Monthly Archives: December 2015

To Noam on his 87th birthday!

Dear Noam,
Sometimes fragments of sentences stick to one’s memory, such as for me a remark once by a reporter at the Swedish Radio, who talked about “Chomsky’s fans” in a slightly derogatory manner. Well, I thought to myself, we are the fans of facts and rational analysis based on facts, fans for whom Noam Chomsky is the unchallenged teacher and inimitable role model. And I wondered what reality is like for intellectuals who seem ignorant of the very meaning of the word “rational” and consider everything to be opinions, emotions and whatever. They can’t possibly be able to realize, for instance, that the computer they rely heavily on for their work hadn’t even existed if everybody’s brains worked in the same esoteric way as theirs.

It seems impossible to get rid of postmodernism with its denial of knowledge and reason. Although not being exceptionally “modern” any more, its still seems to be endemic in many intellectual circles. Facts are replaced by factoids and for each day it becomes increasingly hard to plow through the daily paper with sustained presence of mind. I remember regretfully the 1960s and 70s when progressive enlightenment was the norm, even in mainstream papers.

Our national paper (Dagens Nyheter) was in those days remarkably left-wing on the editorial and cultural pages. Its chief editor (Olof Lagerkrantz) visited China and came home dressed in a kind of Mao coat (!) He admitted all the brilliant progressives to write frequently in his paper. Those were the days! The question is how long we are to wait for the next enlightened period, ever so short.
The problem overshadowing everything else right now in Sweden is the refugee crisis. Authorities have a hard time finding even primitive shelter for the thousands pouring in daily across the border. The government took last week a drastic step and pulled the brakes on refugee reception, by some interpreted as equivalent to closing the borders (from one of the more generous nations to almost the opposite in a single step.) How it really turns out remains to be seen.

When the flow of refugees began there were positive sentiments among the public towards them. At the same time our xenophobic, right-wing extremist party, the Sweden Democrats, gained strongly in polls. There is a frightening possibility that these former skinheads with troubled childhoods one day may end up in the government (the Weimar syndrome again!).

Of course nobody talks about what lies behind the whole situation. The discussion in every media is focused on the Muslim terrorists, without mentioning that we created them, and that we continue to propagate them with each bomb and each drone.
Sweden is since centuries and almost by tradition a deeply Russophobe society, which plays out in full now with the Ukraine conflict. The disgust is almost unanimous and boils down to a few concepts such as “Putin’s war”, “Russian aggression” and the like. Dagens Nyheter doesn’t even mention analysis such as those made by John Mearsheimer, Stephen Cohen, a number of German ex-chancellors and many others with a different perspective (they even overlook Henry Kissinger’s).

I don’t think one has to have special considerations for Russia to oppose the 25 years of aggressive behavior by western powers, particularly performed through NATO. It’s just so repulsive to see well-paid journalists excel in stupid propaganda which has no other conceivable effects than to possibly take us even closer to a final world war. (Well, it’s hard to keep a straight face these days.)
As I mentioned in a mail to you last year Sweden held elections in 2014 in which the Social Democrats barely managed to replace a government that had enforced (by our standards) rather harsh right-wing policies for eight years. The time since the election has brought very little of what we used to call Social Democratic policy.

On the hottest topic, profits in private welfare enterprises, nothing concrete has happened. Thus tax-payers money is still poured over fortune-hunters and private equity firms (and occasionally some serious businesses) by authorities lacking resources to adequately monitor the process, leaving room for continuous fraud and mismanagement. On this issue the party leadership dismisses a strong opinion held by 95 percent of their membership (simply the familiar capitalist democracy).

To pick just one small example from a pile: one private nursery home ordered its staff to weigh the patient’s diapers during use in order to minimize the diaper usage. This aroused the public to both ridicule and detest the company, which had to back down.

On foreign policy the new government has been even more right-wing than the previous one. Our defense minister seems to do his utmost to appease his NATO friends, to a degree that it now is unnecessary to actually join the treaty. Large military drills with NATO participating have been held in northern Sweden. We have had soldiers in Afghanistan for a considerable time. Then we suddenly heard, without foregoing debate, that Swedish soldiers were stationed in Iraq! The next thing to surprise us was that we were going to “help” France in Mali, of all places. And to top it all our air force is preparing to join other bomb-happy states in Syria (probably, as in Libya, not in actual bombing operations, just surveillance).
There are some things left of old Sweden, but a lot has changed for the negative. That unique politician Olof Palme, whom we had a lot of disagreements with in his days at the helm, looks in retrospect as some kind of saint. But it’s just to keep up the spirit and look forward to a brighter era that inevitably will come, if not in our lifetime maybe in our children’s or grandchildren’s.

When I need inspiration I happily turn to you! A speech by Noam Chomsky on the Internet brings forward new strength and optimism to start again and afresh. You are a powerful inspiration, a uniquely rational voice and a hope for mankind. Thus I wish you all the best of everything in life.

Best regards
Lars Schaff
Lysekil, Sweden