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Malin Kim reviews Dan Korn's book Donald Duck on a crayfish platter: stories from the land without culture, which was published last year by Timbro. The book will be topical reading for a long time to come for those who want to understand the state of Sweden.
Dan Korn (born 1962 in Gothenburg) is a folklorist and writer. He is best known for his cultural commentaries and books on how old customs survive in modern society. He now lives in the UK, where he works as a rabbi. I have now read his book Donald Duck at a crayfish party. Stories from the land without culture and want to share my impressions.
[Ed: Dan Korn's book can be purchased directly from Timbro Publishing at the easy price of 49 kr(!).]
In short, the book is a massive showdown with Swedish cultural denial. With elegant examples, Dan Korn guides the reader to an understanding of the peculiarities of Swedish culture and scrutinizes the lack of logic in claims of its non-existence. The argument is straightforward and rigorous, yet highly personal. My only objection is that the title is misleading and does not reflect the weight of the book - for it is an intellectual book, requiring the reader to reflect. But it is also a beautiful book, sharing memorable and sensitive stories from Swedish history and daring to assert that culture is important.
The book could hardly have been published at a more appropriate time. It is a strong contribution to the ongoing social debate and therefore very important. While it is nuanced and explanatory, it takes a stand on one of the most important issues of our time: Swedish culture exists and is needed more than ever right now.
Below I provide some quotes, which illustrate the main message:
"There is no indigenous Swedish culture." To some, this statement seems like blasphemy, to others the height of idiocy. But since it is actually said time and again in various contexts, there must be people among us who seriously believe this. This is, of course, because the statement itself means nothing. Domestic, what is it? Is there any culture anywhere on our earth that is completely unaffected by other cultures? Of course not. So from that point of view, the claim that Sweden has no indigenous culture is entirely true. But in that case, it is not only true for Sweden, but for all people, all nations, all cultures. That Sweden in particular does not have an indigenous culture is a meaningless statement, but the reason why it is said is not meaningless.
In Sweden, it has long been considered ugly to even talk about the nation of Sweden, to even hint that Sweden needs a community. It has been taken for granted that it will always exist. Now we see society becoming increasingly fragmented. This is largely due to immigration in recent years, combined with a policy of celebrating the individuality of new Swedes rather than trying to make them part of the Swedish community.
Many people have the unspoken notion that individual freedom and rights are universal values, self-evident to all people. But they are part of our culture. In the world of class society, they do not exist. As obvious as it is that we in Sweden should affirm this part of our culture, it should be equally obvious to understand that people do not adapt their mindsets to these norms just because they cross a border.
The Swedish cultural denial is due to painting themselves into a corner. It rightly identifies talk of culture and nationalism with xenophobic forces and right-wing extremism. That is why they want to stay as far away from these forces as possible, by denying the existence of our culture, while at the same time celebrating the cultures of other peoples. This may seem illogical, and of course it is, but from the perspective of wanting to stay far away at all costs from those forces that celebrate Swedish culture at the expense of other cultures, it makes perfect sense. That is why one also wants to eradicate all nationalism and, in an effort not to be xenophobic, one often becomes xenophobic instead.
My view is that we should strive not to discriminate against people on the basis of origin. Putting the stranger on a pedestal is as problematic as xenophobia.
Every state must have a form of cohesion, spelled out as national participation, identity or culture, to motivate people to obey laws, to pay taxes and to show empathy and consideration for one another.
Every country has its own public culture: institutions and traditions of governance, codes of conduct for public spaces and the like. It is important for the cohesion of society that we all become part of that culture, whatever our background. What we do in private, however, is our own business.
In Sweden, multiculturalism has become a project of the authorities against the population. The population is ordered to make room for multiculturalism. No one asks for the "competence and life experience" of the majority Swede. Instead, it has become an official "truth" that there is no Swedish culture. Instead of trying to understand Swedish culture and use it to create integration, they try to fight it.
Not making demands on people, not expecting them to become part of Swedish society, but believing that Sweden must adapt to them, is also a form of racism, aptly called "the racism of low expectations" by Mustafa Panshiri.
If we are to build a common future for those living in Sweden, Swedish culture must be open to all. It is the culture of the majority and it is part of the majority's privilege to be able to invite others to participate because of its dominant position. But for culture to be open to all, we must acknowledge that it exists.
Originally published on Cultural memory.
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