Blasphemy aint so bad

It’s pretty obvious that recent attacks (although they aren’t in fact THAT recent anymore. I’m a slow writer) in Paris and Copenhagen have targeted freedom of speech. It is understandable that many people react to this by trying to limit freedom of speech; avoiding anything that might trigger a new attack; blaming the victims of the attacks for insulting Islam. It’s appalling that those people have so many sympathizers.

First and foremost, I think it’s wrong to blame the authors, cartoonists and artists that were attacked. It’s like telling a rape victim she (because it’s always a she) shouldn’t have worn this and that. Dress may perhaps, possibly, maybe, have triggered the rapist but NOTHING can excuse such crimes. The fault, by definition, can’t be with the person who was raped – and no problem will be solved if she starts to wear full-coverage clothes.

Likewise, we won’t destroy any potential threat by limiting freedom of speech. Temporarily, perhaps – terrorists tend to have a target and if the target is gone the risk of an attack is diminished. If nobody insults islam, nobody will be punished for insulting Islam. But prohibiting blasphemy won’t help. Not in the long run. Because freedom of speech is also freedom of thought; people (and I think especially young, vulnerable and disillusioned people) are  susceptible to propaganda. By prohibiting anything that questions Islam, militant islamists and their supporters are given playing room. If there’s nothing to question IS’s propaganda, said information will appear like definitive truth.

In the long run, we don’t want to give up our freedom of speech. Because there will always be problems, in one form or the other, and we must be able to discuss their causes and solutions. And right now, religion is a problem we have to discuss.

I’m well aware that Islam has inspired wonderful acts of generosity, kindness and peace. One of my greatest idols, Malala Yousafzai, is a dedicated muslim. However, awful crimes are committed in Islam’s name. And I think that as long as a book is believed to be the word of God, there is a risk that someone will interpret it for the worse, then use God as a way to excuse or motivate their crimes.

I would never try to force atheism into someone – showing the secular alternative is far better. The Christian story of creation was proved to be wrong when the theory of evolution was proved to be true, which also proved that the Bible isn’t necessarily entirely true. In the long run, fanatic fundamentalism is the problem and education the solution.

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Leaving Harry Potter Land

A month in London is a short time, but in a way I feel like I’ve been here all my life. At the same time it’s as if I just arrived. It is a wonderful city, vibrant and colourful – one can find practically everything, from tea at the Ritz to halal street food; from designer boutiques to street vendors; West End musicals to cheap comedy clubs; everything I would ever want.

While Sweden does have a fairly similar culture, the differences stand out. There are private schools that cost money – perfectly normal for most of the world, but to a Swede it seems really strange. News are very local – one day  I discovered that first side stuff was that some grocery store had moved their sweets aisles. Crisps and chocolate are considered perfectly normal lunch items. There are lots of sales assistants – I practically stumble over the friendly lot whenever I step into a shop. Teachers are good but tough (good, as in really understanding the subject they’re teaching. Tough, as in telling the entire  class what grades people got, and that they spell like five-year-olds and have scarily bad geography knowledge).

I’ve went to a Catholic school (which I thought would be incredibly difficult as an atheist, but turned out not to be a problem), that really is Catholic, which is a very new experience. They don’t learn about other religions! They have masses! They teach sex ed from catholic ethics! For the first time in my life I’ve been feeling quite patriotic. We get low PISA scores, but at least school is not about being brain washed into a particular religion.

But all that is insignificant. What I will remember is not the bad water taps, it’s the good people. The first thing that hit me when I stepped inside school was the friendly atmosphere, and that expression only grew stronger. I’ve made friends that are just unbelievably cool, smart, beautiful and kind. Leaving them – even with facebook profiles and phone numbers exchanged – feels like… like leaving a group of really awesome friends. As much as I look forward to seeing my friends back home again, a part of my soul is going to remain in Camden with them.

Nous sommes Charlie

I’m not sure if a democracy with equal rights and responsibilities for all its citizens has ever existed. If it has, it’s threatened. Because it cannot exist without freedom of speech: the free questioning of ideas and opinions (duh). The very core of our western democracy has been attacked.

I doubt it will take long before PC thinkers start to ramble about how the Charlie Hebdo brought it upon themselves by criticizing Islam. They did criticize it, but is that a crime? Religion was and is a system of beliefs (thus it’s not racist to criticize a religion). Islam (which has a scripture with political ambitions) should be possible to criticize the same way that Communism is possible to criticize.

My thoughts are with the victims, the brave people who payed their lives for our right of expression.

Well that’s a relief

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Merry Christmas… Or something

Some last minute Christmas shopping had to be done, and the vivid heart of my small hometown was the obvious place to go. So I went there. Every corner was crowded with people, but a few stood out to me. The beggars. Romanians, migrants that thanks to the EU now are a common sight in most European cities. People, for whom a paper cup to feed them, a cold, wintery,  Swedish street for a home, is the best option. And I saw them, and I realized how unfair the world is. And I realized that they won’t make it home in time for Christmas. And I realized that when I stuff myself with vegan pies and open presents by the tree, they will be out on the cold, harsh, snowy roads. And I thought of this song.

Merry Christmas folks!

Shalom, Mr. Speaker of Parliament!

many A couple weeks ago, Swedish PM Löfven announced a re-election, leaving my country in chaos. His government has been a failure from start to finish. A coalition of Social democrats and Green party, it never had a majority in the parliament, thus couldn’t pass their budget.

Who’s fault was it? Everyones of course! Read: it was the fault of the new “political climate”. Read: it’s because Sweden democrats became a weigher, so that no established bloc was in majority.

30 years ago it was a neo-nazi party (though in recent years some of the most extreme members have been excluded and the opinions that are expressed in public are not as extreme as Hitler’s). Their slogan is “Safety and tradition”, their goal to reduce asylum immigration by 90%. Their leader recently spent 60 000 € on gambling. Three members attacked a popular comedian with iron pipes. Another couple of top-cats made the following statements: “Art should not provoke”, “Rape is a deeply rooted part of Islam”, “homosexuality is unnatural”, “Jews and sami can have a swedish citizenship, but they are not Swedes”.  The list goes on.

They are bullied and ostracized by all mainstream parties. Which is to be expected, nobody with any ounce of intelligence would want anything to do with them. But, that has enabled them to play the role of the victim. It has – worse – enabled them to play the role of the only real opposition. Because that’s what they have become. That, and 13% in September’s Parliament election. And that scares me.

Nazi or not, do they have a point? Is immigration harmful? To answer that question you have to look beyond the why question, because reducing the number of refugees we take in will of course ruin thousands of lives. People will be forced to stay in war torn Syria, Somalia, Afghanistan, et.c.

No, the question is wether immigration is beneficial for US. Unfortunately, many mainstream politicians are afraid of discussing this. Immigration does mean that more homes will have to be build. Education in Swedish will cost money, and without it employing them anywhere will be nearly impossible. There is a risk that extremist islamists will be among the newly arrived. But, they will also  contribute workforce to a community with an aging population. They will also enrich the culture of a falafel-loving people. They will also – hopefully – be given the chance of a better life.

And yes, our beloved Swedish culture will change. Of course it will change. Would you rather that we froze time? That we got stuck in a specific period, a specific culture, a specific degree of development? Sweden would change any way. 

Note (to any non-swedish reader): The Swedish democracy is based on three levels: commune, county and Riksdag. The Riksdag is  our parliament, formed in accordance to percentage of votes. A government in then formed by the bloc which received the most votes. Right now, eight parties are represented (on the national level). That gives a nuanced debate, but also difficulties. As for the current situation, the government didn’t manage to get a serious cooperation with the center-right bloc, something which would have made a passable budget.

Boys, man down!

The modern feminism is a multifaceted movement, where many wills and opinions come to express themselves. What they all share, the lowest common denominator if you so will, is the ideal for equality: the strife for women and men to have the same rights, responsibilities and possibilities. Therefore it’s time to let men into the feminist debate. Equality is beneficial for men and women, we can all get hurt when laws and norms put gender first. 

Feminism begun as women’s lib for women’s rights, but just as society it has changed a lot since the late 1800-hundreds. In a way it might be a misguiding name; Emma Watson launched the #HeforShe campaign for just that reason. In her speech (link here, in case you haven’t seen it) she deals with a – unfortunately very common – misconception: feminism is not man hating. Feminists think that men and women have the same worth, and ought to have the same rights in theory as well as practice.

That doesn’t mean we have to erase all differences, because some of them actually exist. For example the average woman is better at memorizing faces, whereas men tend to orient themselves better. The thing is, these are averages. Individual differences are usually bigger. Besides, many prominent gender differences aren’t in any way connected with our biology. What “is” male or female has changed a lot through the history, and of course it will continue to change. But from birth we are indoctrinated into these, and we are forced into templates that do not fit everyone. To create a society where everyone feels respected and participating, we must respect masculinity as well as femininity – and above all let the worth or value of an individual be completely set apart from his or her sex.

calvin-klein-underwear01

Beauty ideals are one of the areas where gender differences are still obvious. In part, of course, because of our different physique – but expectations and ideals play a huge role as well. Girls want to loose weight, boys want to build muscle.

Which is stranger?

Which is stranger?

It’s starting to resemble an epidemic, where people in general are unsatisfied with their looks, and girls in particular get eating disorders. Is it really so strange? Sweets and escalators are available everywhere, and the population in general is getting fatter. Thus, ideals become skinnier – simply because skinniness nowadays is harder to achieve. This is usually considered a problem that only affect girls, when in fact 10% of those seeking help are boys (underreporting is to be expected). On top of that, many boys and men feel bad for looking feeble and weak. Sales of steroids are going up – quickly – despite their destructive side effects.

Traditional femininity has been discussed in endless pages of analysis, political text, blog posts, fiction, philosophical pieces and whatnot. For good reasons; how many times haven’t women been discriminated against? How many women are still suffering because of this femininity? However, I think there is a screaming lack for such a dissection of masculinity. Traditional maleness is harsh and strong, almost agressive. It can manifest as a need to dominate: I think this is a common reason for rape. It’s about hobbies: boys (especially younger ones, I think) will refrain from things they consider girly, such as horse riding and ballet. It’s about life style choices: male vegetarians and vegans are often harassed for being “unmanly” and “gutless pussies” for not brutally murder an innocent animal for no reason whatsoever. It’s about degrading fathers, motorcycle accidents, boys who never read a novel, forbidden and hidden tears, fashion, suspicions… It’s about men who can’t live life to the fullest.

Some may object that “narrow social norms” are trifles, in comparison to rapes, childhood marriages and sex-linked rights to education and voting; things that are still legal in many parts of the world. And yes, I’m aware that my life is a sheer privilege compared with those women’s. I intend to use this privilege, by supporting the ideas that made my life tolerable. By questioning patriarchal structures, the thought processes that create inequality. By showing that we are all, first and foremost, sentient and thinking beings.

Let’s question social norms, let go of prejudice, open up. Change won’t come if only half the world cares, men must engage. For their own sake, not just for the women’s. For the girl who is tired of being submissive when she feels strong, for the boy who is tired of being strong when he feels vulnerable. For the the girl tossing out her muffin tray, for the boy longing to find one. For the boy who is forced to compete, for the girl who isn’t allowed to. They exist.

 

Statistics and images:
http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-205285/90-teens-unhappy-body-shape.html
http://www.dn.se/nyheter/vetenskap/konsskillnaderna-sma-i-vara-hjarnor/
http://www.veggieboards.com/forum/60-vegan-support-forum/137754-males-vegans-out-there-do-you-feel-more-manly-after-choosing-veganism.html

http://www.wwd.com/media-news/fashion-memopad/calvin-klein-inc-to-make-super-bowl-debut-6679003
http://vsallaccess.victoriassecret.com/swim