Politics and the Bogeyman

thSocialist or capitalist? Take the test. Those words are from a children’s book on politics, which my 9-year old daughter currently favours, and she delights in testing everyone who enters through our front door. Depending on your answers, you’ll end up either as a pure socialist, pure capitalist, mixed capitalist, or a social democrat.

Given my daughter’s penchant for negotiating pocket money, I worried the test might reveal her as a pure capitalist, but she tested positive as a social democrat, as did I.

That I should turn out to be a social democrat was expected given my Scandinavian roots, but I was pleased to see that my political-minded Scandi genes had passed on to my British born daughter. Especially as aged five, she displayed some worrying tendencies towards English nationalism when she suggested that I, her Swedish mother, should move back to Sweden where I belonged.

Said daughter, by the way, refused to let her dad tuck her in last night because she’d had an argument with him and compared him unfavourably to Boris Johnson whom she considers to be the Bogeyman.

“You wouldn’t let Boris Johnson tuck me in, would you?” she responded angrily to her dad when he tried to make peace with her.

As for that test in her politics book, I am beginning to think it’s rigged because most people who’ve been tested by my daughter, have turned out to be social democrats, with the notable exception of her teenage sister who tested positive as a mixed capitalist.

Whether my theory about Scandinavians being genetically prone to social democracy is correct or not, is about to be tested at our next family gathering which happens to be New Year’s Eve. As part of the evening’s entertainment, my daughter has promised to have everyone tested, including her Swedish uncles, English and American aunts, and Trinidadian grandmother. Surely, nothing can go wrong.

But seriously, growing up in Sweden in the 70s and 80s did have an impact on my socio-political values. For example, nothing can shake my fundamental belief that everyone has a right to free healthcare and education and that it is the state’s responsibility to make such provisions.

As the British election campaign kicks off, politicians of all persuasions profess their undying devotion to the NHS whilst doctors and nurses continue to warn of the NHS’ impending collapse in the face of years of government cutbacks.

Poverty, meanwhile, is on the rise as a direct result of Tory-imposed austerity measures that have disproportionally affected the already worse off members of society. With the cost of living often being higher than the average worker’s salary, families struggle to put food on the table and have to resort to food banks and charities. That’s wholly unacceptable in a country as rich as Britain.

Should billionaires be allowed? That’s been an issue of some debate in British media lately, and while I’m not going to engage with the discussion, suffice to say, that philanthropy can never be a substitute for government policies aimed at delivering adequate services to people in need. And yes, I do believe in taxing billionaires to high heaven, because there is something very wrong with the world when 1% of Amazon owner Jeff Bezos’ $112bn fortune is equivalent to the whole health budget for Ethiopia, a country of 105 million people.

Few things make me combust like people telling me that the world is becoming a better place, with absolute poverty and infant mortality dropping, and war being less deadly than ever and so on. For even if that’s statistically true, it’s also true that wealth is increasingly and unfairly concentrated among a privileged few while millions of people live in poverty. That is not progress.

Ultimately, the progress and wellbeing of a country should be judged not by how well the richest do, but by how it treats its most vulnerable members.

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