For the most part living in Sweden doesn’t feel all that different from living in Australia. But then I read an article like this, and suddenly feel like I’m on a different planet. For those too lazy to check the link and read the whole article, basically a school in southern Sweden has just banned students from wearing Swedish football shirts for its annual school photos. The principal argues that anything with the Swedish flag can be interpreted as xenophobic, and therefore racist.
Imagine a school in Australia banning Wallaby rugby shirts on the basis they could be construed as racist. Our government is making immigrants confirm to supposed ‘Australian values”. The population gets ever more jingoist and the flag ever more sacred. Even when a group of young white men dress themselves in the national flag and run round bashing anyone that looks Middle-Eastern, our Prime Minister refuses to admit they might be racist. Yet in Sweden, adolescent school kids are being accused of racism for wearing a football shirt. In complete contrast to the rest of the world, patriotism really isn’t a virtue here. Any outwardly demonstration of nationalism is generally viewed with suspicion.
The other big news story here is a small newspaper in Örebro has published some controversial cartoons depicted the Prophet Muhammad, not dissimilar to the ones published in Denmark last year. The reaction hasn’t been anywhere near as strong as that towards the Danish cartoons, but there have been a few Swedish flag-burnings in the Middle East. Are Swedes offended and hurt at seeing their national flag destroyed and desecrated on national television? They couldn’t care less. The strongest reaction I’ve come across has been mild amusement.