There is nothing in Sweden that resembles the Australian Anzac Day… at least nothing that I have discovered. Anzac Day came and went without being noticed here, since most Swedes have no idea what the word Anzac denotes, nor what Anzac Day is all about. I wonder myself, every year when it comes around, what Anzac Day is about. I think it is about identity – who we are, and what we are like. But what is that? And who are we? What does Anzac Day represent?
For me it is about sacrifice. And for that reason I am proud of Anzac Day. Because self sacrifice is a good and noble thing. To be willing to lay down your own right to life and comfort for the sake of others. To be willing to pay the ultimate price. These young Australians sacrificed their lives for something bigger than themselves. That means that they recognised that there is something bigger than themselves.
That is a foreign thought to our age. We tend to see ourselves as the measure of all things. We see ourselves as the centre of the universe. We see wealth, comfort and long life as the ultimate success. We cannot imagine that there would be anything worth giving our lives up for. Because we think that death is the end of everything. So the preservation and prolongation of life becomes the ultimate human pursuit.
But Anzac Day speaks against that. It says that there is something bigger that is worth dying for. It says that this life is not all there is. It says that it is right to believe in something bigger than yourself. And is says that the people who believe that are the real heros. That they are worth remembering.
Sweden has not actively participated in any wars in living memory. They have remained neutral for at least the last century. They have stood on the sidelines, offering protection to those who suffer in the wars that they observe, but not taking sides. Is this a better way? I don’t think so. Not that I think war is good. And I do believe absolutely that we should offer protection and comfort to the victims on both sides. But to always stand on the sidelines, to remain always a spectator, to never throw in your lot with what you believe is right, is somehow sad.
So what gives the Swedish their identity? I am still finding out. Perhaps I will never understand it fully. After all, I hardly understand the Australian identity and I grew up there. But this Thursday is Mayday, and that is important in the Swedish consciousness. It is a national holiday, as Anzac Day is in Australia. There will be rallies in town and demonstrations about important issues. It will be interesting to see what those issues are