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I Hate Sweden, Too
2004-08-22 16:54
by Ken Arneson
Notes:
Scott Long is now blogging at NSFWsports.com.
Will Carroll can still be found at Baseball Prospectus.

But not for the same reason as God, apparently.

Why would anyone say God hates Sweden? It's because those who would like to send homosexuals to jail feel threatened by Sweden having recently sentenced a preacher, who wants to send homosexuals to jail, to jail. Stefan Geens has a pretty good take on the controversy.

It's a perfect example of my love-hate relationship with Sweden. (And with God for that matter.) I love the fact that Sweden will protect homosexual rights. I hate the fact that they're quite willing to sacrifice free speech to do so. It's such a typical Swedish thing to do, both for good and for bad. They were neutral in two World Wars; they're adept at covering all their bases and pleasing everyone: they're democratic, yet also socialist; they protect human rights, and yet they sometimes behave with an elitist, almost totalitarian, disregard for the individual and the general public.

It often takes a foreigner to point out the bad side of Sweden. Swedes won't do it themselves. Geens, a Belgian blogger living in Stockholm, has been working on his own list of things he dislikes about Stockholm. The irrational discalceation doesn't bother me, but the rest are spot on.

My family is Swedish, but I choose not to be. That's because I have my own Top 10 list of things I hate about Sweden:

  1. Winter.
    It's long. It's cold. But worst of all, it's dark, for months on end.
  2. No baseball.
    Well, there's some, but not much.
  3. Agreeing to agree.
    Swedes feel uncomfortable with disagreements. They won't argue; they quickly find something everyone can agree on instead, and focus on that. This consensus-seeking culture got drilled into my head at an early age, and I hate it. When I argue now, I'm not only up against my opponent, I'm up against my own upbringing.
  4. Slaves to fashion.
    A society that hates to disagree ends up with a lot of sheep. Swedes will follow any trend. Clogs are in! Everyone wears clogs. Clogs are out! Nobody wears clogs anymore.
  5. Reasonableness.
    Swedes are so goddamned reasonable all the time. There's always some logical explanation for X, based on some reasonable-sounding BS written by some government committee filled with otherwise unemployable Ph.Ds. Nobody will ever stand up and say, "X is a dumbass idea. I hate it." And so you end up with things like:
  6. High-rise apartments.
    Sweden suffered a plague of high-rise apartment construction in the overexuberance of the 1960s socialism. Good Lord, those things are ugly.
  7. Waiting Lists.
    Want an apartment? Get on a waiting list. Need surgery? Get on a waiting list. It might take a year or two, but heck, at least the system sucks equally for everybody.
  8. Refusal to face facts.
    My brother says that there are only two kinds of people on earth who think they live in paradise: North Koreans and Swedes. Sweden is flawed, like any country, but you wouldn't know it by Swedes. Things are fine, because:
  9. They trust their government.
    Of course, the government will study every issue and make the best choice. Really, they will.
  10. Doritolessness.
    But you can buy tortillas now, thanks to the EU, so there's hope.

But Sweden has its good side, too. Here are my top 10 likes:
  1. Royalty.
    Somehow, the Swedish Committees for Logical Forms Of Government haven't been able to figure out how to ruin this bit of human fun called Royal Gossip. As Will demonstrated, you can always find an excuse to show off the princesses.
  2. Fresh Swedish potatoes.
    No, I'm not talking about Princess Madeleine. I mean potatoes. Americans want white potatoes, for some reason, which zaps their taste. Swedish potatoes are yellowish, and have much more flavor.
  3. The Olympics
    They aren't edited on TV. Competition is competition and highlights are highlights and never the twain shall meet.
  4. Twains, er, I mean trains.
    Trains, trolleys, and subways go everywhere, often, and on time.
  5. Midnight sun.
    The summer days are long, you need less sleep, and you get more done in a day.
  6. Allemansrätten.
    This is a uniquely Swedish constitutional human right. It's essentially the right of free access to nature. There is no such thing as trespassing on undeveloped land, even if someone owns it. If you want to go camping in the woods, you can, as long as you stay 100 meters away from any houses. If you want to swim in a lake, ice skate on a frozen stream, or ski across a meadow, go ahead.

    What I admire, though, goes beyond just having this right. It's the whole Swedish attitude towards nature. It's not just some phony left-wing ideal, like so many other elements of Swedish culture. The Swedish love of nature is genuine; it's truly in their souls.
  7. Island hopping.
    The coastlines have thousands of small islands. Get a small boat, and sail from island to island during the long summer days.
  8. Red houses.
    The traditional Swedish house is painted a dark red with white trim. The look never grows old.
  9. Geneology.
    The Swedish church has kept detailed records of every birth, death, and marriage for centuries. I love the fact that I can trace my lineage back to Håkan Niklasson, who was a rector at the Frändefors Parish until he died in 1565.
  10. IKEA and Volvos.
    It's not so much that I like their products. It's that I admire the subversive idea that someday, all across the world, all cars will be as safe as Volvos, and all homes will be furnished cheaply and stylishly like IKEA, and the very places and spaces where people spend all their days and nights will be infused not with the hated American values of globalization, but with pure and utter Swedishness. All without firing a shot. The Brain would be envious. It's so evil, it's good.

OK, enough talk about the Swedish invasion. You're not supposed to notice it. Please return to your regularly scheduled programming.

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