Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Decay of the Swedish Model?

The headlines the last couple of days have focused on murders. More specifically the lack of punishment for murder. In the last two days Sweden has demonstrated, once again, a lack of balls. There’s no way around it. And I believe this has inundated the majority of Swedish society. In the most negative way possible.

A group of 16 year olds beat a classmate to death late in 2007. The accused, or in this case convicted, come from pretty well off families. One of the convicted is said to come from one of the most successful and richest families in Sweden. So obviously this got a bit of press.

During the trial, one of the accused decided it was a good idea to go to his ex-girlfriends house and beat up on her a bit. You know… for publicity purposes. Trying to help his cause. Had they been kept in jail under the trial this might have been avoided. But come on, they are just kids. Maybe they didn’t really beat and kick another kid to death.

Of course, none of the accused has admitted to anything. But they were convicted. And sentenced to three years. 3. And appeals followed. And the decision came down yesterday. Three years was a little harsh. How about one? 1. Uno. Ett år. For murdering another kid. So they will spend one year in a youth ward.

The Riccardo murder in Kunsgholmen got a lot of press in Stockholm and around Sweden not only because of the social standing of the kids involved but also because of the growing problem with teenage street violence. Sweden has been suffering from an epidemic of teenage violence. This ranges from gangs of girls beating up other girls, gangs of boy threatening everybody from other boys to the neighbors to the public transportation personnel. Knives tend to be the weapon of choice. Not a week seems to go by without a high profile teenage fight resulting in a stabbing.

So a debate has begun. And that debate focuses on causes. What causes this violence? Why is it happening? How can we stop it? And in typical Swedish fashion the answer involves tax money. Clearly they are fighting and stabbing each other because they are bored. So let’s pump more tax money into programs for teenagers. Let’s pump more money into the same thing that Swedes have been doing for years as the teenage violence continues to rise. Let’s do more of the same. Of course, while the adults continue to try to find causes, the kids committing these crimes continue to do so. And they grow bolder. A defense attorney was quoted as saying that the kids themselves have said “ingen satt ner foten” (“no one put their foot down”).

And why should they? Conflict might arise. And it’s probably someone else’s fault. Maybe it’s their upbringing. Or their lack of education. Or their lack of extracurricular activities. Or maybe it’s just that they are being allowed to run free with no fear of consequence. No one in this country needs to take responsibility for their actions. And even if they do they will face little to no punishment. Or they can just lay the blame elsewhere. As the next man did.

This one also involved teenagers. This time the teenagers were harassing and making life hell for an entire family. Not a nice thing to do. Granted. In fact the night of the murder, because regardless of what the courts say that is still murder, six teenagers armed with various forms of weapons came to the man’s house in the middle of the night threatening his son. So this man did what any man would do. He shot them. Now in Colorado that’s called the Make My Day law. And internationally, hell even in the US, there are a lot of people that take potshots at it. But basically that’s the situation we are dealing with here in Rödeby. Excellent. He killed one of the kids and messed another one up a little bit. He went on trial.

And he was acquitted. When I was little I never really understood that word. It means he walked. He will serve no time. He didn’t know what he was doing. He was temporarily insane. Maybe, but one of the kids was shot while crowding around his dying friend. The kids getting shot knew exactly what he was doing. *

Today I also saw a bunch of teenagers throw their trash on the ground and just walk away. It was right in front of the door to my office so it gets pretty shitty there and I notice.

In other news, DCP is doing an internship through her bio class. The one Swedish girl she is working with almost didn’t come on the first day because she was tired when she woke up. She then showed up late.

DCP still hasn’t received her grade from her last class. That was nearly two months ago.

A woman I work with has stopped answering the phone calls of a few people who are wondering where their paycheck is.

These things might not seem like they are connected. But I disagree. Sweden is a country that has been so pandered to by the government; people don’t feel the need to take any sort of personal responsibility.

Kill someone when you are a kid? No worries. Take a year and spend it in a youth ward. Fifty years old and happened to kill a 15 year old? No problem. You can go home after the trial. Throw your trash on the ground? Thanks, you’re creating jobs for the numerous local government sanitation workers. Just got an internship at a company you really want to work for after graduation but a little tired? It’s cool. Show up late. Still no idea what your class grade is? Relax, it’s only been two months and there were a solid 15 of you in the class. Didn’t receive your paycheck on time? Chill out, it will come when it comes, it’s not like you’re really living on this right?

The government will help you. The government will clean up the mess. Or maybe we can blame it on someone else. Or maybe it’s the systems fault. Let’s throw some tax money at it and see if that helps.

It’s amazing that anything of value gets done in this country sometimes. I am absolutely appalled by the Swedish attitude in certain aspects. How this can be seen as acceptable is beyond me.

Most Swedes might not even see a problem with this.** They might see this as a form of freedom. A form of freedom that is contingent upon the government taking care of them. A form of freedom that is so freeing that no personal responsibility should be taken.

Some might argue that this will result in a continuing degradation of Swedish society. If this keeps up maybe I’ll argue that. And in all honesty, until Swedes realize that everyone can’t be catered to. Shouldn’t be catered to. And that people need to take responsibility for their actions, I believe Sweden will continue to see a rise in violence, a decline in self sufficiency, and an eventual decay of their once proud Swedish Model.

Sure there are exceptions. But enough Swedes have this attitude that for any foreigner it is incredibly noticeable. And for those Swedes whose blood is boiling now. Let’s not start comparing the US. I’m not comparing Sweden to the US. I’m not even thinking about the US. There are problems there also. With violence. With teenagers. With all kinds of things.

This blog isn’t about the US though. It’s about Sweden through the eyes of me. A Swedish-American. Not everything I write that criticizes the lovely Kingdom of Sweden should be read as a comparison. So give it a rest. I’m writing what I’ve seen here in Sweden. Living in Sweden. Working in Sweden. Invoking that Swedish passport of mine. I love being here. It’s been an adventure. But sometimes these things just hit. And they just blow my mind.

So Welcome to Sweden.

Some of you may have noticed the asterixes. I have added a few comments but didn't want to take away from the original post. Some of this comes up in the comments I responded to below, some I even straight copy and pasted. Feel free to read on and react.

* (Added Friday May 9th, 2008) I would like to point out that there have been some good comments about this since my first posting it. The beauty of blog posting is that you get quick, gut reactions. Which is what you got from me. The downfall is that you sometimes don't get time to think everything out. After having read some of the comments I have thought a bit more about the Rödeby case.

My reaction focused more on the end result. The judgment of the father, rather than all the surrounding circumstances. While I still believe there is a difference between standing up for yourself, putting your foot down, doing what is right, and killing someone, I have never been in this sort of situation. I don’t know how I would react. I also believe in this case there were other options: Threaten them with the gun without shooting, fire a warning shot, or stop shooting after you have shot one of them. But I don’t know.

Clearly the father felt threatened enough that he felt self defense was necessary. But, I still can't get over the fact that you can kill someone and completely get away with it. I'm torn between the need to be able to protect yourself and your family and the value of a human life.

The kids were armed with sticks. Granted blunt objects like a stick can do a lot of damage. But is this a situation that requires the use of deadly force? Lot's to think about. But I stand by my above argument, and in fact believe that this case, while some might see it as hypocritical because one is self defense and one is not and I call for people to stand up for themselves, actually strengthens my argument.

This family had complained to the police, had complained to the community, and nothing was done. And so he did it himself. And after that, the justice system again did nothing. It’s a frightening cycle where you see Sweden standing by, on both ends of the spectrum. The justice system stood by. And then the family took it into their own hands. And again, the justice system stood by. Nothing was aided by the Swedish system. It became a laissez-faire attitude in which violence was met with violence.

** (Added Friday May 9th, 2008) Thought I should add a note here. There has been a bit of outcry against these judgments. Although there are still a lot of people who agree. But in the end, the Swedish system has allowed for these sorts of things to happen.

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45 comments:

  1. I'd like to leave an insightful comment or two, but I'm not sure I have any--sure seems like you are headed to a might makes right situation--kids bully people and nothing happnes (to speak of), so next time, I'll take care of it myself? (and nothing happens)--won't be too long until all you'll need is an attitude and the willingness to go further than the other guy.

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  2. Violence is widespread across the world.

    Nonetheless, wherever violence is found, one can find parents/authorities whom did not put their foot down against cruelty.

    It's as simple as that. They did not LEAD, healthfully forward.

    If someone is not LEADING the family/country safely forward, all hell breaks loose.

    To give an example from nature: If you take the dominant lead animal out of the herd, dangerous chaos begins immediately with the young males. Because there is no leader to teach them the healthy way forward.

    Sadly, human females have also learned how to follow suit.

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  3. agreed. I understand that Swedes want to avoid harsh punishment and instead focus on rehabilitating the criminals. Fine, but in the last couple of days the justice system has decided that maybe murder isn't that big of a deal.

    and I agree, some sort of strong leadership is needed. wether it be political, educational, or parental, someone needs to man up and take responsibility.

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  4. I think it's bullshit they got away with "vållande till annans död", that's like.. "oh sorry I accidently pushed a vase out of the window and it hit someones head so they died" you cant chase someone two blocks, and then, with your 4 pals, kick him to death and then claim it was an accident.. maybe I wouldn't call it murder but it is "dråp".. I think most swedes don't like this result and would have wanted them to get harder punishment, at least all the people I've talked to about this do, especially since like three of them have recieved "vård" ... before and clearly, that hasn't made them any healthier..
    I can understand why they don't want to give these boys, because even if they are fucked up they're still 16-17 year old boys, the same punishment they'd give 30 yearold because, well first of all they were high on LCD and young boys have a way of.. hetsa upp, each other.. but since most of them has been sent to youth wards (where they basically just hang out, work two days a week and play playstation for the rest of the time) before and when the age of criminal responsibility is at 15, they should be sent to some sort of prison.. if someone kicked my brother to death and they got away with 1 year of playing playstation, and not feeling any regret, I'd be pretty pissed off..

    it's sick how much violence there is around us nowadays..

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  5. I don't think most Swedes think this is OK. I'm pretty sure a very very large majority of all Swedes think that both of the murders, or "dråp" as suggested by the previous commenter, are NOT OK. I also think that a majority think that the punishments (or punishment, since the dad who killed the boy got acquitted) are not OK. At least, I know that I was appealed by the court's decisions in both cases. And a little "blown away".

    I think that their comment "ingen satte ner foten" was really interesting. In Sweden we don't like things to be "so strict" and we don't want our leaders, teachers or parents to be "so strict". Maybe they should be more strict and maybe this rise in street violence is a consequence of not "so strict" politicians, teachers, parents and grown ups in general. Maybe the government should look more into this than taxes and activities for youths.

    I still think, though, that some of the causes of the rise we're seeing in teenage violence are things like boredom and generally bad environments for youths. You're right, though, these are the things that the government usually finds to be the cause of violence and such.

    But as I said, I still think that some of this violence is due to boredom. I saw a documentary some time ago we're some teenagers said they were so bored and that there was so little to do for teenagers so because of that they started taking drugs. That might not be the whole truth they were telling but I think it's part of it.

    But the main cause I think, is the lack of people putting their feet down. Politicians, teachers, parents and other grown ups definitely need to put their feet down a lot more, not just to minimize the teenage violence but to stop the society as a whole from heading towards a bad direction. This shall be done not only by raising the punishments but more by changing attitudes. An attitude that makes you put your foot down, when someone does something wrong, a lot more than is done in Sweden today. You're definitely right on that one...

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  6. You're spot on!

    We (Swedes) always wait for someone else (read the government) to do something about it. We have been so pampered and catered for the last decades so we are incapable of springing to action on our own.

    The most we manage to do is to make a fist in our pocket ("att knyta handen i fickan").

    "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
    Edmund Burke

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  7. Street violence is not on the rise in sweden, in fact it's been on a steady decline the last 15 years (statiscs from brottsförebyggande rådet and SCB). Rather what has run rampart is the medias intrest and coverege of it. Get your figures right before you come to any conclusions about the decline of swedish society.

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  8. Any teen who is bored is not being led by a healthy leader - in the family and/or in the country. Think, feel, do - good things - not cruelty, for Gods sakes. There is no excuse for abuse.

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  9. funny, I read your "he did what anyone would do" line and thought "absolutely.. break into my house with 5 other armed people and harrass my family...uh yeah, expect to be reacted to disproportionately".

    the fact that this is unacceptable to you makes it difficult to comprehend the rest of your position.

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  10. I agree with isle dance, there's no excuse, and being bored.. hmm well any kid who's not a complete retard wouldn't do any of the things these kids have done. There will always be retards like this though, not just in Sweden but everywhere.

    Not going to compare anything with any country but I just thank god that guns aren't very common in Sweden, I don't think most people I know has used/even seen a real gun or know anyone who owns one, just air rifles, and I hope it stays that way.

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  11. Where the hell do you get your numbers of "rise in violence, and decline in self sufficiency" ?!
    How much has it increased and compared to when? Media, on the onther hand is a Business, who work for economical profit.. When they make headlines that sell, they make more stories similar to the ones who sell (for example street violence) because they not it sells..! People are scared, media makes people scared. As simple as that. Remember all the horrible things that media tolds us were going to happen on the millenium? headline after headline.. No fucking facts.

    I think youre right though, street violence sucks no matter if its increasing or not, and killing is just as shitty as the swedish punishment system.

    BUT I do not agree with you that most swedes thinks that this is OK, and I do not believe in that political bullshit you are talking about - with swedes being controled and slaves of the government - because they throw their trash on the ground?

    Have you traveled a lot? Because if this is horrible for you (people showing up late, not getting their grades in time) and so on, you should really visit some other countries.

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  12. so Ingrid are you saying it is ok for people to not get grades on time, not get paychecks on time, not go to class because you are "tired" after getting accepted into a great internship program?
    I don't think this is ok anywhere. I don't think you need to travel alot to know that is not a great way to run things!!

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  13. Part of the problem seems to be there is no differentiation between that which is obviously a case of murder with malice aforethought and a case of clear self-defense. Chasing another human down and kicking him to death is in no way comparable to defending ones family against predatory savages. Perhaps the poor man should have sent out his son to face vagaries of the 'youths' so as to assuage their blood-lust and keep them content for another day. In Texas we have whats known as a castle law, it provides us with an absolute right of self defense when faced with death or grave bodily harm, and guess what--there are no gangs of savages harassing homeowners, at least not for long.

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  14. 5%-10% of human beings are defective and should just be killed after demonstrating behavior like this. I live the USA and carry a gun for just these sorts of occasions. 4 people chasing you? Pop a cap in 'em.

    Nietzsche said: //
    One lives for today,
    one lives very fast -
    one lives very irresponsibly:
    it is precisely this which one calls "freedom".

    That which makes institutions institutions
    is depised, hated, rejected:
    whenever the word "authority" is so much as heard
    one believes oneself in danger of a new slavery.//

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  15. @anonymous – agreed. And you’re right, they are young. But at the same time, like you said, they have already spent time in a youth ward. It doesn’t seem to have worked. Hell, even as the trial was going on one of them ended up smacking his girlfriend around a bit.

    @robban – you’re right, there has beena bit of outcry. I should probably amend my statement that Swedes think this is ok, however, I do believe that most Swedes think that the system in place that allowed this to happen is ok. Which is also a problem. But, while there are a lot of clear thinking individuals who don’t agree with the verdict, plenty also do. And there will always be differing opinions, but come on. You have to be able to see the problem with these verdicts.

    Avoiding being strict is very much a Swedish thing. And while I’m sure it works a lot of the time, sometimes, like in this case, it just isn’t enough. Every action has some sort of consequence whether it is good or bad. It’s important though that the bad consequences are bad enough that it sends some sort of message.

    And the thing with the youth, you’re probably right, some of the cause could very well be bad environments and poor options, but that seems to be the status quo argument. And it doesn’t seem to have solved much. And I just have a hard time imagining that murder could be the result of boredom. When I was bored I went and played basketball, or hung out with friend, I didn’t beat people to death.

    In the end though, I think we very much agree. The problem is that no one seems willing to put their foot down. To punish those that have done wrong, to send a message.

    @Martin – Agreed, and I think that is part of the reason these events have started to get so much press. Maybe this is what it takes for people to realize that there is a greater issue at hand. An underlying attitude in Swedish society that allows this too happen.

    And I love the quote.

    @anonymous – couldn’t disagree with you more. In fact, Brottsförebyggande Rådet shows that, brott mot person, crime against other people (this includes murder, attempted murder, assault, manslaughter, all that good stuff) has increased 7% from 2006 to 2007. And that crime in general has also risen 7% from 2007 through the first quarter of 2008. But I appreciate you giving me the sources to further prove my point.

    Next time you decide to challenge someone take your own advice and get your figures right. What’s amazing is that the answers were right there. You gave them to me. Ridiculous.

    If you want some more reading check it out:. These are all just links from a simple google search on google.com and google.se:
    http://www.newsdesk.se/pressroom/scb/pressrelease/view/56222
    http://humanrightsweden.blogspot.com/2006/11/vld-i-sverige.html
    http://www.ungdommotvald.com/statistik.htm
    http://www2.amnesty.se/svaw.nsf/Kr%C3%B6nika/279869DF23DBB053C1256F8C00470D08?opendocument

    Enjoy your reading.

    @isle dance – well said.

    @anonymous – I understand the need to protect your family. I understand the threat of 5 teenagers being pretty intense. I understand reacting disproportionately. That being said, there is a difference between reacting disproportionately, and shooting two kids - killing one of them. Disproportionately could be just threatening them with the gun, disproportionately could be firing a warning shot. Disproportionately doesn’t need to be shooting one of them and while he is dying and his friends gather around him shooting another.

    Also important to note though that they had not broken into his house. They stood on the front lawn. While not a huge difference enough of a difference. He came outside to shoot them.

    And I also see a difference between putting your foot down, standing up for yourself, doing what is right and speaking up, and shooting and killing one person and seriously injuring another.

    Some might see my argument as hypocritical. And some might not agree. And that’s fine. But I will always believe that there killing someone is very different than putting your foot down and showing some balls.

    It just seems that in this case, at some point, there were at least a couple of better options. Threaten them, warning shot, or hell even stopping after you have shot one of them. But I don’t know. I’ve never been in this situation. And hope I’m not.

    And actually, I believe this case strengthens what I’ve said. Because this family had complained to the police, had complained to the community, and nothing was done. And so he did it himself. And after that, the justice system again did nothing. It’s a frightening cycle where you see Sweden standing by, on both ends of the spectrum.

    Hopefully that clears that up a bit.

    @anonymous – you’re right. Unfortunately there will most likely always be idiots like this. It’s just a matter of making sure there are some sort of consequences for these idiots.

    @Ingrid - oh Ingrid my friend. Lets calm down and take a deep breath. It’s not easy sometimes… I know. I already touched on the stats about the rise in violence. Check out the above comment about Brottsförebyggande Rådet. Violence is rising. It is a fact.

    My comment about self sufficiency was just an opinion. That’s why I started that sentence with an “I believe,” in the English language that tends to signal an opinion is about to follow. I’m not even sure how you would measure self sufficiency. I’m sure the Swedes could figure it out though. They love statistics. And those very statistics backed up my argument about a rise in violence.

    I get so tired of this whole media thing. I’m well aware that the media is a business. In fact I fired some people up here when I said that the Swedish media focuses on liberal issues. Because their target market is liberal. I know. But I get tired of the kind of people who think that the media can never be trusted, that everything they say and do is just to sell newspaper. To sell a story. That plays a role. Of course. But they also report the news. Plus, the fact that these stories sell show that it is a concern. That people are thinking about these issues.

    Where do you get your news?

    We do agree with the punishment system though. It struggles. And as I mentioned to robban above I would like to amend my comment about Swedes thinking this is ok. A lot of people have spoken out. That being said a lot haven’t. But the fact that the Swedish system allows something like this to happen is frightening.

    I also never said that Swedes were controlled or slaves of the government. I did say they depend heavily on the government. And its those little things, throwing trash on the ground, not getting grades out on time, showing up late or not at all, not getting pay checks out on time, which define a society.

    And I have traveled extensively through the US, Europe, and Australia. So let’s not play that game Ingrid.

    @anonymous – well said.

    @anonymous – you’re right. There hasn’t been much differentiation here between the two cases. But as I mentioned above: I also see a difference between putting your foot down, standing up for yourself, doing what is right and speaking up, and shooting and killing one person and seriously injuring another. That being said, I’ve never been in that situation. But killing another person will always be an extreme in my opinion.

    Colorado has a similar law, the Make My Day law. Usually though it involves someone entering your home. Not just standing out on your lawn.

    Anyway, I responded to a comment above that I think clarifies where I stand on this part of my post. It’s a tricky situation because of the possibility for self defense.

    @anonymous – so many anonymous comments by the way.

    Fair enough. Some people struggle.

    Check out my response directly above and then a little bit higher up. Think it clarifies. Hopefully.



    In response to the Rödeby killing, three people have left some very good comments that made me think a bit more about the issue. That’s the beauty of blog posts. You get a gut reaction. But sometimes that gut reaction doesn’t leave you time to think everything through. I suppose my initial gut reaction was just further disbelief that another killing could go basically unpunished. And disbelief that there could be so much standing by on both ends. The family had complained about the harassment, the threats, the gang of teenagers and received no help. The justice system stood by. And then the family took it into their own hands. And again, the justice system stood by. Nothing was aided by the Swedish system. It became a laissez-faire attitude in which violence was met with violence.

    As I’ve stated above though, I believe there is a difference between standing up for yourself, putting your foot down, and doing what is right, and killing someone. Having never been in a similar situation I don’t know how I would react.

    I’d love to hear some reactions to this from the three anonymous posters who responded to this part of the post.

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  16. From Norwalk, CT, USA.

    There is nothing at all disproportionate using a gun to confront a group of men armed with clubs. Nor is there anything disporortionate in killing one or more of them.

    The article and the comments seem to equate kicking a boy to death with killing a member of group armed with clubs, but there is no equivalency. Every person has a right to self defense; when you go onto some ones property armed with a weapon you are not just taking your life into your own hands, you are also putting it into some one elses.

    AS for disproportionate, can some one tell me how it is equal for a group to threaten a single person?

    What guns do is make people equal. Here in the US it is very simple: if you fuck with people there is a very good chance that they will fuck you back. But that probably isn't nuanced enought for Sweden.

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  17. Anonymous, Ingrid:
    You are wrong about the crime figures. I recently wrote an article on the rising crime in Sweden, looking at more statistical sources than anyone has ever done:

    http://www.ulfpettersson.se/2008/03/19/den-okande-brottsligheten-i-sverige/

    There can be no doubt that crime is steeply on the rise.


    Hairy Swede:
    You are generally right about punishments being far too lax. We should increase the sentence lenghts and start actually expelling foreign criminals (only 6 % are expelled today), among other things. The US has been very successful in combating crime and we should adopt most things they have done.

    However, it may be good to know why sentences are low; Sweden used to have very low crime and be generally very peaceful. Sweden was, until recently, one of the most homogeneous societies in the world.

    This homogeneity allowed Sweden a society of very high individual trust, with low transaction costs of maintaining order. Swedes had a very long term orientation to relationships. Norms about how to behave were internalized with everybody, conflicts were few, and punishments did not need to be very harsh.

    Today of course, the situation is very different. Sweden is very ethnically diverse. Mainly as a result of basically uncontrolled immigration, crime has exploded (the media are afraid of writing this). There are no common norms anymore, and there is much less personal trust between people of different ethnicity.

    Immigrants in Sweden (non-westerners) generally come from low trust societies. Whereas in Sweden a simple fine would have be enough to deter a particular crime, in many other countries the required deterrent may literally be a hand cut off. The lax punishments rendered here does not work as a deterrent for these immigrants.

    --

    When you discuss the laissez-faire attitude of people and the welfare state, I think you have things mixed up. The extreme 'anything goes attitude' that is prevalent today in Sweden, has a connection to the safety provided by the welfare state, but most likely only a weak one. Wanting strong goverment is not at all the same as 'trying to find a way not to be responsible'.

    Instead, the welfare state is a rational way of solving communal problems. Support for the welfare state is still very strong, despite high taxes. Paying these taxes is the way of being responsible.

    In fact, laissez-faire in Sweden is largely a result of the critique against the welfare state. A main reason for disorder in schools is the very lax voucher-system; basically anyone can set up a school and with very weak central control.

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  18. One other point, from Norwalk, CT.

    Sweden seems to have a lot of freedom, and I am glad of that, but no matter how many things you are permitted to do by society, there are still some things that you must never, ever do, EXCEPT in self defense.

    Once you have stepped over the line, like going as a group onto some one elses property, armed with CLUBS (sticks my ass!), you have lost your right to civil discourse.

    Those who have argued that a less disproportionate response was called for seem to ignore the fact that a disproportionate response was attempted, by calling the police on numerous occaisions.

    The liberal Sweden is finding that its chickens are comming home to roost.

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  19. @anonymous from Norwalk – I don’t agree. Killing a 15 year old kid seems disproportionate to me. Killing is very permanent. And while I’m not arguing with your right to self defense, taking a life is intense. And all of them were kids. Big kids, teenage kids. But still kids. And one of them is dead.

    And you’re right about this post focusing on both without differentiating between the two cases. However, I added a comment clarifying that a bit at the end but left the post as it was. You’re right, the two are not the same. The thing that is the same though is that a teenager died. And that there were gangs of threatening teenagers involved in both cases. And as I said, I'm torn between the need to be able to protect yourself and your family and the value of a human life. It’s a tough decision. Unless you find yourself in that situation I’m sure, then the choice probably becomes very easy. And I have not. So I am torn.

    I still just keep coming back to the end result, a 15 year old is dead and a 50 year old that killed him faces absolutely no sanctions. Even if he just got a fine I think I would feel a bit better.

    And while your closing comment might not be very nuanced it gets the point across. And there’s something to be said for that.

    @Ulf Pettersson - Bring up some good points, very well written. My point about the laissez-faire attitude was more in relation to the Rödeby case where it seemed that anything did in fact go. Nothing was done by the government to stop the teenage gang, and nothing was really done in response to the killing of the kid by the father. O violence was met with violence.

    My point about the welfare though was not so much the anything goes attitude more that the government acts as the supreme safety net and in turn I believe Swedish society relies too much on the government bailing them out rather than taking responsibility for their actions. Of course, in the Rödeby case we saw a parent take responsibility and a teenager ended up dead. It’s a bit of a slippery slope. And the more I read the comments the more I find myself thinking about this. It’s not easy.

    @anonymous from Norwalk – agreed. But I still keep coming back to the fact that someone died. Even in self defense. That’s permanent. As I already said. (And I said sticks because most of the reports I have read have referred to them as sticks. Sticks, clubs, whatever. Blunt object.)

    And I actually agree that at that point you have lost some of your rights to civil discourse. But I still believe that other options remained. But maybe not…

    And I did bring up the point that the police were called in earlier with no result. Unfortunately. But it does bring up the question as to what should be expected in a situation like this. Clearly, the father felt threatened and believed self defense was necessary. But is self defense possible without killing someone? I think so.

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  20. "But is self defense possible without killing someone? I think so."

    Absolutely, but it isn't as reliable.

    I don't know the truth of the story, but I do know that 6 15 year olds with clubs can do a whole lot of damage, including murder. Furthermore, the situation is volatile and the only way for one 50 year old to gain control over the situation is to start asserting it, with a weapon that puts him on equal or greater footing than the attackers.

    The age difference is irrelevant. The 15 yo kids might be dumb and young, but they are physically and destructively peers with the victim and his son (presumably also 15).

    The fact that it happened on his lawn and not inside the house is definitely relevant -- unless they were preventing his son or other family members free movement to a safer place. The laws in the US vary on such things, generally private property is private property, but you do have an obligation to attempt to defuse the situation, or reduce the risk to yourself and your family to non-mortal.

    If that fails, and if the police/judge/jury agree that you exercised reasonable judgement in determining that the risk to you or your family was mortal or grievous, then we encourage you to shoot the bastards. Some of us hope you don't kill them, either because we have moral qualms or because we believe the prison system will do more good than death...but many of us don't have much tolerance for such nuance...

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  21. ...cont'd..

    I would argue that it makes far more sense (from a health-of-society perspective) to forgive the father's overreaction committed in the heat of the moment (fear, anger) than to encourage helpless acceptance of injury and intimidation by prosecuting him.

    Within reasonable limits, of course, and that's what juries of peers are for.

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  22. @anonymous – killing someone is obviously the most reliable because it neutralizes the situation in the most permanent sense.

    And you’re right a group of 15 and 16 year olds can do quite a bit of damage. And for the 50 year old a gun is an excellent way of asserting himself. Agreed.

    And here is my understanding of the situation. Mom came home in the car. The teenage gang was out front. She called the police, was told that an officer was on the way, and then left. Her children and the father were in the house. At the same time the son, who was 19, called the police also and was told an officer was on the way. He stayed on the phone with the police.

    The father, who at this point had apparently had himself a bit of whisky (1.3 blood alchol level according to thelocal.se) had been asleep. He woke up and went outside with a gun. When he came back inside he took the phone from his son and told the police he had shot two of the kids. The police car showed up about 20 minutes after the initial call (it’s a very rural area).

    According to witnesses, the father shot both of the kids at close range. One witness (who I assume was one of the kids) said that the father yelled stop, at which point the 17 year old did just that. Unfortunately the father had pulled the trigger as he was yelling stop.

    The courts found him mentally unstable at the time of the shooting. From thelocal.se “The court ruled that when the man fired the shots, his mental state was such that he lacked the ability to consciously consider his behaviour or understand the consequences.”

    So that is my understanding of the facts behind the case. So he got off because he was crazy at the time, not because of any sort of make my day law like in Colorado. Granted, I assume that the surrounding circumstances are argued to have played a role in his temporary insanity but it is important to note that he was let go because he wasn’t mentally stable at the time of the shooting.

    I guess my moral qualms are getting in the way just because the end result was a dead body.

    @anonymous cont’d.: While I completely agree with you that it is important to encourage something over the helpless acceptance of injury and intimidation, I just think that this might have gone over that reasonable limit that you speak of. He was drunk, he was inside and came outside to do it, he shot while yelling stop if the witness is to be believed, he shot not just one of the kids but two of them. I don’t know… as I said. I’m torn. Mostly because of those moral qualms about killing someone.

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  23. Yeah, I apologize for pontificating without knowing the background of the story.

    I agree that those details suggest that the situation clearly had not (yet?) reached the point of grievous or mortal danger, so the father's actions were not comensurate, especially in a society that doesn't have the very explicit laws that the US does (some parts anyway) regarding the rights of property owners versus trespassers.

    If the events took place as you describe them in the US, most people would be upset about the outcome as well.

    Although, I do think that this where our laws regarding the supremacy of private property come from. The father was drunk, and possibly recognized that there was a situation brewing which he was not in a state to handle effectively... It's "safer" for him and his family to come back with guns blazing than to "see how things develop". In Texas (for example), the law is clear: they were on his property with reasonably-presumptive ill intent. Shoot em. (Not much for nuance in TX :)

    His impaired state might also explain why he killed rather than injured (or more responsibly, just scared the bejesus out of). Tough call. TX makes it easy, and trespassers in TX know to exercise an abundance of caution and deference to the owner of the property they are on.

    But the question remains whether the father thought he and his family were in danger, or if he was just drunk and ornery. If the latter, the world would be a better place without him.

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  24. I must disagree with the blogger's assessment that there was a problem in shooting the kids who were threatening his family. Unless there are one or more facts I'm missing, I would likely do the same thing (although alcohol would NOT be involved). Six armed teenagers constitute a deadly threat in my mind, particulary if they were uttering threats.
    By the way, I live in Colorado, and the purpose of the law you cited is to keep citizens immune from prosecution when the defend themselves on their own property with deadly force (although the law is less clear about force used on your property but outside your dwelling).

    Also, if the man were drunk, drunkeness is not an excuse in the U.S. for committing a crime.

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  25. @anonymous - Not at all. I have a habit of not always putting in everything. I forget that because I write in English I get a lot of people who aren’t from Sweden and haven’t been inundated with the same news stories as me. You brought up some excellent points. Definitely appreciated. And I think you’re still right, I suppose it still comes down to me struggling with what I consider excessive force. That being the actual killing part.

    I also think you bring up a good point in that the laws here in Sweden when it comes to this sort of thing aren’t quite like they are in the US (as discussed here Texas and Colorado). Maybe this will be some sort of catalyst.

    But you are absolutely right. In the end it comes down to what the father believed. Did he feel so threatened that what happened was necessary? I don’t know. It’s a slippery slope.

    @fromCO – fair enough. But to be honest my problem is not so much with the use of force. I just found it to be excessive in that one kid died and one was seriously injured. I think there were other options. First, as the anonymous commenter above said, the man could have “just scared the bejesus out of” the kids, or shot to disarm but not kill. But I think there are plenty of people who would have used force in this situation. Or would have, at the least, produced a weapon of some sort. And understandably I think also. But the fact remains that he killed someone.

    And I am well aware of the purpose of the Make My Day law. I remember a case from, I believe, Eaton, CO in which a man shot another man who was armed with a blunt object through his screen door because he felt threatened. Even that was seen as a bit tricky because he wasn’t actually in the house and there was still a barrier. Albeit a screen door. And in this case the man was inside (safely… possibly. Depends on who you ask I suppose, but most would argue that it was safer inside and behind locked doors than outside on the lawn with the kids) and came outside to shoot the kids.

    In the end it still comes down to me struggling with the fact that he killed someone.

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  26. Back in the olden days, when I was taking a handgun self-defense course through the police department, they specified how we were to protect ourselves, should we need to. They emphasized that they cannot be there to protect every citizen. They just can't. They don't like it, but they can't. So they need us to know how to properly (legally, safely) protect ourselves. And we need to practice, practice, practice.

    I don't know what they teach people nowadays - due to laws and all - but this is what I was taught (if I'm remembering correctly, and it's likely I'm not).

    -If someone is entering my home, it's my responsibility to retreat to the best of my ability while not giving up my ability to protect myself. Ideally, this is to a previously determined safe location, where phone, gun, furniture are available to help shield/protect me.

    -At the same time, it's my responsibility to shout out loudly to said intruder that they are to leave immediately, as I am armed and will defend myself if they do not leave immediately/stop their objectionable behavior.

    -It's also my duty to phone the police. It's my duty to keep shouting out to them to stop their objectionable behavior. It's my duty to retreat as much as possible without compromising my own ability to protect myself.

    -Only as a last resort do I shoot, but I need to learn what those last resorts are. For instance, if they're hopped up on drugs, they have an energy running through them that might be of excessive strength. I have to figure out at what point I am no longer safe.

    -Oh, and then we were taught where to shoot, how to shoot and why to shoot them there. Geez, I can't even remember that, but I was the best shot in the class. :o)

    That said, I don't ever want to harm someone. But if I have to hold them back so that they cannot harm another/me, that will be my first line of defense. Hold them back. That will always be my first choice. Not beat them to death. Not shoot them to death. Something has to be seriously wrong for someone to lash out and kill another.

    And that said, I don't know the finite details of this story - but wish I did. This is when being an investigator or juror is helpful. :o)

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  27. I forgot to mention...

    Gavin de Becker's book, "The Gift of Fear", addresses a lot of this stuff in an amazing way. You all might love it. I think it should be mandatory reading for all humans.

    One of his stats, if I'm remembering correctly: One of the most dangerous situations a lone person can encounter, is a group of teen thugs.

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  28. some excellent points once again isel dance. good work.

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  29. Wow. Great blog.

    I am just moving back from Colorado to Sweden after eight years, and personally, I find that the United States has a great, culture-wide disregard for life that you don't find in Sweden (vastly generalizing here). I almost got shot with because of the Make My Day law here during my first year, and I wasn't even trespassing. Just walking down a county road, and this farmer shows up in his truck with a shotgun and wife.
    As for Rödeby, I am all on the side of the family.
    Speaking of personal responsibility, I think that when you've been part taking in terrorizing a family over a number of years is not a good time to cry foul play when they strike back. Here's a situation when the victims (family) have tried repeatedly to solve the situation. If you've ever felt your life, or those you love, truly in danger - had a stalker, a bully, someone causing physical and mental harm, you know how it affects your mind. Perhaps at first it's only a nagging feeling to look over your shoulder, not answer your phone, change your pattern of movement around the community. But over a number of years, that'll build up to a feeling of despair, and desperate people take to desperate measures. If the father had had options, another way to act (like actually being able to rely on the police to solve it, or the harassment to stop), he probably would have. I don't think he took time to analyze what was in the hands of the multiple people who'd physically tried to harm, and repeatedly and strategically threatened his family. If he had sought them out down town, chased them down the streets or in their homes, that would have constituted murder.
    But they were in his yard. They were calling with threats, and advancing to his house, where his family was. And all this after years of harassment. I can see how his mind went in to primal fear mode. When you just desperately want something to disappear, you don't handle it rationally, especially in a pressed situation like this.

    I think it's more terrifying to have the Japanese exchange student Yoshihiro Hattori shot and killed for ringing the wrong doorbell in Louisiana, while trying to find his way to a Halloween party. The shooter was acquitted, although there was no history of violence, no criminal intend nor trespassing involved.

    It is indeed very sad that the 15 year old boy who was not really part of the gang in Rödeby was killed, but he knew his buddies had been harassing the family, he knew why they were there that night, and he didn't have to be on somebody's property with a stick in hand. Those were actions to which there were very unfortunate consequences. But I don't think it shows a culture-wide disrespect of human life.

    I know that when I move back to Sweden, I will have many problems with the country that I don't see now, and I will similarly glorify Colorado (rightfully, as she's a beautiful state!), but I'd rather take these questions in context of the actions themselves.

    I was always a good kid growing up in Sweden. I always picked trash up off the street, and continue to do so. When I talk to travelers who've visited Scandinavia, they always comment on how clean it is. Colorado is as well. But there are many places in the states where litter lines the highways and cities alike, and I hope to be a good example to someone and show that each attempt we make at creating a better world is important, whether it be picking up trash, creating art, or speaking to the lonely person on the public transportation.

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  30. @swedette - you bring up some excellent points. I think actually the one that is most important is the glorification of the place we have left. we often times forget the bad and focus on the god while in the new places we focus on the bad and forget the good. it's an interesting phenomenon. don't really know what it says about a persos ability to be happy. But some very good points all around in your comment.

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  31. Man you are spot on! I am an American working for a branch of the Swedish government and I just have been racking my brain trying to comprehend how lax my colleagues are in actually DOING their work and your blog just really is helping me put my pieces together. Previously I had just come to accept that my colleagues are suffering from "Stockholm Syndrome" but the problem truly does stem from too much dependency on government that has moved from helpful to hurting. great unbiased observations! look forward to reading regularly

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  32. it runs rampant in sweden. unfortunately. and you'll learn to live with it. but it will drive you nuts. in fact, I think you see it in all walks of life. very few people take any sort of personal responsibility instead blaming it on others or hoping that others will fix whatever is wrong.

    but Im glad you're enjoying the blog. keep commenting.

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  33. I enjoyed reading your blog. Violence, children and women abuse is all over the world not only Sweden.Some Sweds might feel annoyed if you comment on their law system but they have to understand that bringing out the truth is more important than anyone's nationality or "country".

    Sweden should not be "favored out" when speaking about crime.

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  34. agreed, in just about any arena, when there are things that some people believe need to be changed, then a discussion must happen. but when that discussion is marred by defensive feelings and the inability to actually speak ones mind then nothing will be accomplished.

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  35. This blog is extremely interesting. Very good discussions.
    I agree with you, the crime sentences are a joke. I seriously don't know anyone who actually think the sentences should be this low for terrible crimes. What can i do to change it? Maybe yell a little bit on some street. I'll try.
    I just had to look up if the violence is really rising as much as i got the impression of. Well it has been rising, but not catastrophly:
    http://www.scb.se/templates/tableOrChart____48942.asp

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  36. Also, In Ulfs statistics one have to take into account that there were 3 million less swedes in the 1950's

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  37. I love the yelling on the street idea. Its glorious.

    But you're right, its not catastrophic. But it is rising. And I would say rising enough that it is noticeable. Good call on the stats though.

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  38. Great blog here. I'm really enjoying reading your impressions of living here in Sweden. I'm totally with you on so many things as I have had so many of your thoughts. Keep up the good work.

    Colin from California.

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  39. Sometimes it totally blows my mind that Sweden has a functioning economy considering how little people work and especially how little work they actually do when they DO go to work. It is crazy! But something must be economically correct here because it seems to be a lot more stable than the economy back in the US, it sure seems to be handling the crises better. If it can work here it must be able to work anywhere!

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  40. the economy of Sweden is fascinating. Its stuck between being a socialist for the worker sort of thing and a capitalist for profit sort of thing, and somehow it works relatively well. That being said, I'm not sure that it woul work anywhere. I think so much of it has to do with the size of the country, the history of the country, the political views of the country, that trying to transplant it somewhere else ight be a disaster. that being said, pickingand choosing a little bit and taking what might work for other economies probably wouldn't be a bad idea. of course that goes for just about every economy.

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  41. "Colin said...

    Sometimes it totally blows my mind that Sweden has a functioning economy considering how little people work and especially how little work they actually do when they DO go to work. It is crazy!"

    Jeez Colin, if you ever visit and work in an Anglo-Saxon country, you will notice that they tend to work very long days but are very ineffective. I worked for years for an American global corp, and often I spent 40-50% of my weekly working hours in meetings. And everybody sings the same song of "we are working so hard on this bla bla". Also, cleaning up the mess of continuous flow of idiotic decisions made incompetent management brightens up every week. Yes, I guess meritocracy would be considered socialism. It was like living in Dilbert. And trust me, I would have never imagined that before actually trying an american corporation.

    That corporation made a very nice profit last year, and sometimes I wonder how that is possible :)

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  42. Let me preface this by saying that I think I have ended up in some not so good companies here in Sweden and some pretty good ones in the US, but my experience has been the opposite. I am amazed at the lack of structure and efficiency. That being said, plenty of people have had experiences similar to the one above so I suppose it all depends.

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  43. Read the article about the acquital of the man who shot the teens, very glad he did not have to pay restitution to the family, that'll show those kids to show up at his home and threaten him. It doesn't matter if you threaten someone with sticks, guns, or your bare hands, the appropriate response is to corpse as many of them as you can, then bill their families for the cleanup.

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