Sweden is heading towards elections, and a few minutes ago I watched the tow main contendands for the prime minister post, the socialist Mona Sahlin and the right wing Fredrik Reinfeldt debate our country's future. It was a nice debate, where the journalist brought up a number of interesting subjects. Half an hour into the program, she raised the topic of the situation in the poorest Swedish suburbs.
While the situation in Sweden is probably better than in many other countries, we do have our share of integration problems. The population in these areas are almost exclusively non-Swedish, and the unemployment is staggering - around 50 %. That said, you should not believe what foreign media write about these areas - they do generate some organized crime, but are not a hot-bed for religious fanatism and hatred.
This is a social issue that does deserve some attention. It is a problem that has grown since the 70's, under both left- and right wing governments. A history of small progresses are impressively non-efficient in changing fundamental structures.
What are our leaders planning to do during the coming four years to ameliorate this situation? I still don't know. After confessing that the problem exist, both politicians, aided by the journalist, turned to the question that really captured their imagination - what happens if Sverigedemokraterna, a Swedish right wing populist party very similar to Le Pen's party in France, enters the parliament? Both parties promised not to cooperate with Sverigedemokraterna under any circumstance (we'll see about that), and our prime minister emphasised that those who love Sweden vote for him, not for Sverigedemokraterna.
I share their disgust for a party with deep roots in neo-nazism, a party that builds its politics on prejudices and that is generally irresponsible. But I think that Sahlin's and Reinfeldt's attitude is both arrogant and beneficial to Sverigedemokraterna.
It is arrogant, because it neglects the fact that Sweden has a real problem with integration. People in Rosengård live under circumstances that no Swedishg citizen should live under, and politicians should be working day and night to change that. Especially Mona Sahlin - she has wathed a new and ugly of class division grow, and as a politician of the left she has a moral obligation to see this as very important. More important than winning the almighty middle class vote.
The people who vote for Sverigedemokraterna also have a number of real problems that should be adressed. These are people that are worried about their security, people who feel neglected and bethrodded. Voting for Sverigedemokraterna is a way of rebelling, and a search for recognition. It is not a search for efficient and responsible politics.
The fact that Sverigedemokraterna might take seats in the parliament is of minorl interst compared to this. Sverigedemokraterna are bastards, but they are not a menace to society - they are rather an indication on what is wrong. If we could find the courage to discuss the real issues in our society, I am sure that Sverigedemokraterna would very quickly become very irrelevant. They basically ecxist in the vacuum that should be filled by a modern left wing.
Unfortunately I can't help thinking that today's debate is a nice example of how the Swedish debeate can sometimes be provinicial. Parties like Sverigedemokraterna exist in virtually every European country, but for the Swedish political class it has been a point of honour that our parliament has been free of them. What Reinfeldt and Sahlin seem to fear most of all is not a political reality, but the scandal, and a stained reputation. The desire to be something better than the rest of the world is much stronger than the conviction that the same forces that are shaping Europe are shaping also us.
Moreover, I think few voters are moved by Reinfeldt's words, that those who love Sweden vote for him. Personally I felt sick, and as I wrote above, I don't think that the Sverigedemokraterna voters care very much about responsible politicians. Sverigedemokraterna themselves do not need neither his, nor Sahlin's love. What they need is to be despised by the established politicians so that they can create an image where there is an elite that do whatever they can to keep the strugglling minority out in the cold. Anyone who watched today's debate will have exactly that impression, and as a matter of fact I think it is true.
I can't blame Sahlin and Reinfeldt from trying to keep racists out in the cold, and I am convinced by their anti-racism. But I do blame them for giving Sverigedemokraterna what they want, and for not taking inconvenient issues about social inequalities seriously. The people in Rosengård deserve that we discuss their situation. But maybe this is a sign of how racially segregated Sweden actually is... for the Swedes, Sverigedemokraterna is much more interesting than life in Rosengård.