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Photo: Gullers, KW / Nordiska museet (CC BY-NC-ND)
Torgny Segerstedt,1940. Photo: Gullers, KW / Nordiska museet (CC BY-NC-ND)

"No mockery is too merciless against the freeloaders who jeopardize what the peoples have won through a long and arduous history. It is a vital condition of democracy that no mercy should be shown to the wretches who are in the process of corrupting it." - Torgny Segerstedt

There are many circumstances which have contributed to the disgrace of the people and of parliamentarianism. This form of government seems at present as much attacked by discontent as its predecessors were when they began to lean towards their downfall. Its strongest support is the experience of the inadequacy of the abolished forms of government. In itself any system would be workable, provided the persons in whose hands the government was entrusted were adult to the extraordinary task. Now, unfortunately, the form of public government must be tailored to the purpose of limiting as far as possible the influence of the common man's peculiarities on public affairs. The former ruling classes abused their influence one after the other. All forms of government are excellent when introduced. They stand out advantageously against the background of what has just been abolished with greater or less difficulty. It never takes many solstices before the new is also attacked and lived out. It has brought to light new aspects of the inexhaustible inadequacy of human nature, has allowed new circles to develop their inability to rule the parade with their desire to make their lives as ✓ comfortable as possible at the expense of others.

The pursuit of happiness flourishes no less luxuriantly under the auspices of popular government than under earlier forms of government. In the great forests of politics, no less than in its small pastures and forests, there is an eager sniping for indulgent pursuits. It has become so common to award posts in the state and municipal administration as a reward for party-political services, that people have become accustomed to this form of debauchery. The sense of justice and decency have been blunted. At the same time, something else has been lost, namely confidence in the seriousness of public life. People do not take offence at every particular case of abuse of power. On the other hand, distrust of the whole state of affairs is spreading like a raw fog over the districts, and the mood is spreading, undefined and half unconscious, that the whole mess could be thrown on the rubbish heap without harm.

There is another circumstance, which contributes to deepen this impression that the popular vote lacks sincerity and seriousness. It is the exaggeration of its language. All popular power must be based on the favour of the electorate. In fine words, the confidence of the people is gained by the ability to persuade. To exercise that ability in a pure and unadulterated manner is a great and rare art. It is far easier to work on people's minds by appealing to their self-interest. No pose is more grateful than that of the people's friend and benefactor. People are very little aware of the reasons and pretexts in which the appeal for their favours is wrapped. Any rag will do. Thus it is found as convenient as expedient to exchange reliable information and persuasion for an unconstrained appeal to the instincts of the people.

This is how the agitation gains a foothold in the public discourse. When it comes to discrediting opponents, it resorts to misrepresentation and violent exaggeration. Quite insignificant disagreements are inflamed into life-changing clashes. An insignificance must never remain an insignificance. Every grain of sand becomes a mountain. Every opportunity to make a fuss is seized in flight. There are always extraordinary values at stake. The public is continually appealed to in poignant terms to prevent accidents from happening. The people are constantly experiencing hours of fate.

The high and poignant words become rather worn out by this diligent use. They become so worn that no one is impressed by their train. Only one impression gradually takes hold, digs in deeper and deeper, that behind the political verbiage there is no reality. The people who constantly use these big, heavy clubs of words are not serious. The need to make restrictions presents itself. It becomes a useful and necessary exercise of reason to expose the soap bubbles to cold winds. Those who take pleasure in the beautiful soap-bubbles will not, of course, be pleased. They cry out in reproach, and are ashamed of mockery. They do not notice that what a few put into words, silently moves the whole crowd.

It is not without significance that the public has become accustomed to take the words of politicians seriously. It adds to the lack of respect and trust that the people already suffer from. It is necessary to remedy this lack. There is no going back to forms of governance that we have long since left behind. Monarchy, the rule of the few, class rule - all these are irrevocably in the past. Only in the air of freedom can a people regain its health. Free thought, free speech, wit in a word, is the only thing that can threaten the ills. It is crowded from the right and from the left by the advocates of dictatorship. They want to save humanity through violence. It is to kill the only thing that gives life its value: personal freedom. Freedom can be abused, like anything else. It must not therefore be tampered with. As far as it is compatible with the good of others, an individual should have freedom. If he succumbs to that freedom, it is better than that he should be tied to the crutches of society a little further down the road. The great that cannot be without freedom is worth all sacrifice. It is that which gives the human element to our life. Without it, our race would still belong to the animal kingdom.

The unhealthy aspects of the people's world, the things that bring it into disrepute, must be criticized to pieces. No acid is too corrosive to be used here. No mockery is too merciless against the parasites who endanger what the peoples have won through a long and arduous history. It is a vital condition of democracy that no mercy should be shown to the wretches who are in the process of corrupting it.

In the cool, fresh air of freedom, the virtuous will thrive, and the incapable will have the breathlessness needed to preserve health. In the air of liberty the powers have room to play. In its shelter art creates and thought builds.

Under its hardening influence, people grow from being mere specimens of a genus. This is the condition for them to become individuals.

When what is juvenile and stifling and hostile to liberty is passed off as the winds of a new age, it is a crime to show forbearance with this attempt to confuse public opinion and lead judgment astray.

Not caring for freedom, that is the nerve of all backstabbing.

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