Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Get up, Stand up, Stand up for Other People's Rights!

One of the things that most defined being between the ages of 16-25, for me, (and I will admit to feeling the occasional urging since then) was the ability to jump at any excuse to to grab a great big sign and protest against the government, a university president, a big evil company doing experiments on monkeys, anything. 

And so when I moved to Sweden there were many times I felt – 'Man if I only had a placard, I would go to town.' I had fantasies of standing outside of Systembolaget (the state-owned liqour store) with a giant 'Stop the Madness' sign and suddenly finding myself surrounded by others who didn't want to order their foreign exotic beers 3 days in advance, chanting and eventually overturning the powers that be.

But pretty soon I learned that only very very rarely did Swedes actually protest against their own government, and only much much later did I figure out that most Swedes have a secret enduring fondness for Systembolaget.

Swedes are GREAT at protesting things that happen in other countries. Every Saturday you can usually find someone waving a sign in my local square protesting the Israeli occupation of Palestine, the US occupation of Iraq/Afganistan, the current regime in Iran. When Bush came to visit there were actual shots fired in the streets. But not really anything that has a direct effect on the state in which we live.

The only issue that brings out the Swedish students with any degree of certainty is racism. This is one of the only real perks of the Swedish Democrats (the racist party – yes I said it, because I think they are) getting elected. On opening day of the new parliament, there were actually some protesters there. 

In our area there have been some pretty nice student-driven 'lack-of-housing' protests, with squatters, marching and lots of sign waving. But this has been against the local government, not against the folks up top.

I have always wondered - is this because everyone is just so thrilled to bits with the performance of the Swedish government? Or is it because they feel their voice will just never be heard? I have gotten both as answers when I've posited this question to Swedes.

So there ya go, now that Apotek has fallen (the pharmacy state-run monoply), Systembolaget has to be next. Who's up for picketing?


  1. I would gladly join you in your protest against Systembolaget. I would love to be able to buy my wine in the local ICA store. I think Swedes are just too careful about stirring up things in general. They just don´t have the passion of the French or the Italians for protesting. I think the Swedes would need some of that wine or liqcor from Systembolaget before they would dare to protest many times.

  2. Thanks, glad to know I won't be alone - maybe we can take up a collection to provide the booze - atleast then we might attract the support of the a-team :)

  3. Ignorant post. Look up the history of alchol in Sweden. We live in the Vodka Belt. Same goes for Finland and Russia.

  4. @anon - Actually, I don't need to - I have studied the social history of Sweden at University. I'm well aware of the nation's struggle and deep rooted issues with alcohol.

    But the modern form of Systembolaget is an independent beast, and the modern drinking issues of Sweden, al beit certainly real, are all together different from those faced by Swedish farmers back in the day.

    This is my opinion, and I understand there are many people out there who disagree with me. But I do object to being called ignorant, it is not an opinion I came to lightly, and it isn't just because I find Systembolaget inconvenient.

    That said, I have a really long post about Systembolaget I am waiting on because I know it is a touchy subject and I want to make sure my opinion is clear. Thanks for making it obvious that I need to make sure I feel comfortable with everything I say on the subject.

  5. Well, Swedes tend to think that going out and protesting is kind of extreme so it should only be done if something is seriously wrong. And not much are seriously wrong in Sweden. And anyway if enough people is sharing your view it should be changed at the next election anyway(if at least one party catch up on it) and if not no amount of protesting will change much.