Friday, 12 September 2003
I was in Stockholm earlier this summer as a stopover on the way home from Helsinki. One morning, Jorgen and I were walking along Strömkajen, waiting for a ferry, when a well-dressed man walked by, just a few feet away. This wasn’t unusual, but the larger man in sunglasses with a discrete earphone behind him at a discrete distance was. This was the only sign that he wasn’t an ordinary person; a single bodyguard.
I’ve always found Sweden to be a remarkable country; they have excellent social and environmental policy, while still encouraging business. I’ve yet to see a city with, per capita, more museums and cultural events than Stockholm; the people are friendly, and they have some of the more reasonable family policies I’ve ever heard of. In short, I’d live there in a heartbeat, except Anitra and I have little chance of getting work visas for Sweden, and we haven’t yet experienced a full Stockholm winter, although I’m not too worried about that.
The well-dressed man, by the way, was King King Carl XVI Gustaf. To me, the fact that the leader of a country - whether King, prime minister, or foreign minister - can go about their business and be connected to the people is one of the reasons that Sweden has so much going for it. It’s difficult for leaders to disadvantage whole portions of their constituency if they walk among them every day.
When Bush, Clinton and their kind are protected from ordinary Americans in every venue except the voting booth (and they’re working on that one), they lose the drive to assure that there is a certain level of civility in society. Even the most penny-pinching conservative must realise that it’s in their self interest not to have desperate, starving, ill-used people on their doorstep. This perspective is quickly lost if one is elevated too high above one’s peers.
|So, I very much hope that [recent events](http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3101012.stm “BBC NEWS||Europe||Sweden’s deep-seated openness”) don’t cause Sweden to change. Ms. Lindh was by all accounts a remarkable and well-remembered politician and person; I can’t imagine that she would have approved of her death being the catalyst for further separation of politicians and people.|