Hey SL, don’t raise prises ; instead punish freeloaders

At the risk of sounding like the biggest Swedish Karen of all time, I read an article in Dagens Nyheter today regarding the possibility of SL (Stockholms Länstraffik) raising ticket prices again, for what feels like a perennial decision.

The reasons outlined in the article is huge losses as a result of the covid-19 pandemic, and that service can either be reduced or ticket prices raised. I can not express how much my blood boiled when I read this, and I’ll explain why.

I pay my tickets, and I’m an honest and productive member of society. I live by the rules, and I expect others to do so too. And yet at least 3 times a week I witness someone getting on the busses or trains in a concept called plankning which I think in English could be translated fare evasion. It’s a major problem, and it pisses me off. Why should paying customers be punished when non-paying customers benefit?

I don’t want to get into a fully expressed rant, but nothing is being done about it. They publish reports about how many times it happens, and operators “tick” each time they see it, but there is no consequence. They don’t stop them, they don’t fine them, they don’t do anything. In fact, in the last 3 years of commuting every day at last 2 times a day, I’ve only been fare-checked twice. TWICE!

It’s even happened on two occasions that I’ve stopped in the middle of the machine to prevent a person from coming on with my ticket. I flat out yell at them to pay their own damn ticket, and while most are surprised I even bother to say something, it’s about the principle and they sort of run away. We suffer because of the cheats, and yet they are never punished and continue to get away with it.

I even have photo evidence of an entire train car evading the fare inspectors because none of them had tickets. That was approximately 30 youngsters in that situation! The last I checked, the punishment fee is 1550kr, which means if they would have got that group, it would have paid the monthly fare for an entire two year period for one person.

So in the unlikely event that SL reads English blogs, or gives a hoot about what customers say and want, I plead with you: don’t raise prices, instead punish the cheaters! Find another way to catch and find them, and make them learn, because they aren’t getting the message with your passive approach.

And while you’re at it, please fine those smoking on train platforms where there are already clearly marked no smoking signs. It’s been illegal for years, and you could rake in millions, since nobody seems to give a hoot except the damaged lungs of passengers trying to walk past and not inhale second-hand-smoke.

09/11, 20 years later

It’s hard to comprehend time sometimes. It goes by so constantly and perpetually that we hardly ever notice change, until it’s too late. Whether it be the length of our hair, or the growth of our children, or even the way our society looks and feels. We simply don’t notice the moments of change until the transformation has already happened.

I suppose it’s thus important to take a moment out of our busy lives to remember certain dates that are defining in our histories as human beings. Of course, we would be taking this moment every single day if we took the entirety of humanity and its history, but let us limit it more simply to our own existences. I recently watched a Netflix series consisting of a six-episode series focusing on the events of September 11, 2001: Turning Point: 9/11 And The War On Terror. A bit hesitantly, I clicked on it not knowing what it would evoke in me, and not being sure if I’d learn anything about it that I didn’t live already, but watching it made me take a moment to reflect.

What are the defining moments in history in our lives?

Being born in the 1980s leaves me a bit limited in the history of the world, but I’m drawn to at least three defining moments that I lived and witnessed first hand:

  • The dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.)
  • The fall of the Berlin wall and reunification of Germany
  • The second referendum on Quebec sovereignty
  • The rise of widespread terrorism, ultimately symbolised by the 09/11 attacks
  • The creation and widespread adoption of Pokémon games and culture
  • The emergence of social media and interconnectedness of the internet

While some of these might not be consequential to many, they stick out in my mind as being largely transformative. I remember waking up in the mornings, ready to see the results of something, or my eyes being opened by disbelief as something unfolds before me.

While many of these moments can be considered political, largely related to identity of groups or interconnectedness of history, or pop-culture references, there is only one that truly changed the way the world works; that is the events of September 11, 2001 in New York City, Washington D.C., and in the fields of Pennsylvania.

I remember the day, I remember the weather, and I remember where I was sitting the moment history was being announced to me. I was ironically sitting in a history class, summarising and outlining the causes of Nazism that were going to appear on an upcoming text. The classroom was fairly silent, with a few conversations happening around, but mostly pens on paper and the scribbling of study notes or graphical organisers. It was this moment that the teacher announced in the most calm and somber voice, that we would all head down to the auditorium because we were going to witness history in the making.

We didn’t know what to think; we had no context in order to make sense of this. How could something be so consequential that would take us away from our studies? We were ushered across the school campus to the auditorium where obviously other classes were gathered. For the purposes of context, it was the early 2000s, wide speed DSL wasn’t available (especially where in the world I was), and so information wasn’t shared on the go like it is today.

Photo courtesy of BBC

There was a television placed on the stage to the left side, and it was being projected onto the big screen an image I couldn’t quite understand. A building was on fire, and the voices of my classmates were muffled. We didn’t have mobile phones to check what was going on, we just sat and watched the smoke billow from the World Trade Center North Tower. The news reporter was just repeating the same thing over and over, and there was so much confusion as to what was going on. Was there an explosion? How did the building get on fire? Why was this history in the making? I was asking myself these questions.

And then it was a few moments after I sat down, the voice of the newscaster stopped. There was a long pause, and we saw nearly live what appeared to be a plane fly into and explode into the South Tower. The images were striking, and while there was only speculation beforehand what was going on, the gravity of the situation hit me. How does an airplane smash into a skyscraper in New York City? How can this happen? I’d been on hundreds of planes before and I never felt like pilots were out of control, but then again I suppose I was ignorant of what was going on in the cockpit and the pilot. I remember gasping and saying “Oh my God” because it was something so unexpected and yet so real.

The cameras were pointed right at the burning tower. It was only natural that we witnessed something we never expected. In retrospect it was hours before we saw video being sent in from the first plane, from every different angle, but since the first disaster happened, everything was being reported. We sat there, in disbelief thinking how could this happen, why could this happen, who would drive a plane into a building? And then I heard the word for the first time: terrorist.

I didn’t quite have a solid concept of it, I mean it’s not the first time the concept was used. There has been terrorism in the world before, but I suppose it was how it was being used that really was new for me. Seeing it was different about reading it, certainly. And we just sat there, teachers in the front looking shocked, but not saying anything. There was a sense of panic in the air, a confusion barely vocalised but obvious in the tension that we felt in the room. We sat there for an hour, and during that time more people came to the auditorium and more teachers gathered us into this room.

It became apparent to us that our next class was going to happen, and I think it was maths but we just sat there and nobody told us to do anything. No bells rang, no other sounds we heard except the voice of the the news reporter on the screen and the images being broadcasted. More information came in, more eye-witness reports, more devastation, and eventually it was clear that there wasn’t two crashed planes but actually four, another hitting the Pentagon in Washington D.C., and the other crashing into a field. We had been sitting there uncomfortably for about an hour when we saw the South Tower collapse. It was like witnessing a train-wreck; you see it, and want to look away, but you can’t. Your eyes are glued to it and the image was engrained in your mind forever.

Eventually we were ushered back to our classes, but I think most of us were so confused, we didn’t even remember what we did for the rest of the day. Even though I was nowhere close to this, I remember being nervous going home on the bus. Sure no plane was going to drive into the bus, but it was clear that hijackers took control of the planes, and couldn’t they do that anywhere?

And so in the coming months the words became apart of our general vernacular: terrorist, hijacker, suicide bomber. I’ll never forget where it started, but twenty years later I can still see and feel the shift of the world. The paranoia, the fear, the impending unknown or uncertainty became somewhat permanent. To be completely honest, thinking about those feelings, it’s the Covid-19 feelings applied retroactively. All of that uncertainty and fear, it was happening again.

And so we wonder. This happened exactly 20 years ago, but what has changed or what has happened? The Netflix docuseries has clearly outlined the failure of the “War on Terrorism” that was waged, and it’s highlighted by the departure of Americans and Allies from Afghanistan departure a few weeks ago and the Taliban taking over the vacuum. When I was hearing it in the news I thought, what progress was made, what purpose was there, how are we back to where we were 20 years ago?

Under that 20 years, Afghans made huge strides to return to modernisation of pre-Soviet invasion and Taliban rule. Women became active parts of society and had access to education, more children went to school, there was relative safety and security that was maintained with the help of the world. They rebuilt and retrained and sought after a better life, and saw hope. It wasn’t perfect and people suffered under the civil war, but it was progress. I had the pleasure of teaching some Afghan men and women, and I listened to their stories and why they moved here, and from what they escaped, and the hope that they felt and pride they felt for their countries traditions, culture, and language. And then in what feels like hours, the world saw all of those freedoms and progress disappeared, as the Talibans took over Kabul and essentially all of Afghanistan overnight.

My heart breaks to think about this, and while I don’t want to spread out sadness into the world, I think it’s important to reflect on those moments that change the face of our world. Changes to national security, to safety and fear, to air-travel and freedoms. The way we see each other, and wonder what we are capable of? Do I know a terrorist, whether foreign or domestic? It’s about the way we see and talk about different cultures and religions, and how we need to build bridges to come together instead of build walls to tear us apart.

That change came twenty years ago, and the hate upon which those events were based still burns in the hearts of millions of people lurking in the shadows. Lest we forget the ones lost, and take stock of how our world is today. Care more, love more, and show empathy to more people in need. Don’t just turn your back. If I’ve learned anything in my life, is that we are more connected now than we have ever been, so do what you can and stand up for what’s right. Someone else will be grateful for it, I promise.

Cancel culture; before its time

We all live in modern world, a world that has changed so much since I was a teenager. For parents in my parent’s generation, they saw massive strides in communication, electronic, and digital evolutions not only in technology but also in behaviour. Until the turn of the 2000’s these changes were not really a huge concern, but with the emergence of a stronger reliance on digital or online existence, there have been massive shifts in humans behaviours. Namely and more specifically in this blog post, I’d like to discuss something more specific: cancel culture.

Image courtesy of Bmoi/Flickr

Dare to take a wrong turn in how you communicate or present yourself online or in person these days? Think twice before you act, because someone is always watching. This also permeates the old internet, that is to say tweets from 10 years ago, websites posted 15 years ago, or photos taken in pre-internet days that are otherwise folded away out of active memory.

Cancel culture is a rather interesting and troubling phenomenon. People being cancelled, or effectively attempted to be removed from positions, due to damning evidence (or receipts as they are colloquially referred) has become widespread. The public goes into lynch mode and effectively tries to kill the identity and suppress, and sending these people to the proverbial guillotine results in their careers being tanked.

Kim Davies, cited from NBC News

The first such example that I can retroactively remember is a non-famous person being cancelled. Back in 2015 the United States Supreme Court legalised same-sex-marriage and it became law of the land. The former clerk of Rowan County Kentucky, Kim Davies, actively refused to enforce the law and it got a lot of media attention. She hooped and hollered about her civic rights and blah blah blah, but effectively she faced widespread criticism for not respecting the law and doing her job. Back then we called it “discredit” or “condemnation,” but in the 2020s it’s certainly called being cancelled. She was effectively pushed out of her job, and was not reelected due to public backlash. While I don’t necessarily condone being cancelled, I am happy that someone else can be given the chance to fulfil their job duties.

J.K. Rowling, cancllled by Harry Potter. Cited from The Daily Wire

While Kim Davies might not be a household name, J.K. Rowling certainly is. While she has been regarded as a very successful author, most notably for the Harry Potter series, in 2019 she angered followers and the widespread public by making disparaging comments about transgendered women. She was labelled anti-trans and called out by a large amount of actors that participated in the Harry Potter franchise. While she fought back by trying to defend her honour and right of belief and free speech, she ultimately lost a significant amount of klout and ended up returning human rights awards for which she was a recipient due to public pressure. Since 2019 she has published a new book under another pseudonym, and it was received well by readers, but again drew criticism for anti-trans characters which critics only highlight as her own beliefs and tendencies transcending her writing.

Dr. Seuss books taken out of publication, cited from CBC

The next example of recent cancelled culture I’d like to bring up is six titles of Dr. Seuss, a childhood classic spanning back generations. I remember as a child reading some of these books, and really every child had a library on their bookshelf of Dr. Seuss titles. Although no longer alive, the author seems to be receiving a retroactive cancel and the books have been taken out of publication and sale for racist imagery. Race an equality is touchy topic when it comes to the world, particularly in the Americas. Racism has a torrid history and it is regrettably prevalent in daily life even three quarters of a century after the civil rights movement. What strikes me as the most strange thing, is these are historic publications and frankly reflected culture of the time. Do we condemn these authors and desecrate their families and memories?

Personally, I think that historical documents exist as examples as snapshots into their culture of the time. We can not fault them retroactively, or delete them from the record books only because culture has changed and evolved over time. They exist, at least, as relics from an old time and can be excellent examples for use in education against stereotypes or judgements. Does it really benefit all if now the name of a well loved author is tarnished and a dark cloud existing over all of the other publications upon which nobody has (yet) raised issue? All I can say is: overboard.

International Day for Tolerance, cited from Happy Days 365

Critics of cancel culture highlight the widespread emergence of a lack of tolerance for opposing views and beliefs. I agree with this, and it’s rather strange to think that generations raised in the age of internet and knowledge have become so ignorant in so many ways. The proliferation of social media has led to widespread witch-hunts which grow quickly and snowball out of control. People’s lives are ruined, and even if they are rather suspect or not high quality characters, it’s not really right for them to suffer. Everyone does have rights of belief, but what everyone also should have is a tolerance to allow for people to express themselves and engage in conversations to widen the debate to understand each sides.

Whether it be your favourite author, favourite actor or actress, a widespread respected person, head of state, or frankly anyone for that matter, use your brain. Pick up a book, engage in conversation, or better yet do so and keep an open mind and discuss rather than fight or condemn. After all, “let him who is without sin cast the first stone” as it is said. Or am I going to get cancelled for using “him” instead of a more neutral pronoun “they.” No matter, but you can see how even the simplest mistake can turn the tides.

As a parting thought, let another famous person express my views. While I don’t consider him to be the greatest of qualities, I echo his words:

Travel restrictions

Image courtesy of Desert Lightning News

Since the outbreak of the covid-19 pandemic, the world has changed a lot in 2020 and onward into 2021. One of the most common topics of conversation in relation to this is travel and the restrictions or policies that have evolved. It’s a hot topic among nationals and expats alike and often sparks a strong debate between personal liberties and public safety.

Some countries have required negative covid-19 tests before departure and after arrival, and some require nothing. Regardless of the specific restrictions in each jurisdictions, the real question is should people be travelling? Is it in the best interest of people to travel, essentially or otherwise? Well it doesn’t take long to see how this shakes down. All you gotta do is check the headlines:

Covid: Dutch king expresses regret over Greek holiday scandal
BBC, 21 October 2020

“It is not the first time the royal couple have been in the spotlight for their conduct. In August, they were pictured breaking social distancing rules with a restaurant owner during another trip to Greece.”

Alberta cabinet minister, premier’s chief of staff resign over holiday travel, other MLAs demoted
CBC News,  04 January 2021

“Millions of Albertans have made real sacrifices over the past 10 months to help keep each other safe. They are right to be angry about people in positions of leadership vacationing outside of the country,” [Premier] Jason Kenney wrote.
“We can’t see our grown children in this city yet they can fly to Hawaii,” Edmontonian Glen Mullins told CBC News on Monday. “My parents live in Newfoundland. My tradition is to go see them. I couldn’t go.” 

These two examples spark the divide between “privileged” members of society like royalty, and government officials, and the wider public. The common thread is why is it appropriate for one reason to travel, despite restrictions and recommendations, and not for others?

UK expats prevented from returning home to Spain
BBC News, 04 January 2021

“One passenger on board said that seven British citizens were prevented from boarding a British Airways/Iberia flight from Heathrow to Madrid on Saturday evening, despite having their green residency certificates, as well as negative Covid tests.”

Further complicating things is Brexit and the UK’s departure from the EU bloc. While I feel bad for the travellers denied entry, I wondered why they were in the UK when they had Spanish residency and covid-restrtrictions have been tight since March 2020. They obviously travelled despite restrictions, and this is what sparked my reaction. Entitlement.

Image courtesy of TopPNG

Many people feel entitled to travel regardless of circumstances of a country, and the lack of border controls in Europe seem to make it even worse. People baulking in the face of the virus just come off as selfish in my eyes. I get it, being trapped somewhere for extended periods of time sucks and can take terrible tolls on mental health, but I’ve been doing it. I limit my contact and haven’t even travelled around the city for 3 months. I call and video chat and telecommute and limit my shopping to one time a month, and haven’t met my friends for months. So I’d like to say that I’m doing my part and I’ve even tabled the option of travel basically indefinitely.

I get it, we want to be with our families for holidays, we want to continue to maintain traditions, and we want to stay sane. But our individual needs don’t always trump collective needs. It raises a really important philosophical question: am I more important than the whole?

Newsflash, no matter how independent you are, no matter how careful you are or have been, you’re apart of the whole and you’re responsible for the safety of your loved ones and strangers. The moment we override those collective needs is the moment we turn on our fellow man.

This post isn’t meant to demonise people travelling, or people’s individual choices. I really just want to remind people to think beyond their bubble and look at the bigger picture. Don’t even get me started on people dating or hooking up with new people during the pandemic. 🤐

The human complex is incredibly resilient and we don’t give ourselves enough credit. We think we can’t endure, we think we have to give in to our desires and consider wants as a needs, but this is not true. We can make better choices and continue to adhere to the recommendations of science and common sense.

Suspicious sedlar

Whilst jovially strolling from my apartment to the nearby commuter train, I happened to notice young people with cash. Initially I was surprised, as in Sweden cash is not king. Rarely does one see cash or coin here, probably because most of the country has transitioned to cashless payments.

Even on the supermarkets, rarely are coin machines used and they stand regally as proof of a past gone time of exchanging paper and coin money for goods. And then it hit me, when was the last time I used or handled cash? Well that was easy, when I was in Dubai two years ago. Shocking.

Sure, I have a hundred kronor spare cash with my phone, hidden away in the pocket, there if I need it in a pinch. I don’t even see or remember it and am taken a little bit back when I see. Is it even legal tender still? Not sure but I do see Astrid Lindgren and Greta Garbo, so it might be okay.

So when I see a 20-something with a wad of cash, and when I mean at least 2-3 fingers thick, I become suspicious. My area is not pristine and void of crime, on the other hand it’s rather rough and overrun with mobsters caught in ridiculous territory war. But I couldn’t help being suspicious when I see a wad of cash exchanging hands, with nervous looks and a coffee bag being exchanged.

“A gun? Drugs? A fabrigé egg filled with juicy chocolate?” I thought. I looked again and the suspicious body language continued. My mind could jump into oblivion of possibilities, and so I digress.

As an upstanding member of society who never used cash for anything in the last years, and has nothing to hide and no connection to illicit worlds, I remain perplexed as to why so much paper currency must be exchanged. Why would someone pay something without need of documentation or receipt. My spider sense was tingling.

It would have been the upteenth time I witnessed some crime in the 200m radius of the castle (my nickname for my apartment building that is markedly more modern and luxurious compared to the surrounding housing), but then again… I should be sending out good karma to the world, it was clearly the September rent paid late… 🤔 Yes, it must be that. The bloodshot eyes of the man receiving the money and bag is just ovetired and suffering from adult pink-eye.

It could also have been the most expensive breakfast ever recorded in the history of humanity. Worthy of a king… or maybe even a kingpin. In the meantime, I’m keeping my wits about me.

1 2 3 4 5 119