Apr 15, 2018

The Swedish Academy and the 2nd Amendment

I’m not sure why it makes me think of the 2nd Amendment but it does. Maybe I’ll figure it out while writing.

In order to to make changes in the Swedish Constitution, the Parliament is required to agree on two decisions with the same content, and a general election between the two decisions is required. So, it’s a slow process but possible of course since a country is in constant change. Last time the constitution was reformed was in 2010.

Then there is The Swedish Academy. Founded by King Gustav III in 1786. Governed by statues from the same year. Still.

These last couple of weeks this stiff organization has been shattered by internal strife. From the outside it looks like it started with a man in close connection with the Academy, during the Me too movement being accused by 18 women for sexual assault and rape, ending with the Permanent Secretary Sara Danius having to step down the other day. Although that’s not the end of course. That’s so far.

The 18 members of the Academy are elected for life. If a member chooses to no longer be a part of the work of the Academy, his or her chair will be empty until he or she dies. It happens. For the time being 7 of the 18 members are women. Although at this point only 3 are a part of the work. 2 have left by their own will, 2 have been forced out. 3 men also left the Academy last week. So, at this time the 18 are down to 11.

This mess is compared with Paradise Hotel, House of Cards or Game of Thrones. Great entertainment! That would be fine if it wasn’t for the important work the Academy is set to do.

The Swedish Academy is an independent cultural institution, founded in 1786 by King Gustaf III in order to advance the Swedish language and Swedish literature. And, the Academy has also awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature since 1901. There you have it.

The in and outs of this appalling story is complicated and as the Academy is a closed room there are mostly speculations and guessing. The story contains everything for the perfect drama though: sex, adultery, financial irregularities, nepotism and leaking of top secret information - the Nobel Prize winners names. 

What’s very clear though is that the main part of the men in the Academy is buddying up protecting a sex offender who has been known for his behavior in the inner cultural circles of Stockholm for about twenty years. And Sara Danius, the first female Permanent Secretary in the Academy history, who tried to modernize the organization within the statues, has now been sacrificed in the name of peace and healthy work environment. 

Have you ever heard of a position elected for life being a good thing? Didn’t most of us just agree (not Donald Trump though) on the idea of the Chinese president extending his assignment for life being worrying? Holding a position for life means you are not accountable to anyone. So imagine a whole community in it for life. With statues 232 year old, not touchable. A secret society.

Now, where do the 2nd Amendment fit in to all this? Well, to many people outside the U.S. it’s incomprehensible how it is not possible to change the weapon laws when they so clearly contributes to mass shootings and fatalities all over the country. Just change them! No, says the NRA - and some more, it’s the law!

To a Swede it’s unaccustomed how the Constitution and Amendments is perceived like the Bible. But even the Bible isn’t read like it was 2000 years ago, right?

So tell that to the Swedish Academy!

Now, an unexpected player showed up on the field last week. As the Academy was founded by a king, the Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf is it’s highest protector. Generally that wouldn’t mean anything at all. A Swedish monarch doesn’t have any power. He or she is not allowed to vote in elections and should not speak up his/her mind on matters of importance or at least politics.

But it turns out the Swedish Academy might be a loop hole in terms of power of the monarchy. As it’s highest protector the king might have a say here. Carl XVI Gustaf is genuinely engaged in the Academy and of course takes a big interest in the Nobel Prize. Therefore he is now opening up for and suggesting changes or amendments to the 232 year old statues.

Personally I hope he succeeds. Sweden has two important brands. The Nobel Prize and the Swedish welfare. Both are at jeopardy. Let’s take good care of the both of them.

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