Sweden's handling of COVID-19 may indicate that the country is becoming a totalitarian state and that the decay of Western culture has gone the farthest here, Jari Ehrnrooth, associate professor of sociology and cultural history at Helsinki University and the University of Turku, has ventured in an opinion piece in the daily Expressen.
Despite Sweden's strategy against the coronavirus having led to high mortality in Scandinavia and some of the world's highest death rates, it was been widely accepted by the population. Ehrnrooth ascribed this phenomenon to a dangerous unification of values.
One might wonder whether Sweden is becoming a soft version of a totalitarian democracy, whose teachers are closer to the Jacobins of the French Revolution, who in their quest for unanimity introduced a reign of terror, rather than the individualists who created the freedoms of the United States Declaration of Independence, Ehrnrooth mused.
“This is achieved through a state-led progressive doctrine, which often approaches socialist idealism and a messianic dream of harmony and peace”, he wrote.
Ehrnrooth suggested that Sweden, unmoved by scientific criticism and the entire world's opinion, is sticking to its guns and defending its conclusions about reaching herd immunity. “The soft totalitarianism allows criticism but does not correct its course”, he mused.
This may be rooted in a striving for a uniform culture that confuses values and facts.
“It is precisely this fusion of values and facts that has cemented the state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell's autocracy”, Ehrnrooth wrote.
However, Ehrnrooth offered another explanation for Sweden's choice of path during the deadly infection. Namely, that Sweden is just blazing the trail for the entire Western world in terms of decay.
“Another and even more pessimistic explanation could be that Sweden's exceptional corona strategy is a consequence of the decay of Western culture, which in Sweden seems to have gone further than anywhere else. A culture that has lost its creativity, its will, and hierarchy of values doesn't fight against a deadly virus but submits to what is considered inevitable”, Ehrnrooth wrote.
Sweden accepts everything and adapts passively, because this is the “impoverished Western culture's main line for equalising inequalities of values”, Ehrnrooth mused.
The “Swedish disease”, as he calls it, can be cured with a factual analysis that is free from value-based arguments, ideological pluralism, and a vibrant culture.
With no lockdowns and only minor restrictions in place, Sweden has so far seen about 75,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and over 5,500 deaths (most of them in the over 75 age bracket), more than its Nordic cousins combined. Still, the country's health authorities and its state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell have enjoyed considerable support and adoration from the press. Tegnell was even propelled to near-rock stardom, celebrated with t-shirts, tattoos, and countless memes.
However, the vast spread of the infection has in effect isolated Sweden, robbing it of important tourism revenues and making it a pariah state among its neighbours.