Folkbildarforum 2015

Simon Anholt: Foreigners aren’t aliens!

onsdag 16 december 2015

Simon Anholt: Foreigners aren’t aliens!

Simon Anholt pratade på Folkbildarforum om Good Country Index och varför politiker och medborgare behöver rikta blicken utanför landets gränser. Nu skriver han exklusivt här i bloggen om flyktingkrisen, generositet och varför Sverige behöver upprätthålla sitt goda rykte.

It was such a pleasure to speak at the Folkbildarforum in Linköping last month. I always feel when I’m in Sweden that I’m in good company.

And I’m not just saying that to be nice: I can prove it statistically. Not only does Sweden rank alongside its Nordic neighbours near the top of the Good Country Index (www.good.country) for its overall contributions to humanity and the planet, but it also has the highest proportion of internationally-minded and globally responsible citizens of any country on earth: 57 per cent, according to an analysis of the World Values Survey.

That analysis shows that Swedes, above all other nations, seem to understand that foreigners aren’t aliens: they’re human beings too, and so deserve our care, whatever passport they happen to hold.

Yet, like so many other countries today, Sweden’s sense of responsibility towards humanity is being severely tested by the current refugee crisis.

Actually, humanity is being tested by more and more international crises each year: globalisation may have supercharged our potential for progress, but it has also supercharged our problems. Little, local problems have become huge global challenges; short-term and infrequent problems have become persistent and regular; it seems that catastrophe is forever just around the corner.

In such a world, it’s not surprising if people start to wonder whether being kind and generous and open-hearted is an affordable strategy. In times like this, when it seems as if everyone around us is expending more and more effort on protecting their own interests, continuing to base our actions on a stubborn trust in human nature can feel like a increasingly lonely and vulnerable position. And there’s never any shortage of populists and nationalists who are happy to stoke up that feeling: it’s their best trick, and it never fails.

But that loneliness and vulnerability are an illusion. In a hyper-connected world, interdependence is a simple fact of life, a demonstrable logical necessity. Working with others, responding to the general shortage of trust by increasing rather than diminishing the trust one extends to others, is the only viable strategy for the zero-sum game that is human life on planet earth.

Blind trust, it goes without saying, would indeed be a risky strategy: but Sweden has long excelled in trusting with its eyes open.

This Declaration of Interdependence is one that Sweden and its neighbours have made, implicitly if not explicitly, throughout their modern history. It requires vast courage, confidence and strength of purpose: qualities that Sweden has demonstrated many times in the past.

Sweden benefits greatly from the solid reputation it has earned from this strength of purpose over the generations: thanks to that reputation, it enjoys privileged and trusted trading, diplomatic, cultural and social relationships with virtually every country on earth.

The moment Sweden’s world-view starts to microscope rather than telescope, the moment it begins to recalibrate the fine balance between responsibility toward its own citizens and responsibility towards the whole of humanity, between responsibility towards today’s voters and tomorrow’s citizens which is so emblematic of Sweden’s role in the world, that reputation will begin to leak away, because only trust creates and sustains trust. And with it, all of those privileged relationships will leak away too, along with Sweden’s self-respect, its moral leadership, its precious store of global ‘soft power’.

Without soft power, Sweden is frighteningly weak. Countries with big armies, big populations and big economies can get away with purely self-interested behaviour for a generation or two longer, since they can continue to further their interests by coercion and competition rather than collaboration and co-operation. But Sweden is not such a country and never will be.

There’s no weakness in trust and generosity: it is the greatest mark of strength a nation and a people can display in our troubled world. That world counts on Sweden to be strong.

Text av Simon Anholt. Illustration av Leo Antolini (från www.good.country)

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  • Mimmi Kylemark

    Thank you!! The wisest thing I have read in a long time.

  • monica dahlby

    I believe the parlamenthouse in Sweden is poisoned or something..I wish the people would go in there and shout for their lives and wake the drugged ministers up.Something has gone terribly wrong in their minds.I think US dollars or threats are working to well.Yankees go home.We don´t want neither you nor your wars.

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