Monday, May 3, 2010
An Uneven Trade
A letter came home from the school the other day to warn of a man in a car trying to lure young kids into his car. It was in the more affluent suburb of Lidingö, an inner archipelago island northeast of Stockholm city. Such letters are not to uncommon in the United States. However, here in Sweden, we live in a sort of denial based illusion that it is still incredibly safe. That it is still this 1970's society of unlocked doors, Abba and unfledged blonde innocence.
Children are routinely out and about in the city alone. They ride public transportation, sometimes long distances, either alone or with their mates. They shop alone. They get off to school alone. Originally, I was a little jarred by the sight of a pack of smelly eight year olds making their way through the T-bana, lollipops in mouth and skateboards under their arms. But eventually, as they say, when in Rome do as the Romans. I found myself doing the same.
The Lidingö letter was a bit of an intrusion into my bubble of self delusion. I knew there was an underbelly. I can read enough Swedish to make out many of the articles in my local freebie paper that told the tale of a sex crime ring involving immigrant children in the Odenplan area. I had never witnessed anything unusual in that area and I quickly brushed it out of my mind.
It makes you question how a country loses it's innocence and the sadness that it does. Many Swedes look back to the 1970s as the golden days. It was a small homogeneous culture, newly wealthy and teeming with idealism of a still undemonstrated welfare state. They never locked doors, I am told. Crime was nearly non-existent and many of the social ills Sweden sees today were less prevalent. I do not know if all that is true but I have bought into it simply from desire to believe it was.
My own country lost it's innocence in the 1960s, following what many perceive as the blissful decade of the 1950's. Regardless whether you share that view, it was indeed a more innocent time. Values were more universal. I've also come to realize the level of siege we have grown to accept in the United States, even in the antiseptic suburban settings. Our kids don't know what it is to roam their neighborhoods, we clutch our wallets pumping gas, club our cars and, many of us don't carry lightly, if you catch my drift. Other, more urban, areas are straight out Mad Max. Once bustling and opportunity laden cities, like Detroit, have become habitats for feral humans.
Cynically, it is probably more the natural state of the human condition and that our two societies were anomalies in a brief span of time. I am more inclined to think the larger the government, the smaller the individual. Smaller individuals make smaller citizens and they build smaller and less desirable places to live. The only rightful role of government is to protect a man's rights, to protect him from violence. In this context, sane people should be looking around and seeing the state is an abysmal failure and asking themselves, "just what are we hanging on to here?"
Posted by kmbr at 1:14 AM