“You must be stupid!”
- the young man yelled to my friend Sokrates.
The symptom of stupidity was to help out with Järvaveckan, a week when all major Swedish politicians visit what Donald Trump, Victor Orban and others believe to be a Swedish “No Go Zone” northwest of Stockholm. It’s a quickly growing and completely wonderful non-profit event that makes a huge effort to include a group of people who feel marginalized, and people like Sokrates make it possible by working for free.
This idealism is one of the finest things about Sweden, Scandinavia and, northern Europe. It is also a key to understanding Swedish society.
Swedish sports clubs have around 650 000 coaches who work for free. To pay them a salary of 2000 euro a month would cost some 20 billion euro a year. That would not be possible without a major rethinking of Swedish society. Sokrates and 650 000 other Swedes know that, and we keep on putting these hours in because we believe in the cause and we feel we can make a difference.
But in the marginalized areas this is not at all as common. That’s hardly surprising. Non-profit work is a characteristic of modern and post-modern societies such as northern Europe, but most of our immigrants come from parts of the world where people work to feed their families. Look at the values map below. This is inevitable. No matter where in the world you come from, you are going to be more “survival oriented” than most Swedes.
We work less than the Germans, the Koreans, the Chinese and the Americans, but we spend more of our leisure on things like Järvaveckan, that makes Sweden a better place.