I was on the subway today coming back from Stockholm University and heard a Swede complaining about a class he had taken that was just too hard. Another student had complained to a higher-up that there was too much work. Apparently this started a sort of e-mail campaign between all of the students and they went back and forth. Finally, a student apparently decided to throw his two cents in and say that he thought it wasn’t too hard and that everyone else was just not willing to put in the work. Manning up if you will.
The Swede who was relaying this story came with a perfectly Swedish remark, calling this “an asshole response.” His reasoning was that if it is too hard for someone then they should be offered help, not told to work harder. So if just one person complains about something being too hard this Swede believed that everything should be brought down to that level. The lowest common denominator if you will. Dumb everything down until everyone can succeed. Or at least think they can. It’s an incredible mindset and one that I just can’t agree with.
When I overheard this story my reaction was exactly the opposite of the storytellers. Now granted, I wasn’t in the class, hell, I was just eavesdropping so I may have missed some important details but the basic premise remains that Swedes all too often expect their problems to be solved, not through hard work, but by someone helping them. It’s incredibly interesting to me; maybe it’s the stereotypical American ideal of hard work leading to the perfect life and the American dream. I believe in that to some extent. I’d much rather work hard for something than have someone come bail me out when things get a little tricky. It’s a much more satisfying way to live.
I think this all goes back to the Swedish Model, the social welfare state that Sweden has tried to create. While there are obviously definite benefits like free schooling, there are drawbacks in that the people that make up this welfare state too often expect someone to bail them out if things get tough. There has to be a limit to how much help people receive because otherwise people take advantage of the system. Sweden just had to enact tougher checks on one of their programs involving paid leave for parents of sick children because too many parents were lying about their kids being sick and taking advantage of the system. Ridiculous.
Now obviously there are a lot of Swedes who toe the line and only use the assistance offered when they really need it. But at the same time, some don’t. It’s just abuse of a system that is too intent on making sure everything is fair and caters to the whim of anyone who thinks life is just a bit too hard.