I’m sorry about the exclamation mark in the topic header, I am trying to sell this as an interesting story just so I can get someone else to discuss it with. It probably doesn’t warrant an exclamation mark. I think a fair description of the dignity of the issue would be “very trivial” but also interesting in a way.
There are riots in the capital of Sweden. Based on just the information you gained by checking the article linked in a casual manner, what would you say are the answers to these questions, IF if you feel they were answered of course.
Who is rioting?
Why are they rioting?
Where are they rioting?
Also feel free to elaborate and speculate. I’m incredibly curious to find out the impression this news leaves on people outside Sweden, and will explain more later if you’re interested. Thanks!
Oh, and I am even more curious about whether you who don’t like in Sweden heard of this before you read it here. If you did, please be try to expand on how you percieved it and any thoughts you may have on it now that you think about it.
“Youths”. Ok, almost a given (although I do recall Dan Rostenkowski being trapped in his car by a bunch of pissed-off senior citizens over, IIRC, proposed changes to Medicare and/or Social Security. Anyway, I would guess “immigrant youths”–from the article, “30 vehicles were set ablaze in six suburbs where mainly immigrants live”.
“The unrest began Sunday in response to the May 13 shooting, in which police killed a 69-year-old, knife-wielding man in a northwestern suburb.” So, according to the article, it was sparked by a police shooting. I would tend to guess there were pre-existing issues, though, just 'cause they’re usually are.
Stockholm. Some suburban area thereof–the northwestern suburbs?–maybe an immigrant area.
When I (and the Washington Post) say “immigrant” I guess they could mean…Norwegians or Lapps or something. But probably not. So…Middle Easterners maybe, or if not then maybe people from the former Soviet Union.
From a more in-depth report, they are in fact described as “young immigrants of African and Middle Eastern origin”. Do I win something?
So far it seems this one is still a little fuzzy. But the riots two summers ago in the UK were the same. There was no “down with [something legitimate]!”, no storming the Bastille, no slaughtering the evil dictator in the streets. Just running around and setting things on fire.
It seems to me, so far, impressively pathetic. But who knows. I’ll give them a chance to come up with a legitimate grievance.
I have a significant portion of family (heck, my cousin is a member of European Parliament) and a number of friends who live in Sweden and some do live in Stockholm.
The situation with immigrants of a wrong color is quite similar to problems that many African-Americans experience. The institutional racism, great level of poverty, lack of education and communal services bring about ghetto type of neighborhoods – not only in Sweden but all over Europe.
So, just like in US when a situation comes to a boiling point with police shooting unarmed African-American all the anger and anxiety erupts and as in US you have “rioting”. They slash and burn things, they get it out of their system and then state works over many months to follow-up on perpetrators and break families further and all of it goes for another cycle until forces of State make an egregious error AGAIN and everything erupts again.
Conditions for rioting exist every day it’s just that actions of police in shooting someone by mistake or perceived to be a mistake pushes things over and … off we go. And this is no exception - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-22622909
Now, the way I see it, the cause of it is indeed institutional racism that in Europe – and especially in countries north of Germany – has some really arrogant features that are hard to explain but they are felt. Especially it hits hard 2nd generation of immigrants who are born there and slowly, as they grow and try to embed themselves into a society start to feel it so much harder than their parents who knew what they were getting into and perhaps, due to their experience back home were able to deal with it all. All of my family and friends are white and, in fact, most are ghost white with blonde hair and blue eyes (Slavic look) so they don’t feel it like other immigrants from Middle East and Africa but they, in a way, sympathize with them as they are all immigrants.
So, yeah, all I’m saying is - if you have a ghetto don’t act all surprised when ghetto erupts in riot.
I’m politically interested and active, but in a bi-partisan way. I’m known to be curious and honest, but also a bit unpredictable because I change my mind too often for some. Basically I am on a quest to understand the world in order to be able to be a better part of it. I try to understand and find solutions to issues, then translate that into political action.
For a few years I have become more and more interested in foreign politics (mainly the EU and USA though) and after watching Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s two shows I’ve become curious about this interface:
fact/reality -> politics -> media -> population
I figured there could be much to learn from understanding how people outside the “bubble” percieve both the situation and the context. It would also be extremely interesting to know what sort of “memes”, if any, are hidden in the article. I’m very happy that people have already contributed and it has already made me consider new things and perspectives. So thank you!
Oh and sorry about the “Whiff!”, I know what you mean and that is not my intent at all. It’s kind of the opposite come to think of it.
I have to say that when I read your text it felt like something I could have written myself, had I been more eloquent. I really have nothing to add other than a thank you for putting it into words so well.
I also think my own interest in the story has two main focus points. The first I have already mentioned, but the second is somthing that you allude to in your post when you say: “if you have a ghetto don’t act all surprised when ghetto erupts in riot.” One of my two pet areas of politics is what is called urban planning (the other is anti-prohibition). You put it so well in that quote, that if we create these enviroments then we should be aware of the effects.
When I first read the WP article I reflected on how some points could be misinterpreted, or in some way influence the perception in some specific way. Especially given a lack of real life experience or deep knowledge of Sweden, something that is surprisingly rare outside our borders.
My silly prejudice is that a lot of people have some preconception of the Swedish culture and enviroment, which may or may not be helpful ways of getting a realistic picture. I kind of assume there are people out there who think Sweden is basically a snowy IKEA with lots of blond people, who are usually nice and polite, but also shy and a bit slow.
The word “suburb” used in the article is also a bit interesting, because it really isn’t what people think of as a suburb. In fact, your wording “ghetto” a much closer description of the kind of “function” and “characteristics” the area has in the city as a whole.
There are also some indicators about ethnicity, which may or may not be relevant. By mentioning it, you could argue that the reporter decided it was relevant. If the headline was that there was a riot in a swedish suburb, you might get a completely different picture. And what that means is that by saying that the rioters are colored, he is saying that it is a “bad” neighbourhood. Those are some reflections I’ve had after following this thread. I’m hoping we could try to cure my ignorance by the tested method of enlightened discussion. (Formal dressing is required).
Ah yes, one interesting question that arises from that (if you can excuse the city planning fetish) is why are the ghettos in the US close to the city center, but the ghettos of Sweden are suburban in location, but very simmilar in form and function.
Yes I figured as much. The US seems divided into two broad categories when it comes to cities. Those built in accordance wirh planning methods and principels from the colonisation to the 19:th century, and those built in accordance with the “functionalist” or “modernist” ideology. At least that’s my impression, I’m no expert on the US by any means, but a big consumer of american culture.
Pretty much by definition, ghettos (or slums, or whatever term you prefer) are located where land values are low. If land values were high, the neighborhood would be gentrified.
In the U.S., and to a lesser degree Great Britain, there’s a strong tradition of anti-urbanism (“God made the country, man made the town”), which manifests as “respectable” middle-class people expected to live in the suburbs in a detached (or semi-detached) house in a tree-lined subdivision. Think New Towns in Britain, or the post-war suburbs in the States. Add in the element of old housing stock – and much more of it multidwellings and smaller houses on small lots – nearer to the city center/downtown compared with newer housing stock – and mostly larger houses on larger lots – farther from the center, and spice with a dash of the American fetish for overvaluing what’s new and undervaluing what’s old. The result is that land near the city center/downtown is deemed undesirable, thus cheap, thus owned/rented by lower-income households. Land outside the city is desirable, thus more expensive, thus owned/rented by middle-and upper-income households.
By contrast, continental Europe is much less anti-urban and older housing stock and multidwellings/smaller houses aren’t considered as undesirable. The result is that land near the city center/downtown is more desirable, thus more expensive, etcetera. It is the land farther from the center – the suburbs – that is less desirable, thus cheaper, thus home to the lower-income groups.
Yes, I’ve generalized greatly. Living near downtown in Chicago, or New York, or Boston was never as declasse as in many other cities. The American old-vs-new and house-vs-multidwelling attitude described above was much more monolithic in the post-WWII period (1940s-60s) and is much more diverse now. As a result, the inner areas of many American cities have increased in desirability and redeveloped in the last two or three decades, while many border suburbs in many cities have declined. And, on the other side of the equation, I’m sure there are some Europeans who dream of a huge house on a large lot and dread living in a cramped 100-year-old building.
Nonetheless, the broad outline is that in European cities richer people live near downtown and poorer people in the suburbs – the Paris suburbs are infamous as riot-prone slums – while in American cities it’s the other way around.
There are plenty of more in-depth articles in the European press on the riots:
I have been doing business in Sweden for many years (in some cases living there for a month or two on contract), and on every trip I get to hear about the evils of American racism. Now Sweden can feel our pain, and our struggles with how to help poor immigrant and racial communities.
I think it has more to do with more recent urban development in the post WW-II period. Specifically the barren concrete barrack towns that was put up in the 60s. Modernistic architecture that sucks the soul out of anybody having to actually live there.
As for the riots. It’s just a little more intense version of the low level unrest that has been going on for months or years. Cars has been burning every weekend for a long time, and it was years ago that the fire trucks (or ambulances) started to need police escort to enter immigrant neighbourhoods in Malmø. There’s a large cultural element but public Sweden typically insist to only look at it from an economic perspective – unless they’re busy blaming themselves for the rioting “youths.” I have a novel idea, lets call it the Stockholm Syndrome.
Who is rioting?
Mostly 2nd generation immigrants from the Middle East and Africa.
Why are they rioting?
Because their cultural background have led them to believe that the world owes them a good living, but they have few actual skills needed by post-industrial Sweden. Many can’t even read or do basic math, or even speak fluent Swedish. And they have no chance in hell to attain the jobs they think they should, and they’re too proud to take the low paying unskilled labour jobs that are still around, and Sweden is content to have the languish on various kind of permanent or semi-permanent passive state welfare. Coupled with a widespread Swedish ideology that they’re being discriminated against and held back etc. they have cultivated various forms of persecution syndromes, whereby they blame everybody but themselves for their dismal future prospects. Some retreat to radical Islamism which puts them in an even worse situation. They have a strong elements of shame and face-saving in their cultural background, and to make things worse it’s most the boys that are being left behind, whereas the 2nd generation immigrant girls are doing considerable better which is not nice when you have been brought up to believe that men are better than women. Sweden is partially to blame for their failure, for having made excuses on their behalf and for not having told them to stop the fucking whining, shape the fuck up and get with the fucking program.
Where are they rioting?
Immigrant neighbourhoods of Stockholm.
But in Chicago and New York in the 1950s and 60s, they were building high-rise concrete or steel-and-glass modernist boxes for the middle and upper classes as well as for the lower classes. More finely-appointed boxes for the full-price customers, but modernist boxes nonetheless.
I don’t know. I just can’t recognize from Denmark this urbanism (anti-anti-urbanism). We are still mainly living in the city and landscape that was formed in the 60s and 70s, and these were characterized by a massive unprecedented movement to the suburbs. It was the Danish dream in the 60s to have a small detached house outside the city and the economic growth and new building technics made it possible for many more than ever before. Also the horrible concrete suburbs were not actually created by evil people – or even cold-hearted capitalists. It was of the same Social-democratic dream; and the same economic wealth of the 60s that made it possible for the Social Democratic politicians to create decent housing for the working classes that up until then had lived in awful crowded city flats that made them sick. It was an amiable idea, body slammed by awful architecture and city planning. I don’t know but have the impression that the USA was spared the worst of this development by being a wealthy country for a longer time and having a more spread out development.
Sounds like you’ve been running into some pretty arrogant swedes. I would say that the US is ahead of Sweden when it comes to dealing with most racial injustices and is a less racist society in general, at least the urban areas.