For the Curious

This journal is meant, simply, to keep me sane.

I live in Sweden, a country hailed by the United Nations as a utopia, and deemed by the Reporters Without Borders as well as the Economist as the most free country on the planet. College is free, and health care is heavily subsidized. The air is fairly clean, the public transportation arrives mostly on time, and should I ever need to, I can always receive the benefit of generous government entitlement programs. In Sweden, we work together as a collective with few hierarchies, we dislike open conflicts, and we do our best to reach consensus.

Despite this, I feel as though I’m trapped and slowly suffocating. Despite fitting in with plenty of friends, a great education, and success at work, I can’t help but grow more and more frustrated with the country I live in. To quote Morpheus in the cyberpunk movie the Matrix:

Let me tell you why you’re here. You’re here because you know something. What you know you can’t explain, but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life. That there’s something wrong with the world, you don’t know what it is, but it’s there. Like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad.

In a way, this is the perfect representation of how many of my friends and I feel. Each of us has “woken up” from the safe confines of Swedish conformity and felt that something is so very wrong. How we woke up differed. Some of us were recommended Atlas Shrugged by on-line friends (a novel unheard of in Sweden), or found the writings of John Locke, John Stuart Mill, Milton Friedman. Others were shown by our parents or relatives. Far more of us discovered it on our own through experiences at work, at school, or while travelling abroad. We are a silent conspiracy hiding at the heart of socialist paradise.

Though I’ve always felt that something was wrong, and always felt that “splinter in my mind, driving me mad”, I couldn’t even begin to articulate it until two events changed my life. The first was time spent in the United States, a country alternately reviled, mocked and copied in Sweden (and the rest of the Sleeping World). The second was reading Atlas Shrugged a few years ago.

I’ve slowly come to realize that I’m not the one at fault, the one who is wrong for thinking that 300 million shouldn’t be spent on advertisements telling fathers to take out more government-funded paternity leave. And that a year of psychological care, coupled with broadband Internet, porn channels, and weekends off with paid leave to local bars isn’t a just punishment for rape. Or that loudly proclaiming to be “in need” or “offended” doesn’t qualify you as a better person deserving more than everyone else.

I can hardly open a newspaper or turn on government-run television without cringing anymore as more propaganda is poured down my throat from bleached smiles and “witty” pens. I have to bite my tongue to keep myself calm when yet another vapid torrent of politically correct lies is regurgitated around the coffee table at work or when political ideology is spouted as taken-for-granted facts at the group projects at the university or when the surest way to a top grade is to write a paper on the need for collective effort and sacrifice to expand the welfare state while reducing carbon emissions. Ten thousand lies are agreed upon daily by ten million people in a shared psychosis, all desperate to be a part of the collective.

In order to fit in, succeed, and avoid the whispers and gossip and biting comments, in Sweden you bow your head, you mumble how offended you are, and you conform. You, too, chant the ten thousand lies and your fellow students, professors, and co-workers nod their heads in collective agreement. And bit by bit, it is driving me insane.

And so, until I finish up my final degree, secure the right assignment, find a job across the ocean and finally escape Perdition, this is where I can pour out my thoughts to myself or to no one in particular. This is my place to vent without anyone knowing these words are my thoughts and my doubts, my fears and my frustrations.