The big picture behind the small drama in Sweden

Published 04.02.2019 23:24
Updated 05.02.2019 00:07

Last week, a pregnant woman was dragged out of a Stockholm metro station by very aggressive security agents. Eye witnesses confirmed that the security agents grabbed and manhandled the woman while her little daughter cried beside her. The woman was so shocked and in pain that they had to rush her to the hospital afterward.

The metro operator said in a statement the woman was caught without a valid ticket and given a fine, which she refused to pay. She allegedly started to scream and resist. We will not know until the internal investigation is complete whether or not the woman indeed made a scene for not paying the fare. Even if this is the case, it offers a good opportunity to ask why there are people who cannot afford a metro ticket in a rich country like Sweden. Also, it is a good opportunity to question police violence in Europe. The "yellow vests" in France complain that security forces are too forceful. Many analysts believe the police violence is just aggravating the existing unrest. In many cases, peaceful demonstrations turn into street fights when police intervene.

The situations in France and Sweden are quite different, of course. In Sweden's case, there are many other disturbing details. First, trying to get on a metro train without a ticket is apparently considered a high crime in the country, considering security did not hesitate to use violence against a woman who dared to try. Perhaps Stockholm's metro operator is having financial difficulties, and they need every penny. Who knows?

People may say using public transport without paying is unfair to others who do. They may claim that a government's duty is to make people respect the law and sanction them if necessary. However, these arguments do not justify the violent treatment the pregnant woman had to endure, and the trauma her young daughter had to go through.

Another important detail about this incident is the woman's skin color. It is perhaps just a coincidence that she was black but given Europe's past record, it is hard to believe that her being black did not play a role in the incident. We, of course, do not know if a white, blond woman would have been subjected to the same treatment. If I was pregnant myself, I would go and test it with my daughter.

It is likely that the security agents' motivation was xenophobia. The guards have been suspended pending inquiry, but the problem is much bigger than the metro operator or Stockholm police. The incident once again demonstrated the mentality many Europeans have; a mentality the politicians are exploiting, trying to get more votes by polarizing the society, by provoking xenophobia and extreme nationalism.

It is very easy to play on the masses' nationalist, racist and xenophobic feelings. What is hard is to craft a plan for humanity's future, to think universally and to work for friendly relations. Instead, a growing number of European politicians are only thinking how many foreigners are in their countries, and how many others will enter in the near future. This is not exclusive to Sweden, or to Europe, of course.

The point is that it is even more concerning if even in Sweden, a country known for the liberty it offers its people, these incidents are becoming the new norm.

Sweden has always been vigilant about human and minority rights violations in other countries, but these kind of incidents are ruining the country's reputation. While good examples of democracy become rarer with every passing day, military coups or racist politicians will become more frequent. Great human dramas start with small incidents, so one must never underestimate them. No wonder Sweden currently lacks great politicians like their former Prime Minister Olof Palme – who was shot dead, by the way.

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