Friday, March 30, 2007

”Now there’s a red light blinking there, has it been all the time?”

Lately I've been following the "Chairman Persson" documentary on swedish television. For those of you unaware of the situation, Göran Persson was first a high-ranking official in the social democrat administration, later became minister of finances and finally sat as party-leader and prime minister for some eleven years. Already at the beginning of that story, in particular one reporter, Erik Fichtelius, got his background stories much through Persson and managed to get an agreement to continue that kind of semi-confidential interviews throughout Persson's career. Among other conditions, the interviews were made with the agreement that they would not be released in full until Persson stepped down. No one realized then it would be that many years...

Last week SVT released the material in four hour-long episodes, plus at least as much material only online, plus that the entire unedited material will be available for scholarly analysis. Keep any thoughts you want about the social democrats and Göran Persson, but the amount of interesting thoughts (on politics, primarily), not to mention the amount of insane blunders anyone would let out in front of the camera in such long time is absolutely amazing.

It makes me a bit nostalgic and proud to be a swede when I see a project like this made. The programs had some 1.5 million viewers, and I feel like blurting out "And me!", and it was important enough to watch it online from Estonia! Debate afterward has been thin at best though, reminds me of the media-judgments in the sulphur-reaking monologue of Carl-Johan Vallgren. Documentaries and debate- and cultur-pages may be hard to digest, but I still instinctively resist the lazy approach some people have that "what would the world care about this?". I think that at least taking some part in what's going on in the world around you is essential to expanding your understanding and intelligence. If a reasonably mature arena for public debate is not maintained a society may face total political bankruptcy and citizen participation goes extinct. If nothing else, as a necessary basis to enable action it is necessary, or as Doktor Kosmos so wisely put it "Actually what you say matters, not only what you do".

One recent topic of public debate here in Estonia has been that the Estonian Lutheran Church decided to do a Church of Nigeria (quote: ”our commitment to the total rejection of the evil of homosexuality which is a perversion of human dignity and encourages the National Assembly to ratify the Bill prohibiting the legality of homosexuality”) and announced some kind of objection to that Church of Sweden has decided to perform same-sex unions. I wish I could read that article but anyhow try follow the debate closely, the schism is a fascinating one.

What seems to be the case is that Church of Estonia fail to, or refuse to see the decisions Church of Sweden had to make. Facing an increasingly secular society where religious fundamentalists gather in more charismatic movements, the "state church" saw their clientele fleeing, especially if they would take the conservative path in issues like that of sexuality. Especially the former arch-bishop K.G. Hammar was one very strange but successful bird in reforming the swedish church, with statements such that he considers the biblical texts on virgin birth "poetic" and when supporting the Ecce Homo exhibition.

Now the government were releasing their groundwork on reforming marriage law, and Church of Sweden did essentially all they could, stated not only that they are willing to accept same-sex marriage, but that they support equal rights for all, especially for such a persecuted group as homosexuals. Essentially they would have lost their right to register any civil unions otherwise. Still, they guarded their integrity and think the tradition-laden word "marriage" should be kept out of civil unions law altogether. Fair enough, in my opinion. Let them those who want remain bigots, and all others marry!

PS. Work here in Estonia has granted me some fascinating insight into the true story and people behind Skype. So go check out Bluemoon and compare their people list with that of Skype (the page I meant to find was here), as well as the great coverage back in the day by CNN

Update 2008-01-11: The international version "A Prime Minister - Ten Years Behind the Scenes" was released a while back, so now anyone inclined and fluent enough in English can get an insight into our dear Swedish social democracy lunacy. If you don't want the web fluff you can simply open in your favourite media player, or for you advanced geeks (i.e. Me) dump the stream from mms://

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