In Reply to: Swedish not over-burdened? posted by Klara on September 27, 2001 at 14:45:22:
yes, i'll certainly explain what i meant. if you remember, the discussion was started by a woman, who said (not exact paraphrase) that there is a certain stereotype according to which one has to market themselves, and that stereotype is the all-active, all-studious kid, who goes to tons of extracurriculars and has the best grades... etc.
there is a drive to keep on working and doing things, and it seems to be never enough.
now the way i understood her, was that there is a certain identity transformation one has to do to oneself to become marketable enough. she undoubtedly for me made this comment refering to the usa.
gegerally speaking, the worse the unemployment and the greater the income inequality in your country, the more effort you have to put in that identity transformation. or, where the exploitation mechanism is perfected, as i believe it is in the usa, you need to sacrifice your personal life and overwork yourself so that you reach THE GOAL of getting THE JOB that will hopefully allow you to have personal life in the future. if your country happens not to be that well off, (which is the rule rather than the exception in today's world, independednt of all "civilisationcentricity" developed capitalist societies have in my opinion) there might not happen t be perspective for you there apart from sleeping with your boss in order to get to sell newspapers on an outside stall in the winter. and it wouldn't matter how much you know or how educated you are, because you're a woman, and there are 40% unemployment (reaching 80% in some areas of the country). if you do not wish to sleep with him, or if you do not wish to run the risk of him teelling you "well, i'm not gonna pay you for those two months i owe you salary for" -- because if you want a contract you're out: there are enough who'll work without one, so how do you prove you worked for him -- , if you do not wish to stand verbal abuse besides the sexual one, and if you want to do anything outside your job but rest because you do not have any more emotional and psysical strength after your day is over, if you do not want to wander how you're gonna feed your kids and how you're gonna pay your heating and electricity and rent and buy winter clothing with the salary you take (40% unemployment, remember? and a contract with the IMF on minimum wages) .... in short,
YOU GOTTA LEAVE
now, leaving is not an easy business, because due to the exchange rate differences your parents can pay for one year at mount holyoke if they work 25 years and save all their wage (provided they work at the first place). so, in order for you to leave, and not be dependent on a sexist husband besides being abused by your boss, you damn do need that identity transformation i was talking about.
but there is one more nitty-gritty detail: you have to do the identity transformation OF ANOTHER, FOREIGN SOCIETY. that is even not your own identity transformation. ah, and on top of that if you fail to give up who you are fast enough, there's this nice thing called peer pressure. or, you might choose to keep yourself and act all the time. it's just as neurotic, trust me. so, you'd better adapt fast.
and that produces no stress whatsoever. you're even glad you got the lesser evil.
now let me procede with the image i've formed of sweden and swedish culture after having studied in a school where ten percent of the students were swedes (20% nordics), having been to sweden and having stayed with a swedish family with four kids, and having had a swedish roomate whose attitude to studies i could closely observe, and who also answered some questions about her home now and then. compared to other people from my nationality, i believe i have a comparatively representative sample to make some conclusions about how life in sweden is.
my best observations, of course, were of how swedish teenagers lived and how they treated themselves, their school and studies. it was a different sort of a relationship. i knew about 20 swedish kids from different places, and about two were rich. some were poor. but the immediate environment of those kids was posing different demands on them. they had grown up with a different idea of what is one's own value in the world. there was much less stress about "how my grade is gonna be".
it might not pertain to all swedes, but i have certainly herd from many swedes that "you just do as much as you can, and it's ok. you need not be perfect, 'cause nobody is". life in sweden is different than life where i come from. within sweden itself, yes, there are people who take it harder than others. yes, foreigners who have emigrated there do not have as easier job as ethnic nordics. i was in the "foreign block" in goteborg. we got a lecture on how they got to be there when swedes needed labor force earlier. i do not doubt that some people might not have a COMPARATIVELY nice time in sweden.
but i guess you can outright think about all sorts of worker rights and protections they enjoy, that you take for granted should be there, because it's humane and normal that way. well, that normality and humanity are the exception, rather than the rule, worldwide. i am sorry if i sound offensife, but your comment on what it meant to be here and now and what it meant to need to impose an identity transformation on yourself stroke me as ignorant and "civilisation-centric". your comment, in my oppinion, is condescending and insulting to 4/5 of the world's population. the thing is, you cannot be the "i'm-sorry-that-happened to-you" sort-of compassionate, because that is not my specific story. it's a story about "the periphery" of the world, about the countries whose capitals you don't know. and if you do know them, i must say (from my contact with swedes) you are an exception. and i by no way blame you for the world poverty - right at that moment i was reacting out of anger at your comment, not at you or at swedish people.
: This is a question to the student who stated that "in Sweden, you are not over-burdened". I'm a bit confused because I really do not understand what aspect of Swedish society you were talking about. In the sense that Sweden is a rich country, you are correct. The population does not have to struggle as much for its livelihood as people in other countries. But just like the U.S, Sweden is a class-society which means that certain groups have to pay a higher price than others. Can you explain how you were thinking, and what you were referring to? This is definitely an important and interesting question. I see the debate as pertaining to class structures and not nationalities.
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