“We Live in a New Normal Situation That Only a Few Decades Ago Would Have Appeared as a Bad Dream”

(Translation of Jörgen Huitsfieldts chronicle in Kvartal)

So it has finally caught up with us. The realization that something is really going wrong in Sweden. What else can it be called when 12-year-olds are killed in drive-by shootings, when women are shot to death with their babies in their arms, when teenage boys are mocked and raped in cemeteries by other young people and when explosives or firearms are used against people on average more once a day?

The description of the serious crime in the lines above has been repeated so many times that hardly anyone raises their eyebrows anymore. And maybe it’s just that indifference that shows what’s going wrong – we’ve got used to it. We live in  a new normal situation that only a few decades ago would have appeared as a bad dream. A short-lived and dizzying debate certainly arises after each new tragedy:

 ” This is unacceptable.”

“It should not be possible in Sweden!”

 “It’s your fault!”

“No, pea !!”

 “The whole society must come together to stop development.”

After that, everything returns to the usual lukewarmness where a more ordinary gangster murder, with adult perpetrators and victims, at most becomes a newspaper article in the crowd among dieting tips, relationship columns and celebrity gossip.

The truth is that the problem chain that led to the current situation has been open days for everyone who wanted to see.

Prime Minister Stefan Löfven received a lot of criticism for his famous statement in SVT’s Agenda that “we did not see it coming”. Admittedly, the criticism was well-deserved because warning signs have certainly not been lacking over the years. But to let him, or even the party he leads, stand with the dog’s head because nothing more has been done – it is a simplification that borders on distortion.  

Lame and late reactions

The truth is that the problem chain that led to the current situation has been open days for everyone who wanted to see. An uncontrolled large-scale asylum migration from dysfunctional and violent countries, followed by a lack of integration which led to increasing segregation which in turn was followed by school failures, unemployment and growing crime. Then we must ask ourselves why society’s reaction to these long and strong warning signals always seems to be too lame and come too late?

Perhaps the ancient Buddhist figure of thought about the three monkeys can provide some guidance. The motto “do not see (any evil), do not hear (any evil), do not say (any evil)” is originally about the fact that he who is not exposed to evil will not reflect this evil in his speech and deeds. In the Western version, the three monkeys have become more associated with wearing blinders, not wanting to see the harsh reality as it is.

Most people who visit a Swedish prison are usually struck by how many of the inmates do not seem to have their origins in Sweden.

Both meanings are applicable in the issue of gangster violence. The original because it well reflects the fact that the ruling class could for a long time turn a blind eye to the increasing brutalization, segregation and crime because it seldom affected themselves, their children, relatives or friends. Rather, this social elite has been able to enjoy the benefits of a society that has offered an oversupply of cheap labor that can clean their homes, clean up their flower beds or care for the elderly relatives they themselves do not have time to take care of.

The authorities do not want to know

Why the Western meaning of blinders is adequate in this context may not need to be further elaborated. But let me take a single example of how the three monkeys’ approach to obvious and growing societal problems materializes in reality: Most people who visit a Swedish prison are usually struck by how many of the inmates do not seem to have their origins in Sweden. But anyone who wants to know how it actually relates to that matter – that is, what proportion of the inmates who are either foreign citizens, were born abroad or have at least one parent who is – does not get an answer. The authorities themselves do not know this. What proportion are foreign nationalsis admittedly a long-known and open figure, it is about a third. (Then not everyone with dual citizenship, one of whom is Swedish, is included). But the proportion who were born abroad or whose both parents are there – what at Statistics Sweden is called a “foreign background” – cannot be answered. *

I asked the question in an email to the Swedish Prison and Probation Service the other day and received the following answer:

Hi Jörgen,

A cross-section for 2019 (number enrolled in institutions on 1 October) then shows that the proportion of foreign citizens was 29 percent. If, on the other hand, you look at the number of new inmates in institutions, the proportion is 33 percent. When it comes to the number of new admissions, you can also compare how the development looked from 2011 onwards (page 40).

Your other questions, on the other hand, are more difficult to answer because the Swedish Prison and Probation Service is prohibited by law from registering ethnic origin unless it is absolutely necessary for the purpose of processing the personal data.

For that reason, we have no figures on how many are of foreign origin or immigrated to Sweden.

Registers foreign background for a long time

For those who read the email from the Swedish Prison and Probation Service, it may sound reasonable, even sympathetic. You should not register people on the basis of race, religion or sexual orientation, right? No, of course you should not do that. But those who think a step further soon realize that this is a so-called “straw man”, a fictional position that the authorities have created themselves and then attack. In order to distinguish in statistical contexts between the people who were born in Sweden and those who are not, between those whose parents were born in Sweden and who are not, we have been doing this for a long time. It is also not synonymous with registering ethnicity or religion, but something completely different. It affects Finns, Danes, Somalis and Iraqis in the same way and does not distinguish them from each other. Either you were born in Sweden or not.Either both your parents were born in Sweden or not.  

The point is that a political path that is so thorough and also impossible to roll back should be followed closely and evaluated on an ongoing basis.

Keeping all kinds of statistics about the outcome of political reforms or measures is so obvious that we do not even think about how often we do it. This applies not least to how we evaluate the results of all gender equality initiatives that are made, large and small, where women and men are counted in detail in almost every major company and authority.

Whether you like it or not, migration policy in recent decades is one of the largest and most expensive political societal changes that have taken place in Sweden in modern times. And probably there are statistics on people who were born abroad or have a foreign background in many other contexts. A quick look at Statistics Sweden’s reports is enough to be able to state that we keep accurate statistics on everything from school results to turnout .

It is possible to draw a parallel between the ignorance about immigrants in our prisons and the debate about BRÅ’s reports on immigrants and crime. In both cases, it seems that the authorities do not actually want to find out about certain aspects of the possible consequences of migration policy. Like the three monkeys, one prefers not to speak, see or hear any evil in a vain hope that evil will then stay away. 

The difference between individual and politics

I have written and said it before, but it cannot be repeated often enough: to be interested in what migration policy leads to at the societal level and in the long term has nothing to do with the view of individuals with a foreign background. Of course, they are like most people and among them are nuclear physicists and kiosk owners, teachers and janitors, women abusers and figure skaters, workaholics and workaholics. The point is that a political path that is so thorough and also impossible to roll back should be followed closely and evaluated on an ongoing basis. And in that work, all the factual evidence Swedish authorities can gather is needed.

The welfare state that previous generations in Sweden have built up during great hardships is basically an insurance system at the nation state level. The principle is that you pay in when you are an adult, young and healthy and withdraw when you are a child, old or sick. And is it so, as more and more signs of concern now indicate, that constantly new net contributors are coming in from other parts of the world. People in need of withdrawal from the system but without the ability to pay in sufficient. Then the welfare state will collapse. It can happen through an explosion or through “pyspunk”, but collapses do it. 

So in order to evaluate the outcome of the migration policy that is now being discussed and debated so intensely – and where the parties have such a hard time agreeing – more figures and more statistics are needed. Not least, we must be interested in how it has interacted with the insecurity that is spreading. We owe it to the generations (both immigrants and native-born) who will continue to live in, and build on, this society. Being locked up in an institution is the ultimate confirmation that you have failed in society. And what could be a more serious warning signal for migration policy than if our prisons are gradually filled with people from families who have sought refuge in Sweden for a safer and better life?

Jörgen Huitfeldt is the editor-in-chief of Kvartal.

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