If there is one thing that I have studied more about Sweden than the language, it is the political setup. After all, these are the people who are elected to run the country, make the laws, and govern the land. It’s vital to not only learn about the historical and cultural side of a new country, but also to understand the political system and how it operates. Many find politics a very annoying issue, but for me, it is something that is essential to survival, no matter where you live. Politics affect us in ways that we don’t understand.
When I moved to Sweden, Fredrik Reinfeldt was the Prime Minister, and I heard a lot about his party’s policies, especially his business policies, from my stepfather Thomas. We had a couple of conversations about why Reinfeldt was the right person for Sweden at the time. Back then, there was an enormous sweeping change happening across the Europe. Many countries were changing their political parties to emerge from the ashes of the financial climate that had affected so many. For the first time since the early ’70s, there was a coalition government everywhere in Europe to boost the economy back to what it once was.
I’ve had long discussions people who previously lived under a dictatorship before and then, after they moved to a new country with freedom and democracy, totally failed to manage their new freedom. Many immigrants don’t talk about their home issues outside of the family, since it’s considered taboo to bring up family issues outside your home. This means disrespect to the family if someone does that. Thus, many problems that happen in these families — domestic violence, child abuse — go unreported because we are afraid of losing our families, the only thing that we’re close to in the new country. My analysis has shown me that a lack of the understanding necessary for unlearning old habits — and adapting new ones that lead to respecting others and learning new ways of living — is one of the causes of so much suffering and criminality in society.
No one understands that if you don’t have an education, it can be difficult to get used to a new democracy or freedom, because much of those ideas are not well explained. I noticed that many families, for example from different countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Western Europe, encounter unexpected issues when they arrive in Sweden. Their children get new freedom, which makes them think that they have the right to do whatever they want. The parents become powerless; they have no tools for moving from a controlling parent to a loving and friendly one. I have read many stories of young people who have lost their sense of belonging in society, and had no relationship with their parents because of their lack of mutual understanding. When children grow up without understanding their boundaries and are not given tools for communicating with their parents, most of the unlucky ones end up in the hands of social workers or police because of abuse or criminality. I’ve read many stories of young immigrants whose lives have become worse after running away from home because they weren’t in control in their family and didn’t know what to do.
First all, it’s not the parents’ fault. They have been raised and controlled by dictating leadership style. In this leadership model, everyone has to follow one person, top-down. The so-called president decides for everyone and the rest follow orders. Under the president, you have ministers who decide for everyone under them. This model continues until you arrive at the farmer who has no rights, who just listens and follows others.
When it comes to the household it’s usually the father who commands the house. Under the father, you have his wife, after the wife you have the oldest … until the little one, who has no voice. The only person they can command is the cat. When the family arrives in a democratic state, the first thing they all get is freedom: the wife, the kids, the cat…everyone gets freedom! So who decides at home? Think about that: everyone is excited to be free and to do things the way they want, because they are allowed to. Everyone decides by and for themselves.
When the father notices that he has lost control over the family and that his ideal family has been lost, he becomes powerless. When he tries to use his old methods of voice and force to get control, the rest of the family reminds him that they’re in Sweden and that he doesn’t have a right to dictate anything. If he doesn’t back down, he may risk being deported or arrested by the police. So problems start, and children grow up without knowing the real meaning of democracy; for them, it’s all about deciding what they want and doing what they want wherever they want it done. The parents don’t know, either, what living in freedom is and should be. Instead of enjoying freedom and democracy, they become a problem for the family. Children grow apart from their family, and parents become angry or resentful about the division that has been created by this new life. There’s no understanding of respect, compromise, boundaries, or their responsibility towards others and society. Life becomes just about THEM and US.
You can say that all people have choice, but not everyone has it. Without knowledge, education, language, money, or a social network, you become a victim of light oppression. Under so much pressure from all corners, without hope or faith or energy, you go out and seek help. Or you may not even know that there is such help, and just give up because the threats are so serious and the pressure of the family is so heavy.
You’ve probably heard about the story of the riots in Rinkeby: many young immigrants burning cars and houses. Some people were asking, “Where were their parents? Why didn’t they stop them?” Of course, the problem isn’t their parents. The problem is that the parents have no control over their children, and the children are expressing their freedom of doing what they want, because they have never learned or been taught what living in a free land means.
A free land doesn’t mean that you are actually free to do whatever you want, just because it is a free land. To be able to get to the root of the problem, Swedish society has to stop assuming that the work is done just because someone has a resident permit or job. People are different; we need to be educated and given some tools to help us to take next step in life, especially when we’re excluded from others. I have never seen any kind of support or education for parents on how to communicate with their children when they arrive in Sweden. From my own experience as a parent living in Sweden, the communication or relationship a Swedish parent has with their children is totally different from how an immigrant parent would have in their home country.