The Kungsleden is an over 250 mile long hiking trail through Europe’s last wilderness. The trail beings north of the polar circle in the Swedish town of Abisko. There, the trail snakes southward across Swedish Lapland, where herds of reindeer and moose, and lynxes and bears get in each others’ way. The hike rewards the wanderer with breathtaking views, desolate mountain valleys, and wild streams of melting snow water that debouch into lakes and rivers. These are the veins that have provided the indigenous Laplanders, the Sami people, and their reindeer herds for thousands of years.
Rich Like a Troll
Arriving at Teusjaure, a mountain hut along the trail, positioned at the base of a waterfall poring into a massive lake, I spoke to a woman who revealed me a national taboo. To outsiders, Sweden is known as the open-border country that welcomed a great number of guest workers, asylum seekers and refugees. But resulting from years of economic depression, since the year 2000, large numbers of native Swedes have themselves left for neighboring Norway to find work as economic migrants. Every summer, tens of thousands of Swedish youths cross the border looking for jobs they think will make them “rich like a troll”. Many have emigrated permanently. The Norwegian capital of Oslo alone counts over 50,000 Swedish guest workers, over 10% over the city’s population.
What happened? In the past fifteen years, an age-old hierarchy has suddenly been turned around. For centuries, a formerly richer Sweden had been exploiting its neighbor, a sort of colony for natural resources. It had been the Norwegians who would come to Sweden looking for jobs. But from 1969 onward, things changed when Norwegians discovered large oil reserves off the coast of their country. Today, Norway has become the eighth largest oil exporter in the world. It has brought the population of barely five million inhabitants unprecedented prosperity.
In the pre-oil boom era, Norway was considered to be the poorest country in Europe, essentially a Third World country whose long winters would hold people captive between frozen fjords, cut off from the outside world. In winter, many Norwegians would experience hunger, fearing the real danger of starvation. But thanks to the oil, they now manage a national pension fund worth over $750 billion USD, the largest investment fund on the globe. In cash, every Norwegian citizen can claim a pension bonus worth $150,000 USD.
The Norwegians now wield so much money they don’t know what to do with it. And that hurts their neighbors’ feelings, because for the past few centuries, Swedes had been assured of their dominant economic and cultural role in Scandinavia. The regional power Swedes had been able to amass had become so self-evident the country didn’t even need to wage anymore wars to defend their status quo. As a consequences, like Switzerland, the country stayed neutral during World War II, allowing for German troops to march to Norway without resistance in order to control the North Sea coast.
Pride Before the Fall
In absence of undiscovered natural resources of their own, such as Norway’s North Sea oil, the Swedish economy unavoidably fell behind that of Norway. As shown in the graph above, in only the past fifteen years, Norway’s gross national product (g.n.p.) rose to twice that of Sweden. Because of its strong economic growth, Norway is currently experiencing a labor force shortage that forced them to call upon Swedish replacement workers to supplement it. After all, Swedes are a highly educated people, and their language is very similar.
Conversely, because of their newly discovered wealth, many Norwegians no longer feel like slaving away at jobs they can hire a Swede to do for them instead. The norvégien riche prefer to spend time letting of a long suppressed national pride. They enjoy rubbing it in too, now that Norway is Scandinavia’s richest country. For a change, Swedes can come and do their dirty work. For example, a popular Norwegian clothing brand is called Anti Sweden. Popular musicians depict Swedish guest workers as ‘effete drunks’. In response, other Norwegian artists produced a documentary explaining that “Swedes are people” too. (It is striking that white people of different denominations can freely discriminate each other without having to fear legal action.)
A Moral Superpower?
For their historic arrogance, the now ‘second rate’ Swedes have been dealt quite a kick in the crotch. The loss of status hurts, but precisely this loss offers an explanation for the excessively ‘progressive’ politics the country has chosen to pursue. What Swedes could not acquire with black gold, they solved with black people. While Norway was busy drilling for oil riches, Sweden tapped into an endless stream of cheap economic migrants, mostly poor and socially dependent people from Islamic countries. Sweden has found in mass immigration a means to turn its receding economic tide.
That point of view shines a different light on the land of IKEA and meatballs. To the outside world, Swedes traditionally have marketed themselves as a moral superpower. Supposedly driven by nothing but Christian altruism, Swedes have transformed their country into a global refugee camp, only to accommodate floods of strangers in need of a better life. But in reality, migrants coming to Sweden are being ruthlessly exploited, just as was once the case with the Norwegians. Asylum seekers who fall for the promise of a house, a car and perhaps a natural blonde wife will soon find themselves chiseling iron ore in the northern city of Kiruna. At one time, the same Kiruna mine had seen enslaved Laplanders doing menial labor. Today, the modern slaves are African, Asian and Middle-Eastern ‘refugees’. In the meantime, native Swedes have appropriated better paying Norwegian jobs to enrich themselves.
The Decline of the West
This Scandinavian microcosm mimics what we can also see happening at a larger scale between Eastern and Western Europe. Like Norway, Western-European countries have successfully enriched themselves by tapping into new global markets, cranking up globalism while Eastern-European, Middle-Eastern and African migrants have been invited to donate their labor to Western industries. For over half a century, the West has been able to enrich itself at the expense of migrant workers who, much like modern slaves, came to do its dirty work. But all over the world the geopolitical shifts such mass migrations have set in motion appear to join in the same dead end.
Just like Sweden, the US-led West haughtily considers itself the natural cultural, economic and moral centre of the world, much to the annoyance of other world civilizations. In reality, Europe and America have long given up on a vision for the world. The Idea of Europe has burnt out, and underneath its glossy lipstick, the US doesn’t look much better than a failed British colony. When the ancient Greeks invented direct democracy 2,400 years ago, they couldn’t have suspected Western man would fritter his freedom away in the manner we have. Westerners are living in denial, refusing to accept they have already past their cultural peak.
For our survival, we will have to get back to work. Let us be inspired anew by the Spartans’ preparedness to fight, by the architects of the Roman Empire, by the brave crusaders, Columbus’ travels, or NASA’s engineers who safely returned dozens of men from their trip to the moon. Let us tear down the present. Let us rethink our values, decide on a new Idea for Europe, and come together to build a bridge between our glorious past and a glorious future. In any case, what is self-evident is that we will build that bridge ourselves.