After general elections on the 12th September, Sweden is on the threshold of a new era. The Sweden Democrats
(SD) won almost 21 percent of the votes and thus became the largest in a bloc of right-wing parties that now have a collective majority in the parliament. A nation that for a long time prided itself of being a beacon of tolerance and openness will now experience a historical transformation. The Sweden Democrats
was once founded by Nazi sympathisers and for decades shunned by mainstream politicians. However, SD has now tipped the political scale in a country previously known for its stable and predictable politics, and some of the party’s former foes are now willing to co-rule with them.
Can a pitiless, offensive war waged against a sovereign state be justified? In my opinion the answer is an unequivocal “No!”. Ukraine has the right to defend itself against Russia’s reckless and extremely destructive invasion and EU’s support to a neighbouring country attacked by a superior enemy is definitely correct. However, several Latin American intellectuals and leaders are willing to accept Putin’s narrative, instead of Zelensky’s, namely that the war in Ukraine is actually a war between Russia and USA, which by stalling Russia’s and China’s ambitions intends to maintain its supremacy as a superpower, while using Ukraine as a pawn in its power game.
When I was a child, a friend asked me: “How would you describe a tree to someone who has never seen one?” I looked at the trees surrounding us and realised it was impossible, considering their versatility, beauty and utter strangeness. Since that time, I have often wondered about trees, as well as I have been worried by the indiscriminate destruction of trees and forests.
Many of us assume that an identification with a certain gender, race, nation or even age makes us particularly knowledgeable. When it comes to age, it is in most cultures of the world assumed that age and experience favour wisdom. I am not entirely sure about that, though I am convinced that as we grow older we tend to overestimate our own knowledge and importance. An arrogance that might burden and even marginalize the youth.
During the beginning of the pandemic, people wanted to learn more about COVID-19. Enclosed in their homes they watched with fear and fascination how the pandemic swept over the world, while comparing numbers of affected people and the death-toll in different countries. Watching COVID’s rampage became a kind of horror show. However, already after a few months with death-tolls rising and isolation not being over anytime soon, psychological fatigue set in. Judging from media coverage it now appears as if the pandemic finally is over, which is far from being the case.
Warfare and misinformation are intimately connected. The 29th of May was globally observed as The Day of Communication
and due to the ongoing war in Ukraine it was difficult to avoid thinking of affiliated propaganda campaigns, carried out by warring factions and far from indifferent bystanders.
An entirely unnecessary and all too tangible nightmare continues to scourge Ukraine. Without doubt, one catastrophe after another still awaits. Much of Ukraine’s harvest, of paramount importance to global food supply, is at risk of being lost due to Vladimir Putin’s and the Russian army’s belligerent actions. Last year, Ukraine harvested a record of 106 million tonnes of grain – 25, or even 50 percent of this amount is currently feared to be lost during this year while most experts add that “this is an optimistic forecast.”
I recently visited Abu Dhabi and my impressions became intermingled with worries about the war in Ukraine. I also happened to read Livy’s The Early History of Rome
, written around the beginning of CE, coming across these lines:
Georg Hegel once stated: ”What experience and history teach is this — that nations and governments have never learned anything from history, or acted upon any lessons they might have drawn from it.” Nevertheless, self-taught historian Vladimir Putin has learned to interpret history in his own manner. During COVID he went down in Kremlin’s archives and after studying old maps and treaties he wrote a lengthy essay On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians
, while declaring that ”the formation of an ethnically pure Ukrainian state is an aggression directed against Russia.”
While living and working in Paris I joined the Cercle Suédois
, a social club founded in 1891, at a time when Sweden and Norway were unified in one kingdom. By that time, Alfred Nobel was a frequent guest and in one corner I sometimes ended up standing in front of the writing desk where he in November 1895 had written his famous testament, stipulating that 94 percent of his total assets (equivalent to 120 million USD in today’s money value) was to be allocated to the establishment of five prizes. These prizes would every year be awarded to deserving individuals, who ”irrespective of their nationality” had contributed to ”the progress of humanity and preservation of peace in the world.”
In several countries around the globe, telling the truth is according to its rulers and other influential, generally wealthy, persons a serious crime that might be punished by muzzling the truth-tellers, slandering and humiliating them, and threatening their families and friends. If that does not make them shut up and repent they might be tortured, imprisoned and even killed.
A brutal drama is unfolding in Ethiopia and it is difficult to find straightforward accounts of what is happening there. However, this does not prevent people from taking a unilateral stand for either of the factions involved in the disaster.
In these times of COVID isolation, social distance get on the nerves of several of us and the effects may be long-lasting, even endemic. Many schoolchildren have interacted and still meet with their teachers through computer networks, while the same phenomenon applies to their contact with others. Technical devices are with an ever-increasing scope becoming an integral part of all communication, teaching, and entertainment, in short – of social interaction. When it comes to education, given all the poor and even harmful educators we are forced to encounter during our lifetime, mechanization of education might be perceived as a step forward. Nevertheless, too much dependence on the internet might undoubtedly have its pitfalls; contributing to an abstraction of our existence where real adventures and life-changing encounters with other human beings become all the rarer. The world may be demystified, losing its wonder and magic.
While COVID 19 is keeping the world and news media in its constant grip and national politics often come to the forefront, it might be easy to forget urgent and nevertheless related matters. One is how global education has suffered and how children and youngsters have been forced to cope with a different reality. This aspect like so many other of human existence is gendered and while addressing education it is relevant to talk about changing gender roles as well.
I assume channel surfing and internet browsing contribute to a decrease in people’s attention span. I am not familiar with any scientific proof, though while working as a teacher I found that some students may be exhausted when five minutes of a lesson has passed and begin fingering on their smartphones. They might also complain if a text is longer than half a page, while finding it almost impossible to read a book.
Like most of us, I rely on news media to find an explanation to tragedies I watch on TV. Neverthelss, some of my opinions about the Afghan tragedy have furthermore been influenced by talks I once had with my friend Bernth Dagerklint. We had for some years been working as teachers at a high school, though this was not Bernth’s main occupation. Most of the time, he served as an officer during international, armed campaigns supported by the Swedish government. He had been to former Yugoslavia, the West Bank and not the least in Afghanistan, where he since 2003 on several occasions worked as ”instructor” for Afghan officers.
I am in the Swedish countryside, lush and beautiful in its late summer attire, having a conversation with the son of a friend of mine. Oskar Olin runs a sheep farm, Stabbehyltan Lamm AB
, where he practises holistic management
. His three-hundred sheep graze within an area of 30 ha where Oskar every day moves his flock from one pasture to another. It takes between 45 to 90 days before the sheep are back on the same pasture where the rotation began. The animals are thus not overgrazing the area, while they at the same time trample down a protective layer of vegetation, which fertilizes the soil. Carbon is bound in the earth, soil organic matter increases, retaining humidity and accordingly deepen the root systems of wholesome plants.
By the end of April 2019, a government campaign to vaccinate more than 40 million children under five against polio in Pakistan was suspended after a series of attacks on health workers and police. On 23 April, a police officer protecting polio workers was gunned down in Bannu, the same day a polio worker was in Lahore seriously wounded by a father “protecting his child from vaccination”, these incidents were followed by the murder of another police and a health worker under his protection. Health workers were also seriously wounded in the districts of Sindh, Balochistan and Punjab. Afghanistan and Pakistan are the only countries where polio remains, in all other nations of the world vaccination campaigns have eliminated the disease. In April this year, three female polio vaccine providers were killed in Afghanistan.
Getting hard to breathe
hard to believe in anything
at all, but fear.
Peter Gabriel, Mother
Like most male Swedes of my age I had to enter obligatory military service for almost a year. In my barrack was a “born-again-Christian” who when he became angry shouted “Now you mock me, but when the Last Judgement has come I will sit in heaven and smile down at you while you burn in Hell!” Since then I have wondered about the last book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation
. It was written by a frustrated Christian man who by the end of 100 CE by Roman authorities had been deported to an isolated island where he wrote a long letter to Christian congregations in Asia Minor.
In February the killing of the Italian ambassador, Luca Attanasio, in the vicinity of the Virunga National Park in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, did for a short while put the global spotlight on this troubled area, where warfare, poverty and general insecurity generate immense human suffering.
I hear about casualties and numbers, but cannot perceive the faces, the human beings behind them. A week ago, eleven days of havoc ended after at least 243 people, including more than 100 women and children, had been killed in the Gaza Strip and 12 people, including two children, in Israel. An open, gravely infected wound which continuous to bleed, causing never ending human suffering.