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Thursday, August 1, 2002

The World is in Stockholm

The world’s most exclusive luxury cruise ship, christened the World, has arrived in a port in central Stockholm, Sweden. It’s a scheduled stop, one of many during the two-year journey around the world that the World is undertaking. (That sounded weird.)Those passengers who’ve left the comfort of their $2-7 million cabins have enjoyed a fabulously sunny summer day in the world’s most beautiful city. Supposing they went ashore, they may have been the first Stockholm tourists in ages who could afford to buy ice creams.

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Monday, July 29, 2002

Shame, shame, shame… and a little guilt

There’s been a lot of talk lately here in Sweden about so-called “honor murders”. The rather paradoxical term refers to the killing of women by their male relatives, who feel that their honor has been violated by the women’s shameful conduct. This “shameful conduct” usually means that the women have defied their patrons with a too independent lifestyle.The Swedish cases of such female slaughter (two or three have been brought to the public’s attention so far) have been about Middle Eastern girls who have brought shame on their male relatives by being to “Swedish”. This basically means that they have spent time with Swedish girlfriends (a.k.a. “whores”) or, in one extremely shameful case, with a Swedish boyfriend.

Now, many Swedes (real Swedes, meaning ethnic Swedes who can’t imagine themselves as being ethnical and who think that ethnic awareness means racism) don’t like the term “honor murder” because it implies that there is a distinction between Swedish chauvinist men who kill their wives and non-Swedish chauvinist men who do the same. But in some cases there is indeed such a distinction; their motives for doing the same deed may be different. Swedish woman slaughter is a purely sexist thing while “honor murders” display a strong element of racism against Swedes.

Because of the Swedish “guilt culture” it is a truism around here that Swedes are essentially racist while the poor victims of our racism cannot be racists themselves. That would make them faulty, too. And that’s simply impossible, because we Swedes, as moral superiors, have monopoly on guilt: it is always our fault.

But the truth is that when a racist man kills his own daughter for taking interest in Swedish culture, the object of her father’s xenophobia, it is not the fault of Swedish culture, but of the father’s philosophy. It has got to change. Period. Swedish culture does not have to change, so long as it is philosophically solid. His own culture does not have to change, so long as it is philosophically solid. Bad philosophy has to change.

When I was educated in the Teachers’ Collage in Stockholm (a university that makes such enlightened people out their students that they become overqualified for teaching in public schools at minimum wages, leading to a grave teacher deficiency crisis in Sweden) we were trained to deal with culture clashes, especially the clash between the “Eastern shame culture” and the “Western guilt culture”. It remains the best psychological analysis of the situation in today’s multicultural Swedish society that I have yet come across. It boils down to this:

The Eastern (masculine) notion of “honor” is purity from shame; hence it is really a “shame culture”. The Western (feminine) idea of “honor” is acceptance of guilt; hence it is a “guilt culture”. The humanistic idea of “honor”, which I promote, is loyalty to the truth, regardless of shame and guilt.

The term “honor murder” is indeed a bad one, but mainly because it has a positive tone; it can easily be interpreted as “honorable murder”. Obviously “shame murder” is a better term than “honor murder”. But nothing is gained by not pointing out the unique aspect of these murders: they are racist as well as sexist. There is racism against Swedes in Sweden. The fight against racism (or xenophobia) is not simply a fight against white racism but against all colors of racism. Start seeing beyond the Western guilt culture. And beyond the Eastern shame culture.

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