After a prolonged discussion with my better half, Prathiba on whether or not to write about the myriad experiences that i have had during my travels, I decided to overcome the Stockhome syndrome-- and yes! that 'home' ain't no typo!-- and write something about land of the Alfred Nobel and Bjorn Borg. Stockhome syndrome, unlike Stockholm syndrome, is a psychological state in which your emotions are taken hostage by Stockholm, rather than by real or hypothetical captors. As a consequence of this syndrome, you begin to strongly identify with Stockholm (or in case one wants to generalize Scandinavia) as your spiritual, intellectual, and physical home even though, by virtue of origin and upbringing, you are as different from a native Scandinavian as chalk is from cheese. This syndrome makes one unable to evaluate the life and society around these parts, and thus prevents you from posting about the good life as presented by the region.
In order to identify the causes of the syndrome, I will begin by listing out the positive aspects of life in Scandinavia. First of all, Scandinavia is an absolutely gorgeous place to live: It is exceedingly beautiful because the "powers that be", with the whole hearted support of the people, invest a lot of time and resources in keeping it so. All you have to do is to visit any of the cities of the region to investigate the claim's veracity. Next, because the citizens willingly support the administration by paying what many might consider unreasonably high taxes, the government is able to support a peerless social welfare state. That the administration has always had the interests of the taxpayers at heart is evident from the way Sweden solved its financial crisis. There were bailouts alright, but the government-- as Carter Dougherty put it so beautifully in the NY Times -- did extract pounds of flesh from the failed entities, thus holding them responsible for their misdeeds.
Although this idyllic and enchanting of places is seemingly utopian, it does verily exist in broad swathe of the earth and sea between Great Britain and Russia. There are downsides to life that is presented to all and sundry by the welfare state. In its desire to eliminate poverty and create an idealistic society that values above all independence, trust, income equality, gender equality, the welfare state has refused to consider the negative effects of its policies on the society. Some of the glaring unintended consequences of encouraging a dependence on the state are: weakening of social bonds and interpersonal relationships, promotion of mediocrity, quenching of the competitive spirit, etc. However despite all these problems, which the welfare state would do well to mitigate if not totally eradicate, Scandinavia is a place worth surrendering your emotions to. If the values endorsed here fail to captivate you, then the beautiful people and the dreamy and fairy-tale land surely will! -- and make you go: " Look Ma! I've got the Stockhome..."
Special thanks to Hans Thoursie from Sweden for the picture of the stockholm city hall. I live somewhere behind the city hall on the island of kungsholmen! ( Image downloaded from: http://www.sxc.hu)