Saturday, 24 October 2020


Don't take the page title seriously! Winter is not coming yet, not today at least. Rather, I am at present immersed in a wonderland of medieval type fairytales, enshrined in some forty shiny silver disks that I have to insert into a black box in order to be completely captivated for hours on end. The name of this wonderland is called WESTEROS, and the story is about a multitude of strange but intriguing figures playing GAMES about a THRONE. 'Nough said about it; you know what I am talking about. 

I am writing this on the last official day of Summer, this 24 October 2020, in the eighth month of the plague. We have had a pleasant Summer climate this year and mild weather has followed us throughout September and a great part of October. Only just a week ago, temperatures have been falling, but they are, in Stockholm, still comfortably above zero (Celsius), even during the nights. Why am I still calling it Summer? Well, we are yet abiding by Summer Time, changing to Winter Time only at 3am tomorrow! 

The mild weather lasting until a week ago was ended by a strong battle between cool air from the North and mild/wet air from the East. Views from my balcony started to get interesting again. So, out I stormed with my camera, to benefit from the atmospheric unrest thus created. I trust you agree with me that it was worth my while. 

Now, let me come to what really causes me to write this blog post. Day before yesterday, a quite unexpected announcement reached us from television. At the public broadcasting news, the Swedish Public Health Authority, represented by its Chief Epidemiologist, the tight lipped Anders Tegnell, pronounced that it was time to ease the Corona restrictions on us old-timers. As of beginning of November, we would be allowed to relax and to socialise again with our children and grand children; we may even start to hug them again. Under our own responsibility of course, and making sure that we understand and take into account all the risks arising with such activities. 

I was a bit confused by this message. In particular, since it was accompanied by strong warnings. The plague is not over yet and everyone, even us old-timers, are being advised to do as always recommended: (1) keeping social distance; (2) washing our hands; and (3) staying self-quarantined at home at the least sign of a cold. Furthermore, statistics show that the plague is still alive and kicking, with the number of infected rising and hospitals in some regions already getting crowded.

How come, I asked myself, that many an old-timer expressed stark relief at Tegnell's announcement, when I myself did not see any difference in the restrictions imposed on us elderly. There are some restrictions of course, mainly that crowds are limited to 50 people, visits to nursing homes are not allowed and restaurants and bars have to obey strict rules of distancing. None of them should be of concern to people like me, that is, people older than 70, living alone in their apartments. I have always respected the public recommendations, finding them sound advice that I gladly follow. So why did Tegnell announce a change in restrictions for elderly that, in fact, did not exist in the first place?

Having pondered this issue for a while, I now think that I have the answer. It lies in the fact that I myself, as Austrian born, do not see any marked distinction between the concepts of "advice" and "recommendation". Both are non-binding statements, inviting you to make up your own mind and act accordingly. But, obviously, the native born Swedes must see a difference. How come, that advice by them is considered non-binding, but recommendation seen as a quasi-mandatory ordinance, causing them relief when it is being lifted? 

I think the reason for this can be found in the inner moral of the Swedish mind, a bit different from that of us Austrian borns. Sweden has for centuries been adorned by a State Religion, headed by the King, and with rather strict moral codes. Furthermore, religious and state power have always been strongly interlaced, with the Church acting as the prolonged arm of the executive. As an example, when I arrived in Sweden almost sixty years ago and received my residence permit, I was immediately listed in the population register managed by the Church, became a Member of the Church with obligation to pay Church taxes and obtained my social security number from the Church.

The Swedish State Church, of Lutheran leaning, has always taught its congregation that it is the responsibility of each and one of us to behave in a moral way, even if salvation would be obtained by the Grace of God. At the outset, since the Church was the prolonged arm of the State, State edicts were pronounced by the Priest at service, and abidance by the edicts seen as a moral duty. To me, it seems as if a shadow of this system, long out of practice and formally abolished twenty years ago, is still lingering in the minds of the elderly. 

To them, a recommendation issued by the State Authorities, would appear as a moral obligation to be followed, not to be neglected lightly. Thus, when the Authorities pronounce that a recommendation, which an elderly Swede could not consider to be fully relevant, would be lifted, a moral burden would be lifted from the mind as well. For me, who was born Catholic but has left religion aside already as teenager, no such moral obligation exists in my mind. So I don't see any change in binding policy and cannot, to my regret, feel any relief due to Anders Tegnell's intriguing announcement.


Eva said...

Drar Emil,
I totally agree with you! What difference does Mr Tegnell’s recent recommendation make for us old-timers as you say? I am not going to hug my children and grandchildren yet, too early to feel safe. However, I might consider doing my own shopping and skip ordering my things on mail. Can I see my friends indoor if we keep adequate distance? Well, up to now I have seen family and friends outdoor, but with a colder climate coming on, this will be made impossible unless you want to have your meal shivering with cold.
We are all waiting for the vaccine, but I fear that this waiting will be very long!
Not very optimistic but kind regards

BeachyGal said...

Greetings of the Season, EMil (Officially Fall here in the US- our clocks change on Nov 1)

Love that low angle light- such clarity! Great for photos, terrible for tennis.

Here in ANything GOes LAnd,aka USA,we are bombarded with advice from every quarter- and quarter is a bit of misnomer since these sources number in the many tens.

Some folks demonstrate a stronger will to survive and so shun all contact. Some of us follow the guidelines - mask,distance, out door meetings. My patio has gotten more use during the plague than in all the years I have lived here (14!). We cultivate "bubbles" friends whom we trust to also be careful and hence we lower our masks during cocktails or when Danute and I watch Dancing With the Stars at my house.

It seems the virus is coming back with a vengeance now so perhaps it is time to become more vigilant. But I do miss hugging my friends. So I will send you a virtual one!

Stay well and follow your own very good sense, dear friend.

Jerry Fitzpatrick He said...

Hello Emil. You have made some good observations. The virus is not going away soon and the shots won’t be available soon.
Kaiser just sent me in for a Covid test because I am going in for a Pulmonary test on Wednesday.. Kaiser is taking no chances..
The County has relaxed requirements somewhat. People can now eat at reduced numbers, go to Church, go to gyms and such.
I hope you are staying well.

Wimpissinger said...

Swedish culture and behabior of the people was characterized by the Swedish history, read the following article;

nordische Zentralregion und Entwicklung zu einer modernen Modelldemokratie

Nach der letzten Eiszeit vor 10.000 Jahren ist das Gebiet von Schweden um 1000 vor Christus mit der Wikinger-Periode in das Licht der Geschichte eingetreten. Die Waräger genannten schwedischen Wikinger haben von schwedischem Boden aus Jahrhunderte Raub- und Erkundungszüge auf den europäischen Kontinent bis an das Schwarze und Kaspische Meer unternommen. Eine dieser Gruppen namens Rus haben in Kiew die Keimzelle für Russland gelegt.

Nordeuropa schloss sich im 14. Jahrhundert zur Kalmarer Union unter dänischer Führung zusammen. 1523 verließ Schweden die Kalmarer Union und wurde mit dem berühmten König Gustav Wasa die hegemoniale Macht im Norden. Gustav Wasa. Aus dieser Dynastie hat sich Gustav II Adolf im 30jährigen Krieg zu einem der größten europäischen Herrscher auf Seiten der Protestanten durchgekämpft. Er herrscht über ein expandierendes Territorium inklusive weite Teile von Norddeutschland. Im Verlaufe vieler Kriege reduzierten sich die Hoheitsgebiete allmählich wieder auf die heutige Ausdehnung In der modernen Geschichte hat Schwede an keinem Krieg mehr teilgenommen.

Gesellschaftspolitisch setzten die Wasa-Könige auf eine Allianz mit den Bürgern, was den Einfluss des Adels schwächte. Die Kirche wurde durch den Wechsel vom Katholizismus zum Protestantismus entmachtet. Da die in Schweden freien Bauern die Majorität der Bevölkerung stellten, wurden sie im 15. Jahrhundert als 4. Stand neben Adel, Klerus und Bürgern in den Reichstag aufgenommen. Damit war der Reichstag schon in einer frühen Zeitepoche in Bezug auf die Bevölkerung breit aufgestellt. Vielleicht auf deshalb ist die Monarchie in Schweden bis heute fest verankert.

Im 20. Jahrhundert erstarke die Sozialdemokratie. Auf Grund der langen Winter und der auch klimabedingten Isolierung in den vielen Einödhöfen gab es ausreichend Zeit zu Hausbetätigungen. So entwickelte sich im „Folkshemmet“ das Gemeinschaftsgefühl und viele neue handwerkliche Technologien, die letztlich zur Entwicklung einer starken Industrie führte. Man war offen für die Einwanderung, so wie anderseits im Jahrhundert davor viele Schweden vor allem nach den USA auswanderten. Daraus entstand eine internationalisierte Gesellschaft und Wirtschaft. Die Politik wird weniger von Ideologie als von Sachzwängen beherrscht.

Schweden hat in der Flüchtlingskrise der vergangenen Jahre relativ die meisten Asylanten aufgenommen. Das Land hat die Finanzkrise 2008 mit einer geringen Verschuldung überstanden. Es hat eine überbordende und mit laufenden kleinen Währungsabwertungen finanzierte Sozialpolitik beschnitten, das Budget saniert und sogar das Pensionsproblem in Anpassung an die heutige Demographie bestmöglich gelöst. Die Bevölkerung ist im europäischen Vergleich stark durch Wertpapiere an der Wirtschaft beteiligt. Die schwedischen Regierungen haben dies stets gefördert und eine solche Politik nicht als neoliberal abgetan. Schweden verfolgt schließlich auch in der Corona-Krise einen sehr auf die Disziplin der Bevölkerung pochenden eigenen Weg.
Juni 2020

Emil Ems said...

Dear Heinz,

Thank you kindly for this acute and compact historical background to Sweden and the Swedes of today. I welcome it as a necessary complement to my own musings, which are rather eclectic and concentrate on the role of Swedish State Religion on the forming of the Swedish character. Having said this, I still maintain that State Religion has played a role in getting the Swedes to be morally obliged to do the right thing, and that what is right is being communicated by the authorities, in lack of a God's representative on Earth, with only the Bible to otherwise guide moral. Perhaps it is the agnostic in me who has a nose for this type of essences.

Anonymous said...

Hi Emil…reading your blog reminds me of the dinners you had with me and Lorenzo. Nostalgia…stay safe