Monday, May 14, 2007

Post 800 - Dumb Swedes

The stereotype of the immigrant Swede was "squarehead," a large, genial guy who drank too much and wasn't very bright. Over the course of the 20th C, they positioned themselves for a new image, partly based on amazingly attractive women with lots of skin showing, partly based on high educational attainment and scientific achievement. Being of Swedish descent on one side, I enjoyed the shared glory of being associated with such a people.

That ended around fifteen years ago, as I learned what their neutrality in WWII and the Cold War actually entailed. Perhaps I was ready to believe that by the 90's, as I had gotten pretty tired of the insufferably condescending seminarians at the Lutheran camp.

Things are even worse than I thought. Swedish children between 15 and 20 know almost nothing accurate about communism, according to a Demoskop survey.
Of the 1004 young Swedes involved in the nationwide poll, 43 percent believed that communist regimes had claimed less than one million lives. A fifth of those surveyed put the death toll at under ten thousand. The actual figure is estimated at around 100 million.

The poll also found that 40 percent of young Swedes believed that communism contributed to increased prosperity in the world; 22 percent considered communism a democratic form of government; 82 percent did not regard Belarus as a dictatorship.
Simply amazing. Maybe the stereotype was correct the first time around.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I knew in New England an ethnic Swede born in Estonia, who was 8 years old when Stalin took over. Having suffered through Stalin and Hitler,her family was able to flee to the US, where she married a distant cousin. Sorta like Franklin and Eleanor.Most of the young Swedes I met in South America in the 70's were Social Democrats, though I did run into a particularly ignorant and obnoxious young Swedish communist. It sounds as if he was the shape of things to come,in some ways.

Wyman said...

What percentage of German children know what atrocities the Nazis committed? What percentage of Japanese children know that the attack on Pearl Harbor was completely preemptive?

Of course, we all believe our own untruths about our own country. But you've got to be a special sort of country to not have pointed out that, hey, that big country on the other side of Finland had this Stalin guy who killed a lot of people.

MaxedOutMama said...

Not dumb, just ill-educated....

What you know about the world affects your ideas about it. Everyone should keep this in mind when they hear Euro-Rants, though - because I'm not convinced your average German/Dutch/Italian etc would be any more accurate.

Furthermore, I think if you did a similar survey of all non-scientific majors at the Ivy League institutions you'd get a whomping heck of shock from the results. Most people above 40 are living in a social bubble; they have no idea what students actually are taught in school.

Sergey said...

Most of them are villagers or sons of villagers, never eager to know anything about world outside their native village, and especially about politics. It is easy to know nothing of this sort when your country was at peace for centures. The last time Swedes were at war was the Poltava battle with Russian army of Peter The Great. They were defeated and lost any interest in military adventure or politics for following 400 years. And they are also inherently socialists-leaning because in such severe climat the only prospect of survival is tightly knitted web of mutual help - as in any Sweden village community. Their way of life is climat-driven collectivism, not individualism. As a nation, it is more like herd than pack.

dilys said...

I'm re-reading Massie's book on Nicholas and Alexandria, and the Russian Revolution. The intelligent 20- and 30-somethings who see me with the book and engage me in conversation, almost always end with the outraged exclamation: "They killed them?!"

We over-50's underestimate the diameter of the Memory Hole, I suspect.

Giacom said...

I would love to see such a survey of American youth, 12-25 age group. It would be fascinating, particularly given the esteem with which, for example, Cuba is held among the press and left-leaning academia.

Tanisha said...

Most of them are villagers or sons of villagers, never eager to know anything about world outside their native village, and especially about politics. It is easy to know nothing of this sort when your country was at peace for centures. The last time Swedes were at war was the Poltava battle with Russian army of Peter The Great. They were defeated and lost any interest in military adventure or politics for following 400 years. And they are also inherently socialists-leaning because in such severe climat the only prospect of survival is tightly knitted web of mutual help - as in any Sweden village community. Their way of life is climat-driven collectivism, not individualism. As a nation, it is more like herd than pack.