Go Away, Sanctimonious Fellow Leftie

I hardly ever get attacked online by people whose opinions I fundamentally oppose. They mostly just ignore me, even though I frequently attack them and their organisations in public. But every now and then I get these really vicious attacks from people who know that I basically share their opinions. Usually they get angry with me because I (seem to) question some in-tribe Leftie sacred truth.

One example was when I mused ”I wonder when the covid vaccine will become commercially available and what it will cost”. People went apeshit over this and called me a bad Social Democrat, apparently because somehow they interpreted the question to mean a declarative statement, ”I think rich people should be able to buy the vaccine ahead of everyone else”. Another was when I said that I think it’s great that modern medicine allows women to opt out of Down syndrome pregnancies. Again, some people apparently interpreted this quite differently, perhaps as ”Down syndrome people have no value and should all just be shot”. Or the time when I said that I didn’t see the practical value of organising a massive multi-thousand participant protest rally against a small local neo-Nazi club, when 90% of the parliamentary voters supported explicitly anti-Nazi parties. Or the time when I scoffed at the most recent ungainly euphemism for disability.

I’ve been trying to formulate my view of these attacks from the Left. There are some good English and Swedish words.

  • Over-earnest
  • Sanctimonious
  • Self-righteous
  • Prissy
  • Humourless
  • Condescending
  • Förnumstig
  • Distanslös
  • Självgod
  • Nedlåtande

Facebook calls your contacts ”friends”. That’s my yardstick there. If people are unfriendly on Facebook, for instance by not giving me the benefit of the doubt if they question something I seem to say, I usually block them right away. I’m not on the social media to debate hostile people. At the time of writing, I have 3267 Facebook friends and there are 44 names on my block list.

See also: Relatively Woke.

Open Thread For March

National Museum of Ukraine, Kyiv, photo by its director Fedir Androshchuk, Tuesday morning, 1 March

I’ve known Dr. Fedir Androshchuk for decades while he’s lived mainly in Sweden. He is the world’s main authority on Scandinavian swords of the Viking Period. Last week I learned that Fedir is now the director of Ukraine’s National Museum and thus arguably one of the main custodians of the country’s past — a country under severe threat. Respect!

Relatively Woke

Some Twitter conversation and a comment by Aard regular Phillip alerted me to an on-line offensive that the Swedish extreme Right seems to be staging against critical race theory and wokeness. I thought I’d take the opportunity to clarify my own position.

In general politics I’m a member of the Social Democrat party. In US terms this means that I consider AOC and Bernie to be good vanilla politicians. In one Swedish Leftie internal debate, I am on the side of Socialism rather than Identity Politics. I am more interested in your relationship with your employer and the banks than in your skin colour. Of course I’m anti-racist anyway.

But inside the walls of Academia, I part company with many Leftie friends. I like to refer to myself as a member of the Alan Sokal Academic Left. We’re academic Lefties who seek scientific truth first, and want to further Leftie political causes second. You can’t right a societal wrong if it’s impossible to determine if the societal wrong has any objective existence. Nor can you right a societal wrong if there is no way of measuring objectively which methods work.

On an unrelated note, I also like to annoy earnest Leftie humanities colleagues by pointing out that it doesn’t matter in practice what our politics are, because Swedish humanities have almost no political influence or relevance. You can try all you like to “make visible the power structures” in archaeology, it will not move society at large in any particular direction anyway. Also, it’s my opinion that if such activities do not increase our knowledge of societies in the past, then they should receive no archaeological funding. Because archaeology is about material culture and societies in the past.

As for wokeness, we don’t really have a word for that in Swedish that I am aware of. Here the extreme Right often attacks “political correctness” instead, which seems to refer to the same things. My opinions are probably quite woke seen from a US perspective where AOC and Bernie are considered extremists (which makes everyone in European politics laugh). But in the Swedish context my political correctness is middling.

I get along poorly with the woke academic Left because of their bad science/scholarship: their knowledge relativism, their incomprehensible fad jargon and their focus on meta-issues. But I’m fine with their politics.

Remarks on the Swedish Election Results of 2018

For some background see my entry from 4 September.

Parliament. The main result is that despite re-shuffling of the figures within the Left+Green and Right blocs, neither has gained a decisive upper hand. It looks like the Left+Green bloc has beat the Right bloc by only a few tenths of a percentile unit. It will be exceptionally difficult to negotiate a secure ruling coalition. No present party failed the 4% cutoff, and no new one got past it. Hate & Fear got 17.6% of the parliamentary vote, which is a bit more than in the last election but less than what the polls had us worrying about.

Stockholm county council. The Right kept their slight lead over the Left+Greens.

Nacka municipality. Again, reshuffling: the Right kept their solid lead over the Left+Greens with an unchanged seat count, but the Conservatives lost 5 out of 24 seats (on a 61-seat council) to the Centrists and Christian Democrats. No big deal for the Conservatives, I should think. Us Social Democrats kept our 11 seats, which is a considerably better result than what we saw in Parliament.

One of my main personal goals of the election season was to help push up voter turnout in my multicultural tenement housing area. We failed. In 2014, 67% of Fisksätra’s voters went to the ballot urn. In 2018, only 63% did. I’m pretty sure though that participation would have been even worse without the work we put in.

All in all, the canvassing work we’ve done over the past months gained us nothing in comparison to the 2014 election result. But it helped us hold on to most of what we had. To me personally, the most encouraging result in all this was that my kid voted for my party and ticked the box next to my name. Also, it looks like a family member of mine might just get a seat on the municipal council for another party…

I commented on the 2010 elections too.

Five Days to the Swedish Elections

For much of this year, and from May as a paid occupation, I’ve been working for the Social Democrats towards the elections on Sunday. Swedish politics has many parties which were until recently grouped into the Left+Green bloc against the Right bloc. Each bloc had roughly half of the vote. To explain this to an American, we basically had 50% Bernie+Nader voters and 50% Democrat voters – and the Democrats were our right wing. Mainstream Republican politics have no place in Sweden.

Things changed with the growth of the Hate & Fear Party, who are xenophobic right-wing populists: the Tea Party in US terms. They got 13% of the parliamentary vote in 2014 and will probably get 20% on Sunday. These voters have moved to Hate & Fear from both of the previous blocs in roughly equal proportions. So now polls are 40% Left+Green, 40% Right, 20% Fear & Hate.

Here’s a snapshot of how I see our Social Democrat chances.

Local government: Nacka kommun. For reasons of social demography, we have never governed this affluent suburban area since its current borders were drawn in 1971. I’m optimistic about us gaining several seats here, but I would be pleasantly surprised if the Left+Green bloc actually gained the municipal council majority.

County government: Stockholm landsting (mainly organises hospitals, old-folks’ homes and public transport). The current Right bloc majority here is slim. I’m pretty confident that we will gain the upper hand.

Parliament and national government: riksdagen & regeringen. This is going to be messy. Parliament currently consists of eight parties. The cutoff to get in is 4% of the vote. (If a party gets 3.9%, then those votes are not taken into consideration.) Three parties are barely over the limit in the polls. The leading party in the polls, us Social Democrats, has only about 25%. We have been able to govern Sweden for four years together with the Greens only because the Right bloc has refused to collaborate with Hate & Fear. The rule is that the Prime Minister after Sunday is whoever doesn’t meet with enough parliamentary opposition to stop her.

As I understand things from current polls, our best chance is to form a Centrist coalition that excludes parties on the outer ends of the Left-Right axis, breaking up both of the earlier blocs. A possible alternative is that the Right bloc sticks together and makes the deal with Hate & Fear that they have refused in the past four years. A lot of Right bloc voters would be deeply ashamed of such a move.

It wouldn’t give Hate & Fear a seat at the government table, but they would definitely receive something. This has already (infamously) happened in a few local assemblies, and there Hate & Fear have proved an unreliable ally. In Gävle, for instance, Hate & Fear helped topple the Left+Green leadership but then refused to support the Right bloc’s municipal budget. Also, not only is Hate & Fear erratic as a party, but individual party representatives are also uniquely prone to flaking out on their responsibilities or quitting the party entirely. The latter usually happens because they don’t like the party line of avoiding Nazi salutes and Islamophobic comments in public.

So the situation is volatile, and it’s a really interesting parliamentary election. Meanwhile, me and my party friends are busy canvassing. Sunday will tell.

Why I Don’t Worry About Immigration

Aard regular Phil often expresses worry about the effects of immigration. This has reached the point where I’ve decided to collect a few points to explain why I am not worried. Phil recently even claimed that when I say I’m not worried, I create more support for anti-immigration movements. This makes no sense to me. I know a lot of fear-and-hate voters are poorly educated, but I don’t think they’re all stupid.

So here’s why I don’t worry about immigration.

  • I have lived for 21 years (and counting) on a multicultural 1970s housing estate and seen very few problems.
  • My first wife was a second-generation immigrant from Finland and my second wife is an immigrant from China.
  • I know loads of immigrants personally. Just my weekly gaming group includes 1st and 2nd generation immigrants from Venezuela, Iran, Israel, Russia and the Netherlands. My nearest neighbours include people from Turkey, Poland, Finland, Pakistan and Serbia.
  • My next-door neighbours are a housing unit for single Middle-eastern male refugees who have been given asylum and are learning Swedish. They are not causing any trouble. (Nor for that matter is the housing unit for autism-spectrum youth next door to them.)
  • I have met a lot of Middle-eastern and Central Asian refugees, even had a few over for lunch, and they seem like nice people.
  • About 1% of old-timey Swedes get convicted for crimes. About 2% of immigrants in Sweden get convicted for crimes. Two much stronger predictors for crime are being male and being poor, but even among poor men in Sweden, the vast majority are honest.
  • Immigrants buy stuff, pay taxes, start companies and create jobs. Many even arrive with university degrees for which Sweden pays nothing.
  • Immigration, crucially, counteracts Sweden’s Japan-like tendency to a process of demographic collapse. Regardless of ethnic origin, living in Sweden causes people to make babies at way below the replacement rate.
  • I enjoy the cultural diversity that 60 years of high-volume immigration has given to Swedish society.
  • Any problems that immigration causes Sweden, in addition to the important positives listed above, pale when compared to the problems that cause people to migrate. I am a cosmopolitan humanist. I don’t think suffering is OK as long as it stays outside the Swedish border.

Viking Imagery Contested On Pizza Box

pizza
Eslöv, home of the Viking pizza

A buddy & colleague of mine took this picture in an Eslöv pizza place, commenting drily that it’s a fine example of how the cultural heritage can be used. We’ve got Thor’s hammer, we’ve got two cartoon Vikings, we’ve got Swedish flags, and note the three yellow crowns on a blue background: the arms of the Kingdom of Sweden, a strong nationalist statement.

Rural Eslöv municipality is one of the anti-immigration Swedish Hate Party’s strongholds, with 22% of the vote in the last election. Vikings and Scandinavian Paganism are of course much beloved by the extreme Right, and stylewise the logo’s design is straight out of white supremacy iconography.

But, but, but. Naples’ priceless gift to world cuisine, the pizza, was completely unknown in Sweden before the 1960s. And Pizzeria Viking, as is the rule with Swedish pizza places, is owned and staffed by non-Italian immigrants. The proprietor Idris Husein is from Mardin in Turkish Kurdistan, not far from Diyarbakır. Mr. Husein and his family has been running restaurants in Sweden för 20 years. And when I look at their company logo, I get the feeling that they have a both a fine sense of humour and a keen eye for political imagery.

A Fee For Metal Detector Permits Would Be Highly Damaging

From 2014 on, Swedish metal detectorists have had to report all finds datable to before 1850 to the authorities. I have recently shown in a note in Fornvännen that this rule came about by mistake, and that it has broken the County Archaeologist system. It takes hours for a county heritage administrator to process one metal detector permit. It also takes only a few hours for a detectorist to find a copper coin from the 1840s, which voids her/his permit for that site. S/he then applies for a new permit, which means that the pile of unprocessed permit applications on each administrator’s desk grows exponentially.

My suggestion for how this problem should be solved is to move the cutoff date from 1850 to 1719. This is a useful year for coins: the year after Carolus XII died and the year before Frederick I ascended to the throne. No research is ever done into small finds from after 1719 that are found in ploughsoil. We do not need to collect them.

The National Heritage Board has now suggested another solution: placing a hefty filing fee on applications for metal detector permits, regardless of whether a permit is eventually granted or not. I think this would be an extremely bad solution. It would probably radically cut down on the number of permit applications, but it would also have the following highly damaging consequences.

  • Metal detecting would go underground.
  • Detectorists would be alienated from contact with heritage management and archaeological research.
  • Detectorists who made important archaeological finds without a permit wouldn’t dare report them to the authorities.
  • Fewer archaeological discoveries would be made.
  • Heritage would become less accessible to the citizens who own it.
  • Legal metal detecting would become golf: only accessible to rich people.

The 1850 rule for small finds is silly, it came about inadvertently and it needs to be changed. The way to correct the mistake is not to place an artificial hurdle in the way of law-abiding detectorists, creating a system kludge to treat a symptom of the underlying problem. The problem is in the law that took effect in 2014. Let’s change that law.

Fornvännen’s Gender Stats Are Pretty Good

Today I proof-read the annual index for Fornvännen, the archaeology journal I co-edit. And I took the opportunity to look at our gender stats for full-length papers. There are 16 of these in this year’s four issues. Only 31% have female first authors. An additional 31% have a male first author and at least one female author. So women are involved as authors in 62% of this year’s full-length papers. That seems reasonably fair since several papers have only one author, so it would be impossible for each gender to be involved in all of them.

But you might wonder what a female author does to the chance of getting a full-length paper into Fornvännen. So I looked at the stats for March 2014 to now (because it takes 8-9 months from submission to publication). During this period 32% of full-length papers written by men were turned down. Only 9% of full-length papers written by women were turned down. (Here a paper co-written by two women counts as 1 paper by women and a paper co-written by one woman and one man counts as 0.5 paper by women and 0.5 by men.)

This means that although women are submitting fewer papers than men do to Fornvännen, when they do submit they have a greater chance of getting published. This suggests that either Fornvännen has a pro-female bias, or that women are less likely than men to submit poor work. Given what patriarchy does do female self-confidence, I feel pretty safe in assuming that the latter is the case.

Been Driving Refugees

In the past couple of months Sweden has started to receive large numbers of refugees from Syria, Iraq and a few other war-torn Middle-eastern countries. The ones who claim the right of political asylum are adequately cared for by the immigration authorities. But many don’t claim that right. They may have more or less accurate information about other countries that offer better chances, so when they get off the train at Stockholm Central Station, they’re basically tourists in the eyes of the law. And the municipality hasn’t been able to care for them. Instead a major volunteer movement has sprouted, working to offer transit refugees food, housing, clothes, medical care and legal advice. To give an idea of how big this is, the main Facebook group for these volunteers has 16,400 members.

I don’t read much news and I’m not much of an activist. So I’ve joined the volunteer ranks late, being motivated particularly by the realisation that for several weeks the biggest housing establishment for transit refugees has been in my home municipality, right across the street from the County Museum and the community arts centre. It looks like a refugee camp in a hangar-like techno club. Because that’s what it is.

I know of course in abstract that Sweden receives a healthy number of refugees per capita et annum. And I live in a cosmopolitan suburb where many of my neighbours must have come here once as refugees. But wealthy conservative-governed Nacka municipality is hardly involved at all in the initial care of them as they arrive. So seeing tired and confused people with big bags and nowhere to go is big news to me. It’s as if world history has suddenly showed up in my back yard after half a lifetime of political complacency. It’s been over 200 years since the Kingdom of Sweden was in a state of war. And I find that volunteering at a refugee centre beats the hell out of spending your evenings reading a humdrum e-book.

For the past few days I’ve mainly served as a driver, making good use of what years of geocaching around Stockholm has taught me about finding my way around. And I’ve rediscovered the joy of working together with new acquaintances for a common project, like we used to for much more playful purposes in the Tolkien Society.

So many new impressions.

  • The refugees are mostly young or middle-aged men.
  • They travel in small groups which do not like to get separated.
  • They’re in good physical shape and seem relieved to have reached Sweden.
  • Young Swedified second-generation immigrants of both genders form a major part of the volunteer effort.
  • The big Sunnite mosque in central Stockholm is also housing lots of people.
  • The little Shiite mosque in Alby offered to help and was asked to cook dinner for 200 people. They delivered dinner for 350. One young guy explained to me, “We’re Shiites, this is our thing: we like to cook lots of food for pilgrims several times a year.”
  • Most have no clear idea about where to go. Many follow an apparently outdated rumour that says Finland has accommodating laws, but they aren’t allowed on the ferry from Stockholm to Helsinki. So they take the train all the way to Haparanda at the far end of the Gulf of Botnia and walk across the Torne river bridge to Finland.
  • One guy asked me about the relative merits of Sweden and Ireland (!?) as countries of asylum. One volunteer told me his twelve-year-old nephew had been asked for similar advice by a refugee.
  • One guy had spent seven years making pizza in Berlin and spoke way better German than I do.
  • And though my own input into the relief effort has been quite modest, I am very proud of how my fellow stockholmers are responding. They’re donating time, money and goods, and they’re making a big impression on the refugees. I’ve lost count of the recent arrivals who have told me in broken English that they think Sweden is a great country.
  • But don’t donate flavoured teabags. Syrians and Iraqis are sensible people who recognise that tea is one plant and that it should not be adulterated with feckin’ flower petals.

Here’s good advice on how people in Stockholm can help.