Viva Verdi!

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This last Friday night at seven o’ clock I took my seat to listen to some classical music by Giuseppe Verdi who now is celebrated since it is 200 years since his birth on October 10th 1813. Malmoe Symphony Orchestra had the other day invited me and my course mates to this concert, which pleased me greatly. I love music, most kinds of music, even if not all. Classical music by composers like Verdi, Mozart, Beethoven, Bizet, Strauss, Smetana and many others appeal to certain sides of my musical being, while I also love for example rock n’ roll, pop, disco,  R n’ B, soul, jazz, some hip hop tunes, ethnic pop and certain kinds of folk music. Different kinds of music lure out different sides of me, and give me various kinds of pleasure.  It was a very nice gesture by Malmoe Symphony Orchestra to invite us and the concert salon at Malmoe Concert Hall was almost completely filled with people who had come to enjoy the beautiful music. We were sitting far back in the audience, high up among the crowd of spectators and had a great view of the stage. The musicians entered the stage along with the conductor, Marc Soustrot from France. He was born in Lyon by parents who both were opera singers. Marc Soustrot is the chief conductor of Malmoe Symphony Orchestra, but has a good renommé in wide circles in his business. He’s also conducting other orchestras such as the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra in Germany, English Chamber Orchestra, Gothenburg Symphonics in west Sweden, DR Symphony Orchestra in Copenhagen, Denmark, as well as a number of other orchestras in Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and France. Also Opera Houses in Sevilla and Madrid in Spain have been visited by Marc Soustrot for his splendid conducting. He is continously striving in his profession to combine a balance between the older, more traditional repertoir with pieces from our present days.

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The evening was presented by actress, musical artist, director and opera singer Marianne Mörck. She’s a lady who has done much in her long career. She came to Malmoe City Theatre, our day’s Malmoe Opera in 1977 and stayed there until 2003. She has had many leading roles in her musical career and performed roles like Eliza in My Fair Lady, Maja Gräddnos in Pelle Svanslös, Sally Bowles in Cabaret, Maria in Sound of Music, (I saw her in that role) and Giovanna in Rigoletto by Giueseppe Verdi. For her part in Molière’s Knowledgeable Women she recieved the Thalia Stipendium, and for the role as Fina-Kajsa in Kristina from Duvemåla the private theatre prize the Golden Mask as well as in 2002 Malmoe Municipality’s Culture Prize.  Marianne Mörck came onto the stage with relaxed dignity and it was evident that she is used to being on stage after 35 years on it. She did a good job presenting Giuseppe Verdi’s life for us, the musical pieces and the two performing singers, the Chinese tenor Yinjia Gong and the soprano Erika Sunnegårdh. Yinjia Gong was born in Sichuan, China, and got an interest in music very early on. His maternal grandfather had been performing in the Peking Opera. First Yinjia studied Chinese popular music at the Sichuan Conservatory he then became more interested in western opera. Eventually he ended up here in Sweden, studied at Malmoe Music University in 2008 and won an award for young singers in 2009. This young talent then studied in Stockholm for a Master Degree. He has sung parts like Rodolfo in La Bohème, Luigi in Puccini’s Il Tabarro, Alfredo in La Traviata, Riccardo in the Masque Ball and Macduff in Macbeth. Since the autumn of 2013 Yinija’s working at the Opera in Regensburg in Germany. Erika Sunnegårdh made her opera debut in 2004 as the title role in Turandot by Puccini at the Malmoe Opera. In 2005 Erika made a solo performance during the Nobel Prize Festivities in Stockholm. The year after she made her international break-through as Leonora in Fidelio at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. She recieved standing ovations and was hailed to the skies for her performance. She has performed at Carnegie Hall, Oper Frankfurt, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Grand Théatre du Genève, in Tokyo, Canadian Opera, Glyndbourne, Wiener Staatsoper, Kungliga Operan in Stockholm and Malmö Opera.

Why were we at the Concert Hall two nights ago? On October 10th 1813 a tiny boy was born in Le Roncole, near Busseto between the cities of Parma and Milano in what would be known as Italy. What we now know as Italy wasn’t united yet, but consisted of several city states competing and fighting with each other, but also invaded and occupied in part and different periods by the French and Austrian armies. When Verdi was born the land was controlled by the French and the boy given the names Joseph Fortunin Francois Verdi, but the person wearing the names never used the French versions. Instead he used just as we do Giuseppe Fortunio Francesco Verdi. At the age of two in 1815 the province where Giuseppe lived was given to the Austrians, but when he died on January 27th 1901 after his 88 year life Italy had become a united realm, even if the regional differences still exist as in many other countries. Giuseppe Verdi composed 28 operas between 1836 and 1893. He was a proud Italian patriot and he became famous for his work, but he was also plagued by not always being understood by the surroundings. He was asked to rearrange and rewrite several of his pieces, and not all of his operas became equally successful. The demands in Milano and in Paris varied, because Giuseppe Verdi was working on both places.

Verdi had a romantic relationship with the famous opera singer Giuseppina Strepponi, called the Jewel of Italian Opera. Lots of gossip were spread about them and they lived together for nine years before they got married in 1857. The intense romance with Giuseppina Strepponi inspired Verdi to a couple of marvellous operas in 1853, Il Trovattore/The Troubadour, (an opera I saw performed by Italian singers in Tunis, North Africa once). Il Trovattore was shown on Swedish TV2 yesterday evening. That year, 1853, Giuseppe Verdi also wrote La Traviata/The Misguided. It is based on the novel the Camelia Lady by Alexandre Dumas. These operas are full of life and passion, a combination of hot feelings, romance, tragedy and comedy. Two years earlier Verdi had composed Rigoletto where the court jester Rigoletto helps his master the count to seduce young women whom the count then murders after having had his fun. Rigoletto looks on, participates and laughs. He also has a beautiful daughter whom he tries to hide from his master, but the count naturally meets her, seduces her and kills the young woman. Unknowingly Rigoletto helps the count preparing it and notices who has been killed too late. Beautiful music, but a horrible story. I personally once more ponder upon why humanity is so cruel, and why psychopathic maniacs with a lust to mutilate and kill tend to be glorified so often, while our humanity actually needs the opposite. In Rigoletto the count sings the famous aria “La donna e mobile”/The woman is promiscous. The question is what we are attracted to, why, what we see in others and what we encourage. At about the same time as Verdi wrote Rigoletto in 1851 his mother died, and regretting that he had neglected his parents Giuseppe Verdi returned to his childhood area. In 1867 he bought the farm Sant ‘Agate, which would remain his residence where he could gain strength.

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The pieces performed during the concert were in the first half before the break: “La Forza del Destino”, uverture, “Tu che le vánita” from Don Carlos, prelude to La Traviata, “Lunge da lei – De’ miei bollenti spiriti” from La Traviata, “Parigi, o cara noi lasceremo” from La Traviata, “Tacea la notte placida” from Il Trovattore and then sinfonia with the Hebrew prisoners’ choir from Nabucco.

During the paus we all went out in the upper lobby to stretch our legs, mingle, maybe have something to drink and I talked a bit with a Chinese violin player from the orchestra and his wife. Very nice couple. The pictures you see to this text were taken during that break. Since it’s not allowed to take photos during the performance inside the sallon you won’t see anything from the concert itself, and in normal cases I wouldn’t have brought my camera at all to a performance like this, but I  had been to seminar with book presentations just before the concert and for that reason had the camera with me.

After the break we could listen to the prelude to “I vespri siciliani”, prelude to “Rigoletto”, “La donna e mobile” from Rigoletto, prelude to “Aida”, “Celeste Aida” from Aida, the balett from Aida and finally “Pur ti riveggo mia dolce Aida”. The orchestra did a splendid job led by the eminent Marc Sustrout. Erika Sunnegårdh and Yinjia Gong both had marvellous voices and it requires enormous training and technique for singing like that. We have to keep in mind that the technique to gather the strength from the stomach and up to reach out with the voice was developed during the 1600’s when the first Italian and French operas were made and opera singing art as such. Jean Baptiste Lully and his comperatives in the 1600’s had to compose for singers who would sing without microphones for large audiences. The heyday for operas and operettes however were in the 1700’s and 1800’s. During the 20th century until today the music scene has developed further as we all know: music hall, musicals, vaudeville, modern operas, and more modern music styles.

At the end of the concert the orchestra, the conductor, the two singers and Marianne Mörck recieved standing ovations which is the finest compliment you can get in situations like these. As an encore we got yet another piece and while we still were standing up in the audience Marianne Mörck asked us to participate in some singing. The lyrics to the Swedish translation of the Hebrew prisoners’ choir from Nabucco was written in the programme. The Italian audience had when the opera was written read into it a resistance against the French and Austrian influences and themselves as the people who ought to be liberated, which they did during the 19th century. We all stood there singing the text to the famous melody: “Fly my thought on golden wings! Fly and land on green turfs! There from flowers and maturing grapes, rises the lovely fragrance from Mother Earth. Greet Jordan, the sacred river and Jerusalem’s smoke-dark peaks… Oh, our homeland, the most precious gem, is just a memory of ash and dust! You, the prophet’s golden lyre which hang soundless and doesn’t reach our ear. Let the memory touch the strings and tell us of the days of glory… Let our woe guide your tones, sing about the destiny which will separate us! Then preach the will of the Eternal: Soon Israel will again live in peace. Soon Israel will again live in peace. Soon Israel will again live in peace. Yes, in freedom and peace”.

The concert was marvellous and I left Malmoe Concert Hall that Friday night with a smile on my lips. The music can be a source of inspiration, a way to unite or separate. We can only hope that something good will come out of the struggle we have for sustainability, dignity and a precious humanity in these again troubled times. I for one will surely struggle on. What will you do?

Anders Moberg, October 27th 2013

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Book Days with Iranian writers

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On October 24th and 25th Iranian writers living in exile in various European countries had gathered here in Malmoe during two days called “Here lives Iran”. It was an arrangement made in co-operation between Smockadoll Publishing Company/Språka, the Victoria Theatre here in Malmoe, ABF Malmoe, The Iranian-Swedish Society Malmoe, the Mazetti Mix, Drocopis Press, Malmoe Municipality, The National Culture Board and the Swedish Academy. Two nights ago they had gathered at the Victoria Theatre in central Malmoe. Focus then was on the litterary expression. Poetry, prose, short stories were read in Persian, mixed with Swedish translations of those texts written by the Persian authors. An Iranian music medley was presented, short films and discussions about writing, the situation for intellectuals in Iran and the exile.

Yesterday afternoon the writers and their audience had gathered again. This time at Iransk-Svenska Föreningen/The Iranian-Swedish Society near Heleneholm. The photos above were taken there and then. All the texts read then were in Persian, so of course it wasn’t easy for me to understand much of what was said, more than a few words here and there. The Iranian writers read some of their texts and their focus was on how to write and under what circumstances. The participating authors were: Ehsan Abedi, Mehrdad Ghasemifar, Sepindeh Jodeiry and Fahimeh Khezar Heidari now living in the Czech Republic, Shabnah Azar and Shahab Sheikhi living in exile in Germany, and Noorhabeh Amiri in France. Here in Sweden the Iranian intellectuals were Naeimeh Doostdar, Azita Ghaznavian, Reza Haji Hosseini, Nassim Modani, Sohrab Rahimi and Roya Zarin. Even if there was a language barrier between us it was still interesting to be there, and I did converse a few of them in Swedish, English and some Persian.  Meeting these people was a nice treat, and many of them had an aura of splendour, nice manners, modernity and classy intelligence also in the way they were dressed and behaved. The Iranian history is long and was a high culture already 4000 – 3000 years ago. The Persian culture has ever since then been a combination of classical refinement, poetry, romance, high class architecture, but also of warfare. The original Persian religion – Zoroastrianism – was for a long time the state religion in the Persian Empire, during high kings like Kurosh 556 B.C.E. and Xerxes of the Hakhamanishiya dynasty and also during the Sasanid Empire 226-650 A.D./C.E. When the last Sasanid shah Yazdgerd III in the 7th century A.D./C.E. had problems with the likewise weakened Byzantine Empire the Arabs took advantage of the decline of the Persian Empire and invaded. Gradually the local inhabitants had to convert under the Umayyad Khalifate. Even if Iran has been a Muslim country ever since the mid 600’s the original Persian culture and religion has never died, but lingered on under the surface through the centuries. The winged symbol which you see in one of the photos above is the classical symbol for Persian Zoroastrianism.

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Why was I at the Iranian-Swedish Society yesterday? Well, I had been invited by one of the participating authors who also was one of those who had intiated this conference, namely Naeimeh Doostdar whom you see in two of the photos above to the right. I have written about the phenomenal Iranian-Swedish Society before in one of my January texts, and mentioned Naeimeh too once more in one of my May texts. I have met her and her husband and their child three or four times, have Naeimeh as one of my contacts on LinkedIn, and she no doubt is an interesting person. Recently some of her poems, which are controversial in the theocratic state of Iran, have been translated into Swedish and been published in the book “Så småningom gick jag inte hem – Censurerade dikter & noveller”/After a while I didn’t go back home – Censored poems and short stories”. Her work has been published by Smockadoll Publishing Company. Naeimeh Doostdar was born in Tehran in 1977. She was two years old when the last shah of the Pahlavi Dynasty was forced to abdicate by Khomeini’s followers, and very quickly women got an increasingly worsened situation. Nevertheless the women’s emancipation-, gender equality- and green modernity movement is vivid in Iran, even if it is harshly oppressed and activists often intimidated, oppressed, jailed, tortured and even killed. Already as an Upper Secondary School student Naeimeh began her career as a journalist and has recieved several national awards. Parallell with this she has been writing poetry and prose, which has led to four published books in Iran. When the political climate in Iran got worse in 2009 Naeimeh Doostdar was put in jail for her weblog and inconvenient journalism – which led to her exile. 2012-2014 she’s an asylum writer in Malmoe via International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN).

“Så småningom gick jag inte hem” consists mostly of many poems and some short stories by her hand which have been censored and banned from publishing by the Iranian State pre-censorship. The two omnibuses have specific themes which bind them together and Naeimeh does here give a voice to modern urban women in Tehran and those problems – in relations and society – which is their every day life. She says that if you want to stay alive in such a society where you are under constant surveilance you have to lie about things to suit the power. The oppression and surveilance is so immense. Naeimeh and her husband were both active on the streets during the protests in the Green Revolution of 2009.

Her family name Doostdar means “She who’s laughing” and that is very true about her, but Naeimeh also has experienced many severe things. Here’s her poem “Punishment”. “He stopped my lips, and my kisses recieved death penalty. The man had heard my bird song from summer trees   and arrested me for the love poems to the clouds on my way to the old hills. He chained my legs in my eyes’ distance between opening and shutting. He cut in my breasts, he pulled my hair. He ear-boxed me when the wind sang in my ear. He burned my tears. He jailed me in a room on the outskirts of the park. A guard on duty wanted to know if we had legal right to hold hands.    In the military court on the Abbas Abbad-hills my head was condemned to submission, my body condemned to stoning, they were stitching my lips tight and burned my poems”. Naeimeh’s poem In the outskirts of a dream goes like this: “In the middle of that well which is a fire in your eyes, and in the laughter which sleeps on your lips there is a breath which binds me to Death… When I’m fast asleep I dream that you have glued yourself to my eyes… There is something with my pointless waving arms, a small beginning from the outskirts of dreams aimed at your lips… It’s the melody of a broken voice where you seem to have forgotten the colours of my tears”.

I get the feeling that many of the Iranians have a capacity to thrive in the Swedish society. I remember the words of Jila Moradi during a democracy conference at the same spot in the Spring of 2011. She said: “We grew up in a country where we had no real democracy, so when we came here we read all about the Swedish political system, about democratic values, gender equality etc and are very aware of what it really means, and how important it is to preserve that. You Swedes take everything for granted and do not always care about your system, but for us who have experienced a totalitarian oppression it’s extra important to preserve the democray and equality here”. I believe Jila was right about that, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Naeimeh Doostdar and many others would agree. Right now I’m reading her book, interesting reading, I can assure you. Today, Saturday, October 26th is also the Book Day, a tradition which has lasted here in Sweden for 76 years. I think that a Brain Gain is much more valuable than a Brain Drain. Reading Naeimeh’s book and also Tove Lifvendahl’s are two excellent ways of getting enlightenment from two brilliant women in the present Swedish society.

Anders Moberg, October 26th 2013

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Book presentation about “honour”-related violence

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Exactly one week ago, last Tuesday night, I was in Lund listening to a book presentation at Lund City Library. The two authors Eduardo Grutzky and Lars Åberg had been invited by the organization Humanisterna and Lund City Library to present their brand new book “Heder och Samvete”/Honour and Conscience – A book about honour cultures in Sweden” from Fri Tanke/Free Thought Publishing Company. It’s based on many actual cases of so called “honour”-related violence, it’s structures, and how different parts of the Swedish society has related or still relates to it. When I came to the library I spoke shortly with Eduardo before I took my seat. We were about 20-30 people in the audience and the book was for sale afterwards. I read it during three days last week. Parts of the book describe recent events from this summer.

Eduardo Grutzky is one of Sweden’s most leading experts on honour-related cultures. He’s been involved in social issues and Human Rights in Sweden since the mid 1980’s and honour-related issues for at least 15 years. He’s often called in as lecturer and is having educations about it for e.g. police officers, social workers, wet nurses and school staff. Eduardo Grutzky is also the initiator of organizations such as Elektra, Sharaf heroes and heroines as well as ALMAeuropa, where he’s now working. His work is not just some scientific work distant from the reality described. No, Eduardo’s work is very distinct, tangible and filled of life destinies, young and grown up individuals he has helped, but also failures where young people have been killed or forced to marriage by their own relatives for having wanted to live a life of their own choosing.

Lars Åberg is one of Sweden’s most experienced journalists in the field of integration and society issues. He’s often writing for papers like Göteborgs-Posten and Sydsvenskan, i.e. The Gothenburg Post and the South Swede. Åberg has also written about 20 books, mostly about society issues in Sweden and the USA. His latest book called “West” has been praized both here in Sweden and in the United States of America. The cover of this new book is black with white letters and on the back of the book one might read this following text translated from Swedish to English:

“In Sweden today about 70 000 youngsters fear that they might not choose whom to marry. All the same Swedish debaters deny the very existence of the honour cultures or diminish its effects. It’s spoken in very vague terms about men’s violence against women and of a global patriarchate. But the collectivized characteristics are unique. Entire families and clans are involved. The individual is sacrificed to pure the collective group. The honour-life means an existence lowered into an every-day-surveiling system – the tyranny of small gestures… “Honour and Conscience” is based on the authors’ long experience of the integration debate and work to protect those who fall victim for honour-related oppression. The authors make a critical survey of the Swedish debate about the authorities’ resistance against implementing the taken political decisions in order to prevent the oppression. They (the writers) mean that the notion of anti-racism has been twisted. Instead of treating everyone as equal there now exist demands of separate treatment for different groups, which makes it more difficult to prevent the honour ideology”.

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My own second novel “Heder eller samvete? – En kriminalroman om rasism, fördomar, dubbelmoral och jämställdhet”/Honour or Conscience? – A crime novel about racism, prejudice, double standards and gender equality” which exists in two versions from 2009 and 2010 respectively, and is used on schools and adult education around Sweden, deals with the same issues in fiction form, but based on the same kind of realities. Eduardo Grutzky also writes about his and Lars Åberg’s own book “A new kind of honour has been introduced in Sweden during the last decades. It’s an honour ideology which do not care about human rights and do not tally with democracy. To question it or go against its norms means enormous risks. The collective group controls the individual. The honour culture is anti-democratic and reminds of the maffia. They deal with anti-feminism and xenofobia. ”

On the book’s first page it is said: “Honour in this context is a notion of that an entire clan’s good reputation is depending on the capacity to control the women and their bodies. By controlling the female sexuality the family,  the dynasty or clan makes sure that they maintain their honour. Murder is the final, brutal consequence of the honour ideology, but barbaric violence is not its normal, every-day expression. Instead it’s the power base, the threats and the exclusion which make the victims suffer. We do not know how many honour-killings which have been commited in Sweden since the statistics are based on insecure and subjective numbers. The amount does neither say very much about the situations hidden behind it. In fact the murder is a failure which shows that the honour culture hasn’t been able to assemble its group. What is distinctive for a life in the shadow of honour is that it is held in check and keeps silent. It’s best working when nobody from the outside the own group notices it.  The honour life is an existence lowered into an every-day surveiling system – the tyranny of small gestures. You can’t escape; the family, the relatives, the village, the clan keep you under observation. If you go outside the given norm it’s bad news. Nothing special must have happened really, it’s enough with a rumour or gossip. Someone is socializing with the wrong person, is turning the eyes in the wrong direction, have the wrong ambitions or is sending text messages to the wrong reciever”.

Both Eduardo Grutzky and Lars Åberg have a background from the political left, but they do not hesitate to critisize today’s Swedish lefties for flirting with reactionary groups of a dangerous sort, but politicians, debaters, journalists, authorities and various organizations of various colours are under hard scrutiny in this book, combined with real life stories, but with changed names to anonymize the given examples. Åberg as a journalist has done most of the writing while Grutzky has summed up lots and lots of his many experiences. Originally the manuscript was much longer with many more distinct examples, but had to be shortened to 236 pages, from page 7 to 241. They have divided the book in two sections called Part 1 Honour and Part 2 Conscience. In part one the book is divided into the chapters Samira, Honour life, Neyla, Multiculturalism, Parvi, The double lack, The faith and the honour, and Gabriel. Here they give us a background of the structure in the honour cultures and four deepened cases from reality. Part two, Conscience, scrutinizes the Swedish debate and attempts to prevent the honour-related crimes and those who in different ways try to oppose those preventions. That second section in this book is divided in the chapters The Swedish debate, The structural good-will, Fatme, and The Deep State.

It was interesting listening to them and hear their ideas about the matter, but the debate now is very heated. Not long ago an Iranian woman working as a primary school teacher in Stockholm and who opposes the honour culture fiercely has made suggestions similar to those coming from the Sweden Democrats. This has provoked much anger from believing Muslims and/or debaters on the ideological left mainly. Hanna Gadban suggested two things: 1) That a specific law against honour-related violence ought to be passed and implemented in the Swedish legal system and 2) That those who commit murders in the name of family, clan honour ought to be expelled from Sweden and have their citizenships withdrawn. Recently she was rewarded with a prize by Södertörn College outside Stockholm for her articles. This has led to a division in the society. Many debaters are furious with her, claiming that it’s racist to do that. Others hail her. For my part I want to see a distinct law against honour-killings as soon as possible, but think that withdrawn citizenship is going too far. We still have to work for better attitudes in the society. My idea is that there exist both good and bad structures in all cultures and countries, and that we must continue working for a better society in many ways similtanously.

When Maria Barin Aydin was murdered in Landskrona in April 2012 by her then 16 year old brother – killed with 107 stabs from knives and a pair of scissors – the day after her 19th birthday she became one of many victims. This Yazidi girl had been married off in her early teens, violated, run away, come back to Sweden, gone to upper secondary school, wanted to become a hair dresser and at the age of 18 in the summer of 2011 looked for help in Malmoe from the organization Tänk om!/Reconsider. She had just got an apartment of her own in Landskrona, only weeks before the murder. When Tänk om! asked me to help them in commemorating this young woman’s memory and all other victims of honour-related violence I gladly participated. It was a beautiful, sad and emotional manifestation, but some disturbing things happened in connection to it. A group of ordinary Swedes stood talking on the Major Square and when I informed them about the manifestation one of them said: “Let them kill each other. Then we don’t have to”. Very cruel and cynical comment about a murdered young woman who just had turned 19 and whose highest dream was to become a hair dresser and live a life of her own as most youngsters in this society. During the manifestation two young men stood near the stage silently showing us a couple of bullets, and after the manifestation the staff at Tänk om! were threatened to their lives for several months. Maria Barin Aydin wasn’t given a proper burial and the court sentence was a mockery of her and all others who fall victim for this treatment. Something has to be done, that’s for sure. Whose Human Rights are to be reckoned with?

Anders Moberg, October 22d 2013

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Room With a View – From the Crown Prince

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A couple of weeks ago I was at the high-rise multistorey block building Kronprinsen/The Crown Prince, a building 26 floors high completed in 1964. It’s owned by Hugo Åbergs Fastighetsförvaltning, http://www.abergsfastighet.se, info@abergsfastighet.se. The facing as you can see is blue, and consists of 1.9 million mosaic pieces in various blue nuances, darker blue at the bottom and lighter blue higher up to give the feeling of raising to the skies.  The building complex of Kronprinsen contains a mall at the bottom, restaurants, a drug store and liqour store, offices higher up and on the top floor- floor 26 – there’s a luxuary restaurant called Översten/the Colonel. I have dined there during some conferences several times and also been to a wedding banquet up there once. It’s a very nice restaurant, tidy, neat with a conference room section and a dining hall/bar section. The restuarant is renowned and has the best view over Malmoe and Öresund one can get. Since there are windows in three directions the visitors will get a splendid view of many parts of this marvellous city. The restaurant takes everything from eight to 200 guests at a time, and offers their visitors a great variety of assemblies and dishes. There are the ordinary lunch guests, but also schools, politicians, wedding companies, upper class guests etc who tend to book tables up here. The food is high class and can well compete with castle restaurants or old renowned high class restaurants in the rural areas. You find more information about them on http://www.oversten.se, restaurangen@oversten.se. The owners are Monica and Peter Kentell, (+46)40-980650. That married couple moved up here with their new restaurant in 1997 and had before that run the restaurant Drabanten/The Henchman on the top floor of the water tower in Hyllie, southern Malmoe for 25 years.

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Kronprinsen/The Crown Prince with the restaurant Översten/The Colonel is situated in the western parts of the Inner City of Malmoe and is named after what existed here before the building was built. At this particular address the Crown Prince’s Hussar Regiment resided between 1897 and 1927. The military cavallry was important for a long time, but with the new technological age the cavallry lost most of its military importance and was closed down in that year 1927. In the beginning of the 20th century there were ca 500 hussars here who took care of and rode about 600 horses. Even if the regiment had been at this address from 1897 their history was far older than that. The hussar regiment was formed in 1757 down on the island of Rügen which still was Swedish then, but they moved to Malmoe in 1772 during the reign of Gustav III. During the first half of the 19th century, in 1822 the crown prince Oscar, who would become king Oscar I and the second king of our now ruling Royal Bernadotte Dynasty was given responsibility for this Malmoe-based cavallry regiment.

Even if the regiment as such ceased to exist in 1927 the memory of it has been kept alive since 1958. Then a society was founded called “Kronprinsens Husarregementes Kamratförening och Minnestropp”, i.e. “The Friend Society and Memory Section of the Crown Prince’s Hussar Regiment”, http://www.husartroppen.nu. The members consist of horse- and military history interested people in the region. They meet every Monday evening during the school year at Malmö Ridklubb/Malmoe Riding Club. Sometimes they also get theory lessons in militaray history and horse care, and then mix it with practice. Sometimes they appear on different festivities to re-enact what the former hussars had looked like. You see one of them in one of my photos below which I took during the national commemoration day on June 6th this year. That regiment and the two kings Oscar I and Oscar II, (the last Swedish king to be crowned and who died in 1907) are those who have given their names to this 26-storey building and the restaurant. Together they commemorate something of the history of this city, and the high class style of the restaurant. It’s expensive, but well worth its money and if you want to get good quality conferences and food Översten is an excellent choice- Not to forget – A room with a view.

Anders Moberg, October 20th 2013

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Soup For Warmth/Soppa För Värme

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In 2005 some University students in Lund not far from Malmoe got the idea that something had to be done against the colder and egoistic trend in the Swedish society. So they invented a non-profit organization called “Soppa För Värme”/Soup For Warmth”. They stood in central Lund handing out warm soup, coffee, bread, cakes to passers-by once every week. Everyone was welcome to participate or to come and eat and drink. It has attracted lots of people of various kinds. When the students moved to Malmoe in 2007 they took the concept with them here. Soup For Warmth has been an active organization visible on Värnhemstorget/The Defence Home Square, (approximately ten minutes walk from where I live) since 2007. The volunteers who are active, (ten to 15 of them), stand on the Square every Saturday between noon and two p.m. from October to June. The people who participate as volunteers have changed over the years, and those who started it are no longer there. The idea to spread compassion, warmth and stand up for an including society with acceptance and down-to-earth understanding has been a winning concept. Those who volunteer are a mix of University students, well educated people, and working class heroes and do so because they wish to do something good for the society we live in. That’s the general idea with Soup For Warmth.

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Soup For Warmth now also has a web page called http://www.soppaforvarme.se. They’re also on Facebook and might be reached on e-mail at info@soppaforvarme.se. When I passed them on the Defence Home Square/Värnhemstorget yesterday after having been on an errand downtown for a photo session I decided to interview the volunteers. I have met some of them before and they know about my weblog. As so often in associations like these there is a welcoming and accepting atmosphere, and the SFV was no exception. They are sponsored by Scandic Hotel near Triangeln with soup, 150 portions every time. Scandic Hotel has just taken over that role after Hotell Radison Blu who has acted as deliverer of soup from 2007 until just a couple of months ago. SFV gets cakes and bread from Konditori Katarina while Café Grannen nearby is where they keep their tables and chairs and also sponsors with coffee. They are also sponsored with coffee, plates, cakes, fruits, bread, and advertising help by among others Astrid & Aporna, Gateaux, Svensk Cater, Morot & Annat, Huhtamaki, Clarion Collection Hotell Temperance and City Network.

When I stood there interviewing yesterday lots of people came by, many elderly people, middle aged, men and women, as well as children. One man there happened to have his 40th birthday yesterday, and one volunteer decided that we all should sing for him. So of course we all did. An elderly couple, a man and a woman, said that they recognized each other from their school days, and a little girl at about the age of ten asked about the cakes. I learned that the SFV always have lots of guests, and even if some people look at them with frowning faces or lack of empathy most passers-by seem to see the need for it, especially in days such as these. Since the global financial crises in 2008 and onwards the understanding comments for associations like SFV have increased. It was nice talking to them, and they do a great thing. Similar things are needed on many places on Earth, both here in Sweden and elsewhere… Or what do you think? What are your suggestions or solutions? If you want to contact the SFV you migth do that on the addresses above or maybe start something similar. If you want to comment this text or any other you might do that here or e-mail me on anders.moberg676@gmail.com

Anders Moberg, October 20th 2013

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Different kinds of Swedish identities

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In my drawing above you see four Viking chieftains at a moot. The chieftain to the right in red-brown beard is me. In this text I intend to describe different forms of identifications, mainly from a mixed Swedish perspective, historically and present with aims for the future. Who am I? How can I describe myself? I am a white, heterosexual man. I’m Swedish, born here in Skåne/ Scania, and have lived most of my life here. I’m well educated, middle class, social liberal, anti-racist. If we go back 200-400 years my paternal and maternal background is a mix of  Scanian, Swedish, Christian, Atheist, Belgian-Walloon, German-Jewish influences. Further back, 100 000 years ago,  my forefathers were, (as for all of us non-African humans on Earth), darkskinned people walking the East African soil. Some of their descendants would tens of thousands years later migrate into Europe and gradually turn pale in order to attract sun-light. How has the country I live in developed? Where are we today? Where are we heading and why? How will the world situation develop?

The first discovered proofs of settlement in what’s now Sweden are ca 14 000 years old. There are remnants of human settlement from just outside Malmoe where I live and a bit further north in Scania from the shores of Finja Lake. Most of Sweden was then covered by ice and the few people here had come from Europe to hunt rein deer. After the last Ice Age, ca 10 000-9 000 years ago the first migrants from the east, Siberia, turned up. They were nomads of Ural Altaic origin speaking some kind of archaic Finnish-Ugrian tongue most likely. Some settled in Finland, others in what’s now Northern Sweden and Norway, hunting bear, wolf, keeping rein-deer and fishing along the coasts. Some of those nomads spread a bit further south too. Most likely these were the forefathers of the Sámit population in northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Kola Peninsula in Russia, (an area today referred to as Sápmi). New groups of what would become the Sámit/Sápmeccat immigrated from the East 10 000 – 2 700 years ago. This is what the mitocondrial DNA traces show. However, recent discoveries has also shown that the so called Kostenki-man from Russia and who lived and died 37 000 years ago belonged to a large meta population of individuals with the same genetic DNA-traits stretching from Europe to Central Asia. The man from Kostenki was genetically much closer to today’s Danes, Swedes, Finns and Russians than to Spaniards, Frenchmen, Italians and Germans, according to Eske Willerslev, Director of the Centre of Geo-Genetics at Copenhagen University in Denmark. According the mitocondrial DNA-traces Asians and Europeans began to seperate genetically 45 000 – 37 000 years ago.

Apart from the northern Sámit people other migrants came from Europe ca 6000 years ago. These were farmers from, who according to mitocondrial DNA, are linked to farming people who lived in Anatolia, now Turkey. Most likely they were the forefathers of the Indo-European Kurdish people today. These early Indo-Eurpean Kurdish ancestors were also descendants of the same much earlier population whom the Russian man from Kostenki had belonged to. The Turks invaded Anatolia (Turkey) from Central Asia much, much later, 1000 – 1300 A.D. The farming people who arrived in Sweden were according to DNA-trace the ancestors of the Swéons and Gutaniz. In central and northern Sweden the Nomadic Finns and Sámit lived side by side with the farmers for ca 1000 years, but was then pushed further north by the farmers.  The Sámit are since 1977 named aboriginal people of Sweden according to the UN ILO convention, No 169. You can read more about them and others in my text from March, “Sweden’s official national minorities”. During the Bronze Age 1700 – 500 BCE all of present Sweden was inhabited by different tribes and populations. Rock carvings/hällristningar were made of religious cermonies, people hunting, males with huge phalloses, and sun worship. Large stone heaps were used as graves, man-made mounds. The king’s grave in Kivik in eastern Scania/Skåne is from that time.

About 2000 years ago the Swéons, (called “Sueiones” in Latin by Tacitus in 98. A.D.) inhabited what’s now Stockholm county, Södermanland, Örebro, Västmanland, Uppsala, Gävleborg, and parts of Dalarna. They were according to the few sources skilled warriors and horsemen, and taking good care of their weapons. The Goths lived in what’s now Västergötland/Western Gothia, Östergötland/Eastern Gothia, Jönköping county, Kalmar and on the island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea. The sagas describing the life in the 6th and 7th centuries A.D.  tell us e.g. of king Algötar of Västergötland and king Högne in Östergötland fighting each other. Goths from Sweden also migrated down to the European continent and settled in Germany, Italy, Spain and North Africa. According to the Ynglinga Saga by Snorri Sturlasson retold in his “Heimskringla” the first Swéon was king Oden who is supposed according to the legend to have lived ca 2000 years ago. After him came Niord and much later ca 650 A.D. Ottar Vendelkråka. He was followed by Ivar Vidfamne and ca 700-730 by Ragnar Lodbrok. After some time more Emund the Old.

Of course the southern parts of what’s now Sweden were also inhabited. As I’ve told you before in my May text “What’s in a name?” the name Skåne/Scania comes from the very local name Skathinawio/Dangerous Peninsula referring to the small peninsula Falsterbo-Skanör in the south west corner. The waters outside were very treacherous. You can read more of that too on my web log. Originally the name Skathinawio was mainly used for the south-western areas in these parts, while the northern and eastern parts had other names. Around 800 this  province was called Sconaowe, ca 890 Scóneg and then Skåne or Scania in Latin. The names Skanör and Scandinavia are also derived from this first name Scadhin awo. During the Middle Ages Scania was counted as part of East Denmark, and “Terra Scaniae” contained the provinces of Skåne, Halland, Blekinge and the island of Bornholm. So it remained until the Swedish conquests 1645-1658. For a short period ca 1332-1361 Scania also had been part of Sweden. (Read more of that in my text about Helsingborg). Sweden conquered  the Scanian areas in war against Denmark in February 1658 and they have remained Swedish ever since then. Finland was part of Sweden ca 1250 – 1809.

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Sweden as an assembled nation started around 1250 and was then fought over by local kings in Västergötland and Östergötland, as well as Svealand. They used terror, assasinations and wars, as well as intermarrying as political tools. Before that Sweons =Swedes and Goths had co-operated in a power alliance about smaller kingdoms, but had no real state. The state emerged gradually in the period 1200 – 1560. Sweden as an inherited kingdom began with Gustav Eriksson Vasa in 1523. (Read more of him in my June text “Sweden’s National Commemoration Day last week”). As a country we have always been influenced from different ways, which is by no way unique. Here I describe things from a Swedish perspective, but we should keep in mind that we see similar patterns in most countries and cultures around the world. The human behaviour is more similar than we think, more than what separate us from others. Naturally there are specific cultural, local and regional areas which make us special, but the common traits are still there. Through history Sweden has been influenced by German, French and English monks who were preaching Christianity for the Vikings. When most Europe turned into Christian feudal countries so did the Scandinavian ones. All through the Middle Ages Sweden was a Roman Catholic country, which with the Christian Reformation in the 1500’s turned Lutheran and has been so ever since. We have had influences from Germany, Denmark, France, Belgium. The lingua Franca in the 17th and 18th centuries was French, just as English is today. In the early 1900’s until World War II German was important in Swedish schools. With the Swedish wars and merchant journeys in the 1600’s and 1700’s influences came from Turkey, China, India etc. During the 20th century mainly from the USA, but also from other countries. The “classical” rural Swedish stereotype was shaped during the 19th century, mixing local rural traditions from the 1500’s and 1600’s with influences from Germany and Poland.

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During the 20th century we have seen a very biased nationality. It’s a mix of two very different sides, co-existing side by side all through the 1900’s up till today. The dark side contains racism, participation in colonial oppression of Africans and Asians, racial biology notions 100 years ago and many decades on. The establishment of the Race Biological Institute in Uppsala in 1921, visits from Nazi Germany in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Establishment of the “race pure” and pure-gene Folk Home notion. In the top blond, blue-eyed, strong, conservative nationalism. At the same time racist measuring of human skulls among the Sámit people and Finns in the north, exclusion and persecution of Romanies, anti-semitism, castration of handicapped, travelling people, homo-sexuals, and “wild women” who had been raped or were poor, but forced to prostitution. Laws against using Finnish or Sápmelaccat in northern Sweden, continued steralizations of “unwanted”, “degraded” people. A not always good approach to the Swedish immigrants from Gammelsvenskby, Zmievka in southern Ukraine when they wanted to come back to Sweden after having been persecuted by both Nazi German troops and Soviet Russia during World War II. Some of them went back to the village, while others stayed here. From the 1980’s and onwards a lingering Neo Nazi movement, VAM, White Aryan Resistance and Ny Demokrati in the early 1990’s. Now we have Sverigedemokraterna/The Sweden Democrats in the Parliament since 2010, as well as tiny Neo Nazi fractions outside the Parliament = Riksdagen. On the far left we have had a worrying and naïve attitude among far too many intellectuals about Communist dictatorships like the Soviet Union, Cuba etc. The extremism both to the far right and far left have been problematic, since they build on totalitarian ideologies. Today we also worry about theocratic states or a theocratic development of our own democracy.

The postive things then? In 1919 the new coalition-government with the People’s Party the Liberals and the Social Democratic Party passed a law for the right to vote for all adult Swedish men and women. Until then about 10 % of the population had had that right. For the Swedish women and men they could go to the election halls for the first time in 1921. That same year the death penalty was forbidden. The Swedish democracy system began to evolve more and more. The inventor Gustav Dalén from Aktiebolaget Gasackumlator invented the modern lights for light houses. The Swedish newspaper editor Torgny Segerstedt in Gothenburg dared to criticize Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany from 1933 until his death in 1945. Scanian people participated in saving 7000 Danish Jews from the Nazi death camps in October 1943. Warm and kind Swedish people helped Finns, Norwegians and Jews in their homes during World War II. Raoul Wallenberg saved tens of thousands Jews in Budapest, Hungary in 1944. Sweden developed, became safer, more secure, and increased its standards, companies grew. During the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s Sweden and Norway supported the ANC, African National Congress with diplomatic efforts and information when Nelson Mandela was imprisoned on Robben Island for fighting against the racist Apartheid system in South Africa. Björn Borg became a world leading tennis player, Ingemar Stenmark a world famous skier, Rolf Edling a world champion in fencing. The pop group ABBA made Sweden famous in the 1970’s and early 1980’s. Sweden has become famous internationally for diplomacy, our athletes, our opera singers, rock and pop stars, sing-song writers, for some of our inventors, technical development, cars like Volvo and SAAB, for IKEA furniture, and for our kindness.  My country has also been leading in gender equality work since the 1970’s and onwards. In 1980 Victoria became our crown princess, and in 1999 the Sex Buying Act was passed, which makes the purchase of sexual favours illegal. These are a few examples. Our country continues to develop in different ways.

During the 1960’s and 1970’s immigrants were welcomed to Sweden to work, and lots of people mainly from former Yugoslavia, Greece, Italy and Turkey arrived. Also lots of refugees from Chile after the coûp d’état by Pinochet in 1973. During the 1980’s and onwards new waves have come, mainly from countries traumatized by war, persecution or famine, but of course also by others. The sentiments have changed and become more xenophobic again, even if not everywhere. Swedes have at the same time become more aware of racism, PTSD etc. Environment issues, healthy living, green thinking, awareness, nutritious food and gender issues are trendy now and competing with shallowness, expensive lifestyles and conservatism. In the photos below you see the Major Square/Stortorget in Malmoe during festivities in 1910, Malmoe Central station around 1913, and Möllevångstorget, The Mill Field Square in the early 1930’s which then mainly was inhabited by white working class.

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What we see today is a mix of different kinds of local, regional, national identities. Since the Sweden Democrats made their introduction in the Swedish Parliament in 2010 I have noticed how the fierce biased debate has exploded. On the one hand a law has been passed which states that Sweden now is a multicultural society, but the tendencies are older. Many Swedes have become more aware of their national heritage and it has in recent years been more common to celebrate national and regional commemoration days, to show the blue flag with the yellow cross, to openly show pride for the nation or province, to go back to the roots and preserve traditions or imagined traditions. New immigrants who recieve their Swedish citizenship are often welcomed officially at cermonies on June 6th, the national commemoration day. However, the nationalism sometimes exclude immigrants who are not “white”, or even Swedes who are born here and have grown up here, but has one or both parents from some other country. Expressions like “second generation immigrant” are horrible. When will they be percieved as Swedish? Hate crimes are common: refugee camps are attacked and burned, mosques and synagogues vandalized, Muslim men attacked for being Muslims, Muslim women wearing veil; hijab, niqab or burka are attacked, beaten and harrassed. Immigrant kids are taken by Swedish police patrolls to the forest to be left there and walk home, beaten up without cause or harrassed. I have met several people who have experienced that. Homophobic and lesbian-phobic hate crimes are common, but also antiziganism, anti-Christian crimes, and in the last year Afrophobic hate crimes have increased greatly. Today that has been fiercely debated here in Malmoe by Afro-Swedes, politicians and the Malmoe Police. Every kind of hate crime is unacceptable. A hate crime is a hate crime is a hate crime. Jews are harrassed by Nazis as well as by left-wing sympathizers, but mostly by Muslims who hate them for being Jews, who verbally abuse the Jews, come with death threats and map them out. Peter Mangs were shooting dark skinned people here in Malmoe a few years ago, and it’s not always secure. Many Muslim and Christian girls and women as well as some men from the Middle East are harrassed by their families so that they don’t become too “Swedish”, since those families loath Sweden and want to preserve their conservative traditions and religion in Sweden separated from the other Swedes. Some of those who are very guarded but want their personal freedom become threatened and surveyed by fellow countrymen. Sometimes they even get killed if they want to become Swedish, marry a Swede, if they change religion or criticize their own religion – or simply make their own life choices. If they aren’t killed they at least might be called “Swede whore”, “wannabe Swede” , hated, harrassed, are intimidated and excluded from their own community etc. That too is utterly unacceptable. I personally know people who have experienced that. I also have friends who have been victims of death threats from among their own group for trying to save such girls or for trying to live according to their own choices. At the same time many people of Muslim origin are modern, humble and among the finest people imaginable and never would hurt their family member in any way or do any foul deed. Siavosh Derakhti is a splendid example of how to use ones own faith in building inter-religious bridges. The marvellous heroes and heroines at Hassela Youth Movement are other good examples. It really comes down to how we use our faith or conviction, how we percieve ourselves and others. When it comes to religion and other belief systems I see certain groups in today’s society:

  • Most Swedes are secular, non-believing in religion, and you see this also in people of different background
  • People who are deists, believing in a modern way, often combining it with secularity and/or gender equality.
  • People of different religions who are deep believers of their faith, but dressed modern and using high tech. Sometimes they also defend people with other beliefs. They might critisize macho attitudes, lack of gender equality also in their own faith, and are aware of the human diversity. Often very humble and nice.
  • Reactionary, very conservative in the values: protecting a conservative view of their religion or other belief system, law-abiding, but not very tolerant towards other groups, dislike gender equality. Often nice, hardworking and polite though.
  • Extremists. Those who don’t hesitate to use terrorism, political violence to defend their religion or secular belief system, attack others whom they detest and hate. We find both religious and secular extremists both to the right and left, and they don’t seem to understand or appreciate the other versions of viewing things. It might be an extremely conservative Christian congregation who hate immigrants, Muslims, Jews, homosexuals or some Al-Qaeda cell for instance. It might also be someone of another creed who hate and detest others. Extremists of different colours and confessions are very similar to each other and equally dangerous. In the Middle East today the Christians are harshly persecuted, intimidated, killed or asked to convert. Also genocides among people of the same faith exist like between Christian Catholics and Protestants on Ireland or the Shi’a genocide by Sunni Muslims in Pakistan.

The “anti-racists” are divided in various fractions:

1) There are the left-wings who often are pro-Palestine and anti-Israel, (even if not always). Mostly very nice people, humble, easy-going, easy to talk to. Very much into socialist gender equality, socialist equality, anti-capitalism. Some are open-minded and used to accepting and fighting for people from groups they’ve been taught to hate.

2) Liberals. There are two main fractions here: I) The neo-liberals who focus on technology, merchantile development, individual entrepreneurship, anti-racim but not very fervent. Love successful immigrants who work hard and accept the Swedish law system. II. ) Social liberals: believing in individual development, the right to make ones own choices, to make ones fortune within limitations, have a social conscience and awareness. Modern, anti-racists, aware of gender equality issues.

3) Conservatives. Accept immigrants if they are rich and successful… Sometimes, unless they see them as threats and hate them instead. Immigrants can be useful as lower workers, cleaning ladies, taxi drivers, cooks and servants. This also goes for other people of their own skin colour who are not rich enough. Here we also find some from totalitarian “honour cultures” who hate the totalitarian notions in their original culture. Many Conservatives are also down-to-earth, freedom loving, polite and nice people, while others are cynical, cold-hearted and horrible.

The important thing is to be aware of who we are, and see the common human traits in us. In days of social turmoil and monetary crisis people tend to turn on each other and become more extreme. That is a very dangerous development which through history has ended in bloody revolutions, persecutions, wars, famins and genocides. The ongoing civil wars and revolutions in the Middle East is one of many examples, but also in many other places on Earth. In our modern times with weapons of mass destruction we have to be extra careful. When I meet someone new I try to be curious to see if we have something in common. Maybe we have, maybe we haven’t. Important though is to try.  I’m proud of who I am, of my family and relatives, of my background and what I do. Of course I have my character flaws, but I try to do good. I love my nation, Skåne/Scania, the city Malmoe and the good spirit that does exist here despite the problems. If we learn to see beneath the surface, and try to understand why people react in a negative way sometimes, we might instead find ways forward which build interhuman bridges in empathy and fellowship. Despite the problems in society, the hardships, the atrocities in both directions, the darker aspects in history and present day, I prefer to focus on what we might build upon. I’m proud of being me, of my Swedish, Scanian, Christian, Atheist, Belgian-Walloon, German-Jewish background, and of our common human African family roots. How do we build our future? How do we save our humanity? What are your thoughts on the matter? If you want to comment this text you can do that here, or e-mail me at anders.moberg676@gmail.com. You may also check out my profile on LinkedIn here: http://se.linkedin.com/pub/anders-%C3%A5-moberg/7b/569/32/

Anders Moberg, October 12th 2013

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The formal Swedish abolishment of slavery in 1847

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On October 9th 1847 the Swedish Parliament/Riksdagen reluctantly passed a law which abolished the Transatlantic slavetrade, and the black slaves in the Swedish colony of Saint Barthélemy, (an island in the West Indies in the Small Antilles west of Trinidad with Tobago) were released from servitude – formally if not in practice. The colony was bought by the Swedish king Gustav III in 1784 as part of a Swedish colonization in the Americas and renewed attempts in the slave trade. Saint Barthélemy was owned by Sweden from 1784 to 1878. The first two governors were Salomon von Rayalin, (1785-1787) and Pehr Herman von Rosenstein, (1787-1790). When the Swedish law about abolishment of slavery was passed in 1847 James Haarlef Haasam was governor of Saint Barthélemy, (1833-1855). This week that abolishment is highlighted and commemorated by the Afro-Swedes. It started yesterday in the capital city of Stockholm, in Gothenburg/Göteborg on the west coast and here in southwest Scania, Malmoe. Yesterday evening a film was shown at the movie theatre Spegeln/The Mirror in central Malmoe. It was called “Africa Paradis”. I’ll return to that later in this text. The photos above I took just before the film was shown. Today there’s a seminar about the triangular slavetrade, and the Swedish involvement in it at Malmoe University. Tonight there’s an African Culture Night at Sofielund’s People’s House. Tomorrow night a TV documentary will be shown at Spegeln about the foul slave trade and this darker side of Swedish national history. It’s made by Gustav Fridolin, journalist, TV-reporter, school teacher, politician, Member of Parliament and one of the spokesperson’s for the Environment Party the Green. On Friday night yet another film will be shown as conclusion of this week’s commemoration of the abolishment of slavery – formally.

The Swedish involvement in the African slave trade began during the Swedish Super Power Era 1611-1718/1722.  (Read more about that era in one of my June texts on this weblog). On December 15th 1649 the mighty merchant moghul Louis de Geer recieved a letter of privileges by queen Kristina to start the Swedish African Company/Svensk Afrikanska Kompaniet. It was financed by connections in Hamburg, Germany, Amsterdam, Netherlands and by Louis de Geer himself. The main office was placed in Stockholm, an important port in Gothenburg, but originally in the German coastal city of Stade near Bremen which then was Swedish.  The Swedish African Company brought textiles, domestic articles and jewellery to Africa, while they took gold, ivory, sugar and African slaves with them back. The poor souls which were sold as slaves were taken by the Swedish merchants to the Portuguese plantages on São Tomé.

In 1650 the first expedition was led by sea captain Arent Gabbesen from Gothenburg and the German merchant Henrik Carloff who now was in Swedish service. In 1652 Fort Carolusborg was finished alongside some minor Swedish merchant stations along the Gold Coast. Henrik Carloff became the first governor in Cabo Corso, situated in today’s Ghana, West Africa. The Swedes were competing with the Dutch, Portuguese, the Danes and Brits about the European merchant dominion in West Africa. They all traded with local African kings and war-lords in Fetu, Gwira and not the least the Denkyira king. The local African kings and war-lords took captives from neighbouring African kingdoms in wars, or imprisoned political local enemies or dissidents and sold them as slaves to the Swedes, Portuguese, Danes, Englishmen and Dutch. In 1656  Johan  Filip von Krusenstierna was named new governor of the Swedish dominions in and around Cabo Corso. This angered Henrik Carloff who returned on January 27th 1658 aboard the Danish pirate ship Glückstadt. Carloff attacked and took Fort Carolusborg and gave it to Denmark. This fact became one of the reasons for the Swedish king Carl X Gustav to start the second Danish war in 1658 which led to the Swedish conquest of Skåne, Halland and Blekinge. After the peace treaty in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1660 the Danes were supposed to give the fort back to Sweden. However Carloff’s accomplice Schmidt had in March 1659 sold Fort Carolusborg to the Dutch, taken the money and gone underground. The local African population didn’t like the Dutch rule, rebelled and the Fetu King offered the Swedes a new chance to rule from the fort. The Swedes regained control of Cabo Corso in December 1660. On April 22d 1663 Netherlands again conquered Fort Carolusborg, and on May 9th 1664 the Englishmen took the fort. In 1667 Netherlands payed Sweden 140 000 riksdaler to stay away from the West African trade. This part of the Swedish-African history is retold in the fiction albums and books from the late 1970’s and early 1980’s about Johan Vilde/John Savage by Janne Lundström and Jaimé Vallvé. I have written about them in my March text “Two Swedish high quality stories”.

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Since I as humanitarian, social liberal, being neither right-wing nor left-wing, but believing in individual progress, relative monetary success, combined with a social conscience and awareness, as well as being profoundly anti-racist from that middle position I try to discuss with people high and low: upper class, middle class, working class, “ethnic” Swedes and people with various ethnic and religious background, young and old. In the photo above you see Tom Magnusson/Dodko from Malmoe Municipality, Charlene Rosander from RGRA and a young man from Ghana whose name I don’t remember. In one of the first photos you see Malcolm Jallow Momodou from the Afro-Swedes National Association/Afrosvenskarnas Riksförbund.  We all met at Spegeln/The Mirror between five and six p.m. yesterday and that’s when these photos were taken. The film we were going to see was called “Africa Paradis” from 2006, directed by Sylvestre Amoussou from Benin. At the Verona African Film Festival in 2007 it was rewarded as that year’s best film, and it also won first prize the same year at the Tarifa International Film Festival. Another blogger, Hein de Haas, has also written an interesting piece about this film which you can read at this link: http://www.heindehaas.blogspot.se/2011/10/africa-paradise.html

When we came into the movie salon and took our seats the film was first introduced by Jallow Momodou and Charlene Rosander who also talked about the background to why this day, October 9th, is commemorated. We began with raising from our seats and having a minute in silence to honour the memory of those hundreds of African refugees who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea a few days ago outside the Italian island of Lampedusa. After that minute of silence in honour we sat down and saw “Africa Paradis”. The movie by Sylvestre Amassou is very thought-provocative and turns the now common black and white perspective the other way round. The story is set in 2032. Europe is in decline. High unemployment rates, famine and poverty. The Catholic Vatican State has been taken by Fascists, Germany has been taken over by the Turks, Sweden is in decline, the United Kingdom is in uproar and in France everything is destroyed and the days of glory gone. The African continent has united in one big union, is now rich and wealthy. The African Parliament is led by a female moderator, and has both humanitarian parties and fascistoid ones. Modibou Koudossou, party leader of the African Liberal Party tries to lead a humanitarian and pro-European immigrant policy, but is harshly opposed by the MP M’Doula who also is Chief of Police. He hates the Europeans and sees them as low-lifes, white trash. The Europeans for him are lazy,  not trustworthy, irresponsible and down rotten scum-bags. In Paris, France the highly educated couple Olivier Morel who’s an engineer and his girlfriend Pauline who’s a teacher are both unemployed and only get the worst jobs imaginable if anything. In frustration Olivier get in touch with a gang of human traffickers, and Olivier and Pauline are smuggled to Africa. There they end up in a colony of European white illegal immigrants, and get chased by the African police and other authorities. Pauline gets a job as maid in Modibou Koudoussou’s home. She’s treated with kindness by him, but not by his sister who hates Pauline. Olivier meanwhile struggles on in the white unemployed colony, meets Charlotte, while Chief of Police and Party leader M’Doula makes his plans to get rid of the Europeans.

In the currrent situation there are many things we have to consider. Where is our world heading? Where is Sweden going, Scania, Malmoe, the world? There are imminent threats such as the green house effects, melting ices, worse storms and tsunamis, rising sea levels, drought and famine. At the same time we have to consider the value of human life, what our identities are, what our technology ought to be used for, and how we might make alliances between us that might easen the conflicts and avoid risks for a human-annihilating World War III?

Not only the white Europeans exploited the African continent, but also the Muslim Arabs used Africa as a place to take prisoners and sell them as slaves. Some Saracen, North African pirates also attacked Europe, even Iceland in the far north and took prisoners to sell as slaves. Poor Irish people were sold as white slaves by the Brittish in North America, a dark side and less known part of our history. In fact most cultures through history has used slaves in one way or another. The ancient Egyptians and Sumerians used slaves, the ancient Greeks and Romans, the Vikings had their serfs/thralls often taken on Ireland, in North Germany, Russia, Estonia or Finland. The problem is the human dignity in all this. We only have one world which we must take care of and one humanity to cherish.

Let’s take a look at the word use. The word “Negro” is Latin/Italian and simply means “black”, neither more nor less. On the other hand the word “Negro” and then “Nigger” has been used as a demeaning expression for people of African descent, and then in a racist way to robb dark-skinned Africans of their human value. The word “Negro” does not mean “slave”, even if they have been abused that way. The word “slave” is derived from the fact that many serfs in the Middle Ages were taken captives in East Europe among the Slavic people’s, and so that connotation developed and has come to mean “all serfs”.

In different parts of the African continent there are clashes between various clans and groups, even though of the same skin-colour. Take the clan-wars in Somalia as an example. We also still remember the horrendous Hutu-Tutsi genocide not that long ago. There are clashes between different religions like the Christian Ethiopians belonging to one of the world’s earliest Christian congregations and the Muslim surrounding countries. There are ancient African religions with shamans, totems etc. There are clashes between different social groups and various professions in Africa, just as everywhere else. But there is also wealth, modernity, empowerment and prosperity. Neither must we forget old African high cultures like Great Zimbabwe and others. The name “Africa” is Latin and was originally used by the Romans 2000 years ago about what’s now Tunisia and has later been applied on the entire continent. We as a human race have our origins in Africa – we all have “black” African ancestors 100 000 – 200 000 years back in time, independent of what skin colour we now have, what culture, religion, social group or nationality. Then from a human perspective we all have an obligation to pay some respect for our common African origin, and avoid unncessesary conflicts and abuse. How do you want to be treated? What world do you want? What future do you want for yourself and your loved ones?  Please, consider that.

Anders Moberg, October 9th 2013

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