Day 19: Somewhere in Sweden

Day 19: Tuesday, 5 May 2020 – Gothenburg, Sweden (57.7089° N, 11.9746° E) (23,216 Covid-19 case & 2,854 deaths as of today in Sweden)

Today I wear my heart on my sleeve…

All the Nordic Nations make me smile. Then they make me laugh. The happiness of their citizens is catchy. So of course it begs the question: Why are the Nordic people so damn happy?

May I suggest the following self-evident reasons:
-they don’t worry about child care…it’s universally available from well-regulated private providers.
-the don’t worry about health care…it’s universal, everyone is covered no matter where they work…and outcomes are high.
-they don’t worry about their children’s education…of course it’s universal and free…teachers all have their Master’s degree too!
-they don’t worry about college tuition costs…they accept the social investment of an educated citizenry/workforce and tuition is nominal.
-they don’t worry about unemployment/job loss…90% of lost wages are covered until another job is found or they are retrained.
-they don’t worry about their retirement…everyone has both well-safeguarded private pensions and public retirement benefits.
-they don’t worry about prescription costs…the government negotiates and caps pharma prices.
-they don’t worry about the displacing effects of globalization & economic creative destruction…workers are routinely retrained and have well-funded social safety nets.
-they don’t worry about having children…they know they will get paid parental leave, have prenatal care, child healthcare & child care.
-they don’t worry about growing income inequality…everyone receives a real-world living wage and they have an actual progressive taxation system with no tax loopholes & corporate CEO pay is capped at 5-10x what the average worker makes.
-they don’t worry about an out-of-whack work-life balance…because they have predictable work hours, shorter work weeks, and are guaranteed paid vacations and national holidays off.

Hmm…be honest now, if you didn’t have to really worry about all the above bolded daily life concerns, my bet is that you’d be pretty frikin’ happy too!

As someone in America has said, repeatedly: These are not radical ideas.

The Nordic Model has their governments serve their citizens in an agreed social contract that balances individual liberty with the common good–not just what’s good for the top 10%. They figured out how to regulate the extremes of financial sector profits, and have done it democratically with better protections for workers and the environment. This is not to say they don’t have problems and are continually tweaking their system to make it work better and deliver they societal goods more efficiently. That is what good government does. But the fact of the matter is, that the Nordic nations have all succeeded in having both about as much, or faster, growth rates in per capita incomes than the United States has, and done it with far greater equality–and I am sorry to say, with significantly higher rates of social and economic mobility too. On almost every index of social well-being: economic equality, poverty reduction, life expectancy, healthier lives, gender equality, homelessness, social mobility, decency, fairness, social trust, honesty, environmental sustainability, human development, quality of life, happiness, affordable housing, modernization, democratic participation and overall citizen satisfaction, they exceed we the people of the United States of America. They have achieved this and still have capitalism, democracy, high standards of living, freedom and liberty, healthy lifestyles, and all while remaining socially cohesive, family-orientated and almost crime free.

Every time I visit a country more socially enlightened than the US, I return wondering why we can’t have the kind of lives they do. And yet, we are told to demonize these obvious positive ways of doing things and their beneficial outcomes for some mythical reason. We do it out of both sheer ignorance and willful ignorance, I suspect. Socialism…the longstanding American boogieman. The elephant in the room.  Yet it, I mean socialism, already widely exists in America. You know what socialism is? It is our police and fire departments, our safe food, clean water and air, our schools and public libraries, our courts and veterans facilities, our sports fields, pools and national parks, it is what protects our savings accounts, our workplaces and public safety, it is our highways, ports and airports, and our military! It is what we call on in times of natural disaster and pandemic alike. It is who banks and corporate America call on in times of both gross malfeasance and ever recurring hard-capitalist financial shock takes place, to socialize their risk, losses and bailouts. Corporate socialism par excellence. It is also what helps protect our nation’s old, sick and disabled. New Deal and Great Society socialism… It is simple common human decency; exactly what we created our government of the people, by the people, for the people

Fact is, we should know better, we certainly can afford it, more so though, it is the right thing to do–putting people over profits. Maybe with this pandemic crisis shifting the ground beneath our feet by the day in the utter absence of any societal shock absorbers, that is leaving American exceptionalism completely exposed and ideologically bankrupt for what it has NOT done; we will heed the urgent wake up call. Call it shock therapy. Maybe a moral revival will engulf our nation; a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the US economy to work better for everyone. Open a window to creating new ways to do things that don’t work for us anymore–if they ever did; one that refocuses our stubborn apathy and ignorance towards the existential solutions that lay before us, employing all our creativity, imagination and collective genius. Churchill once said of we Americans that “you can always count on Americans to do the right thing–after they’ve tried everything else.” Will we? Nah…never mind, that’s socialism.
Today’s memory comes from the father half of a father-son team who participated in 2013 known as the Traveling Tigers, and takes place somewhere I think in Sweden:

“My memories of GSH 2013 are many, of course. In no order, Kathmandu, Siem Reap, Qatar and our hike through Northern Europe lead the way. Spending 24 days with son Michael was very special.  But at the top of my list is an event you might not knew much about.

When we arrived in Frankfort, we were given our book of scavenges for the week. We were to meet in Oslo, Norway five days later. Our route took us to Denmark and then on to Sweden, via a train. The train boarded a ferry (which was cool in itself) to cross a large body of water. On the ferry we left the train to have a snack and look around the ferry. When it came time to re-board the train and leave the ferry, I started to make my way to the train but took a wrong turn down a wrong stairway and found myself in the area of cars, trucks, and buses. By the time I got back up the stairs, found the right way down to the train, the train was already exiting from the ferry.

I’m thinking, ” ‘Holy Cow’, what to do now?” The thought flashed in my head was that it was the last train for the day! I couldn’t find an employee that spoke English. So, I started running after the dang train thinking maybe the train would stop for a minute after it left the ferry, but it didn’t. So I kept running. I kept the tail end of the train in sight for maybe a quarter of a mile when I saw what looked like a train platform maybe another quarter of a mile ahead. So I kept running, now praying the it would stop there. It did! My prayer changed to “please help me reach the train before it continued on”. The good news is I got to the train, hopped on the first car I came to, collapsed into the first seat to catch my breath (and check my underwear!). By this time Michael and other GSH travelers were looking for me throughout the train. When they found me, they came up to me with their hands on there hips saying something like “What were you thinking?” or more colorful. My answer: “What?” …This “memory” is still alive in my head seven years later. Occasionally I wake up at night thinking about what might have happened.”

The Traveling Tigers strategizing…

The 2013 Tribe in Germany…before the beer and pork knuckles.

Speaking of hearts on sleeves…So, here’s my 2013 story. My daughter Petra takes a week off from high school to join me for the last few days of the 2013 adventure and is waiting for me on arrival in Frankfurt from Oman. We quickly bug out and spend a few days in Copenhagen, before finally getting to Oslo for a few days when I have to meet up with the teams again. On the last day, Petra has to fly to Iceland for an appointment to get her passport renewed, and I walk her to the train station so that she can transfer herself out to the airport. I noticed that I am a little less optimal that morning, generally tired, and after dropping her off I take a seat to relax and mull over my day to be in Oslo at a nearby cafe. Eventually, I head out onto the water as I am prone to do, and have a relaxing day of walking, opera and dinner. But still I am not feeling 100% by bedtime: Do I have jet lag dissimulation after 19-days traveling around the world? Do I have the lingering effects of Kathmandu altitude sickness? Dealing with too many participant yahoo moments? Do I have undo stresses or concerns…is the weight of world too big for my shoulders? Maybe I was just tired from wheeling Petra’s suitcase across 1000 meters of Euro-cobblestones? Anyway, I meet all the travelers and we fly onto Toronto for the Winners Gala and where Pamela is awaiting us with a smile at the airport. I immediately inform her that I am not 100% and feel like I’ve blown a tire, a gasket or something. We spend the weekend in Toronto ending the event and seeing old friends, finally flying back to Santa Monica on Sunday afternoon. Monday I go to pick up my son Lucca after school nearby and have some tiredness doing so. Home, I nap and cancel going to the LA Kings playoff game that night, but do make dinner for the family. The next morning (now Tuesday) I awake and say I gotta get myself checked out, this issue is lingering a tad too long now, three countries and six days later. So I call a doc friend who summarily orders me to immediately go to the emergency room of either UCLA medical center or Saint John’s, both equidistant from where we live. I chose Santa Monica’s St. John’s because Petra was born there–they have good outcomes. And in a whirl, two hours later I am watching a live video monitor of California’s leading cardiologist Dr. Peter Pelkin (Harvard 79′) performing an emergency coronary angioplasty and placing three drug-laden stents around my heart, where were apparently showing a 98% pulmonary Left Anterior Descending (LAD) coronary artery blockage (aka the Widow Maker)! It was a tad surreal watching the whole thing live too–seeing that cardiac catheterization moving up my arm from the wrist point of entry venture up, up, up and to the right to various arteries…placing stents here and there, and then there too! Doc said it wasn’t me or my lifestyle choices, low cholesterol, Med diet, non-smoker, regular exercise…that it was just one of those hereditary time bombs that you never know when it will explode. I was of course, very lucky: to have insurance, friends and to have listened to my body (eventually). And Thursday night I was eating raw fish at Uzen, my favorite West LA sushi bar. Kanpai! It was date night after all. So, barring any medical device recall or untimely instrument failure rate, I should be good for the duration… Whenever, and wherever, that may be?

And in our house, the 2013 edition of our little around the world travel adventure, is simply referred to as “the trip that dad didn’t die on.”

Tomorrow…we head south east and start in Poland…

Stay smart, safe and well. Till tomorrow…

Please send any memories you want us to post to ringmaster (at) globalscavengerhunt (dot) com