To vote or not to vote, that really is the question…

imageLast night, D. and I sat and watched the debate, on TV 4, and I must say that half way through it, I had a difficult time not agreeing with D., who claims that he will vote blank. He is 19 years old and is about to vote for the first time and he has already realized that it is just a bunch of lies. Every party promises things they will not be able to keep. Every party say the same thing, more or less. And last night was catastrophe in my view. They screamed at each other, hatred shining out of the redhead Center Party leader’s eyes and all of what they said sounded like a broken record, them having memorized their lines well, but not being able to give flexible answers. What a waste, sitting up till 23:00 listening to that!

I was surprised how long it took for all of the parties to get their posters up around town and all the signs they usually put up in our village, have been missing this time around. I almost thought I was wrong in assuming that this was election year. But then the voting cards arrived and the commercials started on TV and now we are suddenly drowned in advertisements, leaflets, handouts and radio commercials. But what to vote for? I feel completely clueless this year. And I can understand D. feeling even more so. He graduated from gymnasium, officially on the 13th June and since then he has been looking for a job. He has applied for hundreds so far and haven’t been called for a single interview. Last night he said that it must be because he is half-American and I told him that how would the places he applies to, know that? “Well, my surname then? It’s English.” I told him that it is not. It’s a fake name that his potty grandmother put together to fit her Kabbalarian views. He pointed out that it exists in Britain and I had to inform him that it does not because the Scottish spell it differently and so do the French. In other words, his surname exists nowhere else and indicates nothing or any kind of  origin.

For him, the election is all about getting a job or not and I can understand him. Solidarity is gone from this country since long. You vote for what is most important to YOU, NOW and TODAY! He is unemployed and can not receive any money while unemployed because he has never worked and belonged to a union. It’s a catch 22 for the young. And would be, if I went looking for a job as well. Last week, they had a program from a community in the north of our province. A community with high unemployment. One young man was living at home, 23 years old, and had applied for 1000 jobs. He had been to three  interviews but did not get the jobs because he has no driver’s license. Only, he can’t get a driver’s license without money and without a job he does not have any money. This Stockholm brat, who leads a program which tries to help people in debt, sat in the studio and said that youths of today are lazy. That they sit on their bottoms and apply for jobs on the internet, which is not the way to get a job and that they should use their social network to get a job.

I wanted to strangle the man, through the TV screen. When I grew up, getting a job was all about having social contacts. My dad died when I was 14 and my mum, well let’s say she had no friends and no social network. We were on our own. I managed to get a summer job, one summer in gymnasium, by really slipping in on a banana peel. Right then, hospitals were screaming for youths to clean during the summer months. I cleaned during three summers because they liked my work, that I did a good job and the last year in gymnasium, they even called me on weekends, if someone of the regulars had called in sick, to come in and take over the cleaning of a ward. I was lucky because the second year of working at the hospital, they had changed the rules, and the summer jobs only went to youths studying to become nurses. Like you needed any nursing skills to clean! But the jobs got folded for that category of students and I was far from a nursing student, being in a history-language program.

But nothing has changed in these 30 years! It is all about contacts and influential parents. Our neighbours’ children have had summer jobs every summer, for the council, because their mother has a council job. The rule is that the few jobs available, are supposed to be put in a pot and then a lottery is supposedly taking place, but I’m afraid the rule and practice do not go hand in hand. It is all a big sham! The same goes now, when the neighbour’s son was forced to finally bite the bullet and go and look for a job. A friend of his works at a supermarket called ICA. That supermarket chain says in its employment ads that they do not want people without experience from the supermarket business, to apply. The neighbour has never worked a day at a supermarket and yet, the girl he knows, got him a job! He stood here and bragged about it to D.! He had the gall to shove it down D.’s throat, how he has a girlfriend in town, whose family owns three properties and he and she is setting up home in one of them and he starts working at the supermarket here shortly. How can I tell my son that life is not unfair? That A. will have to face life sooner or later? That yes, A. has been served everything on a silver plate throughout his life, but D.’s turn will come one day.

D.’s goal has been for years, to go out on a mission for our church, as soon as he graduated. He’s been a good boy and not at all like his older brother, who gambled away all his mission money on “World of Warcraft”. The church helped him out and he served his two years. But, the church does not want to help D. He’s been told to get a job and get the money together. He has tried, summer after summer, to get a job, without success and now he sits here, still without a job and his hopes and plans for serving a mission, seems to be out of grasp for years to come. No party in Sweden can guarantee him a job! The blue, the right side called the Alliance, stood in the studio, bragging about how many jobs they have created during their eight years in power and especially the last year. But the neo-Nazi leader Jimmy Åkesson mentioned that sure, those jobs were created (can’t remember the number) but we also got twice the amount of new Swedish inhabitants, so in a way, no jobs were created since the same amount of people are still unemployed. I hate to give the neo-Nazis a point, but in that light… There is always a backside to all numbers isn’t there, something they do not tell when they brag!

What is important to me then? What am I looking for? Well, I am a stay-at-home-mum and naturally family is very important to me. But so far, I have not seen any party doing anything good for the family, really. Yes, the Christian Democrats has a very nice, VERY nice, party manifesto, but since they barely get above the 4% they need to get to sit in parliament, that manifesto means nothing in reality. They can vote no, when they vote whether homosexuals should get to adopt etc. But none of the policies they want to implement, can really be forced through with so few votes and representatives.

In an ideal Sweden, for me and my family, I would like a health care system that works. When I phone the health clinic, I would like someone to answer the phone and not put me in a one hour queue. And when the nurse finally answers I want to be treated with respect and not be told to take paracetamol and wait for a couple of days and see if I or my children will not get better with time. I hate this attitude of them assuming that we all phone because we are hypochondriacs. Everyone I talk to tell me the same story as my own, we all wait till we are deathly ill before we make the dreaded phone call, because we know how the health care system will treat us. Not believing that we are really ill.

When I go to the emergency room, I don’t want to sit for two-three  hours before I even get to go in and tell a nurse why I have come there! I could die or my child could die before I even get to talk to someone. That is not right! And when a referral is sent, to a specialist, be it an ear specialist or dietician or psychologist, it should not take months or years to get to the person! “Gubby’s” hearing was questioned and it took over six months to get it tested at the hospital. Because of queues. Two years ago, I had a gallstone attack, and the doctor told me that I ought to go and see a dietician to find out how I should eat to get all nutrients I need, when too many things make me ill with indigestion or bring on gall attacks (not having a gall bladder anymore). My diet is so limited and yet, I still have not received an appointment, two years on! And I must say, that the testing my two sons have had to go through, to get their diagnosis at the child and youth psychiatric department ((BUP), has dragged out way too long from start to finish. “Gubby’s” started September 2013 and he got diagnosis at the end of March 2014. Too long. And “Boo’s” started at the same time and he got his diagnosis yesterday! WAY too long. And all this time wasted, when they could have received help, just waiting and waiting since we don’t know what sort of helt they actually need, depending on diagnosis!

That brings me on to the next ideal thing I am looking for. All our neighbours have had their children in the local council schools. Their children are only let out the door in the morning, they bike off to school and their parents have no more concerns. When your child has any kind of problem, your child can not handle the council schools with 30+ students in each classroom. But that is what the Alliance has given us for 8 years including the Christian Democrats, whose views often coincide with mine. It is so sad, that my children are forced to go to an independent school/free school, to be able to get a classroom with fewer students in it. Because you pay a hefty price for choosing a free school! The independent schools do not have the money to hire resource people and get the help for handicapped students, that council schools easily can get “for free”, if they ask for it. So you have to choose when you have a child with ADHD or Autism: small class with 15 students but no extra help or classroom with 30-50 students but perhaps an assistant. The law says that all handicapped students have the right to learn on their terms and get the help they need to progress but the councils do as they please and the free schools as well. Government handed over all responsibility for the school system to the individual councils in Sweden and this means that a poor council needing to save money, will save where they feel it matters the least: cut the money from the schools. After all, most politicians are middle-aged with grown up children so it doesn’t effect them! That is why Sweden today has 13.1% of all students graduating from ninth grade and obligatory school with grades which will not allow them to go on to gymnasium. What is the right-wing answer to the problem? Our Prime Minister stood there last night and said the answer is to make kids go to school ten to eleven years instead. Why would two extra years make them learn more? There will still be 30-50 students in the classroom preventing learning! And to make children go to school for 11 years ( I assume they include the zero-class in those) and then the 3 years in gymnasium, in order to be able to get any kind of job at all, will create VERY school tired children. It is most likely that children will drop out in gymnasium, being too tired of school to finish the degree. I was an A student, and I had to take a year off after gymnasium because I felt exhausted. D. feels the same way. He has worked SO hard these past three years in particular, that when I told him that he should apply for University if the church will not let him go on a mission without money, he just screamed that he can’t. He would not do well because he is too tired of school right now, was his explanation. And then he has done 9 years plus the three, ONLY.  Not the 14 which Fredrik Reinfeldt suggested last night.

In other words:

If one votes for any party on the right side, for the Alliance, then in all likelihood the classes will remain the same size and a council school is nothing to contemplate for my sons, since they can not handle big classes with their handicaps. And they will all have to go to school forever, before they get to graduate and go on to University or life in general. Also, a vote for the Alliance means that the hospitals will continue with their long queues, bad attitudes towards prospective patients and dirty premises. The prices for bus tickets will continue hitting the roof, which effects my family heftily, since when you have a child in free school/independent school, you have to pay for transportation yourself.

If one votes for the left-wing/red-green side, money might get spent on making classes smaller and employing more teachers. BUT this will never effect OUR village, since they only see to the town’s interest. Our village is always the last one on the list, which means that when the other villages  got their council pools and pool areas re-modelled and fixed, ours still look the same as it did twenty years ago and when all the other villages got new, fresh modern health clinics, ours is still housed in the cellar under the supermarket! There is never any money left when it comes to our village, even though it is growing and the most popular village to live in, within the council’s borders. And a vote for the red-green group, also means that they will do everything they can, to close down the free schools by cutting their funds. In other words, it would be a death sentence for my children.

Talking about a death sentence, all the council politicians in town are talking about, is the planned tram traffic. Instead of spending money on the schools, they want to build tram tracks all over “our” (our council’s seat) mediaeval town. Today, I read that before, the town was ranked the 10th best council in the school world, now it is has gone down to 18th place in Sweden. And no doubt it will continue going down hill if the money are spent on trams instead. I was going to say that I don’t mind trams at all. I find them a charming aspect of Gothenburg, Vienna (Austria), Wurzburg (Germany)… It smells of centuries gone by. The old-fashioned way to travel. All that said, it would not do anything for our closest town and council seat. And this morning I read something which made me start thinking that trams might not be so cozy and charming after all. I hope the man who sent this in to the free newspaper we all get in our post doesn’t mind that I translate what he wrote, but it was one of those things which makes you stop and think. And it made me sad, very sad. The author of this story is called Staffan Fogelmark and I sort of wonder if he is not writing about Gothenburg which has trams and lots of hills.

“Christer just knew that he had done well on his exam and after a whole term of hard studying, it was nice to party with his fellow course mates. The exam party had become just as lively as he had hoped, albeit a little bit too wet, but does that really matter when one is young and is having fun? He felt exhilarated: Life was wonderful and after New Year’s he was getting engaged to Marja. They were going to celebrate Christmas together as well, but he didn’t know what to give her yet. Since she was studying theology, he had been looking at a nice book about inner and outer prayer. Maybe he should get her that one?

Full of anticipation and excitement – I want it all, and I want it now – he left the party and walked out in the dark November night. It had been raining and blowing hard for two days now which had left all the autumn leaves glued to  the ground. How beautiful they were in all their colours, laying there on the ground, but soon they would be decomposed.

He put his headphones on, AC/DC blaring in to his ears, and got on his bicycle. He loved it: the frame made of titan, super light, just the way he felt himself after the exam and the party. And it was fast, especially here going down hill toward the city center. What a sensation of power and speed! Now he was getting closer to the spot where he needed to turn in order to get on to the bicycle lane beside the tram tracks. He had bicycled here many times before and knew exactly how to take the turn. Life was wonderful!

When Marja was reached by the news that Christer was dead, she lost it. At the inquest, the tram driver described how he had seen the bicyclist 60-70 meters away, at a good speed, making the turn to cross the tram tracks. But the bicycle came in at a wrong angle and ended up in one of the tracks. Maybe it was the leaves that made it impossible for the cyclist to take the turn. The bicycle was slung to the side and the cyclist himself somersaulted a couple of times before he landed right across the tram tracks. He was so badly hurt that he could not pull himself off the tracks and away from the tram, which was fast approaching. The driver hit the breaks at once but he knew that the distance it would take to make it stop was a long one and even more so with the rain-drenched leaves on the tracks.His voice grew thick when he tried to describe the  powerlessness and despair he felt, when he realized that he would not be able to stop the tram in time and would crush the helpless cyclist laying there across the tracks. Then he broke out in quiet sobbing.”

The story written by Fogelmark is heartfelt and no doubt it concerns someone close to him. Even if it is not a true story, it does say something about tram traffic and its dangers. Because the truth is, that a bus driver could have swerved the bus away from the cyclist laying on the ground, even if it would have meant going up on a pavement and maybe in to a shop window! A tram is stuck in its tracks and can do  nothing to prevent an accident! And “our” town is full of traffic accidents since it is full of students on bicycles who has not been educated in general traffic rules and/or think they own the town’s  streets because of sheer number. And it is full of aggressive bus drivers  who detest how the cyclists ignore the traffic rules and whose only concerns are to  get from point A to point B on time. Trams do not seem to be the solution at all and I suspect that not only cyclists will be hit by them but pedestrians who also have come to relax on the rules of traffic, because so little traffic is allowed in town.

I told my son right now, that he can not vote blank. That he must vote for something, anything, because it is his duty in a democracy and that many people around the world envy him that right. Yes, the politicians are liars. They are corrupt, they earn too much, they live too far away from reality to know what we need and want, but we still have to vote. You just have to choose a party that have some things in common with your own views. That said, you also have to make sure that some people do not get in to power! You do NOT vote for the neo-Nazis! Noone really want Hitler Germany in Sweden 2014! Anything will be better than them! In that way you really have to vote solidarity.

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