Tuesday, 9 November 2010
Last night, on Swedish television, a new programme aired. Called 'Young and Spoiled', it is a reality show about a group of young people who are very spoiled by their parents. The programme could easily have been called 'Spoilt Rotten'. These 'kids' are aged between 18 & 24, and have never worked a day in their lives. They are put into a house together to see how they manage fundamentals such as cooking, cleaning and getting up to go to work. Of course, they don't. And therein lies the entertainment.
I was fascinated less by the kids and more by the parents. Misguided adults who don't see that they are doing their offspring no favours in life by pandering to their every whim.
In Swedish, because it is so common, there is a word for these type of parents. They are known as 'curling parents' - a reference to the Olympic sport of ice curling. Just like in the icy sport, curling parents smooth the way for their children. They sweep away any obstacles and make life easier. They think they are taking their role as a parent seriously. Life is so difficult anyway that they should try to cushion the blows for their,let's face it, grown up children. But what they're really doing is robbing their children of the chance to develop essential life skills and feel a sense of personal responsibility and achievement.
As far as I know, there is no equivalent word in English for 'curling parents'.
This must be because they don't exist in the UK. Right?
Saturday, 6 November 2010
It isn't every day that you are faced with death. It is isn't every day we contemplate our own mortality. And that's probably a good thing. Imagine what life would be like if we thought about death all the time.
But today is an opportunity to do just that. Today is All Saints' Eve. Well, not technically. All Saints' Eve is actually October 31st. But in Sweden, they are practical and, since 1953, they round it up to the nearest weekend and call it a public holiday.
Legislation aside, today is the day in Sweden when people reflect over life, death and those who have passed away. It is a peaceful time. No fireworks or trick-or-treating here. It is a beautful time. No vampires or zombies populate the graveyards.
Instead, the graveyards twinkle with candle light. Relatives flock to the burial grounds and light candles and lanterns and place them by the graves of their loved ones. It is a miraculous sight to see the dark cemetries twinkling and glowing with bright white lights.
On Österlen in the rural south of Sweden, they have taken it a step further. A festival called 'Österlen Lyser' - Österlen shines - starts today. The dark villages and fields are lit up with candles, flares, lanterns and torches. People play lantern-illuminated night time boule by the edge of the sea. Choirs sing, windows glow and open bonfires celebrate this dark time of the year.
It isn't every day that you are faced with death. Full respect to Halloween, but the less commercial Swedish approach provides a more reflective vehicle for us to contemplate our own mortality.
Friday, 5 November 2010
Evil-doings and corruption is the flavour of the month in the Swedish press.
First, we were informed about the deep run corruption relating to public tenders in Gothenburg. Next, we were presented with MPs who had been invited on paid trips by private corporations or given free tickets to go to the Stockholm Open. Yesterday, a new book came out exposing the king's alleged naughty-doings 20 years ago - naughty-doings that involved gambling, drinking and escort girls.
But just how corrupt is Sweden, in comparison to other countries? Well, first you have to define what corruption is. Is it misuse of power, or public funds, or position? Is it lying to gain public office? Is it prioritising personal progress? Different countries may perceive it differently.
Transparency International(TI) is an organisation that produces the annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). They define corruption as the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. This definition encompasses corrupt practices in both the public and private sectors. The CPI is an index which allows us to compare how 'corrupt' countries are.
In the 2010 index, Sweden comes out as the fourth least-corrupt country in the world, a joint position held with Finland. The least corrupt countries are Denmark, New Zealand and Singapore. See www.transparency.org
It's interesting that corruption is what the Swedish media chooses to report at the moment. A quick look around Europe shows a similar phenomenon - in times of recession and economic depression, issues of corruption become more important. When the people are suffering, their tolerance levels fall. The UK's reporting of the many MP's who used public funds for private investments is a classic example.
Sweden is in a recession at the moment. And when this happens, people start questioning the behaviours and standards of others. The King's position becomes a target for public interest. The privileges that leading politicians have starts to be questioned.
As the fourth least-corrupt country in the world, Sweden doesn't really have much to worry about when compared internationally.
I am sure that once the recession is over, what the king did in the 1980's will seem irrelevant and unimportant.