A monument is a good start

Veteran Affairs is a new phenomenon in a nation like Sweden, even though the country has a long military history, and experience with international operations. Today, May 29th, is the second consecutive year as the official Veterans Day takes place in Sweden.

On Veterans Day all Sweden’s veterans and their dependents are celebrated. This concerns not only the military but also for government agencies such as the police, customs, coast guard, prison. Even the Armed Forces nonprofit partner organizations and the Swedish military comrade associations Federation participates in the celebrations.

If you compare the status of the veteran soldiers in Sweden, with for example, the U.S. and Australia, you will recognize big differences. Although Sweden has a general welfare system it has until now forgot how to recognize the situation of the war veterans. The recognition of official society in itself is important for veteran soldiers and their families to return to as normal a life as possible. The Swedish veteran soldier monument unveiled today is an important step in this recognition. Perhaps Swedes should start looking, why not in the Nordic cooperation, to continue on the road of recognition of the veterans and also create a Nordic Veteran Museum such as the excellent Canberra War Memorial?



Right now an interesting economic project is going on in the country for many associated with sushi, cherry blossom and a unique exotic culture. While the west’s finance ministers have thrown in the towels, Japan radically reforms in order to end the country’s 20-year wrestling match against deflation and sluggish growth. “Abenomics“, named after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, consists of expansionary monetary policy via quantitative easing, which doubles the money supply, and by fiscal stimulus and public investment. For many years, the country empty handed, with an interest rate around zero and the political unwillingness to invest. The same pattern can be recognized in a Europe where the elected rather rely on bureaucrats at the central bank than take their own responsibility.

The Japanese experiment has been Keynesians rubbing their hands in glee over a policy that goes against the outside world austerity sick. When economists on the right flank warns of the dangers of growing debt, Paul Krugman writes an editorial in the New York Times that Japan’s success is a successful example of economic reform policies that work. Now there are no longer excuses for western politicians. In the first quarter, growth in Japan is at 3.5 per cent, mainly driven by household consumption. Even Christina Romer, professor of economics at Berkeley University and former adviser to President Obama, impressed by Japan and hoping for something similar in the west.

During the Depression in the United   States in the 1930s elected President Franklin D. Roosevelt to turn his back on contemporary economic truths, the way forward was named instead “the New Deal”. In a speech at the Democratic convention in 1933, he explained that contemporary generation faced a “rendezvous with destiny.” Maybe it’s the same now.

Japan’s smart and progressive economic toolbox should get more people to understand that the response to lower demand is not reduced demand. Either find themselves left in accepting rules that shrinks policy leeway and cements an underprivileged class. Or perhaps policy nutrition to reforms that strengthen the whole community.

Citizen duties

International media have in the past days reported about the problems with riots now spread to the capital of Sweden. Stockholm was shaken last night by new disturbances and fires. In an open letter at Facebook a firefighter, Mattias Lassén, directly turns to the stone throwers, “Why are you doing this to me? I also have a family that wants to see me again, just like you! To you who threw rocks at us tonight Thank goodness it was only one of about 20 stones that went through the box. Luckily I had my helmet on your head so the stone just left a big scar on my helmet … You have impacted my professional life and my friends for all time ! ” he writes.

Greater Stockholm Fire Brigade had during the night from 75 to 80 incidents to handle. There have been several reports that police and emergency services have been attacked by stone-throwing youths.

The firefighter continues writing that the emergency services are on hand for those who need help and appealed directly to the stone throwers to stop. “I’m here about your dad needs help if he collides with his car, I will help your sister if there is a fire in her kitchen. I will swim in ice cold water to help your little brother if he had fallen out of a boat even though it is ice cold in the water. ” The post ends with the sentences: “Why do you do this to me? I also have a family that wants to see me again, just like you!”

Nearly 10 000 people had 23/5 at 05.00 am Swedish time shared the message of the firefighter.

The current riots in Stockholm are horrible to the citizens, but in contrast to the international media, the picture shows that it is not a completely new phenomenon even in a country like Sweden. An example of strong disturbances in the modern era are the June riots or Hunger riots that took place in Stockholm in 1917. A large number of disturbances took place throughout the country in 1917 triggered by a combination of famine and political tension as a result of social conflict and unrest in Europe as World War I and the Russian Revolution. 5th of June 1917, a large group of people gathered at Gustav Adolf’s Square in a rally in the occasion of the issue of women’s suffrage. The demonstration was broken up by police, and was the last major rally in 1917. The same year also saw Seskarö insurgency in Sweden. Seskarö is an island 25 kilometers south of Haparanda. There were food rationings and suspicions were that the bakers on the island withheld the public food and instead sold it at Haparanda black market market. Workers forced bought food and police were called, but were driven off the island by population. This prompted the Swedish military to intervene against the hungry at Seskarö in Haparanda Archipelago

Solving frustration with violence is never a good solution, whether it takes place in Paris, London or Stockholm. It is not how to build lasting stability in a society. The forces of order are the tools we have in a democracy to build security. We have an obligation to create good dialogue with citizens, to build hope and giving opportunities but to avoid spoon-feeding. It can´t just be someone elses duty, we need to share that together.  It is to build democracy, to build it from the bottom, with honesty and respect but without naivety. A society´s  aim is to reduce the gaps between people, not as it is reported in a new OECD report about the development in Sweden, increase them. That is how Scandinavian countries went from unrest and riots to successful welfare-states. That is how we build stable societies now and in the future. The society and the individual must promote cooperation and avoiding mental- and physical isolation. Every citizen has rights but also obligations.

To gain or not to gain

The Golden Hinde continues side watching the political debate ahead of the autumn parliamentary elections in Australia. The coalition attempts to denigrate the actual state of the Australian economy and tensions are obvious in both the Coalition as Labor Party when it comes to the perception of globalization and the challenges ahead.
It is not unique, but rather a phenomena that goes back to political arenas worldwide. To fend off the domestic current debate to keep or re-gain political power of government, or to stand up for the international values? We’ve seen it for a long time in Europe, long before the economic crisis: it’s always easier to blame the policy challenges “those others in the EU” than to deal with the complexity of today’s and tomorrow’s challenges are about.

Where is the political balance in society between affirming globalization or protectionism to act in the political arena? If we give all power to the states, we protectionism and autarkies. But if we choose the other path, hyper globalization with total mobility of goods, services and capital, we remove states chance to provide what is needed for markets to function well, as regulations the legitimacy of markets through social insurance and collective democratic decision-making. If we push too hard for globalization, paradoxically we will erode gains from globalization, both because we have a lack of regulation and for that we are undermining the legitimacy of the economic system.

Euro zone example is a deep structural crisis, and there are reasons to be pessimistic about the development. The Euro zone-challenges meet the globalization dilemma. If you want integrated markets, you also must have a democratic government to develop it. If the euro area would be integrated, it must have a democratic political union. Otherwise, you have to give up the economic union.

Similar discussions could take place around Australia’s future economy: A country that is so dependent on their powerful neighbors and growing emerging markets; how far down in the furrow protectionist can you afford to dig yourself down? What are the most progressive views on migrant worker policies and cooperation to promote economic growth? What are the Julia Gillard vs Tony Abbott thoughts upon on this – will they show that they understand the complexity of globalization or will they just focus on what will happen on September 14th?

Over the hills and far away

In today’s Aussie news we can read about Kevin Rudd  praising the contribution of successive generations of migrants  building the Australian nation, as his PM and party leader Julia Gillard talks tough on foreign workers. Kevin Rudd underlines the fact that successive generations of migrants have contributed and are contributing to building the nation.
“Our natural birth rate has long been offset by our long-term orderly migration program. Successive generations of migrants from all corners of the world have made Australia much stronger and richer than we would otherwise have been. “It is worth pondering for a moment where Australia would be today, in terms of both our living standards at home, and our standing in the world, had we simply shut the door after World War II, and had Arthur Calwell not initiated the post-war immigration boom that transformed the face of modern Australia.”, Rudd said.

It will be interesting to see how migration will be a topic, between and within the parties in the Australian election debate. In the last election, Julia Gillard fought on an anti-immigration “sustainable Australia” platform. And the rhetorics of the Coalition’s spokesman on migration Scott Morrison is on the border of decency.

Migration is a hot topic all around the world and a concrete example of the effects of globalization. People can migrate for many reasons: Hope of a financially secured future, higher standard of living, education, adoption, asylum/political reasons, finding love across borders.

In the US, President Obama is planning for a migration reform: A difficult task of rewriting the immigration laws, including the creation of a quicksilver path to citizenship for 11 million to 12 million undocumented workers in the U.S. (excluding the small number convicted of violent crimes or multiple felonies). The shift in status acknowledges that these foreign-born newcomers, like previous generations of immigrants, overcame significant obstacles to come to the U.S. to make a better life for their families.

The status of illegal immigrants is a difficult topic some claim.  Or it must be considered as very easy: If you put it to an end though, it must differ if you have the right to stay in a country or not. Otherwise you break the society from within if there is inflation in a resident permit. But identifying illegal immigrants must be done in a way that doesn’t violate the diversity in a society of all those who actually have the right to be there. In the Swedish capital Stockholm, the police authorities have taken this to a controversial limit with the project “REVA” in the Swedish public transport system. People with “non-Swedish-appearance” are fronted by the police on train platforms etc, in order to show their ID:s. At the moment this is an issue upsetting the Swedish society, some against, some pro. As in many countries like the US and Australia, migration has been an important factor in building the modern welfare state. A global citizen shouldn´t be judged by his or her appearance. The words of Martin Luther King are relevant even today:

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where
they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their
I have a dream today”

War veterans and the importance of recognition

In Australian War Memorial, Roll of Honour panels for the “Post-1945 conflicts”, including Korea and Vietnam, will now be moved next to the end of the Second World War panel. The panel for Afghanistan will be put next to it, on the same wall. The panels to recognise the sacrifices of those killed in operations of a non-warlike nature will be placed on the end wall of the cloister.

This is a symbolic and important recognition. Findings indicate that war-zone exposure has negative implications for the postdeployment adjustment of veterans, both in combat- and non-combat positions. PTSD is associated with a relationship to the world in a negative direction. It is also associated with a changed perception of self, which could be either positive or negative. After controlling for trauma exposure and PTSD, suicidal behaviours are associated with more negative perceptions of the world. These perceptions of the world included disillusionment about human nature and a more specific rejection of civilian life.Conclusions PTSD and suicidal behaviours of veterans seem not to be associated with significantly more negative views of the self but rather with more alienation from civilian life. Recognition and honouring by society are therefore important steps on the way of healing those who have been in war-zones.

“All members of council including the service chiefs have canvassed this matter widely and we believe this decision reflects a wider community perspective in a changing world. The founder of the memorial, Charles Bean, could not have envisioned the world in which we now live, but it is important that we uphold the spirit of his vision. Members of the Australian Defence Force continue to help define our nation, so it is of vital importance that their service and sacrifice, in all operations, be fittingly commemorated.” Rear Admiral Doolan said. (source: Canberra Times)

The Australian Minister of Veteran Affairs, the Hon Warren Snowdon, made following comment on these news: “I am pleased  the Council has announced these changes today. The Council’s decision reflects  the views and expectations of many in the community on this important issue.  This will ensure that those who have served our nation with distinction are  properly recognised and I know that this decision will be of special  significance for the families involved.”

Light through a teardrop

Over a decade ago, The Holocaust Memorial Museum in the US started the heavy and horrible task of task of documenting all the ghettos, slave labor sites, concentration camps and killing factories that the Nazis set up throughout Europe. The result we face now is shocking: 42,500 Nazi ghettos and camps throughout Europe, in Germany and Nazi-controlled areas from France to Russia between 1933 and 1945.  “The numbers are so much higher than what we originally thought,” Hartmut Berghoff, director of the institute, said in an interview after learning of the new data (NYT). “We knew before how horrible life in the camps and ghettos was, but the numbers are unbelievable.” These camps included not only death centers but also thousands of forced labor camps manufacturing war supplies, prisoner-of-war camps, and sites euphemistically named “care” centers, where pregnant women were forced to have abortions or their babies were killed after birth; and brothels, where women were coerced into having sex with German military personnel. The Holocaust was not just something that was part of the WWII, it was its very core and it started long before the war. Then and now we have a choice: pretending not to see evil because we have fear or cannot identify it because we are stuck in old patterns – or to stand up for human dignity of our time.

Today, the vicar at the Swedish Royal Court Michael Bjerkhagen held an excellent sermon in the Chapel of the Royal Palace in Sweden, which was broadcast by Swedish Television. Bjerkhagen is in himself a good example of a modern globalized Swedish citizen, born in Sri Lanka and adopted to Sweden as a child. He spoke about how we identify evil in our time, about fear for love and how easy it is to turn away when human dignity is violated. In a globalized world, evil has no borders: human trafficking, organized crime, diseases that often struck the poorest most. Bjerkhagen also spoke in the sermon about his friend who before retroviral treatments existed, died of AIDS in Sweden. He referred to the Swedish drama also about love beyond all borders Never dry tears without gloves”, about homosexuality, prejudice, fear of death, a drama that in the autumn 2012 made millions of Swedes cry loudly in their living rooms, when it was broadcasted. Many crying also because they were confronted with their own earlier prejudice.

But also the possibilities of good deeds are globalized. Yes it could be manifested the traditional way by collecting money for charity. It could also be about highlighting global tendencies, and contributing to the global debate with perspectives that sometimes could be seen as controversial. Freedom of speech and  democracy is the foundation to build human dignity upon. But if it just ends up in a mainstream and traditional rhetoric, it does not serve its purpose of securing human dignity in the presence and the future, not just stuck to analysis that was relevant in the past. Love is not just easy but also sometimes controversial.

 “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
, A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches