The last months of December 2008 saw the Rosengård riots (here’s a link to an english language text on the events).
The first months of 2009 saw riots in Tensta, outside Stockholm, too.
Lately a series of malls and shops put to fire in Södertälje.
For those not familiar with the areas I’ll say that these neighbourhoods can best be characterised as ghettoes, places where lots of people with refugee backgrounds (first or second, or even third generation) live and where the landlord knowingly exploits these peoples’s lack of proficiency in the Swedish language to make them accept living conditions way below what anyone else deems acceptable.
What is wrong? Swedish National Defence College, or at least the department curiously named Centre for Asymmetric Threat Studies, has been investigating the phenomenon (warning: link goes to PDF document, in Swedish) of what they call “radicalisation” and yet don’t seem to be able to reach any decisive conclusions.
Ever since I read the report month ago I’ve had problems deciding what to think of it. The academic world dismisses it, mainly based on bad research ethics on behalf of the researchers. Among other things they destroyed their source material, but they also based their conclusions mainly on interviews with third parties.
I now know what I think is the reason for my lack of determination. While the report talks about the need to break the alienation forced upon immigrants, and lists measures such as a revised national housing policy, it avoids talking about the policies leading up to this state of things.
During these last 20 years or so we have witnessed a policy heavily biased towards a favouring of the one’s already well off. This trend has been at work whether the government have been (nominally) left or right wing. The common wealth that has taken decades to accumulate, in the form of pre schools, schools, hospitals, pharmacies, roads, rail roads, and a sound social security system, has been divested, bit by bit, for ideological (right wing) or populist (left wing) reasons.
We now find ourselves in a situation were only the connected can get a job, were only the wealthy can afford higher education and a decent place to live. If you’re low income – don’t expect anything like health care or schools functioning. Don’t expect flats without severe water leakage, damaged and dangerous electrical wiring, mouldy bathrooms… The lower on the social ladder, the less the support you can expect from society.
And at the bottom of the social ladder, who do you find? Immigrants. So. What is the surprise about riots in areas where the population is almost exclusively immigrant or descended from immigrants? A lack of skills in the Swedish language, a lack of examina recognised by the Swedish system, from another culture alien to Swedish customs, a lack of contacts in the labour market, and sometimes with traumatic experiences from torture, bombings, executions of family members, systematic harassment based on sexual preferences…
Humans are a social species. If the established society fails you, you found an alternative society around you. No wonder there’s a wealth of parallel societies out there, with their own legal systems and their own social control, often at odds with the Swedish system.
The policy that has lead us to this is a conscious one. It the politicians haven’t understood the consequences of their policies, well, that’s on their conscience.
The religious zealots, the crime networks… they only take opportunity of the situation. Apprehend or outlaw these and new will emerge. Because they’re only the symptom.
The ailment is elsewhere, as is the cure.