“It is not correct to describe Sweden as in a situation of mass unemployment. If one looks at [the] ethnically Swedish in their midlives, we have very low unemployment”, said Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt to TT last week. His statement has caused a fuss in social media, with strong reactions on twitter leading to big headings in local and national newspapers- triggering questions such as, what does the prime minister mean with the term “ethnically Swedish”?
One can wonder if a newborn baby at Karolinska Sjukhuset is “more Swedish” than a hard working, tax paying, Swede with a foreign background. The discussion on Twitter went on and on, with many commenting on the definition of being ethnically Swedish. Are you ethnically Swedish if your whole family is Swedish? What if your parents are born somewhere else but you are born in Sweden, are you then ethnically Swedish? Many came to the conclusion that there is no dichotomizing the people through ethnicity, as sometimes duo-ethnicity and multi-ethnicity exists. It is unfortunately not in the prime minister’s schedule to defend his statements, and he has therefore chosen not to comment on this spiraled discussion.
The Social Democrats leader, Stefan Löfven, was strongly against the wording of the statement and criticized Mr. Reinfeldt for creating a “we and them” feeling- by the segregation of the people in groups of “ethnically Swedish” and non-ethnically Swedish.
On the other side of the panel, The Swedish Democrats leader, Jimmie Åkesson, supported Mr. Reinfeldts announcement saying, “It is very pleasant if [read: that] the prime minister has come to realize that we have a very widespread unemployment within, primarily, non-European immigrants…”
Whether we agree with the red socialists or the blue-yellow nationalists, most people seem to concur that the statement was awkwardly expressed. One can assume that the prime minister had good intents, and one can assume otherwise, but in any case- what can he do now in this storm of criticism? Crisis communication specialist at Hill + Knowlton Strategies, Jeanette Fors, answered that question on twitter, saying, “It would be best if he would say that he did not mean to differentiate [‘ethnically Swedish’ vs ‘non-ethnically Swedish’] ”.
“Fredrik Reinfeldt speaks of ‘ethnic’ Swedes, what is that for a race?”- Jaumevillanueva, Twitter.
In a world where globalization has brought us a lot closer, where one can many times not tell the difference between ethnicities. This globalization slowly made us realize how irrelevant it should be to ask about someone’s religion, race, sexual orientation, or other. We have delved deep into each other’s societies; we have partaken in the building of national monuments for each other. We have raised each other’s kids up and taken care of each other’s old. What is it that makes us so stubborn in segregating our communities, after coming so close?
Being a part of an “ethnic” group is a privilege; it fulfills our social needs of belonging. Humans needed this especially as we were traveling in packs hunting for food and working for survival. As humans slowly developed larger societies and started to rely on trade and communication as a means of survival- ethnicity was always there and whatever one did it was for the good of the group, but one dared reach out to others and cooperate. We fought with each other, we had great wars where each group of societies which formed a country bound by a border had to show their true nationality and ethnicity. My background was my sense of pride and honor. As time moved on, we realized that guns wont solve much, but we can always use lethal words. People in strong societies were told that pointing a gun at someone proves to have a negative affect; it makes you look bad, so instead pick up your pen and really harm them. Humans started throwing around big words such as national pride, ethnicity, union pacts, and superiority. How much do we actually know about those words? They are in fact nothing but lovely sounding words that prove to be catastrophic if misused. We challenged each other, not to one-on-one fights like the Trojans, Spartans and Greek, but to verbal fights leading to action. Suddenly, Reagan said, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Our words have become so powerful, that with the right person, the right tone and the right words one can demand the leader of a superpower to tear down a wall of suppression and injustices. Ronald Reagan, the 40th president of the USA, had all eyes on him, and his words had to be one hundred percent correct. Nowadays, anyone who claims any political power whatsoever has all eyes on them. Therefore, how you phrase your thoughts must be well planned. In his 1987 speech, Ronald Reagan explained himself extremely thoroughly before finally announcing his demands of Mr. Gorbachev tearing down the wall. A word today is like a bullet, one cannot shoot at someone and run away- if you did it for a reason; explain yourself- as Reagan explained himself. It would have therefore been more appreciated if Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt had considered the affects of his statement before it was said, or at least defining it after it was said. He bluntly points out, what seems to be a social issue, but gives no further explanation as to why the case is as it is. Before arguing about “non-ethnical Swedes” having higher rates of unemployment, one might be interested in the fact that the prosperous urbanization of cities in Sweden was thanks to those “non-ethnical Swedes” who migrated to Sweden starting in the 1940’s. As Swedes were leaving the country and its factories empty, immigrants were building it up.
By this time in history we have traveled around. People moved permanently and left their countries hoping to find new and rich lands like Columbus did in his discovery of the Americas. We finally came to realize that we can cooperate to make the place we are living in now better. One would leave his country, and forget his history just to live a happy and fruitful life abroad. Mr. Reinfeldt has now to all of those who moved here from Romania, Greece, Turkey, Poland and where not, in the 1970’s- to secure a future for themselves but also build the rapidly growing Swedish societies- said, thank you, you are not ethnically Swedish. Mr. Prime Minister used lethal words that put a barrier between “we and them”, whilst not even defining who “we and them” were. It was a bullet in the air, but some felt shot- and as the Prime Minister, he should protect and not shoot his people.
If the issue of unemployment within immigrants (a slightly more defined word, literally meaning ‘coming from abroad’ aka, not born here) is very crucial, then it demands actions and not words of segregation in times when the whole country should work together to ensure a safe future.
Many can no longer associate themselves with an ethnicity that expresses them completely. Many are due ethnical and multi-ethnical.
Therefore, Mr, Reinfeldt, do not take us thousands of years back in time, where one belonged to ethnic groups as a means of safety in hunter-gathering societies. This is the modern world and we are modern men and women, let us stand against discrimination and segregation. Let us stand against linguistic weapons of destruction, which brainwash the young. Let us stand against the “we and them” ideology that is the protagonist of human development. Help the immigrants of Sweden feel ethnically Swedish, and they will help you continue building Sweden.
Sincerely, an ethnically Swede, born in Egypt.
[Note: all quotations are literal translations of the original quotes in Swedish]
Dear reader, what are your opinions? Do you agree on the Prime Minister’s phrasing? What should Fredrik Reinfeldt do now? What can be done about unemployment in Sweden? Comment below
Cajsa Pettersson | 17 Feb
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