In my country – Sweden – the expression “white trash” is now being commonly used by some, to label people who are perceived to be poor, unemployed, uneducated and morally challenged.
I’m sure some people who don’t know me might consider me to be “white trash” since I’ve been unemployed for a long time and have a poor financial situation.
To me it seems that the need for some people to look down on others as a way to distance themselves is born out of fear in a society where inequality is growing and more and more people risk falling through the widening cracks in the social safety net due to unemployment and/or illness.
This trend worries me a lot but I’m not sure it can be turned around before it gets even worse.
Some things I see in the world around me that I don’t understand.
Heard some teenage boys talking on the bus while I was going to the office this morning. They were bragging about not having done all the schoolwork they were supposed to and still getting grades for it because the teacher had trusted them to have done it all. To me that’s nothing to brag about. I’d be ashamed, but the times they are a-changing it seems .
I thought of some recent news I had read about the state of the Swedish education system. Students are given higher grades on average but they are learning less. This is a problem. The grades are no longer reflecting what you have actually learned but rather how popular the school is that you have attended. All of this has happened after the reformation of the education system in Sweden that made it possible for students to freely choose which school to enroll in and not automatically be placed in the one closest to where they live.
This leads to a competition between schools in order to attract as many students as possible because each student means more income for the school in the form of government funding, i.e. tax money. One way to compete is to promise high grades. It also means that those students who don’t make a choice of school have to make do with schools that have fewer resources and where most students would in fact benefit from more resources in order to get the education they need. At those schools grades are lower on average but students are still learning less.
Also, I’m wondering if the arrival of all this new information technology is somewhat to blame for the state of education. It seems owning and using a “smartphone” in some cases somehow translates into a “dumb user”.
“I have all the knowledge in the world at my fingertips, so why bother to learn any of it, as in load it into my brain, when all I need to do is punch in a web link and look up a page whenever I need to know something.” Well, how will you know if the information you find is accurate if you have not learned enough to be able to evaluate it?
I believe there are no short cuts to learning even if many seems to be looking for all kinds of ways to avoid doing the hard work in order to reach the result. Of course sitting down, reading page after page of boring textbooks is a pain sometimes but I think it’s still the way to learning. Not the only way but a road that still has to be travelled in order to reach the final destination.
Another thing, not related to the above, but still maybe a sign of the times. In a Swedish online newspaper today I read about a homeless guy in Texas who had found some money some time ago and now been granted the right to keep them since no other person had been found to claim them. The comments online to this news from people in Sweden were sad to read. Many were not able to simply rejoice in a fellow human beings good fortune. Instead there were many jealous and degrading comments made.
Yes, I know. this isn’t the funny update I promised yesterday. I’m so sorry to disappoint you. It won’t happen again.
Earlier this week, police fired more than 10 shots through the window of a gym in Stockholm while trying to arrest three armed robbers who had recently held up a goldsmith’s store. Luckily nobody in the gym was injured by the shots but it proved to me that going to the gym can sometimes be hazardous to one’s health.
The Swedish Prime Minister and his wife are separating. Being in politics and in charge of a whole nation can obviously put a strain on a marriage. The interesting aspect of this news item is that every media commentator seems to feel a need to comment on this, if only to state that they hope everyone else will not comment or discuss it.
MoonieZ is trying to stop worrying and learn to love the bomb. As this is a very difficult task MoonieZ can’t promise any fast results.
Today I woke up from a dream. I don’t know what it was about but it was probably nice. As I got out of bed I felt a pain in my body. I feel that pain almost every minute I’m awake lately. No matter if I walk, stand, sit. Only when I lay down to sleep does it stop, or perhaps I just don’t notice while I sleep. Anyway I know I must go see a doctor about but I haven’t found the courage yet. I always hope pain will go away eventually. This pain hasn’t.
Seems the car isn’t ready to be used yet. I had hoped to have it back this week but now I don’t know. I only know I really miss driving. A lot.
The last bus ride home this afternoon was murder. Half the bus was full of teenagers. They were very loud and had exactly no manners. If I wasn’t such a coward I would have told them to sit down and shut up but being the mild-mannered forest creature I am, I didn’t. Sometimes I wish I was tough but I’m not.
Anyway, the other bus rides were ok. Much better than the crowded commuter trains in the morning. This morning they were delayed again. I wonder if they’ll run at all when winter comes for real with snow and ice. Last winter there were a lot of problems with the trains. But last winter I didn’t have to go anywhere. And I had the car to drive.
This winter I will have to go to the office five days a week. It will be fun. Maybe not.
Today the government presented next years budget. Not much they had to offer for the unemployed and the poor. But a tax cut for restaurant meals instead. Supposed to be good to create some more jobs but I doubt it. And meals won’t be cheaper. The restaurant owners will earn a bit more money. That’s all.
I’ve soon been out of work for five years with a 6 month employment in 2008 as the only break from poverty and unemployment. Before this unemployment I had my leg problems that lasted more than a year. So life’s been good.
Not that I haven’t tried. I keep trying. I do what I can but the times are tough and I’m looking for a lover who’ll come on in and cover me… No, I’m not much of a bargain. Actually I’m not looking anymore. That time has passed. I’ll have to be happy with the way things are.
This sounds so depressing I think I need to stop writing. Nobody likes bad news and my endless whining.
Thinking back to April 2008. That’s when I last had a real job. It had just started. I thought it would last. It didn’t. After 6 months it was over. Trying to find a new one after that has proved to be difficult. Hundreds of applications, phone calls, meetings and a few interviews later I am still without a job. My economy is ruined. I can only afford to stay alive and pay my rent. There’s no room for anything except very basic stuff. I am only a small step above rock bottom. A small step away from sleeping on the sidewalk. True, in Sweden there is a “safety net” or at least there used to be. The current government hasn’t made caring for the poor into a priority. Rather the opposite.
Anyway my idea was not to go off on a rant this Good Friday but I can’t help it sometimes. Had been reading about some political issues and so my post started where my thoughts happened to be.
The weather is great today. I have enjoyed my day off from the office. Will probably start to work on the writing project later on. If I can find the energy. There’s nothing I’d like more than to have that writing done so that I can start developing new ideas and move forward. There are projects I am eager to start working on but can’t as long as the writing isn’t done.
Sorry, I keep repeating myself. The idea was to write something new and interesting today but it seems it didn’t happen.
Anyway I don’t feel too depressed. I feel rather good about life. As it can’t get much worse and there are some things to be happy for. Some friends too.
I know those words in my headline are quoted from the lyrics to Bruce Springsteen‘s songJackson Cage. After finishing the post below I happened to think of this song and those words in particular. To me the song is about being or feeling trapped in a life with no or few options and to not feel very good about that life while it still remains all you’ve got. This I relate to my own life where I often feel that I am my own worst enemy.
Now I was going to write this in order to let the cool of the night take the edge off the heat in my previous post. So I’ll just do that then.
My Saturday started early.
I never went to sleep on Friday night. Although I’m certain I must have slept at some point during the night. However I woke up to take part in a fun time in a chatroom of a friend. This lasted all through the morning and into the afternoon of my Saturday. I felt very happy to be there as I always do.
After it finished I felt to high on the good times I’d had to be able to do much of anything but I managed to get some chores done.
Well, only managed to drive my mother to the graveyard in order to light a candle at my father’s grave. The usual weekend routine. Then on to the grocery store for some food and back home for some relaxing, tweeting and daydreaming until the night.
Oh, I almost forgot I had a rather good dinner on Saturday. Steamed cod fillet, creamy fish sauce, jasmine rice and some fresh tomatoes on the side. Delicious!
At night I ought to have slept but I didn’t go to bed. Instead I seem to have fallen asleep in my chair at times while listening to music and even having my webcam on. Very strange. However at one point I did go to bed for a nap. Woke up again feeling cold and went back to my chair in front of the screen. Sat there until dawn and then some.
Took a break when my uncle came by to visit. Took another break when it was time for dinner. Frozen TV dinner heated by microwave. Tasted like one can expect from such a dish. Not much but at least it was warm. Also had one half of an avocado. That was more to my taste.
Spent the rest of the evening watching my screen until I finally couldn’t hold my eyes open and decided to sleep around 6pm. Slept without dreaming to around 9 pm. Got up, got back to my chair and here I am now. Writing blog posts, watching tweets and writing a few. Thinking I should not be so caught up by my own small problems when another dictatorship is about to fall and history is being written, but still can’t help it.
My surface might not reveal it but underneath there are lots of conflicting emotions running around. I feel weak trying to make sense of this turmoil. I might not even try at all.
What I’ll do the rest of tonight I don’t know yet but I’m sure time will tell.
I remember the early February days back in 1986. Last half of the last year of highschool had just begun. Walking home from the bus station after having gone through another day of school. Probably thinking of some movie I had seen – or some book I was reading. Hearing the sound of some song in my head. Softly singing the words to myself. Might have been some tune off of Jackson Browne‘s album Lives In The Balance but it may also have been one from Steve Winwood, John Mellencamp or Bruce Springsteen. The full catastrophe of our prime minister being shot dead in the street while on his way home from a cinema had yet to hit the nation. Things were pretty good and as normal as normal can be.
Why do I think of this now ? I was watching music video clips on YouTube today and suddenly had some flashbacks from when I first heard the songs.
In those days I was often thinking of some story to write. Settings, characters and themes, bits and pieces of dialogue were floating through my mind while I walked the 2ooo meters back home. Also I was most likely thinking of a certain blonde girl in my class whom I happened to have a big crush on at the time. I had just begun to communicate with her through old-school hand-written letters sent by postal mail. That’s what people did back then. They actually sat down with a pen and paper and wrote letters, folded the paper, put it in an envelope and mailed it. Then they waited a few days for the receiver to read and respond to the letter. It wasn’t all instant like today’s email, chat, twitter and Facebook. Anyway, I had probably just gotten a letter or just sent one and had to think about what would happen next or what the response ought to be. It would still be more than a month before I would get the letter that would shatter my hopes and dreams but for the time being I was happy to have the connection I had.
What else was I thinking about? Probably politics. I had just recently begun to take an interest in political matters and my freshly formed and rather shallow political views were decidedly left-wing. That was one reason why I bought Jackson Browne’s album. Also I had begun to pick up on some political currents in the music of Springsteen and Mellencamp.
Sweden back in those days had a political climate dominated by the ruling Social Democratic Party (Arbetarepartiet Socialdemokraterna) and the mood of the society has since been described as rather dull and bland. However , I liked living in Sweden back in those days. Unemployment was almost zero, taxes were high but the standard of living was also at the absolute top among the nations of the world. Things worked back then. Life was safe and secure and you didn’t have to worry as much as today. Sure there were only two channels of national public service television available and not too many radio channels. But it worked. It was stable. The future looked bright as a job would not be too hard to find once school was finished.
While being a rather dull and bland society, Sweden was and is heavily influenced by American popular culture. To the degree that some critics were saying even back then that Sweden ought to be the 51st state of the United States of America.
We have most of the fast-food franchises (not as many then as there are today), are influenced by American cuisine, we listen to American music, read American books and magazines, follow American sports, watch American TV-shows and of course lots of American movies. We wear clothes influenced by American fashion and we are generally skilled at speaking English.
Being a teenager in Sweden was hence not much different from being a teenager in the United States. At least that was what many of us believed since not many had actually visited the United States or had any real knowledge of what it actually is like to live in the American society. Our image of American life was formed by TV, music and movies and while not entirely false it was by no means realistic. It was a dream or perhaps a kind of illusion we all willingly indulged in. Even those of us who were opposed to the American influence upon the rest of the world.
I’m not sure where I am going with this post so I might aswell end it before I digress further. At least it is a sort of glimpse of a time long gone. Perhaps. Maybe only a lot of words.