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Thanks for everything

Fagervik sulphite factory
1920s: workers at the Fagervik sulphite factory, Medelpad. "Fellman team". Photo: Sundsvall museum (CC BY-NC)

I wake up to a house without power for the second day in a row. Today because of the blizzard, or "snow hurricane" as the sensational media called it. You were supposed to read something completely different today but the storm, and the power outage, disrupted my thoughts.

I still have one or two hours before the computer dies as I write this, and I sit at the kitchen table thinking about the unparalleled society we have inherited from those who lived before us. For a long time, in fact well into the 20th century, Sweden was one of the poorest countries in Europe.

Our ancestors have lived without electricity throughout the ages, so I'm not the one to complain about a small power outage. In the house where I live, they only got water and sewage in the 60s, so I'm not the one to complain if I have to dust the outhouse now and then. The evolution from poverty to wealth (and debt) has been rapid, so rapid that one risks becoming speed blind. It can therefore be good to stop sometimes, slow down, and be grateful for what you have.

We have a lot to be grateful for in Sweden, and we don't have any politicians to thank for that, but ordinary bloody workers and entrepreneurs who go to work every day. I feel a genuine sense of gratitude right now, as I sit here in the glow of the fire, waiting for the coffee water to get hot on the stove, looking out at my old barn that someone erected over a hundred years ago - long before both electricity and running water were a reality for ordinary people in these parts.

So I want to thank all of you who lived before us, you who built Sweden, you who strived for a better future for your descendants - for us.

You who cleared the woods and ploughed the fields. You who wrestled with the stubble and stone in the fields. You who year in and year out put seeds in the soil to hopefully fill the food stores. You who unlocked and tamed the forces of nature and made them available to both the commons and industry.

You who transformed the primal forces of the river into movement and flow. You who dug the iron ore out of the rock and processed it into steel. You who floated the logs down the river to the sawmills. You who spent the long, dark, cold winters out in the coal huts of the forest.

You who built the small cottages and erected the tall houses of the city. You who kept the polluted and noisy factories going. You who pulled roads and wires through the deepest forests and connected the countless small villages that were Sweden.

You who looked after the cows, the sheep, the goats and the pigs. You who roasted the flax, spun the yarn, wove and mangled. You who gave children education and upbringing long before today's state schooling.

You who defended your freedom, arms in hand when needed, when total oppression threatened. You who had and could have no other goal for the day than to put food on the table for your family. You fathers who ripped out your bodies prematurely, and you mothers who created for your children a safe and loving home.

Thank you for your hard work. You certainly didn't have it easy, and you didn't get anything for free in this life. Every millimetre of progress you fought for. Your work, your progress, and the immense wealth you created I often take for granted. But for now, I don't. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

Your work is worthy of reverence, and defence.

Now the light is coming on for the day, so I can put down the headlamp. But the day's work continues, so I can put food on the table for my family - and give my children as bright a future as possible.

Here we come to a question that gnaws at the back of my mind. Will our descendants feel the same gratitude for us living today as I feel for those who lived before me? That depends entirely on how we manage, and build on, the progress and prosperity we have inherited.

In this area, we can say that there is potential for improvement, to say the least. I'm not going to tell you what to do or how to live (I'm not a politician, after all), but I will in any case do my best for our descendants to be able to say:

"Thanks for everything."

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