A chilly, windy first of May. Last night the end of winter was celebrated in traditional style with bonfires and fireworks and songs to welcome the coming of Spring, light, warmth and life. At the end of a bitterly cold winter (which has been nevertheless amazingly beautiful under its white blanket) such a celebration makes sense even to me, who has grown up in a land where the passing of seasons does not have the same dramatic effect on the psyche. The leaf trees outside, which seem to have been bare and grey for ever, are budding, about to burst to life. Further south in Europe, even in the UK, Spring is well established, but here it is still just on the verge.
Are you going out to demonstrate? Leif asked me this morning. Which reminded me of another aspect of May the first in Sweden. But what, in this securest and most socially progressive society, is there to demonstrate about. Democracy is well established. Equal rights for all. More has been done to eradicate inequality and poverty in this country than just about anywhere on the globe. What have we to complain about? What should we shake our fist at? What place is there for the angry young man (or woman, lets not be sexist!) to march in the streets for?
I vaguely heard a radio program this morning as a folded the washing; it was about “engagemang.” An odd word which can perhaps best be translated as “engagement”. What sort of things should one be “engaged in” in this day and age, the presenter asked various guests. The discussion I heard seemed to revolve around ecological food. How much time, she asked, do you spend checking out the ecological value of the foods you buy in the supermarket? None, said one guy. Its not that important, said a young woman who explained that she was a vegetarian and that what she bought was always environmentally friendly.
Its a good question. What is worth believing in these days, in a society where we already have so much? What is worth fighting for. There was a time when people were willing to die for what they believed in, but in Sweden, as in so much of the western world which has moved beyond the belief in another life, that is perhaps a bit much. This life is everything. What can there possibly be worth dying for? That kind of engagement is perhaps a little extreme.
If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.