Friday, January 31, 2014

Your country sucks - Part II

“Maybe ever’body in the whole damn world is scared of each other.” 

Here´s another revelation that might shock you when you move to another country; you will realize that people regardless of religion; skin color or culture are basically the same. Listening to a Turk talking to a Egyptian, the French conversing with Spaniards, Norwegians gossiping with Russians etc you soon realize that if only the language were the same you would never be able to tell them apart.

On certain topics (religion and history especially) a few differences comes out, but the argumentation and views can as well be the difference between a New Yorker and Philadelphian, or between a North and Southern Swede.

If you constantly listen to mainstream media in the west you might believe that Muslims always are out to kill Christians and that suicide bomber is the norm and not the exception. The fact is not only the opposite; a vast majority of Muslims regard suicide bombers and religious fundamentalist views with the same revulsion we feel about Anders Breivik or reverend Jim Jones.

Another thing that is constantly ignored by media is the history and background story of a certain conflict. Problems in the Middle East (and Israel) are the most obvious examples since conflicts in the area go back to the Crusades, and even far beyond that.

Another story forgotten is the Balkans. Even if we do not go back as far as Byzantium or the Ottoman Empire there are so many other issues it will boggle your mind. Merely the fact that Serbs were slaughtered and exterminated in tens of thousands during WW II by Croats give you a broader understanding of the Yugoslavian “civil war” and why the supposed bad guys, the Serbs, did what they did in the early 1990´s.

There are plenty of such examples across the world and in Europe you can find plenty of issues between and within countries. This is one of the many reasons why the European Union, in its current form, is such a bad idea. There are over 70 official languages in Europe and hundreds of different dialects and smaller, almost extinct languages – and there are as many different cultures. Every single boarder has changed countless of times.

Only in Spain (where I live today) you have Basque, Catalan, Andalusian, and Galician –movements looking to break free from their, in their view, Castilian overlords and this is a story that goes back hundreds of years. For an American (yes I am going to bash you some more…) this is something incomprehensible.

I have worked for several US companies and every single time we have training or have a VP visiting holding a speech, they seem to think of and talk about Europe as one entity. The fact that, for example, differences between North Italy and Sicily is so huge and has such a long history that it make any difference seen in the US pale in comparison is completely forgotten, ignored and is even an inconceivable thought for most Americans. Assigning diplomats seem to prove this… 

My point however is that regardless of the differences that do exist between cultures, countries and historic views; the people; the individuals, are the same. We all want the best for ourselves and our loved ones. We all look for a better life. We all want to be free. And, what will probably surprise you, we also think of the world, politics and even religion in the same way. You will realize this once you hear a Turk say that Turkish politicians are morons, or when a Shiite Persian argue that the Mullahs are bigoted xenophobes.

I remember listening to a discussion between one Polish, one Brit, and one Lebanese, a couple of Czechs, one Moroccan, one Vietnamese and one American – all of which agreed that their own politicians are liars and that all people should have the right to their own religion and that the world would be a much better place if normal folk talked to each other over a beer or five. If we only took the time to get to know our neighbor and had a barbecue instead of listening to mainstream media and to those in charge, there would be no wars or conflicts.

I couldn't agree more.

The individual is a great person ready to help and understand. The hospitality of normal folk, across the world, would astound you. It does not matter who you are or who they are, once you work together, drink together, live together and share your experiences you´ll find out how similar people are in the real world.

The problem is in part government and in part people in group.

People in groups often lose their sensibility. Look at a football game or the world championship of Hockey and you´ll see people starting to act less and less like individuals and more and more like Neanderthal group of thugs waving flags and singing death threats towards a supposed “enemy”. If you look at larger group’s people’s intelligence seem to drop even further and a smug salesman in suit with a decent understanding of this group-psyche can basically get people to do whatever he wants.

The government, in turn, prey on larger groups. Convincing one group that they can win benefits and get greater lives if they just steal from; beat up; or in other ways impact on another group. Consequently we get blacks against whites, Muslims against Christians, the Rich against the poor, women against men and so on and so forth. This is further enhanced by socialist and fascist policies since those ideologies are built, partly or fully, on the premise that there is a horrific adversary somewhere that needs to be quenched and killed. Also (at least historically – but also today in many places) we have religious nuts and fanatical fuck-ups who´s agenda links up with that of government and thus influence the groups alongside politicians.

The people, as individuals, are good people, great even, and they will constantly surprise you and this regardless of who they are or where they are from.

People, as in Groups, and influenced and govern by soul-sucking entities up-high are however horrid hooligans with no grasp of fairness.

If I needed further proof of the greatness of Libertarian ideas and a boost in freedom thinking, then moving about in the world really did the trick. If I was an ultra neo-liberal anti-government extremist - which often was said about me in Sweden – when I was living in my birth nation I am much, much more so today. And the reason is because today I know more about my fellow man, I know more about how the world works and I now know that shit is shit regardless if you live in Los Angeles, Athens, London or Stockholm.

You should all travel more, see the world and move to another country, if only for a year or two. Not only will you grow as a person you will also get fantastic new friends and most likely you will come to the same conclusion as I have; government is the problem and freedom is the solution.

Your country sucks - Part I

“I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way (s)he handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.” 

You do notice a few things when moving to another country. Personally, having lived all over the place, I can tell you a lot about how previous axiomatic views have been turned upside down.

For example when I lived in Sweden I honestly believed that the Swedish healthcare system, despite year-long queues, was one of the best in the world and that our Swedish public transport system was second to none. Of course that is far, far from the truth.

I still believe that once you actually get help, especially for major surgeries, Sweden is one of the best, but other than that I can with absolute certainty say that the only country in Europe (which I know of) that has a worse healthcare system then Sweden is the UK (yes, I have lived there).

For minor issues in Sweden you need to call before and go to an assigned specific healthcare central in your area – sounds socialist and horrid yes? Well, it gets better. Firstly when you call you need to do so during certain hours, usually you have a window of an hour on, for example, a Tuesday morning, so good luck if you´re working... Secondly the low level of service and professionalism offered will make you feel like a dehydrated turd that happen to get stuck underneath the doctors/nurses shoe(s). Thirdly you will probably be in waiting, despite having a scheduled time, for an additional hour or so.

Despite what the UN and the Swedish government tells you the healthcare system is substandard in most aspects that count for everyday folk trying to get help for everyday issues.

And I did mention the year long queues for surgeries and major problems right? I have a close friend waiting for a heart surgery right now (have been waiting for months) and his operation was just moved a few weeks into the future because they got one (sic!) new individual who needed it faster. Isn´t that something? One new person shows up and a very important life-saving operation need to be moved weeks, so… where are the other doctors? Other hospitals? 

In countries like Estonia, Czech Republic and Germany (all of which are countries I have lived in) the level of professionalism and sympathy and service is so much higher than Sweden that you might be shocked if you move there. And they have NO QUEUES!

Although the Swedish healthcare system can be debated the Swedish public transport system cannot - it is so bad, so horrific and so crappy I do not know where to begin.

In Sweden it seems that Swedes are happy if there is one bus going each day if that that bus is only 5min late. The only metro system in the country, in Stockholm, is overcrowded and very difficult to grasp. Not to mention the prices. The cost of a monthly metro pass can feed a small African country for a week. The railroad system is getting old and train lateness is nowadays so common that people rather take that once-a-day-bus. I have seen a few expat Americans stating that the Swedish transport system is fantastic and easy. Every time I see such a comment I ponder on what a hellish nightmare it must be in the US. Even Greece (yes, I´ve lived there too), today, has a better public transport system then Sweden. In most Eastern European countries it is so much better that it will make Swedes cry from envy.

But moving on; we Swedes are told that people in other countries know of Sweden because we´re so great in Sports, that people in other countries know of Björn Borg, Olof Palme and that we are so great in staying neutral in all conflicts that our greatness is acknowledge everywhere. We Swedes are, if you listen to a school teacher, known for our work ethics, our equality and for being environmentally and politically savvy. People across the world know of Sweden because we are a fantastic socialist paradise and we have so many great companies. Basically Sweden is a magical place filled with rivers of honey and pink unicorns fluttering around spreading joy joy feelings.

The words “Bah, humbug!” have never been more appropriate.

People in other countries know of IKEA, meatballs and Swedish women. That is it! Most can hardly even point out Sweden on a map.

Sometimes, in other countries, Sweden is brought up in public or political debates, usually as a good example by liberals/lefties and once in a while you can hear of Sweden and Zlatan in the same sentence, but other than that? Most normal people around the globe have either never heard of or they do not care about that cold place with cold people at the edge of human civilization.

Not that such revelations is only for us Swedes, pretty much anyone moving abroad will find better or worse things with their new home. I also need to emphasize: “Moving!”, because a lot of times you hear fellow countrymen utter stupidities because they have been to the Canary Islands once and spent a summer cleaning fish in Norway and because of that they think they are so worldly.

The people having it worst when moving abroad are probably Americans. I do not think there is a more clueless group of people comes to the world and worldly knowledge. Americans seem to think that their country is in the lead and best in every area. The fact is that the United States has less then 5% of the world´s population, but have almost 25% of the world’s prisoners - which is the only statistics where the US is at the top. Well, there is one more thing; military expenditure!

Americans also seem to think that the world view of them is good, if not great. The fact however is the complete opposite; Americans are literary hated everywhere. Not only because of their continuous wars and mass murders, but also because of their arrogance and lack of worldly knowledge. Regardless of where I have been or to whom I´ve talked to, almost everyone despise, hate and loath Americans. Only the French can sometimes be mentioned with the same aversion but then mostly in a fun love-hate sort of way.

Don´t get me wrong, we all love American TV-shows and movies, and there are plenty of great American companies and seen over time the US is probably the most successful country that has ever existed on this planet, but (or perhaps because of that) there are so many issues – especially nowadays.

It is not only because of NSA, CIA or the millions of murdered, it is also a lack of understanding and very isolated world view (the world is located be between Main and California), and it’s the arrogance, it is all of it and so much more.

But regardless where you are from or where you are going remember that politics always suck; socialism and fascism exists universally in different forms and degrees; and there are pros and cons with each country. There are no paradises, there is no perfect society in existence, and people are basically the same everywhere.

You think there are huge differences between a Shiite woman in Iran and a Christian woman in Italy don´t you? Think again!