All posts authored by Santino Zhakata
One of the biggest issues under discussion in Europe during the last decade or so is immigration. Questions have been raised regarding what kind of impact the huge numbers of immigrants has had on the social, economical and cultural life of the host countries.
On the other side, questions have equally been raised on how the immigrant´s experience of the host country is like and what the psycho-social implications of immigration are on those who have migrated, as they adjust to the new environment. You will agree that a lot of opinions, facts and what else have been raised on this issue. My Post is about an issue of identity, based on a film I have just watched. The film mostly focuses on the way an immigrant man views himself and his identity in his new environment.
"Sveriges bästa svensk",as the film is called, can be loosely translated to, "The best swede in Sweden". Though it is only 32 minutes long and quite humorous, it carries a grave and very serious issue under the surface, as well as being very thought provocative. Sveriges bästa svensk can be described as an example of edutainment. A resource made to entertain and educate at the same time. Seen from this perspektiv, the film could be taken as timing to help immigrants struggling with identity issues to realise that they are sufficient just the way they are and do not have to try to deny themselves and try to become someone else. At the same time the film can also enlighten those who are not immigrants of the identity struggle being faced by some who have migrated to Sweden. The film´s website comes equiped with study material and discussion questions based on the film
The film tackles issues of identity, with humour, but also awakens one of the serious questions that lie at the heart of modern day Swedish society. It poses the vital question to its viewers, "what is a swede and what does it mean to be a swede?" Though having a long history of migration, recent immigration has posed various challenges to Sweden.The film focuses on a immigrant man, Hussein, who, while expressing his disgruntlement for not succeeding in getting a job, receives a letter from the Swedish immigration agency, announcing that he has been granted Swedish citizenship. Hussein goes into an immediate transformation and seeks to not only be a swede, but to become "the best swede in Sweden". He initiates a series of changes in his lifestyle including calling himself "Hasse", opting for "Swedish food", shutting off tv channels from his homeland, inviting his Swedish neighbour to a "Swedish party/dinner". At one point he even vows to leave his wife since a Swedish man would not have a wife "such as her". Hasse´s journey, though marred with humour and embarrassment, bring focus on issues of identity.
The neighbour, "Ove", remarks that one can tell that a person is not a swede if they are talking loud in the street or if they leave all the empty seats on a bus and choose to sit on an empty seat that is next to someone. In Zimbabwe, my homeland, the opposite applies, the empty seat next to someone is the best seat since company and small talk on a bus ride is worth more than gold, and also since most public transport operators don't usually start the journey before all empty seats are filled. I will talk more about this in a future post. Other examples of being swede, sighted in the film include that Swedish men cook, do dishes and laundry-which did not sound very appealing to "Hasse".
Hasse comes back to himself after a telephone call from his mother who reminded him of his ties to his homeland and the things he had gone through.
My opinion of the film is that it caricatures "Hasse", oversimplifying and exaggerating his actions, motives, beliefs and expectations. Maybe since the film was so short, this caricature was necessary to make the point. What is the point? I believe the point of it all was that identity goes deeper than just papers like proof of citizenship. Also, to be a citizen, one does not need to change who they are, not all citizens are the same. This is interesting if one considers how far right political parties across Europe and Sweden view what "citizen" or for example " to be Swedish" should mean. Hussein was just a citizen without having to resort to becoming "Hasse". Being "Hasse" did not make him any better or "best Swede" than he would have been if he was Hussein, instead it took from him what he had and left him short of what he aimed to became, he was lost in the gap between being and becoming, so to speak.
The film is good in that it initiates talk, in a subtle way, about issues of identity especially in the context of "new swedes". But what this "talk" leads to or who is doing this talking are also vital questions that should be considered. In my experience, culture is a living organism that is impacted by both current and past events. It is not strange for immigrants to incorporate cultural behaviours from their host countries, but to aspire for a complete transformation into the host culture and way of life sounds like a recipe for confusion at best. The world and its people can be explained, in my opinion, as a beautiful garden with wonderful diversity, roses, lillies, daisies, sunflowers and weeds. A rose, no matter how beautiful, would become base, if all other plants were to become roses. A lily is just as beautiful for being a lily and not a rose-wanna-be. One of the lessons from "Sveriges bästa svensk" is that of encouraging people to knowledge that we are fine just the way we are and do not need to make efforts to act or look like someone else inorder to feel sufficient.
© Santino Zhakata 2011
I am Santino Zhakata, born in Zimbabwe, living in Sweden. I do a lot of writing, photography , blogging and website creation for fun and for profit. My fields of expertise include teaching and tutoring English via distance or face to face. I also specialise in communication for development. Welcome to my blog, feel free to share your thoughts.