The day before the Swedish coalition government of Social Democrats
and Greens announced that it was reversing its refugee policy and closing its
borders to all but the minimum numbers of refugees laid down by the
European Union, the website of the Guardian newspaper ran a video about
the Swedish Democrats, a far-right party growing in support because of its
Last year Sweden took in 100,000 refugees and this year it is estimated
that it will have taken in 190,000: that is to say a number equivalent to 3 per
cent of the population. If this rate were to continue for very long, Sweden
would be irreversibly changed for ever.
The Guardian journalist interviewed young members of the Swedish
Democrat party and made them appear arrogant and unattractive. Whether
this was the result of editing or a true representation of them, or both, I
cannot say. She herself, though, appeared intolerably smug and selfrighteous, arrogant in a different way. She asked the young Swedes what was
wrong with vibrant multicultural societies such as Britain and France (the
video was evidently recorded before the events in Paris), though even from
her video what was shown, no doubt unintentionally, was that Sweden was
not multicultural, it was ghettoised, with practically no contact whatever
between the refugees and natives. The Swedes throw social security to the
refugees as zookeepers throw meat to the lions.
One of the questions of the Guardian journalist to the young Swedes
was ‘Why do you dress so smartly?’ It was asked in an accusatory tone, as if
dressing smartly was yet another of their bad qualities, a derogation of their
duty to appear casually or scruffily dressed like almost everyone else in
It was an interesting question. Obviously for the person who asked it,
any kind of formality in dress was symbolic of elitist or exclusivist political
sympathies, whereas casual dress, the prevailing any-old-howism of the
majority of the population, was symbolic of democratic and egalitarian
sympathies, a demonstration of solidarity with the poor of the world.
Whether poor people in Africa actually benefit from rich people dressing in
expensively-torn jeans and T-shirts is not important: as with presents, it is the
thought that counts.
Of course, there is another way of looking at it. To dress well is a sign
of respect for other people and society, to dress scruffily is a sign of disrespect
for them, a sign of the purest egoism. Perhaps it is even possible to express
elitism and respect at the same time.