The Swedish Theory of Love

Swedish theory of love

Me and Mhairi decided to open this year of blogging with ‘Inspiration’ being our January theme, and last night’s movie was definitely something that sparked a conversation.

Last night I was at the movies with a friend watching the new Swedish documentary ‘The Swedish Theory of Love’, a film by the Italian-Swede Erik Gandini. The film is about how Sweden is one of the absolute best countries to live in  when it comes to our welfare system and equality, but on the same time it is the loneliest country in the world. Half of the people in Sweden live by themselves, and one fourth die alone. Swedes tend to draw back to their homes after work, mostly socializing with others in only organized activities, and they are not very interested in small talk. These factors of course make Sweden a hard country for anyone trying to get into, either if you want to get into the society as a new citizen, or a longtime Swede moving to a new city or a getting to know a new group of people. Gandini says it has to do with a socialistic political reform passed in the beginning of the 70’s where the state made the individual independent from having to rely on others. The state decided to take care of the people and make sure no one had less of a right to live an independent life than anyone else. Children now had rights equal of grown ups, elderly people stopped having to rely on their children for support and care, and women stopped being dependent on their husbands. Gandini of course takes this as far as he can – but the documentary sparked a bunch of thoughts.

Ever since I read Stephen Covey’s book ‘7 habits of highly effective people’ I have been interested in the independence/interdependence issue. He talks about the three levels: dependence, independence and interdependence. When we are kids we are dependent on our parents for survival, but a lot of people stay in this state for the rest of their lives – either being dependent on a spouse, friends, society or what ever might control their comfort zone. Some people force themselves out of it and grow into becoming independent people who have a strong sense that they don’t need anyone else to be able to lead their lives. But the highest form of personal freedom is according to Covey Interdependence. Interdependence are independent people having come to an understanding that alone isn’t the best option, and that the end result is better if we are collaborating. A joint effort is better than a single effort.

Me and my friend talked about this after the movie last night, that isn’t it the willingness to let go of control that is the difference between independence and interdependence. Of course it’s nowhere near easy since control is the result of fear. Could it be that the Swedish government instigated a change in behavior, taking away one sense of certainty and security (the family and relatives’ need and obligation to take care of each other) and replaced it with an individual responsibility (and put the responsibility on the individual and the welfare system) which increased the sense of fear and made us more alone?

To me Swedes seem to be in a process of exactly what Covey described in his book, and my hope is that we at least not go back to Dependency but reach for Interdependency.


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