How to Dress for the Ghetto

The day before the Swedish coalition government of Social Democrats

and Greens announced that it was reversing its refugee policy and closing its

borders to all but the minimum numbers of refugees laid down by the

European Union, the website of the Guardian newspaper ran a video about

the Swedish Democrats, a far-right party growing in support because of its

anti-immigration stance.

Last year Sweden took in 100,000 refugees and this year it is estimated

that it will have taken in 190,000: that is to say a number equivalent to 3 per

cent of the population. If this rate were to continue for very long, Sweden

would be irreversibly changed for ever.

The Guardian journalist interviewed young members of the Swedish

Democrat party and made them appear arrogant and unattractive. Whether

this was the result of editing or a true representation of them, or both, I

cannot say. She herself, though, appeared intolerably smug and selfrighteous, arrogant in a different way. She asked the young Swedes what was

wrong with vibrant multicultural societies such as Britain and France (the

video was evidently recorded before the events in Paris), though even from

her video what was shown, no doubt unintentionally, was that Sweden was

not multicultural, it was ghettoised, with practically no contact whatever

between the refugees and natives. The Swedes throw social security to the

refugees as zookeepers throw meat to the lions.

One of the questions of the Guardian journalist to the young Swedes

was ‘Why do you dress so smartly?’ It was asked in an accusatory tone, as if

dressing smartly was yet another of their bad qualities, a derogation of their

duty to appear casually or scruffily dressed like almost everyone else in

modern society.

It was an interesting question. Obviously for the person who asked it,

any kind of formality in dress was symbolic of elitist or exclusivist political

sympathies, whereas casual dress, the prevailing any-old-howism of the

majority of the population, was symbolic of democratic and egalitarian

sympathies, a demonstration of solidarity with the poor of the world.

Whether poor people in Africa actually benefit from rich people dressing in

expensively-torn jeans and T-shirts is not important: as with presents, it is the

thought that counts.

Of course, there is another way of looking at it. To dress well is a sign

of respect for other people and society, to dress scruffily is a sign of disrespect

for them, a sign of the purest egoism. Perhaps it is even possible to express

elitism and respect at the same time.

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1 Comment on How to Dress for the Ghetto

  1. I agree with all of the above – however TD omits the young Swede’s answer to the journalist’s question: ‘Why do you dress so smartly?’

    His answer was: ‘Because I don’t want to look like a damned gypsy.’ This was the wrong answer because it was precisely what the journalist (or rather her audience) wanted to hear.