A guy in Kenya once said to me:
"Over there in Sweden, everybody must be happy all the time!", and I didn't know whether to laugh or cry... How perplexed he looked when I told him about our suicide rates*, and about how many of us that are stressed out or more or less depressed!
"Why?!", he asked. But how should I know. I had never seen such happy and peaceful people before I came to this poor land, so I guess I had assumed that unhappiness was normal...!
But why? Why aren't we happy all the time? I don't know. But I'm now going to present a theory to you: I think it could have something to do with living inside a small bubble of peace and harmony, and outside that bubble is a cold, stormy ocean, where people perish in anguish, and we know it. And no decent human being can live with that knowledge, without it disturbing your peace of mind!
Moreover, the evil outside has tentacles into the bubble, so you can never forget! Every now and again we learn that the clothes we are wearing were sown by children who suffered in appalling conditions. That the cotton was sprayed with poison, which killed some people in India. The bananas claimed lives in Nicaragua. On TV we see commercial adds with smiling brown children being saved by the rich people's offerings. Saved from death and horrendous suffering, we must presume. And then there are refugees. More and more refugees come from the Land Outside and want in, inside our bubble, away from the anguish. But we send them back. Then they kill themselves, they faint, they collapse, the children fall into coma. But we have to, because we would never manage to take in everybody who wants to! The ocean of anguish is so huge, and our bubble so small. It would burst. And we would all plummet into the ocean.
I believe that much in our society can be derived from this world view, and from the fear born from it. The fear that your bubble will burst. Why don't we buy more fairtrade for example? Aren't we the world's wealthiest population, our consumption setting new records every year, it's not as if we can't afford it! But a fairtrade label guarantees that the laborers were fairly paid, a statement that presupposes that they were NOT fairly paid for all the other products that we buy. To shop fairtrade thus entails an acknowledgement of the Land Outside, the Ocean of Anguish, and our peace of mind depends on that we never think about this.
Or like this new party, the Swedendemocrats, say: "We have to take care of our own problems first! It's not right to the people who come here to let them in, when we are not able to offer them the service they deserve, since we have such severe economic problems ourselves!". Right. Poor us. Poor wealthiest population in the world for having such a shortage!... But they don't dare to look at it that way, don't dare to see how much, much better off we are than the refugees, because they are terrified that the bubble will burst! And that we'll end up like them!
Charity galas. The sale of indulgences. The purchase of some clean conscience for a small percent of your income, but as I wrote in Every note is a vote, we simultaneously uphold the suffering with the other 99 percent.
The worst thing is that we're wrong. The world view is incorrect. We SHOULD pity ourselves, the stressed out, unhappy and scared ones. The happy people are found in the Land Outside, among the poor ones. They suffer too, sure they do, but they are not as unhappy as we are. And so it is sad that we must uphold this unfair world order, through our consumption and our politics, when in fact we could solve everything, their problems and ours, by just shopping fairtrade! And in the meantime... In the meantime we ought to open up our borders. With this I mean: Free immigration. And nothing less.
*When I wrote the Swedish original of this text, Africa largely lacked suicide data, and those countries that had been mapped were in the lowest category. I now see that almost all countries have been mapped, and that Kenya is actually worse than Sweden in that respect!... They are in the highest category, while Sweden is in the second highest. I however don't wish to change my argument at this point, since I've understood that in Kenya people kill themselves out of economic despair rather than unhappiness. So.