it's your national day. (everyone wants some kind of excuse to party and act like a fool)
15:47 June 23, 2012 by david anderson
Jomamas,

Saying "you are a joke" doesn't add a lot to the conversation.

I agree with you 100% for what Sweden is doing concerning Assange.

But I would remind you that Sweden is only the puppet while the US is the puppet master, In this case Sweden needs to get a spine and tell the US butt out! If you look close you will see a prosecutor wanting to make a name for himself and the US is pulling the strings. So your argument is somewhat contradictory.On one side you cheer the US and then turn on Sweden for going after Assange at the US bidding.

No Gov. is 100% but I would rate Sweden 75% where the US has fallen to less than 50%. What the US was 60 years ago is not what the US is today.

David Anderson
21:34 June 24, 2012 by libertarianism
Swedish politicians torture and murder people through deliberate, serial medical rationing, and most Swedish doctors act as their hynchmen. The Socialstyrelsen literally lets medical personnel get away with murder. FK leaves people to rot and drives them to suicide. Why does the Swedish media choose to ignore the deadly lies that is Swedish healthcare? Is this Swedish nationalism also? Letting the state serially torture and kill sick people, while media largely babbles about gender, race, and Östermalm fashion? All the while, people too sick to fight for their rights, suffer, rot, and die... I'm continually horrified by Sweden's apathy toward the sick. It's like a legacy of eugenics where the weak are actively killed off by the state.
17:09 June 26, 2012 by Ranger
If the US wanted Assange, he would be there right now. Sweden is a third world country filled with lazy people, too many corrupt judicial wannabes and a incompetent healthcare system. It's no wonder people are leaving the country if they are lucky enough to do so.
04:00 July 31, 2012 by coffeetable
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