When we think of Sweden, we expect to be thinking about a socially aware, socially tolerant, socially conscious and socially progressive group of people. I still do.
And certainly, you do see charities thriving in this environment. One even has the option of paying extra to give money to charity in voting in Melodifestivalen. I didn’t take up on this in my voting for Abalone Dots and then, after their semi-expected 7th place, a semi-protest vote to Sean Banan. Yay for Loreen though who deserves Globen (although maybe not favourite status) and Dead By April would be fine, if they actually sent a rock song rather than their failed death metal-Backstreet Boys combo.
Of course, those knowing me will know that I just voted for the regular number to vote. I’ve done the charity thing here and there, but I’m so money-conscious that I resist often. I kind of feel that my idealist Ben would just want to have one body, a government, dictate fairly as our representatives what campaigns were important to progress for human civilization in a much more efficient method than all our charities would be. And of course, we all know that much taxation money we have does go out in aid to many causes, domestically, European and worldwide.
I always feel awkward trying to distinguish which charities genuinely deserve my support. How does one decide that they will give money to the NSPCC but not to Barnando’s, when much of their goals are similar? I simply don’t feel qualified to decide. There are a few charities that stand out, but the reasons are sometimes as silly and not relevant as they are worthy (at this point, insert joke about the charity case of the Scottish Football Association). UNICEF’s work is superb. As a UN body, it has that inter-governmental oversight that I believe charity work should have. It also has a history of involvement with the Eurovision Song Contest to heighten that respect I give it. Also, it’s not just a charity about giving money and resource to those in need, it focuses as much on the pseudo-political natural of children’s rights, which certainly I found invaluable for my understanding when driving my anti-mosquito campaign younger (this might need explained – and it was a long time ago – but if this is all new to you look back through technology to a 17 year old Ben at www.freewebs.com/anti-mosquito – if it still exists…).
Indeed, during that anti-mosquito campaign, I was offered money, and for somebody my age a lot of money (about £200), to design my campaign materials and a new website for the project. This came completely anonymously and I’ve sadly lost touch with the middle-aged gentleman (and I believe clown performer, if I remember right) from the south of England who was impressed with my work and wanted to help. Dad said take the money, but I didn’t think firstly that I should or needed to use the money for a potential benefit of zero, so I graciously declined, and as it so happened, the campaign was taken up, and some minor success was had by the UK Youth Parliament and the Children’s Commissioner – so at least my work got it to the right places.
I remember when I was little; my mum gave money to a donkey sanctuary. Mum likes donkeys, and especially ones called Ben. As you can imagine, these are reasonably significant funds of money that are given out to fund a creature that lived hundreds of miles away and I never saw. Now, I’ve turned out perfectly healthy enough to know my parents did a grand job – but of course one must question the value of this above other options – how does the donkey positively affect the world?
The motivation for writing this however, follows a annoying trend that Swedish young people seem to driven to the completely opposite end of the spectrum. They love raising money, the skills gained from it, the end rewards that can be had from that and the satisfaction achieved. But almost everything I’ve seen has been about them, to let them have the time of their life rather than to give money or time to others. This shocked me, and also the blank looks I get from self-conscious kids when I suggest this. I am clearly from above not a charity lover, but my computer game tournaments, my Eurovision events, my union work – have all included a clear commitment to letting some money go to a good cause (although I rarely decided what – for I usually gave money to the Charities Kommittee to whatever they decided, and as long as this did let another rah fund their trip to Sri Lanka then I was happy).
Culturally, to go out and ask people for money – for the purpose of you having a good jolly up, is not only just morally wrong, it’s rude – at least the façade of money supporting a good cause is there with charitable work. Obviously, this tradition has come from one successful time and the stories have built up from then, but I can’t believe how I watch these kids see that as a worthwhile end goal. Fun yes, but that’s your own problem. Maybe it’s the lagom thing to support this… to just tut about it but support it anyway from the momentum of the young people. It’s not my place to change, but it is my place to ponder and at least make them wonder about a greater world out there than the 30 friends in the class who deserve a break.