Political rights do not originate in parliaments; they are, rather,
forced upon parliaments from without. And even their enactment into law
has for a long time been no guarantee of their security. Just as the
employers always try to nullify every concession they had made to labor
as soon as opportunity offered, as soon as any signs of weakness were
observable in the workers’ organizations, so governments also are always
inclined to restrict or to abrogate completely rights and freedoms that
have been achieved if they imagine that the people will put up no
Even in those countries where such things as freedom of the press,
right of assembly, right of combination, and the like have long existed,
governments are constantly trying to restrict those rights or to
reinterpret them by juridical hair-splitting. Political rights do not
exist because they have been legally set down on a piece of paper, but
only when they have become the ingrown habit of a people, and when any
attempt to impair them will meet with the violent resistance of the
populace. Where this is not the case, there is no help in any
parliamentary Opposition or any Platonic appeals to the constitution.
—Rudolf Rocker, Anarcho-Syndicalism: Theory & Practice, 1947
MALMO, Sweden — One afternoon, as I asked two young women for
directions to the Arab bazaar in the district of Rosengard, near this
city’s centre, a man appeared seemingly from nowhere and, shouting at
the women in Iraqi-accented Arabic, said something to them that caused
them literally to run away.
Rounding on me, the man, probably in his late twenties with a
well-groomed beard, demanded by what right had I spoken to his sister
and her friend. I answered that I had only been seeking directions.
His sister had been raised in Sweden, he said, and therefore did not
understand that European men were pedophiles and that it was perilous
for her to speak with them for any reason. Approaching me again later in
the crowded bazaar, where almost all the signs were in Arab script and
some of the women were totally covered by hijabs, he declined to give
his name but said that he was a dentistry student. Before stomping off,
he said he was furious with the West for having murdered Muslim women
and children in the Middle East, and vowed that Islam’s green flag would
fly one day over Sweden.
It would be unfair to describe this exchange as typical. Many Arabs
that I have met during several visits to Rosengard over the past few
years have been gracious and helpful. But ethnic tensions have
definitely been rising in Sweden, a country of just 10 million people
which in 2015 accepted 163,000 asylum seekers, mostly from Syria, Iraq
and Afghanistan. More than 80 per cent of the people living in the Malmo
suburb of Rosengard speak Arabic
Rosengard, where more than 80 per cent of the population was not born
in Sweden, has become widely regarded a flashpoint for communal strife.
I was told again and again by Swedes and Arabs in Sweden’s
third-largest city that the slightly scruffy neighbourhood (few
communities in Scandinavia are truly scruffy) had already become a
virtual No-Go Zone for fire trucks and ambulances unless protected by a
robust police escort and that when crimes were committed the community
was tight lipped with police about what had happened.
In an open letter to the public earlier this year, Malmo’s police
chief, Stefan Sinteus, pleaded for help solving the murder of a
16-year-old Iraqi boy, Ahmed Obaid, who had been shot in the head in
Rosengard, as well as with more than 100 other serious crimes including
murders, attempted murders, rape and assault. This followed a Christmas
Eve bombing in 2014 and a wave of violence during the summer of 2015.
“I can assure you that the police in Malmo are doing everything we
can for suspected perpetrators to be held accountable,” Sinteus said.
“But we cannot do it on our own.”
Finding an ethnic Swede who lives in Rosengard was not easy. One of
the very few was 28-year-old Josefine Angusson, was shopping in small
mall near the bazaar with her three-year-old son.
Her voice full of despair, Angusson said she had lived all her life in Rosengard but was planning to move “far away” next week.
“There is a lot of violence and drugs and shooting here,” she said.
“It’s gangs, and not many of them are Swedish. My son has nobody to play
with because he doesn’t speak Arabic. None of our neighbours talk to
“I am not a racist at all but it’s like that. We are looking for
another option where we can live because all of Malmo will be become
like this. Swedes are not happy about it. Would Canadians be?”
Despite Sweden’s famously liberal social traditions there was a
perception that refugees were overtaxing the country’s generous welfare
system, hospitals and schools and that finding places for the newcomers
to live and to work was becoming problematic. Nobody seemed to know for
sure, but there are published reports in Sweden that the unemployment
rate in Rosengard exceeds 60 per cent.
“We hate it because of the murders, and they all seem to be Arabs
getting killed,” said Eddie Hagmann, whose work as a security guard
takes him through Rosengard three times every night to check on some
“When we go on foot patrols there have to always be three of us. I am 21. I don’t want to die for this job.”
A fear that is much discussed in the media is that Rosengard and
Arab-majority neighborhoods elsewhere in Sweden have become home to
large numbers of Islamic extremists.
Sweden’s top spy, Anders Thornberg, believes that where there were
fewer than 200 Islamic extremists in the country 10 years ago that
number has today exploded into the thousands.
“We have never seen anything like this before,” Thornberg told Sweden’s TT news agency. “This is the new normal,”
Until recently, welcoming refugees was a central part of how most
Swedes regarded themselves. But several polls taken this year have found
that more than half the population wanted the government to curb the
number of refugees it accepts. This dovetailed with a survey by the
state statistics agency that indicated about one Swede in five supports
the strongly anti-immigration Swedish Democrats, who are now second only
to the ruling Social Democrats in popularity and the third party in
Pondering the changing mood, a young man who would only give his name
as Mahmoud, and who had arrived in Malmo from the former Yugoslavia as a
refugee with his parents as a young child said, “Swedes don’t have a
problem with Muslims. They have a problem with Arabs. The cultures are
just so different. And those differences are worse in Malmo than
Palestinian-Iraqi Abdulhamid Abuqweili said a lot had changed since he arrived in the city as a refugee 14 years ago.
“Sweden is a very good country but it cannot take in so many
refugees. The cost to the people who are already here is too great,”
Abuqweili said during a drive around Rosengard, which is mostly drab
apartment towers occasionally brightened by a wall mural depicting Arab
It is a wonderful thing to help people but it must be done in the right way
“The radicals who have come are bad for the other Arabs. The Swedes
think that when Arabs are together there will be problems. Those who
come now don’t want to learn the language. They want to live as they did
With Sweden’s traditional centre-left leaders feeling intense
pressure from the surging right, the government has become much more
vigilant about who gets into their country. For example, I spent an hour
on a packed, overheated train at the first stop in Sweden after the
road and rail bridge from Copenhagen while teams of police went through
every car carefully examining travelers’ documents.
Carina Costa-Correa, who had emigrated to Spain but was back visiting
her family in Malmo, said that was happening in her homeland today was
“a well-intentioned disaster. There was no plan for how to deal with so
many refugees at once who arrived with little or no education or skills.
Clearly it would be much better to help them where they were rather
than here. But the government was blind to that.”
As he waited for his train at the Malmo station, 56-year-old tire
salesman Roger Knast said over a beer that, “Swedes think the country is
overcrowded with Muslims. But it is still generally considered a bad
thing to say it, so it is said quietly.
“This is a crisis for Sweden. The government asked us to open our
hearts to refugees but they don’t see the consequences. There are so
many of them that they no longer mix in and we have created a whole
industry of people who take care of them. It is a wonderful thing to
help people but it must be done in the right way. It is time for us to
close our borders and take care of those who are already here.”
"The lunatics are now in charge of the asylum." So wrote the normally staid Financial Times, traditionally the voice of solid British business opinion, when surveying last week's tax bill. Indeed, the legislation is doubly absurd: the gimmicks used to make an $800-billion-plus tax cut carry an official price tag of only $320 billion are a joke, yet the cost without the gimmicks is so large that the nation can't possibly afford it while keeping its other promises.
But then maybe that's the point. The Financial Times suggests that "more extreme Republicans" actually want a fiscal train wreck: "Proposing to slash federal spending, particularly on social programs, is a tricky electoral proposition, but a fiscal crisis offers the tantalizing prospect of forcing such cuts through the back door."
It's no secret that right-wing ideologues want to abolish programs Americans take for granted. But not long ago, to suggest that the Bush administration's policies might actually be driven by those ideologues - that the administration was deliberately setting the country up for a fiscal crisis in which popular social programs could be sharply cut - was to be accused of spouting conspiracy theories.
Yet by pushing through another huge tax cut in the face of record deficits, the administration clearly demonstrates either that it is completely feckless, or that it actually wants a fiscal crisis. (Or maybe both.)
Here's one way to look at the situation: Although you wouldn't know it from the rhetoric, federal taxes are already historically low as a share of G.D.P. Once the new round of cuts takes effect, federal taxes will be lower than their average during the Eisenhower administration. How, then, can the government pay for Medicare and Medicaid - which didn't exist in the 1950's - and Social Security, which will become far more expensive as the population ages? (Defense spending has fallen compared with the economy, but not that much, and it's on the rise again.)
The answer is that it can't. The government can borrow to make up the difference as long as investors remain in denial, unable to believe that the world's only superpower is turning into a banana republic. But at some point bond markets will balk - they won't lend money to a government, even that of the United States, if that government's debt is growing faster than its revenues and there is no plausible story about how the budget will eventually come under control.
At that point, either taxes will go up again, or programs that have become fundamental to the American way of life will be gutted. We can be sure that the right will do whatever it takes to preserve the Bush tax cuts - right now the administration is even skimping on homeland security to save a few dollars here and there. But balancing the books without tax increases will require deep cuts where the money is: that is, in Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security.
The pain of these benefit cuts will fall on the middle class and the poor, while the tax cuts overwhelmingly favor the rich. For example, the tax cut passed last week will raise the after-tax income of most people by less than 1 percent - not nearly enough to compensate them for the loss of benefits. But people with incomes over $1 million per year will, on average, see their after-tax income rise 4.4 percent. The Financial Times suggests this is deliberate (and I agree): "For them," it says of those extreme Republicans, "undermining the multilateral international order is not enough; long-held views on income distribution also require radical revision."
How can this be happening? Most people, even most liberals, are complacent. They don't realize how dire the fiscal outlook really is, and they don't read what the ideologues write. They imagine that the Bush administration, like the Reagan administration, will modify our system only at the edges, that it won't destroy the social safety net built up over the past 70 years.
But the people now running America aren't conservatives: they're radicals who want to do away with the social and economic system we have, and the fiscal crisis they are concocting may give them the excuse they need. The Financial Times, it seems, now understands what's going on, but when will the public wake up?
No Man's Land: Sweden Unveils Girls-Only Festival to Avoid Rape CC0 Europe
12:31 03.08.2017(updated 12:34 03.08.2017) Get short URL
The sexual assaults and rapes that have plagued Swedish summer festivals for several years have spurred the authorities into action. A Swedish municipality is poised to arrange a "man-free" festival to avoid any harassment whatsoever, which goes against the grain of Sweden's egalitarian, inclusive and gender-neutral ways, many argued.
Earlier this summer, comedian and program leader Emma Knyckare proposed arranging a festival without men amid a seemingly incessant wave of sexual assaults, which earned Sweden, which sees itself as having "the world's first feminist government," the unflattering moniker of "the rape capital of Europe."
"What do you think of holding a super-cool festival where only non-men are welcome and keeping it up until ALL men have learned how to behave?" Emma Knyckare tweeted.
Shortly afterwards, Falkenberg Municipality in Halland County supported the radical feminist idea.
"I've always thought it's an exciting idea," Kristian Fannar of Falkenberg Municipality told the Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet.
By his own admission, Fannar contacted Knyckare and received an answer within only half an hour. According to him, it may be either an open-air or an urban-based festival.
Emma Knycker's initiative spurred mixed reactions. While many celebrated the initiative as progressive and women-friendly, others gave it a hostile reception.
"So all men have suddenly become rapists? All of you women who subscribe to this, do you also think your boyfriends, brothers, dads and grandpas are also rapists? Maybe I shall add 'rapist' to my CV then," a user wrote.
However, artist Linnea Henriksson, who keenly supports the idea, suggested than "man-free" festivals were imperative.
"It's really sad that it's needed," Henriksson said, arguing that a girls-only event is a must for female visitors who want to be treated with respect.
Fittingly, 19-year-old Zara Larsson, Sweden's arguably biggest pop idol of today, who is known for her overtly feminist stance, sparked a controversy earlier this year by openly admitting she was a "man hater."
According to Eva-Maria Svensson, a professor of law at the University of Gothenburg, it is unacceptable of a municipality to arrange — or even support — a festival that specifically excludes half the population.
"A municipality shall treat all citizens equally. A municipality may not discriminate against a particular group," Eva-Maria Svensson told the newspaper Göteborgs-Posten, citing the principle of equality that is universally applicable.
Furthermore, a festival where men are not welcome may face legal problems, as discrimination based on sex is illegal in Sweden.
"According to the Discrimination Act, it's not allowed to treat women and men differently with regards to access to public places," lawyer Eberhard Stüber told Swedish national broadcaster SVT. According to him, women's prisons are an example of substantial reasons for special treatment, whereas organizing a festival does not constitute such.
Previously, Bråvalla festival, which markets itself as "Sweden's biggest music festival" was canceled for 2018 following numerous reports of rapes and sexual assaults. This year alone, four rapes were recorded during the Bråvalla festival, together with 23 cases of sexual molestation, one case of sexual coercion, 13 assaults, 116 cases of minor narcotics offences and 97 thefts, police reported. The 2016 Bråvalla event witnessed the same problems. The organizers lamented their decision to cancel next year's festival, blaming "certain men," who "apparently cannot behave."
All in all, about 20 rapes and 90 sexual assaults have been reported at Swedish summer festivals so far this year, with a unpredictably high number of unreported cases.
This taken from Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America (1835). He spent nine months touring towns and cities. During his tour, the aristocratic Tocqueville was impressed by the fact that American Democracy actually worked. He wrote:
"There is one thing which America demonstrates invincibly, and of which I had been in doubt up till now: it is that the middle classes can govern a state. I do not know if they would come out with credit from thoroughly difficult political situations. But they are adequate for the ordinary run of society. In spite of their petty passions, their incomplete education and their vulgar manners, they clearly can provide practical intelligence, and that is found to be enough."
Interesting. This is part of an old article, taken from Paris Review, I think.
Afterword. A Talk with the Author of “The Book of
Laughter and Forgetting”
Kundera: Take the other theme of the book, forgetting. This is the great
private problem of man: death as the loss of the self. But what is the self? It
is the sum of everything we remember. Thus, what terrifies us about death is
not the loss of the future but the loss of the past. Forgetting is a form of
death ever present, within life. This is the problem, of my heroine, in
desperately trying to preserve the vanishing memories of her beloved dead, husband.
But forgetting is also the great problem of politics. When a big power wants to
deprive a small country of its national consciousness it uses the method of organized
This is what is currently happening in Bohemia. Contemporary
Czech literature, insofar: as it has any value at all, has not peen printed for
twelve years; 200 Czech writers have been proscribed, including the dead Franz
Kafka; 145 Czech historians have been dismissed from their posts, history has
been rewritten monuments demolished. A nation which loses awareness of its past, gradually loses its self.
And so the political situation as brutally illuminated the ordinary metaphysical
problem of forgetting that we face all the time, every day, without paying any
attention, Politics unmasks the metaphysics of private life, private life
unmasks the metaphysics of politics.
Roth: the, sixth part of your book of variations-the main heroine, Tainina,
reaches an island when: there are only children. In the end they hound her to
death. Is this a dream, a fairy tale, an allegory?
Kundera: Nothing is more foreign to me than allegory, a story invented by
the author in .order to illustrate some thesis. Events,. whether realistic or
imaginary, must be significant in themselves, and the reader is meant to be
naively seduced by their power and poetry. I have always been haunted by this
image, and during one period of my life it kept recurring in my dreams: A
person finds himself in a world of children, from which he cannot escape. 'And
suddenly childhood, which we all lyricize and adore, reveals itself as pure
horror. As a trap. This story is not allegory.
But my book is a polyphony in
which various stories mutually explain, illumine, complement each other. The
basic event of the book is the story of totalitarianism, which deprives people
of memory and thus retools them into a nation of children. All totalitarianisms
d0 this. And perhaps our entire technical age does this, with its cult of the
future, its cult of youth and childhood, its indifference to the past.