Sweden likes to shout about how developed we are compared to many other countries, in all fields. This outward image of a close-knit Sweden is how we hide the actual reality. A reality characterized by social exclusion and class divides.
This clearly shows in the countryside. The rural areas which, like a monkey in a zoo, have become a place for the exploitation by Greater Sweden. Contempt is a term that indicates exactly what is happening in the cities, where the countryside is slandered and laughed at.
I grew up on a dairy farm in western Jämtland. I spent my childhood working next to my parents every day, from early morning to late evening. I was brought up to be an individual who cares for the countryside, the part of Sweden that remains in the background.
It was not until I got older that I became aware of the stereotypical image of Norrland in southern Sweden – and realized what an enormous risk that image entails. The image of northerners as incompetent, alcoholic, racist and alien to any kind of development. The image of a person who got stuck in the 19th century.
What is dangerous about this image is that the northerner – norrlänning – is dismissed as unnecessary, and Norrland as something the native should leave as soon as they get the chance, lest they too become part of the toothless trash. This dismissal of Norrland thus makes it acceptable to exploit rural resources.
My background has made me intimately familiar with reductions in milk prices and how the big companies in Stockholm profit on the hard work and slog of the farmers. My father has worked every day, throughout his 72 years, on the farm for an income equivalent to its expenses. Delivering milk to the middle class families in wealthy Stockholm suburb Danderyd thus means he makes a profit of zero kronor – which, in a society where your economic circumstances determine everything, is completely unacceptable. This is one part in the degradation of Norrland and its countryside.
The stereotypical image of Norrland not only allows for an exploitation of its natural resources, but also for a certain way of looking at the people who live there. Norrland is defined as an idyllic region where Swedes from southern Sweden go to build their summer houses or visit a farm. Norrland becomes a place to visit, not to live. The enormous pride I feel of the hard labour and the setbacks people from rural Norrland have fought through outweighs those Stockholmers who dismiss my heritage as “oh, okay, you're from Norrland?”.
I'm from Kälen, a village of three dairy farms in western Jämtland. I'm not “from Norrland”, that is 59 percent of Sweden's geographical area. It angers me to see what my parents and ancestors have built up downgraded to a low-cost milk carton or a scenic painting.
Norrland is not a charming, awkward place to exploit as you please – Norrland is angry.