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A responsibility that obliges

1951: A hälsing in Kårböle, Färila parish, Hälsingland, photographed by Hilding Mickelsson / Hälsingland Museum (CC BY-NC)

If we don't remember history, we are doomed to repeat it, is one saying. A good start? Let's remember our ancestors.

We should all talk more history. We should teach each other and especially the younger generation about the heroes, events, myths and circumstances that shaped our many beautiful landscapes and our culture - locally, regionally, nationally. Heroes like the unnamed greeter in the picture.

We who live today have much to be grateful for. So you are right to show more reverence for the generations that lived before us in the country we now call Sweden. Those who sacrificed, toiled and paid with blood, sweat and tears to leave behind something better for their descendants - for us. Now the responsibility lies on our shoulders.

It is a responsibility that obliges - for every parent when it comes to their own children, for Sweden's rulers when it comes to the development of society as a whole, and for every adult citizen when it comes to removing those in power who do not take this responsibility seriously.

I'm the first to admit that I certainly romanticize past generations - personified by my grandparents. Sure, I remember Grandpa's stern voice when we kids played too wild, or Grandma's piercing gaze behind her glasses when I did something silly like kids usually do, or Grandpa's fondness for Arboga 10.2% in his older days. But over the years, the many warm memories have grown and taken up more and more space. It's only natural. You become more forgiving with age. You hold on to the positive.

Other things I find more difficult to forgive. It's been many years since my grandparents passed away, but some of these people - the ones who laid the foundations for Sweden's prosperity in the early 20th century - are still alive today. There are fewer of them as the years go by, but some still hang on. Many are doing well. Others you can see in town, sleeping on a park bench, homeless. Occasionally you'll see someone rummaging around in garbage cans, or sitting at the local soup kitchen. The pension is not enough after a lifetime of work. Some you read about in the paper; "Died of malnutrition in nursing home", or "Agda, 86, robbed and beaten in her home".

How did it come to this?

"The old shall be honoured, the young shall be taught" is an old Swedish proverb. It is the duty of every parent to strive to give their children and grandchildren a healthy upbringing, a safe childhood and a bright future, but let us not forget our ancestors who are still alive. We will all grow old one day, after all. And given the filthy amount of money our rulers take out of our pockets, the least we can ask is that our elders have a dignified old age. Anything else is just so shameful.

"As you sow, so shall you reap" is another apt saying. But when you look up and see the countless generations spread out in a long chain of links stretching back into our history, and forward into the indefinite future, it is also the case that what we sow today will be reaped by future generations - by an unknown descendant.

Let us do our utmost to ensure that their harvest is good, or at least no worse than ours.

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