Not Neutral on Sweden

Not Neutral on Sweden

Carl_Larsson_Christmas_Morning_1894Two and one half years in Sweden, living with my aunt and uncle and attending 4-6th grade had a profound impact on my life. These are identity forming years, in which we begin to perceive the values held by our families, our tribes, our nations, at an intellectual level. This period was all the more profound for me, having landed in Sweden as a result of domestic kidnapping (see The People of the Sign). Given that I was a focal point of a contentious divorce proceeding that wound its way to the Supreme court of Sweden it isn’t surprising that I adopted neutral Sweden’s version of socialist nationalism over that of the individualistic and very competitive United States, where I had been kidnapped from, or my native Canada.

Swedish IdentitySwedish society in the late 60’s and early 70’s reflected the best that Socialism had to offer: universal employment, universal education, universal access to health care, tolerance, justice, and a causal reduction in extremes of poverty and wealth. Sweden was a world leader in equality, freedom and international humanitarianism. It was easy to root for Sweden in World cup hockey, Soccer and the Olympics – especially when its major competitors were often totalitarian regimes from within the Soviet Union. I was very proud to identify with their Neutral stance, neither for nor against the West or the East

Sweden's Summer Solstice CrisisThere have always been accusations of hypocrisy against Sweden, whose neutral position has roots in WWII when it opted not to become an enemy of Hitler’s Germany. These could be brushed off fairly easily, since no nation can lay claim to a perfect pedigree, and the tiny population did what it felt it needed to survive.  It’s decision gave it a head start in economic terms, once the war ended, empowering its meteoric rise after the war. Sweden’s population when I lived there hovered around 8 Million, but it had international stature that easily exceeded that of nations 10 times its size, and a reputation as a champion of human rights that was in a league of its own.

I used to defend her, always. Then I became more neutral. These days her neutrality rings so hollow that I can no longer be nuetral on Sweden.

Tel_Aviv_university_students_support_IDF_and_Israel_against_Gaza_Flotilla_3Sweden’s activism in Middle East politics is clearly wrongheaded and hypocritical and her decision to support Islamic countries in opposition to Israel has removed all doubt that she has lost her way. What began as neutrality towards Nazi Germany, which was the primary driver of the Holocaust has morphed, over time, into a malfunctioning moral compass that today welcomes any Trojan Horse that knows how to ring a Swedish doorbell. Sweden now routinely welcomes and protects hate preachers & jihadists in its continued efforts to convince the world that it is non-judgmental. After standing by while millions of Jews were murdered in WWII Sweden proceeded to lay down a long track record of opposing Israel’s right to protect itself from terrorism. There is nothing neutral about her activism against the lone Jewish State on the planet in favor of those who have turned a desire to destroy Israel into a political cause. Launching the ship Marianne from Gothenburg to break the Gaza Blockade, the so-called “Freedom Flotilla III” is just the latest example in an ongoing campaign.

humans_respect_humans_by_rbeloniojr-d4y9ceuIn pulling a random Virtues Card to conclude with, Respect came up.  “Respect is an attitude of honoring ourselves and others as people of value. We care for each person’s dignity. Everyone has the right to expect respect.” That pretty much calls Sweden’s bluff. Its pretense at respecting everyone has enabled her to hypocritically pick and choose which aggression to turn a blind eye to, a mask to hide behind while interfering in the self-defense of a nation even smaller than her. In the past Sweden leveraged its Geographic isolation to avoid dangerous confrontation, with great success. Her respect-less international meddling will certainly result a continued loss of respect for her as well.


Give Credit to Credit Unions

Give Credit to Credit Unions

ENGLISH insurance labelHere’s a short article about the financial health of Credit Unions – which are small, locally owned and managed by members, not for profit Financial Institutions.  Mollie Bell (quoted in the article) and I worked together at CUNA Mutual group which supports the Credit Union Movement.  It is my opinion that all of us should shift our financial dealings from Banks to Credit Unions. Do you agree?  What would happen if people moved away from Banks and towards Credit Unions?

The Banks would probably become even more aggressive in their ongoing efforts to undermine Credit Unions. Their lobby is huge and powerful, and it has been causing legislative pressure against Credit Unions for decades.  But Credit Unions would benefit from  awareness on the part of consumer that they represent a fundamentally different option.  Even a relatively small number of new customers can represent significant growth for these small, local entities, and local communities benefit from local control of financial systems.

Selling OutWhy doesn’t shifting from Banks to Credit Unions get more attention? Is it because corporate interests own too many pieces of our soul – shifting our thinking and decisions away from our own best interest? What can we do in response?

One area of focus is to buy local.  Purchasing local products, including financial products, is a way to make a major contribution to sustainable local economies.

The virtue I drew through which to look at this topic was Peacefulness. Inner calm, tranquility, a sense of harmony with all creation. In reflecting on how that applies here, I realize that participating in a for profit financial institution increases the antagonism and animosity that goes along with our competitive profit-driven age. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a communist – I believe in ownership and that everyone should benefit from their labors. Everyone should profit from applying themselves diligently to whatever craft or trade they have chosen.

peacefulness_by_vitavalian-d7r74n1But Credit Unions help us see that cooperative models are useful and powerful in counteracting the unsustainable aggregation of wealth exemplified by mega banks and “Too Big to Fail” institutions. We can go on the warpath against them, or perhaps simply moving our business to a Credit Union is enough to reverse the trend.  It is certainly a peaceful way to contribute to a change in the dynamic between the extremely wealthy and those who struggle to achieve a stable middle-class income.

1 Percent Now Own 50 Percent

1 Percent Now Own 50 Percent

The Occupy movement emphasizes the enormous gulf between owners – typified by the so-called 1% – and those who are struggling to make a living as wage-slaves or worse. The headline chart for this blog highlights that we’re approaching Great Depression levels of wealth inequality, in which 1% of Americans own 30% of its wealth.  But an article published Tuesday states that globally things are much worse.  50% of the world’s wealth is owned by 1%, which got me thinking.

Emma Lazarus The New ColossusUS style capitalism is no villain. Principles of pragmatic egalitarianism are the foundation of this country, and its success is due to the fact that their implementation has led to shared success on a scale previously thought impossible. Emma Lazarus’ Sonnet The New Colossuswhich graces the Statue of Liberty, sums this up nicely.

The successful creation of a middle class of millions of people generally wealthier than many kings of old drives a sustained global prosperity the likes of which the world has never seen. This is but one reason I’ve resisted a basic premise of the Occupy Movement.  To claim the right to share that which someone else owns is a recipe for unmitigated disaster.  Human misery will spread like a virulent disease when such thinking takes hold.  Nor is there, even with these horrible wealth distribution ratios, a need to radically implement policies based on such wrongheaded “humanitarianism”.

The path to prosperity will never come from trying to occupy that which you do not own.  Rather it will come from taking ownership (in the full sense of that word) of that which we already possess.  Given the democratic institutions which exist, and the tools that enable human ingenuity to work its magic, when people take ownership of their situation they can revitalize our nations, including this one.  Ownership means tapping into the spirit which pioneered and grew new models of human activity, benefiting the masses in ways previously thought unthinkable.

Take Full OwnershipEarlier this year I was honored to present on the topic of The Human Heart of Business to a distinguished audience at a series of conferences in India.  In those conferences I addressed what I believe to be both the problems and the solutions to the conundrum of wealth distribution.  India is in many ways a pioneer in the idea of corporations taking full social responsibility.  It was an inspiring 5 days, in a country that suffers under wealth inequality that is staggering to the Western mind.  And yet the average Indian is hopeful and optimistic that things can be improved.  And they are improving rapidly.

We can make a shift towards a more equitable distribution of wealth without jumping on a wealth re-distribution bandwagon.  And yet I believe we must get very serious about this, very quickly.  If we don’t begin to turn the ship on this and other major problems confronting mankind, we’ll be hitting a global iceberg soon – and we’ll experience the kind of global revolution that will make the French Revolution look like a cakewalk in comparison.

There are many models being put forward globally today in which corporations are extending the idea of who the stakeholders are, to which they owe responsibility to “maximize shareholder value”.  There are many places where you can apply yourself to making a difference.  One tiny example is this group I found on LinkedIn which has the audacious intent of Building Better Societies.

What examples have you found?