Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Dream Falls Apart

Unfree Speech in Sweden Part II

Continuing from yesterday's post on the article in Jyllands Posten, our Scandinavian correspondent Rune translates:
    Jonathan Friedman thinks circumstances in Sweden are special also because Sweden has a long tradition of maintaining a correct surface. "Bergman's movies weren't about anything else. It was all about demons hiding under the dry and correct surface. A party like The Swedish Democrats is like a national libido, which must be suppressed. The untold base assumption is that, if not controlled, then deep down we are all racists. Like we all would become drunks if it wasn't for The Systembolaget [Swedish state institution for controlling and selling alcohol. None others are allowed to sell alcohol] - a doctor actually told me the latter. In complete earnest. It is a very interesting cultural phenomena, which is continuously repeated time and again. One is afraid of ones own shadow. Schools dare not raised the Swedish flag or celebrate Christmas. And if you ask a Swedish minister (which a journalist did. red. [not my note]) if he is Swedish, then he hurriedly assures you that he is most certainly no such thing - he is a mix of all kinds of other things. The Swedish supreme court has in a ruling in principle made clear the fact that racism is something which is done by Swedes and not anyone else. This despite many of the gang rapes, wherein by the way immigrants are massively overrepresented as perpetrators, have clear racist traits. But this they don't want to know, and this we are not allowed to know."
"Weekend racists", is Friedman's term for many Swedes, whom drink themselves senseless during the weekend, whence it is generally accepted to - and then all the suppressed hatred is let loose. He mentions a leading politician whom daily spoke warmly for greater immigration and integration, but who simply had to be thrown out of Grand Hotel one Saturday evening because he shouted and screamed his racist opinions for the world to hear. While being drunk. Racism while under the influence of alcohol.
Jonathan Friedman won't mention names, but his example was recently overdone. A Swedish journalist, had, pretending to be a normal citizen, a whole slate of Swedish politicians affirm the most grotesque racist utterances and had it on tape. Several elected politicians had to withdraw after the exposure on Swedish television.
"Try to see how the police treat a drunk a Tuesday. And then how they react during the weekend. During the weekend it is accepted that one gets drunk, many simply goes all out berserk. Then it all has to come out. Try to transfer this to the political."
Crime is on the rise
"But critique and the problems supposedly won't go away?"
"Sweden has lots of conflicts and a rising insecurity. We have witnessed several incidents of what I would call classical racist nature, wherein two groups of people violently clash. Crime is going up. The newly arrived are largely unemployed, and this costs the welfare state much much money. The welfare state is based on a closed system, it can handle a limited group of people. It can't in any way deal with an open society, but this kind of insight is too much for politicians in general. They think in very short terms. I think it is absurd to believe that, for instance, thousands of Somalians can be "integrated" into a society as the Swedish. But there are academics that believe so. And the politicians have to believe it, their whole life is based on tomorrow being better than today. It won't. So what does a politician do, when he has to face reality - that the future looks far darker than today.?"
"Close the eyes and hope for the best?"
"Yes. And in a way I understand it. It is a whole vision or dream which is falling apart. Sweden is a closely knit society wherein the idea of community stands above all. In the city where I am from, nobody gives a damn. You don't make eye contact on the street. You say "how are you" but don't mean anything by it. All the time you try to create vacuum around your own person. It is extremely individualistic. In the Swedish model, the crux is that either a thing is centrally controlled - or there is chaos.
"But the idea of folkehjemmet [approx. The People's Home - the Swedish Marianne or their manifestation of the welfare system] is also challenged. And the Swedes handle it their own way. In the integration law of 1997 it says directly: "Since a large group of people have their origin from another country, the Swedish people have no common history. The connection to Sweden and the support of society's basic values is of greater importance for integration than historical origin."
Friedman shakes his head.
"In reality they thus view the world as consisting of a number of different "races" and groups of people. Sweden's own history is abolished and exchanged for a history of the different "races". This law would raise the state above the nation and make the essential for nationality be a patronage of a number of "values". But in actuality the Swedish feeling of nationality & patriotism is just as much tied up on the cultural and the historical as eg. the Danish.
The idea of a "weekend racist" is intriguing. In this country overt racism (at least the white version of it) is relegated to the far fringes of discourse. But the concealed racism of the elites emerges from time to time; witness DNC chairman Howard Dean's recent comments to the African American Caucus: "You think the RNC could get this many people of color into a single room?" he marvels. "Maybe if they got the hotel staff in there."

Ho ho! Those racist Republicans, they just have blacks as servants! But we, the Enlightened, we allow them into the room with us and even pretend that we think they're as good as we are! No racism here!

The dream is falling apart, but the sleeper desperately wants to keep on sleeping, and wants the rest of us to stay in dreamland with him.

(More on Jonathan Friedman and Rune’s other translations in upcoming posts)


Annoy Mouse said...

Weekend racist. Great. It seems to me that racism is the less fashionable side of group identity. John Derbyshire speaks of the classes of Designated Victim Groups (DVG) and Designated Oppressor Groups (DOG). All women and the so called minorities belong to the DVG. That leaves something like less than 1/6 of the world population, white males, as DOGs.

"The only people expected to "bow to the moral necessity to show respect and regard for all groups that are different, in whatever ways" are we members of DOGs. We are supposed to cultivate the most exquisite sensitivity to members of DVGs, and to tear our flesh in shame at the recollection of past wrongs. They, on the other hand, can insult us as much as they please. They also have a license to loot our assets, make free use of the money ripped from our pockets by force of law as taxes, and trash our cherished institutions. This is where "beyond tolerance" has taken us."

What continues to amaze me is that racism seems to be an innate human response to outsiders. The kind of people who used to toss around racial expletives have found new targets to their irrepressible loathing. Fat ugly white truck driving cowboys from Texas beware. It is perfectly acceptable to belittle you. In fact not to berate you would be racist. The racist anti-racist gene will express itself in the hatred of smaller and smaller minorities.

But in the end, it boils down to the fact that “enlightened” cultures are capable of introspect and have become their harshest critics. Some societies are not into deconstructing their own culture but will glibly de-con-struct ours. How can I “celebrate” other peoples culture when I am denied the right to celebrate my own? (Celebrate? Put on a cone hat and throw shredded paper over my shoulder?) Most cultures that I am supposed to be celebrating are busy celebrating the death of ours. My heritage is not that of a cowboy, but weren’t all our ancestors primitive at one time?

truepeers said...

"In the city where I am from, nobody gives a damn. You don't make eye contact on the street. You say "how are you" but don't mean anything by it. All the time you try to create vacuum around your own person. It is extremely individualistic."

-this is a good definition, not of personhood, for that is lacking in such an individual, but of the hysterical self that has no solid sense of personal identity. It is precisely the sign of someone having lost touch with any spiritual or ethical-historical tradition. They know they are supposed to be "tolerant" of outsiders, but they no longer know where western ideas of openness to the other come from in terms of our religious and cultural history.

""Since a large group of people have their origin from another country, the Swedish people have no common history. The connection to Sweden and the support of society's basic values is of greater importance for integration than historical origin."
"Friedman shakes his head.
""In reality they thus view the world as consisting of a number of different "races" and groups of people. Sweden's own history is abolished and exchanged for a history of the different "races". This law would raise the state above the nation and make the essential for nationality be a patronage of a number of "values". But in actuality the Swedish feeling of nationality & patriotism is just as much tied up on the cultural and the historical as eg. the Danish.""

-This, of course, is not simply a Swedish phenomenon. Here is the intro. to an announcement for an international academic conference to be held in June in Rotterdam:

"Although it would be exaggerated to proclaim the end of the nation in the near future, it cannot be denied that nations have become porous and contested. Consequentially, the practices of cultural transmission and education based upon them have likewise become precarious. After a half-century of decolonization, migration and postcoloniality, feminism and the gendering of historical discourse, the received canon of national history and political thought no longer commands the 'natural authority' it once possessed.

"Even so, we have to confront the paradox that, despite the vast amount of criticism leveled at it, the canon is still being recycled over and over again in textbooks and publications aimed at a broader public. Educators and public moralists frequently recommend the canon as the only alternative to the postmodernist maze of relativism and contingency.
The conference sets out to discuss various dimensions of this paradox of de-canonization, such as gender, postcoloniality and migration, equality and the Enlightenment, situating them in the shifting balance of national, European and World History. It will investigate the feasibility of revised, multiform and more open 'canons', and the role they might play in cultural transmission in the twenty-first century."

Is this a sign that the academics are starting to get a dose of reality? They have thought that the door to the open society was through destruction of the old walls of nationhood, and misinterpreting history as some kind of complex conspiracy. Are they now finding that this is recipe only for morally lost people who don't know how to treat others well, and that in fact all healthy personhood depends on having a relationship to specific religious and national-ethical traditions, as well as to the human origins we all share? I'm sure the pc academe will not go so far yet, but this tentative return to "the cannon" is interesting.

Annoy Mouse said...

When I was a child I used to play Cowboys and Indians. Every kid wanted to be a Cowboy so we had to choose the Indians by the eenie-meenie-minie-moe method. By the time I was in high school and had read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, I identified more with the Indians, and now that the Indians own gambling casinos, I wish I was an Indian more than ever. But probably not for the same reasons as Ward Churchill.

In the end, I am not ashamed of my culture. The history of the world is the chronicle of murder and rape and the USA and white males have nothing to be ashamed of. Just quit telling me I have to respect others peoples culture when they move here from some god forsaken sh*t hole when they can’t find it in their interests to respect mine. If I move to East Krapistan, I will not insult the locals by insisting that they celebrate my culture, so this goes out to all the East Krapistanians in the US, bugger off!

truepeers said...

"The history of the world is the chronicle of murder and rape and the USA and white males have nothing to be ashamed of."

-if that were true about history, then we would indeed have something to be ashamed of. But history is a process in time, and it is misinterpreted when the times of violence are used as our temporal markers. For every act of human violence, there is also the time preceeding and following the violence when violence is, if only momentarily, deferred.

What makes this deferral of our resentful violence possible? (I say resentful violence, because some of our violence follows animalistic imperatives - e.g. competition for limited resources -but much of it is tied to the problem of our rivalry, from within culture, rivalry for the center of cultural attention.) It is those elements of culture that attract our interest (imagine Napoleon posing for his portrait), as an alternative to the immediate acting out of our violent resentment that defers violence.

This is why all culture(s) is worthy of some respect. This is not to say that all culture is good enough to guide us in this day and age. Most that has ever existed is not. Primitive religion and ritual is not going to get anyone through our difficulties of living in the 21stC. It is to say, however, that culture emerges, when it does, because it is able, for at least a moment in time, to do the job of culture, which is to defer violence.

When we see people whose culture is so weak that they are acting in a rage of violent aggression or engaging in some hysterical fit, then we have reason to judge their culture as lacking. Still, all culture deserves some respect for once (and maybe still) having had the mysterious stuff that does the job of keeping us alive. Its historical evolution should be the basis of our most fundamental historical narrratives. Absent the history of killing technology and politics (which is as much about deferring as performing violence) and the "history" of rape and murder is always the same - pure violence is the loss of meaningful difference; it has no historicity, i.e. no basis for marking historical time.

StoutFellow said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
StoutFellow said...

Greetings Baron,

In Sweden it's "UnFreedom of Speech" which, as I've pointed out before, makes Sweden AOK in the eyes of a noteable Jihadist.

Before I begin, I say to you that security is an indispensable pillar of human life and that free men do not forfeit their security, contrary to Bush's claim that we hate freedom.

If so, then let him explain to us why we don't strike for example - Sweden?

In the United States it's UnFreedom of Religion.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc., is an educational group working for the separation of state and church. Its purposes, as stated in its bylaws, are to promote the constitutional principle of separation of state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

Incorporated in 1978 in Wisconsin, the Foundation is a national membership association of freethinkers: atheists, agnostics and skeptics of any pedigree. The Foundation is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization under Internal Revenue Code 501(c)(3). All dues and contributions are deductible for income tax purposes.

Of course one doesn't have to read too closely to see what The Freedom From Religion Foundation means by 'Freedom From Religion'. It is Freedom from all religions except their own religion (atheism, agnosticism or nihilism). This is to be accomplished by prohibiting the public expression of any religion other than the religion of the FFRF, i.e. by the establishment of atheism as the state religion.

In actuality the friends would probably settle for the prohibition of religions followed by Designated Oppressor Groups (Christianity,Judaism) and might accept some religions of Designated Victim Groups (Islam). Hat Tip Annoy Mouse.

I suppose on the positive side we should applaud the FFRF for stating clearly what their goals are. This is in contrast to ACLU which shares the same goals as the FFRF, but operates completely under the guise of promoting civil liberties.

Engineer-Poet said...

I wouldn't be so hard on the FFRFi, if I were you; neither they nor the ACLU are calling for civil war over the issue of abortion, nor are they trying to censor the public school biology curriculum to put it in line with their theology.  On the other hand, the Islamists share all those goals.

Attempting to equate agnosticism with nihilism, or atheism with religion, doesn't do much for your image.  This kind of thing plays well in the religious echo-chambers of the nation where nobody hears a contrary opinion, but where people actually know agnostics and atheists - and knows that the latter are perhaps 8% of the general population but less than 1% of people in prison - claims that your way is the only way to lead a proper and moral life fall rather flat.

If you find it strange that some of your fellow Americans are less than impressed by your declarations of faith, consider the baggage you're dragging into the debate with them.

Baron Bodissey said...

Engineer-Poet -- One point I disagree with you on: atheism is a religion. It requires faith in something which cannot be determined by reason or with one's senses (namely, the non-existence of God). The Orthodox Atheist can be just as rigid and full of righteous zeal as any bible-thumper.

The agnostic, on the other hand, acknowledges the limits of his own knowledge, and declines to believe.

Engineer-Poet said...

It's a religion?  Who wrote the scripture?  Is there a Church of No God you can join?  What do they sing at the services?

I'm sorry, that one can't pass the laugh test.

There are definitely belief systems (e.g. Marxism-Leninism) which adopt atheism as a tenet (as a defense against competing theistic belief systems), but atheism is not ipso facto a religion; in isolation, it is the opposite.  It is explicitly a definition of no faith.

It was faith that allowed Mohammed Atta to fly a plane-full of people into the WTC.  We could use a lot more skepticism and criticism of claims of faith.  This is exactly what the West has had for centuries, and what the Islamic world lacks; the solution is not to emulate the latter.

The skeptical world view has distinct limits, about what you can be certain is not as much as what you can be certain is.  A great many skeptics have examined religion, found it lacking, and declared themselves atheist.  Can you take this and declare that they are practicing religion, the one of no-religion?  Only if you play Humpty-Dumpty and turn the language upside-down.

Baron Bodissey said...

It may not pass your laugh test, but it passes mine. You obviously never saw Madelyn Murray O'Hair in action. As for scripture, it depends upon the sect. Any of O'Hair's writings could certainly qualify as atheist scripture.

My point is that absolute certainty in the non-existence of God is just as much a doctrine of faith as any religious orthodoxy. Each requires ontological certainty; this a priori "given" begins in a different place for each of us and operates outside of reason. Reason can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God, and, as I have often said: a corollary to Gödel's Theorem, the existence of God cannot be proved, nor can God be understood. A complete description or proof of a consistent and coherent system cannot exist within that system. Our mathematics and logic tell us that belief in the existence of God must remain an act of faith.

I am a mathematician with a strong interest in epistemology, and I emphasize repeatedly the limits of what can be known (as opposed to what can be believed). The existence or non-existence of God cannot be known by us frail, limited, humans in the time that has been allotted to us.

Those who assert the non-existence of God have faith.

Engineer-Poet said...

Didn't Ayn Rand prove once and for all that you can have an absolute morality without having to posit a deity as its source?

Dymphna said...


You're changing the category of the argument here. The thread up till now has been atheism/religious faith as two sides of the same coin. Morality is another piece of currency entirely. Which is not to say it's not a valid point for discussion, it's just not within the parameters of this one.

And, yes, of course morality doesn't need deity as its source. But that didn't start with Rand. More like the pre-Socratics.

She never did say anything original, which is okay -- the irritating thing was her stinginess about giving credit for the source of her ideas.