Swedish Language Blog

Democracy in Sweden Posted by on Mar 26, 2014 in Uncategorized

It’s been a while since we talked about Swedish culture. It’s been grammar heavy lately, which is obviously important when learning a language, but when studying a language, it’s also important to understand what is happening culturally in a country. That includes the good things (like delicious Swedish candy and amazing Swedish movies and wonderful Swedish nature) to the not so good things (like racism and the rise of the extreme right). And so, let’s talk about some of the not so good things. And if you want some Swedish work, you can practice your reading skills if you follow the links I’ve included at the bottom.

Recently, a young representative from Sverigedemokraterna (Sweden Democrats) was kept from appearing at a high school in Stockholm. The SDU representative was blocked by a group of about 50 students who were protesting the potential disruption that such an appearance may cause. Sverigedemokraterna are an extreme-right-wing fascist political party in Sweden, sometimes also described as xenophobic, radical nationalist, racist, you get the idea. They currently hold 20 of the 349 seats in the Swedish parliament after having received 5.7% of the vote in the most recent election. This reputation precedes Sverigedemokraterna and some students at Globala Gymnasiet decided to protest the inclusion of a representative from SD. Fair enough.

But not fair enough according to Susanna Birgersson. Birgersson described the students’ actions as anti-democratic citing the fact that the party plays by current accepted political rules. She goes on to note that “…SD finns. Åsikterna finns. Väljarna finns.” (SD exists. These opinions exist. These voters exist.). Of course, what she seems to then be implying is that because those opinions exist, everyone must be willing to listen to them. That democracy is contingent upon our ability to listen, to converse, to debate, is all fine and dandy, yet Birgersson ignores the multitude of other ideals that create a truly democratic society.

Birgersson’s claim that the protest by the students is anti-democratic seems to ignore the fact that the students who were doing the protesting were actively participating in the democratic process. They were voicing their opinions. They were critically examining the issues. They were exercising their rights as engaged citizens in a democracy. They were taking part in the process. A very democratic one that allows students like those at Globala Gymnasiet to refuse entry to someone they believe is there to simply spew hateful and fascist commentary at a school that instead works to acknowledge the equal worth of all of its students. Not just the ones that certain factions deem to be Swedish.

That’s what I think. What do you think?

You can read a couple of pieces (in Swedish) here:
Skolblockad: Så vinner man inte debatten
Eleverna utövade sin demokratiska rätt

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About the Author: Marcus Cederström

Marcus Cederström has been writing for the Transparent Swedish Blog since 2009. He has a Bachelor's Degree in Scandinavian Studies from the University of Oregon, a Master's Degree in Scandinavian Studies from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and a PhD in Scandinavian Studies and Folklore from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He has taught Swedish for several years and still spells things wrong. So, if you see something, say something.