I think most readers turn to Britain’s Guardian when they can no longer bear the right-wing bias of Salon.com. And thus once ensconced in those warm pink folds, it is quite jarring to suffer the non-safe-spaceness of triggering information. I think a recent opinion piece there may have produced that effect promiscuously. In writing on Sweden’s recently reversed refugee policy the author gets about as close to honesty as that publication fears to tread.
Tuesday’s decision by the Swedish government to shut the doors to almost all refugee settlement brought the deputy prime minister to the verge of tears as she announced it. This wasn’t cheap emotion: it represents a massive and irreversible climbdown from the belief that Sweden alone in Europe, almost alone in the world, could offer refuge to anyone who truly deserved it.
We can all blubber along with these emotionally stunted apparatchiks in the midst of a “massive and irreversible climbdown” from their Tumblr nation opium dream. There’s always a snap when reality’s tether pulls taut. But who was to know? That a country of some eight million actually didn’t possess the teats to suckle the globe had to be a bitter surprise. Yet I suppose one had to try. Are you not going to do something just because it’s a pointless suicidal impossibility?
The unprecedented scale and speed of the autumn’s refugee crisis has forced even the Swedish political class to acknowledge that the ground beneath its feet has shifted forever. There is simply no more money, and no more housing, for everyone who wants to come, and for everyone who was entitled to do so under the old rules.
The refugees have been spread all over the country, except in Stockholm, which has contributed to the backlash. A friend of mine lives in a small town in the centre of Sweden, with a population of 10,000 – which now has 1,000 additional refugees to feed and house. Their children must be educated. Jobs must be found for them. It’s really not easy to see how this will happen.
There’s always the thin gruel of tears. Sweden’s lachrymose deputy PM should start canning that facial broth now. For the reason it is not easy to see how Swedes will sustain the maw, is because they won’t. Everyone wants to save the whales, but no one wants to live with one. Swedes were too pompously naive to understand the difference. And as with most cosmically imbecilic blunders, the crash site is going to be spectacular.
The scale of immigration to Sweden in the last decades has been huge. What was 30 years ago one of the most homogeneous nations in Europe now has a population in which nearly one in five is of immigrant descent, and most of those are visibly different.
While this went on, the nationalist and reactionary Sweden Democrat party has grown from a tiny groupuscule with clear neo-Nazi roots first to get into parliament, and then to hold the balance of power as a result of all this. But all the other parties have united in their refusal to bend to the Sweden Democrats’ demands, or even to acknowledge their existence. Not only was the political class in Stockholm in complete denial about the Sweden Democrats for decades but the present government is in power only because all parties in the centre-right opposition have refused to acknowledge that, arithmetically, the Sweden Democrats hold the balance of power and could topple any government of either left or right if the others would only vote with them.
The measures that have been announced will not in themselves be enough to stem the flow of refugees. Passport controls at the border, and time-limited visas will not be brought in until next year. Until then the attractions of Sweden will be even greater. But they do mark a historic change in Swedish political sentiment, such as only happens every 20 or 30 years. In six months’ time it will be impossible to find any prominent Swedish politician who ever believed in last week’s policy. The dream of Europe as a sanctuary is dead.
I suppose some westerners would feel compelled to bleat a feeble “Nazi” while turning on a Congolese dinner spit. It’s simply a civilizational reflex action at this point. And one presented here only as vague apology. Sweden Democrats, umm neo-nazi is the Sorry man, but I’m voting for my side of modern political rhetoric.
Though the author does well identify a key behavioral feature of the human animal. Abandonment is a stampede, and memory is the first one out the door. I am not as certain as he that the Swedish political class has yet retired its replacement project. A temporary respite to dim native torches is just as likely. Though if he is correct, it will not only be the Swedes’ sanctuary dream that dies, but that of Babel Europe entirely.
And that’s when tears are back on the menu boys.