I’m canvassing for Labour — even though, as a Swede, I can’t vote in this election

The Guardian, 2 December 2019.

“The UK election is probably none of my business. I don’t live here and I can’t vote. And yet I’m so invested in the outcome, I have decided to come over from Sweden to volunteer for the Labour party, handing out flyers and knocking on doors. Having grown up in Sweden, I already know some of Jeremy Corbyn’s proposed policies can work. I’ve benefited from free school lunches, have had access to university without tuition fees, and received free dental checkups into my 20s.

Despite having access to all these things back home, I chose to come to the UK in 2014 to do my degree at Oxford University. The combination of subjects in my degree, the tutors who made me think so hard I sometimes thought my head would fall off, and the beautiful city made it worth moving. However, the cultural difference was shocking as I got a glimpse of the class divide in Britain and what life outside the Scandinavian welfare model looks like.

People were sleeping rough all over the city. My fellow students often needed counselling to help cope with the financial stress caused by debt, tuition fees and high living costs. Mental health problems and anxiety were more the rule than the exception.

And while the UK has some of the world’s best universities, high fees have helped turn education into a mere instrument, a rubber stamp on a CV, the point of which is simply to land a job. An Oxford graduate who sued the university in 2016 when he failed to achieve a lucrative legal career was just expressing what is implicit in the functioning of the current education system: the point of a degree is not knowledge in itself.

In an economic system with workaholism built into it, where humans serve eternal capitalist growth, there is no capacity to measure the results of an education apart from monetary gain. Studying to learn, rather than to be of use to someone else, makes you feel like a person worth investing in, not a tool made to serve an economic target.

But while Sweden has been known for its welfare state for over a century, the Swedish Social Democrats are not what they used to be. The party’s popularity is declining, and it has started echoing its rightwing opponents on migration, pitting citizens against each other, blaming increased immigration for welfare cuts, and ignoring the needs of the majority it should be representing. It is now in danger of losing its position as Sweden’s largest party.”

Read the full article online here.


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