Candles in the Dark

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“Is Swedish culture worth preserving?”  Several years ago, at a Nordic conference on integration policy, a Norwegian participant, Hege Storhaug, asked this question of Swedish government representative Lise Bergh.  “Yes, what is Swedish culture?” Bergh replied.  “And [by asking that] I’ve answered the question.”  As Storhaug later noted, Bergh’s reply was a perfect reflection of Swedish leaders’ contempt for and rejection of their own culture – a mentality that, Storhaug worried, might ultimately spell Sweden’s doom.

“What is Swedish culture?”  I was reminded of Bergh’s rhetoric question the other morning when I was making my way across the lobby of a hotel in Sweden.  Suddenly a double column of about a dozen teenage girls and boys, dressed in long white robes and carrying lit candles, began to process into the room, softly singing the traditional song “Santa Lucia.”  I hadn’t realized it was Saint Lucy’s Day, on which such processions by children and teenagers (formerly just girls, but now also boys) are common in Scandinavia, especially in Sweden.  Tourists all around me responded to this unfamiliar spectacle by yanking out their cameras or cell phones and snapping pictures, but since I’ve seen my share of Santa Lucia processions and was in a hurry, I rushed right past them, my mind on other things.

Not until I reached the end of the lobby did something tell me to stop and turn around.  For the next minute or so I stood there and watched as the girls and boys made their way slowly away from me and into the hotel bar and restaurant.  To my surprise, I found myself being deeply touched; it was moving to think that Swedish kids (especially boys) of that age would be willing to don long white robes and participate in something that you might well expect them to regard as corny, embarrassing, and old-fashioned.

As I stood there, I remembered Bergh’s comment at that integration conference.  Certainly, I reflected, this was one part of Swedish culture.  It was not a big thing, by any means, but it was one of the many little things that come together to make up the culture of a nation.  It should perhaps be pointed out that for Swedes, who by and large are not very religious at all, the Santa Lucia processions tend to be less an expression of faith than a cherished ritual, like putting presents under the Christmas tree.  For most of the young people in the hotel that day, I would guess, taking part in a Santa Lucia procession was not about religious belief but about embracing the customs of their people – the traditions handed down to them by their parents and grandparents.

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  • Jim

    The Swedish Government is against the Swedes .As long as they are contented with the economic security they receive from the Gov they will have no will of their own.

    Good Movie ,H G Wells, "The Time Machine" In the future the people will be fed and cared for with no worries. They have no will. But they are raised to be food for the underground dwellers.

  • tarleton

    "The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our time" is a remark attributed to British statesman Sir Edward Grey on the eve of the First World War

    Maybe this a a metaphor for the slow death of Western Civilisation ….for us conservative folks who are trying to conserve posative things from our past history it's undeniable that juda/christianity preserves and transmits many of the values, traditions and cultural heritage from the past worth preserving …it's quite a dilemma for us secular types, but politics does indeed make strange bedfellows

    • radicalconservative

      Keep that thought tarleton. I wanted to make that very point to you in discussing Christopher Hitchens. Secularists are destroyers; a cultural vacuum will be filled, and when you take down Christianity, your new masters will be Moslems and you won’t like it.

      • tarleton

        Yaaaawn …more religious hysteria and paranoia …can you tell me how 1.5 m moslems take over a country of 59 m ……that's more bogus than algores bogus predictions of global warming

    • Waldemar

      First Tarleton's: Agree, am a secularist too, but my values ARE shaped by Judeo-Christianity and am sure that's the case of everybody born here or in Europe. However, your question "how 1.5 m Moslems can take over a country of 59 m" could have been asked by Ron Paul himself. First, keep in mind that about 40,000 Bolsheviks in Sankt Petersburg took over a country of about 140 m in 1917. Second, and more importantly, Islam is a cultural poison – you seem to be a good candidate for a proud dhimmi.
      Allah have mercy on us.

  • Tin Pan Alley

    In 1941, Deanna Durbin sang "There'll Always be an England…and England shall be free…" I don't know about that.

    • tagalog

      It will be an-Geland.

  • Ageofreason

    I would surmise that a fish doesn't much notice the water in which it swims, but which is essential to its life. I made much the same comment as an analogy to a Canadian federal civil servant who commented to me that Canada has no "culture." A light actuall went on in the eyes of this ignoramus as I explained that a culture in the true sense of the word is virtually everything that makes us who we are as a people: our laws, our customs, our language, the clothing we wear, our government, our history, and so on. Among those cultural "traditions" are freedom of speech, and liberty, and our belief that they must be defended at all costs. We have no culture worth saving? That is nothing but Marxist, socialist rhetoric bought wholesale.

  • JasonPappas

    Yes, quaint folk customs are charming. And I appreciate the symbolism. However, let’s remember that the core of western civilization is the rationalism, science, and industry … and the individual freedom that underwrites those endeavors. Islam, a brutish superstition, is the anti-thesis of our greatest virtues. And it brings totalitarian oppression in its wake.

    • Tin Pan Alley

      Mr. Pappas: Good comment above; however, Ms. Durbin was more than a quaint folk custom; when Mussolini publicly asked her to intervene with FDR, to keep Americans out of the war, she refused. She also sang "God Bless America," and
      "Thanks to America," and her picture was on the wall of Anne Frank's apartment,
      in Holland where the Franks were hiding from the Nazis. Ms. Durbin was a symbol of freedom and Democracy; something we need more of from Hollywood today.

    • Lady_Dr

      Agreed, the core of western civilization is rationalism, science, and industry. However, quaint folk customs, if properly taught strengthen cultural identity and they touch the heart bringing participants and spectators alike into a greater appreciation of their history, culture, and traditional religious beliefs.

      Unfortunately, far too often adults teach and write about folk customs (St. Lucia processions, Independence Day events, it doesn't matter where or when) in a manner that ridicules them, treating them as something quaint, provencial, etc. which is exactly why so many people are disassociated from their heritage in all it's forms.

      • JasonPappas

        Excellent point, Lady_Dr. There certainly is a rule for customs and rituals for the reasons you give. Also, thanks to "Tim Pan Alley" for his comment on Ms. Durbin.

  • DR Wills

    Mere traditions expressed in form but devoid of content (meaning), are just that, meaningless. Bawer suggested that the Swedes' Santa Lucia celebration was "not about religious belief but about embracing the customs of their people". But if Bawer is correct, then those customs are nothing more than displays of empty and irrelevant symbols; and such ritualistic exercises are very easily overthrown by some more purposive (if not also aggressive) ideology. But man is by nature religious. Even atheism, so-called, is by definition a form of religious belief, seeking, as it does, to answer the great questions involving origins, existence, purpose, etc. But atheism (or secularism, if one prefers), which posits meaninglessness and purposelessness for man, is no match even for such a repressive ideology as Islam, which, at least, suggests a certain kind of order and meaning (for its adherents). Western Civilization–the product neither of Greek and Roman ideas, nor yet of "rationalism, science, and industry", but mainly of the Protestant Reformation–is long dead: for, the real Christ was slain in her streets almost as soon as He was risen, again, among us.

    • tarleton

      real christ ? what are you talking about ?

      • DR Wills

        I mean, that genuine Christianity, for the most part, within the past handful of generations passed from view among nations that formerly were Christian. It was, after all, Christian nations that used to constitute what was known as "Western Civilization". But as those nations have basically rejected their Christian heritage, respectively, the entire fabric of Western Civilization has degenerated to an unrecognizable state.

  • tagalog

    In many places, we have taught our children to be leery of and a bit embarassed by tradition. Tradition, it is taught, is connected with the "bad old days" when the culture did bad things (someday these days will be the "bad old days," one reflects).

    In earlier times, we taught children that doing things that are consistent with tradition, and performing acts that perpetuate tradition are worthy and high expressions of our citizenship and civilization, together with our solidarity as a community or as a state.

    So kids could just as easily participate in the Santa Lucia procession or Midsummer Night, or many other things that incorporate what I, as an American, can readily recognize as values of Swedish civilization, or kids could learn the traditional values of any society (including American society) just as easily as they can be embarrassed by it. It just depends on how willing teachers and the overall society are to enforce and stand by those traditions. But yes, I agree with the person who posted that the lights are going out in Europe; in America too.

    Well, we have sown the wind and we will reap the whirlwind, as one traditional book has it. When we take away the emotion that binds us together as a culture, we undermine the rule of reason and science, too, by exposing our culture to the barbarians who surround us and who will conquer us when we show weakness.

  • AntiSharia

    Europe is doomed. Especially the Scandinavian countries. They are the ones that have most completely embraced the notion of multiculturalism, and have destroyed their own culture through a purge of self loathing. They don't believe in anything as Nihilism is the main school of thought over there, and a society that doesn't believe in anything is incapable of defending itself. Islam has them by the balls, and there aren't enough people who understand this to fight back.

    • tagalog

      Reading Stieg Larsson's "Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" trilogy of mystery stories convinced me of the truth of your post.

      There are too many American writers who write about our own culture with the same kind of cynical, casual contempt, and unjustified overbroad generalizations that Larsson showed to his Scandanavian society. It's not a hopeful sign.

      • Jane Larson

        Larsson was a Nordic,Scandinavian The real evil characters in his books were Germans and Slavs ~~ the mass murderer and Nazi characters were from Germany and the gangster father was a Slavic. You might not know the difference between Europeans but they are ethnocentric like Larsson and at least with swedes like my relatives it is a us versus thm mentality like in Larsson's books with foreigners living in Sweden being the evil doers to Swedes

        • Indioviejo

          Did the Swedes support Hitler in WWII? I know they were officially neutral but they made a lot of money trading with the devil. It seems like they have never had a conscience and that there adoption of multiculturalism is but a belated attempt to find one.

          • wsk

            The Swedes played both sides. They sold raw materials and weaponry to the Allies and the Axis ( see Bofers).

        • tagalog

          What I found remarkable in Larsson's books regarding political thought in the real world was his blithe assumption that the oppression, brutalization, and rape of women is common in Swedish society, and not among the Muslims or foreigners either.

  • BS77

    It aint over til it's over….Things happen in history at the strangest times…>Europe has the ability to save itself from PC liberal multicultural madness….but it will take some prodding….England, France, Holland brought the Trojan Horse into their gates and are now moaning in regret….but they can prevail if they have the will to do so…..CHarles Martell expelled the invaders centuries ago …when Europeans finally said, "Enough!!!!"

  • aspacia

    Too many living in the West suffer from guilt regarding past misdeeds of our ancestors. Okay, it happened, fix it, and live a positive life reveling in the positives of our exceptionalism, freedoms, ability to self-examine ourselves, institutions, beliefs.

    Be thrilled that we do not reside in lands where people are tortured for thinking.

  • aspacia

    Many in Europe are starting to fight, albeit some are dangerously xenophobic and Judeophobic, Le Pen comes to mind.

  • Questions

    Sweden isn't quite finished. Not by a longshot. I've known some pretty tough Viking descendants in my time. When backed up against the wall, the Swede will fight for his homeland. Even if he's not Lutheran, he knows enough to see the Muslim as his natural enemy. It is time for Swedes to tap into their ancient inner Thor.

  • Ben

    Half acentury ago Western conservatives could see themselves the tigers seing from the mountaine the fight of totalitarian red and brown gigants.Today the left gigant has no enemy but the conservative Christian opponent. Is the fight unequal? I believe in the leftist`s fail.

    • Jane Larson

      tak from a Swedish American. My ancestors fought off the Holy Roman Empire because compared to our own culture it was tainted by arabic sexism. Vikings and pre-vikings were the least sexist people of their time and in some ways ours. We still can't vote for Mrs. Bachmann

  • LindaRivera

    Above article: In a speech at a mosque, Mona Sahlin, who at the time was Sweden’s minister of integration (and who wore a veil for the occasion), asserted that many Swedes envy immigrants – by which she plainly meant Muslim immigrants – because they have a culture and a history to bind them together, while Swedes only have “töntiga” (“cheesy”) things like Midsummer Night.

    What an incredible statement! Why would this ungrateful, unpatriotic Swede believe that the Muslim religion/culture were women are treated as inferior and defenseless non-Muslims have no human rights is superior? One could give a very long description of the Muslim religion/culture.

    The Santa Lucia procession sounds lovely!

    Western civilization, although not perfect, is beautiful!
    Justice, freedom and human rights!

    Freedom is beautiful! Long live Western civilization! LONG LIVE FREEDOM!

  • No Dhimmi

    As a person of significant Swedish extract, and I can attest that the Swedes most certainly do have their own culture. It's a ridiculous notion to contend otherwise. Swedish is its own language, Swedes have their own genetics and ancient celebrations, including pre-Christian traditions revolving around the light and sun – that's the origin of this white-robed "Santa Lucia" – SAINT LIGHT – festival.

    Swedes were essentially Vikings before they lost their warrior souls and turned into wimpy dhimmis and Islamo-apologists. There's a reason Osama bin Laden – who was in Sweden in 1971 – allegedly singled out that country for praise: Muslims in Sweden will be allowed to behave as they wish, and Swedes will support them financially. It's the perfect parasitic situation.

  • ebonystone

    So, Swedes, are you going to give up a charming tradition like the Santa Lucia processions in exchange for FGM and the carving of children's scalps on Ashura?

    Your choice, but you don't have much longer before the choice is made for you.

    p.s. I see the Dutch are giving up the public Sinter Klaas events as the result of Moslem pressure.

  • ObamaYoMoma

    “Is Swedish culture worth preserving?”

    I don't know. If you live in a secularized society that doesn't even procreate anymore is the culture worth preserving? Indeed, unless someway can be found to make Swedes start procreating again it is going to be very hard to convince them to leave behind a legacy especially if there is no one to leave it behind to.

    Hence, secularization leads to the self-destruction of cultures and that is the reason the secularization movement in America being forcibly crammed down everyone's throats by the secular left must be squashed. In fact, the secularization movement in America will eventually in time itself self-destruct simply because secular leftists don't procreate or care about leaving behind a legacy, especially one that they totally hate and despise.

  • joy52

    Our gain…