torsdag, september 30, 2010


子日: 「學而不思則罔,思而不學則殆。」
(Learning without thought is labor lost, thought without learning is perilous.)
- Confucius

"Denken ohne Erfahrung ist leer, Erfahrung ohne Denken ist blind."
(Theory without experience is mere intellectual play, experience without theory is blind.)
- Immanuel Kant

söndag, september 26, 2010

Välfärdens personligheter

Professor Karl Gunnar Myrdal (1898-1987) brukade brottas med samhällsvetenskapens "objektivitetsproblem" och således skulle sägas vilja ta in olika icke-ekonomiska orsakssamband i sin ekonomiska analys. Tänk på ideologisk debatt om välfärden i vår tid. Visst är god ekonomi en förutsättning för att säkra god välfärd, å andra sidan anses välfärden i sig skapa arbete och hjälpa ekonomin åt rätt håll. Om frågan ställs så här: "varför gavs väljarna uppfattningen att högerblocket skulle kunna, i dagens läge, förvalta välfärdssaten bättre?" Eller, i stort sett, "har folkviljan varit missförstådd under de senaste åren i Sverige?" Jag låtsas inte vara snabb med bra svar, men tycker dock att, för att tillföra den aktuella diskussionen kring välfärdspolitiken riktiga perspektiv, kan man sannerligen dra nytta av en insiktsfull historieskrivning i den här boken:

Är svensken människa? Gemenskap och oberoende i det moderna Sverige

fredag, september 10, 2010

Encounter with "Alfred Nobel"

As paradoxical as it may sound, reading a biography of Alfred Nobel, perhaps the most famous Swede to the outside world, does not immediately conduce to conjuring up an image of his being particularly Swedish in our minds. Nobel was undoubtedly an internationalist. Never married, and childless, he spent a large part of his life abroad, in Russia, France, and Italy mostly. Indeed the Prize bearing his name founded in his last testament symbolized the international ideals of this man. Since these ideals transcend all national borders, for a long time I've been wondering how they were received in his native land. When, this summer, I visited the mansion of Björkborn in Sweden where Nobel lived during his final years, I finally got the chance to present the question to our guide at Nobel's Swedish home.

-"Not too well, I must say."

After he stunned me by suddenly standing up from the dinner table when the doorkeeper just welcomed me in (I initially thought this guide was a wax figure as he appeared almost a Nobel look-alike), his answer came as a second surprise. "At first, the King, the Royal Academy, as well as Karolinska Institute, all hesitated." They did not want to have anything to do with the Nobel Prize; but gradually, taking a long-term view, they started to realize the instituted prize, the first truly international Prize, would eventually prove to be a pride for this country. Or, in my unqualified thoughts, precisely because it's so international, it becomes very Swedish.

Although, an interesting historical anecdote may serve as a counter note when ideals meet the reality. There arose a dispute between Sweden and France shortly after Nobel's death with regard to executing Nobel's testament. Since Nobel often visited his Paris home towards the end of his life, the French government deemed France as Nobel's home land. The French court overseeing the case differed and opined that where the man had his horses should his home be located. It turned out that Nobel had at the time several Russian stallions in his Björkborn mansion, so this place was decisive for legally ratifying Nobel's last will in Sweden and subsequently bringing his grand vision to fruition.

Watch the man himself narrating the story:

A virtual tour of Björkborns herrgård -

Favorite fish soup

In Swedish, using the letter W instead of V is considered as an archaism. However, some old names, yet still commonly used today, contain just the letter W instead of V, suggesting their Germanic linguistic origins. For instance, in probably the best-preserved Swedish medieval town, Visby of Gotland, take a promenade along the cobblestone-covered streets, you might spot "Hotel Wisby", "Wisby cheese shop", etc. That's hardly surprising given the city's past link to the German Hanseatic League in history. Another example: Wasa flatbread originally was one particular product called Vasaknäcke, but on the package cover it's marketed as "Wasa"; the company had been even renamed to Wasabröd AB. Anyway, it's Wasa Knäckebröd (in Sweden) or Wasa Knaeckebrot (in Germany), not that much different in spelling.

Not meant as a serious comparison of version Swedish versus version German, fish soup, I imagine, might offer an interesting perspective. In the following photo, can you guess which is Swedish made fish soup, which is German made? :)

Soutenons les Roms

The Gypsies... sorry for my rant.. silence is killing me. There's something really insidious about the way how the Gypsies have been treated throughout history. They perished in the German Nazi concentration camps because they were considered as sub-human - extermination was the way to force them out of sight for good. What do we hear about the Gypsies nowadays if they are talked about at all in the media? I'm not pretending I'm knowledgeable enough about those big social issues. But still.. Gypsies are a special case considering that they never have had their own country; few interest groups would help defend their rights and plead their cause if they were mistreated in the host country. You can't just tell them "go back to India" and expect their wandering caravans will head for the East. When I visited one local Roma family, guess what, I saw they settled down in a modern apartment, just like you and me. The younger son studies industrial engineering at KTH while the older son already works as a self-employed IT consultant. So no, they are not all thieves and beggars, not even accordion and violin players bent on entertaining you for an unseemly purpose.

All of us who hate to see the Gypsies are being kicked around like a football, please, Soutenons les Roms !