”Nationalism” is yet another of many words that have lost its original meaning in our cultural discourse, especially in media and social media. It has been distorted like e.g. ”socialism”, ”anarchism” and ”liberal”.
Most nations were created by, and exists because of, nationalism. USA became a nation by revolution, like many nations. In Europe and South America nations popped up like mushrooms in the 18th and 19th century, and European colonies in Africa became nations in the 20th century. Israel is a brand new nation and former Soviet Union became many sovereign nations when the Cold War ended. Palestine may also be a nation one day. So, nationalism created almost all nations we know.
It seems like nationalism, to define geographical borders around language, culture and shared common stories, is the most efficient way to organise millions of people, when tribes or other socio-cultural structures no longer works. Agriculture, technology, natural resources, huge populations and powerful weapons also seems to push humans into nations. People, land, security.
I regard the romantic stories, the annoying nation-glue, mostly silly and harmless. Only when race becomes a component I worry, but racism is another story, it’s a plague that can infect any kind of human activity and organisation, it has technically nothing to do with nationalism. Racism is about biology or quasi-biology, not geography and culture.
I personally never been ”proud” to be a Swede. I don’t understand how a person can be ”proud” of belonging to a nation, it’s like being proud of being born and breathing or being ”proud” of a mountain. It’s also absurd to me that one can be ”proud” of things ancestors did centuries ago, before one even was born. But I don’t mind if others feel that, even though I don’t understand that feeling, it must have something to do with fantasy and projection, something childish.
I’m also not a serious practitioner of my country’s traditions, and if I participate at all, I prefer the old pagan stuff, not the Christian fashions which seems to me ”foreign” and ”plastic”.
Some newly imported traditions are fun for the kids, e.g. Halloween, some are cringy, like when the father handing over his daughter to the husband at weddings (gives me an Iron-Age vibe). Both are imports from USA 20-30 years ago, Hollywood was the deliverer, via electronic cultural migration.
What I’m trying to say is that I’m the antithesis of cultural-conservatism and social-conservatism (the two main sources of stupidity and confusion in European ”anti-immigration” political parties). I’m the antithesis of cultural-conservatism and social-conservatism when it comes to symbolism, aesthetics and behaviour. For me all that surface blink and makeup is just social cosplay, it comes and goes, it can be fun, boring, malignant or harmless. If it stays a century, it’s regarded as native culture (and conservatives likes it).
Cultural appropriation is the name of the game and it’s neither good or bad, it’s just a part of human evolution. The soil for all those memes and cultural plants is our biology. Cultural appropriation is in Homo Sapiens DNA. The Romans application of Greek culture is just one famous example, or later the French Revolution and Enlightenment pushed all over Europe by Napoleon. The global adaption of Anglo-Saxon culture from UK and USA the latest two centuries is hard to even comprehend.
The creation of brand new and unique cultural expressions are rare, but that’s what I’m more interested in, that’s activating more patterns in my brain.
I’m Swedish though, it’s my language and history, and most of all; I have no other country. The Utopia I would like to visit is a planet without nations, but that is sadly not the world we live in and I suppose it will never happen.
I did my military service and I would fight if my country was attacked, but the flag is just a brand, a logotype, nothing ”sacred”. I wouldn’t fight for the flag or traditions, I would fight for my family, my neighbours and the Democratic Liberal Constitution. If Sweden was e.g. a dictatorship, I wouldn’t fight for it, it wouldn’t be ”my” country. Maybe I would fight the government instead in that scenario.
So, my Nation is not ”soil and blood”, no, it’s an Idea and a Contract. In my case, born and raised without wealth, I also ”owe” my country, my fellow citizens, a lot; healthcare, dental care, education, temporary economic support, law and order, etc. My country also supported my family and friends. So, even without emotional or cultural loyalty, an economist could argue that I would ”pay a debt” as a soldier.
Regardless origin and dogmas, a huge influx of cultures through migration into another culture will – of course – have an impact on the host culture. This is the normal progress of human civilisations and it’s both inevitable and fruitful. Cultural inbreeding through isolation is nothing to wish for, it’s doomed and can only end in slow cultural degeneration and final death, or at least severe stagnation. Cultural inbreeding is as bad a genetic inbreeding, so I also salute ”race-mixing”, DNA diversity when reproducing is the future for Homo Sapiens.
The liberal Europe now again have a huge human influx and this time many native citizens are worried because the influx is mostly from muslim cultures. Islamic culture has not had any reformation like e.g. ”Judeo-Christian” culture and many areas with muslim majorities has not had any Enlightenment like The West had. Most muslim countries have never had any democracy as The West defines it, and most are still today not democratic the way citizens in The West defines democracy. The worried Westerners may not demand that those countries should reform and practice liberal democracy in their native countries, they just confess that they want to keep their own democracy and liberal culture. I believe that – even though there are some loud bigoted and racist people in the anti-immigration camp – the cultural aspect is the most important one for most.
Is there a reason to worry that a huge influx of muslims – religious or not – will degenerate the Liberal Society? Dismantle the Laws and Human Rights that have been implemented in The West with struggle, suffering and blood the last 250 years? Or will the new muslim citizens integrate and embrace – not our way of life, that’s a private matter and a foggy concept – but our Constitutions, our Laws, Ethics and our Liberties? Embrace the right to Free Speech, our sexual liberties, women equality, atheism, religious rights (e.g. the right to leave a religion)? Will this new citizens respect our rights to ridicule religion and religious patriarchs, prophets and dogmas? Can they accept that blasphemy is not a juridical term and has nothing to do with The State, the Nation? That blasphemy is only a thing for the initiated in a specific private club, with no value outside the walls of that club?
Will the newcomers adapt to our secular nation? I don’t know. What I know is that I don’t care about how people dress or how many wives a man have (or how many men a woman have). And I don’t care about what god or gods people worship or what colour nuance their skin have, if they believe in trolls or what ”holy days” they want to salubrate. I also – as I explained earlier – really don’t care much about my own country’s traditions and formal social culture.
The only thing I care about – on this topic – is our LAWS and our CONSTITUTION. That’s what I want to protect. I like our Human Rights and Liberal Democracy, I think it’s a superior way to organise a nation, and I even think we should push it further, I’m progressive. The Enlightenment project is not over, it’s a continuing process and many, also in The West, still have to catch up to what happened over 200 years ago.
And; blasphemy is a Human Right, I will never give up my right to ridicule religion, dogmas and holy men and holy cows.
My country has physical space and resources for many more citizens and we are a wealthy nation. So, immigration is a good thing and maybe even necessary because of our demographic situation. If there were no world crises and refuges who need acute help, I would advocate for a diversified immigration; quotas for a mixed influx from different parts of the world. I like mixing and more people from e.g. East Asia and India would be great, and South America. Most of all I would like a huge influx of jews; my country have embarrassing few jews and that’s bad, very bad. A nation with a big and thriving jewish community is a nation with better odds for scientific and technologic progress and dynamic cultural development. Jews are – in general – a superior group of people. E.g. Spain knows this and give citizenship to Sephardic Jews today if they want to immigrate. Spain did a horrible mistake five centuries ago and now they try to fix it.
But today most immigrants are refugees and of course we have to help people in need, especially children. And today the wast majority of refugees are muslims, some religious, some not so much. Many are born and raised in a rigid muslim culture, a society that for many Europeans and Americans seem harsh and medieval, especially regarding e.g. women, children and homosexuals.
So, it’s a monolithic influx even though they are, of course, not all the same as individuals (why do I even have to state that?). This mono-value influx would not be any problem if the people that come are in sync with the hosts cultural and political structure. Most are good people who can separate their own private culture from the new nations culture, and they will follow their new homeland laws and social game. But some will not, and some will try to change the laws and dilute current liberal values, they want to stop certain education in schools, seek exceptions regarding child protection legislation, separate women and men in specific areas, try to restrict our free press and free speech, physically punish children, force teenage marriages, influence foreign policy based on religion, etc. They may be a minority in the immigrant collective, but they run powerful organisations and are very well funded. We are not talking about grass-root opposition from oppressed minorities, we are talking about orthodox outposts from a culture-sphere of one billion people. Globally we, the secular liberal native Swedes, are a tiny minority, and we have to think globally in the New World we live in.
A liberal democracy have to be alert about all this, stay firm and not negotiate with this mediaeval – or rather Iron-Age – forces. Good liberal forces have fought the Iron-Age before, then it was evilness from Christianity and it took three centuries to defeat it and small pockets of this Iron-Age cancer is still in our culture. We don’t want imported pockets with similar cancer on top of that.
Maybe we should demand immigrants to sign a document were they certify that they have read our Constitution and the Human Rights. They don’t have to like it, some native Swedes don’t like it either, just certify and sign that they are informed, that they now KNOW. Of course every citizen born here also should read and sign it when turning eighteen years old. The goal is to avoid any ”I didn’t know” scenario.
The thing I like most with my country, and it goes more or less for all of Scandinavia, is our secularism. That is what I value most of all. Swedes regard religion as a private and personal thing, most doesn’t care at all about religion. We were pagans and Christianity came late and never really flourished here, it was mostly a tool for the kings, something ordinary Swedes associated with registration, tax, power and control. The Catholic Church had a very short run here and never went deep in the hearts of the Swedes. Our first ”nationalist” king, Gustav Vasa (I bet he was a deist or an atheist), just robbed the Catholic Church from power and wealth, banned them from the country and installed his own ”church” (for him a bureaucratic system and a tax collector machine).
Yes, there was a short period with some kind of an evangelical peak in the 19th century, here too, but compered too most other western countries it never went big and it never went into politics. It didn’t infect the nation as a whole.
Religion has nothing to do with the design of our nation and our social contracts. A politician who starts to talk about religion, gods and dogmas don’t stand a chance in Sweden, he/she is actually regarded as strange, maybe slightly mentally disturbed. If not, it’s at least regarded as embarrassing, and does not inspire trust. It’s almost like if he/she hang out his/her genitals. Actually, we never had those kind of politicians what I know, left or right.
If you want to make a change, go into politics, generate opposition, social movement, build opinion, reform, whatever; never ever mention gods, religion or ancient dogmas. Not even our small Christian-Democratic party talks about god!
From left to right in Sweden; leave religion at home when you go out, if you have any religion will say (which very few have).
The Swedish State Church is still mostly just a bureaucracy, many priests treat the Bible as a mythology or philosophy that maybe can be implemented for individual mental health support, they are more like social workers who baptise, wed and bury people (an in Sweden it’s normal to build a family without mariage).
The other christian cluster is the late US import; the Pentekostalists, they are more engaged regarding ”faith”, produce even some local sub-ecstasy behind closed doors. But they are very few, they keep to themselves and don’t bother the society at large. They know the game, they are in Sweden, they are Swedes.
Swedes are a very individualistic people, not only in the shallow American way, but also in the deepest existential sense. Life, death, meaning; it’s something inside your head, a private struggle with what you don’t understand. To organise around it, and settle supernatural dogmas and rules about how to live a life, seems bizarre for a vast majority of Swedes. You can write about it of course, even have a big gathering or rally about it, but it’s just temporary movements or events. And it’s never really about ”god”, it’s more about philosophy and science, maybe some yoga on top of it.
Swedes extreme individualism may be hard to understand for many other people on earth, loneliness and isolation is common in this country, but this is how we are and it may go back to old Norse culture. If we organise, and we are phenomenal regarding rational super-effective organisation, it’s about material things, power positioning, tearing down or building up, or ”rights”.
So, Sweden is, like most European countries, run by rationalism, materialism and science (except drug policy, that’s still based on mythology here), but Sweden (and Denmark I believe) have taken it farther than any other democratic nation on this planet. And I’m sure a vast majority of Swedes want it to be this way, and we don’t want this quality – this super-secular culture – to be altered or destroyed. It may be the biggest accomplishment our people have done, the total abolishment of religion from our social contract and common space (if it ever were there). That may be what it is to be a Swede, that may be our national character more than all other things. Swedes are Secular, Swedes are Atheists, Agnostics, Sceptics or mostly just don’t think about religion at all. Many even refuse a brand like ”atheism”, they are so empty on religion that even denial of gods are strange. How can you be ”anti” something that isn’t even there?
And now there is suddenly a huge flood of religion flushing into our country. Of course many native Swedes feel uncomfortable about this, or even have some valid suspicions about it. It’s the religion, any religion (could have been hundred of thousands of orthodox christians), THAT is the Problem. We just don’t like it, we believe it may harm our nation. It’s not the People we don’t like; it’s the Ideas! The Religion!