Lauren Kirchner ’03: ‘Occupy Scandinavia’s long winter’

February 15, 2012 / Friendly URL: wesconnect.wesleyan.edu/news-20120215-lauren-kirchner

[Lauren Kirchner ’03]Lauren Kirchner ’03 chronicles her visits to Stockholm, Helsinki, Copenhagen, and Oslo as the Scandinavians take part in the Occupy movement.

“By all accounts, Scandinavia is one of the most prosperous, peaceful and income-equal places to live in the world. Sweden, Finland, Norway and Denmark hold four of the top five spots in the World Democracy Index (the U.S. ranks 15th). The Scandinavian countries are all the way at the top of OECD’s ranking of the happiest countries in the world (the U.S. is 19th), and they’re all the way at the bottom of the CIA’s ranking of countries by income inequality (the U.S. is 40th out of 140).

“But when, on October 15, rallies inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement were held around the world, protesters in these same countries joined in. Everywhere I went in Scandinavia last fall, Occupy sympathizers were setting up camp for the winter. And of course, not only were these some of the most utopian places you can visit—they also happen to be some of the coldest. As I watched the most climactic moments of the Zuccotti Park occupation, 4,000 miles from home and cursing my timing, I wondered: What did these protesters have to complain about? And didn’t they notice it was getting cold out?

“I told them of the common conception in the US of the Scandinavian countries as prosperous and peaceful, socialist utopias without the extreme income disparity we have at home. Amos said he thought that the welfare state had the side effect of lulling Danes into complacency. ‘The people are falling asleep,’ he said. ‘It’s so calm and quiet and nice that most people see it as some kind of movie, like we are in a Hollywood movie here… Underneath, it’s very close to breaking out—there’s a hole in the balloon.’”

Read the full story on Lauren’s blog… or on The Awl

Image: Columbia Journalism.

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